It’s likely you’ve had at least one moment where you felt like your life felt like a TV show, a movie or – if you’re a lifelong comic book reader like myself – something more akin to what you’d find in a fictional comic book universe, such as the ones featured in Marvel or DC titles.
If you ask me, life would be infinitely better in a comic book universe. Sure, you could get caught up in a slugfest between super-powered beings on your way to work or alien invaders could descend from the sky at any moment, but the odds of you somehow acquiring super powers also skyrockets…so, it’s not all bad.
But forget super powers for a second. In my opinion, the greatest perk of living in a comic book universe is that “retcons” are always on the table. For those who are unfamiliar, a retcon – an abbreviated form of “retroactive continuity” – is a change to established continuity.
Yes, retcons are almost always controversial – and at times – extremely infuriating. I’m sorry, but I’m calling you out, J. Michael Straczynski.
What’s that you say? Gwen Stacy, the love of Peter Parker’s life, slept with Norman Osborn, aka the Green Goblin, Spider-Man’s arch-nemesis? The same Norman Osborn who threw Gwen Stacy off a bridge in one of the greatest Spider-Man stories ever told? Wait, there’s more? He got her pregnant? With twins?
Let’s just say, if Secret Wars wipes this disgrace from continuity, buying all those Battleworld tie-ins will all seem worthwhile.
But then, there are some good retcons as well. Like when DC explained away that time Green Lantern Hal Jordan went insane and murdered the Green Lantern Corps by saying he was corrupted by Parallax. This revelation, of course, paved the way for Geoff Johns’ stellar Green Lantern run.
The point is, I would so prefer to live in a more fantastical world where all the bad stuff can be erased. I’m talking heartbreaking moments, horrible decisions and yes, even death.
Here are three horrible things we real-world humans struggle with and how easily they could be resolved in a fantastical comic book universe:
1. The Love of Your Life Breaks Your Heart
It’s a common problem that seems unthinkable…when it happens. How could this wonderful person you love with all your heart – who you trust with your life – go and do something so cruel as have an affair behind your back, humiliate you in front of your friends, or just plain cut you loose? In real life, we’re forced to accept that some people are just no good and find the strength to move on, hoping that pain someday vacates the heart.
In a comic book universe, however, it’s entirely possible that your significant other cheated on you because he or she wasn’t actually your significant other! Maybe a clone of your girlfriend actually dumped you, or a shape-shifting alien assumed the form of your husband when he had that affair.
If one day, your lover seems to change on the spot and do something terrible to you, it’s likely he or she is being controlled by your arch-nemesis. I mean, okay, in real life you probably did something to push this person away, but in comics…it’s totally the Kingpin messing with your brain.
2. You Screw Up – Big Time
Everyone makes mistakes, they just range in severity depending on the person. Some people can do terrible things and not lose a step, while others have to live with the guilt from what they’ve done.
I definitely fall into the latter category. The smallest mistake can drown me in regret. So wouldn’t it be nice if there were a way to reverse errors?
It’s certainly possible in a comic book universe. Just look at Spider-Man – king of the screwups. Peter Parker famously revealed his secret identity to the world during Marvel’s Civil War storyline. Who would ever have thought that Spider-Man’s rogues gallery – one of the most vicious in all of comicdom – would use this information to hurt Spidey? Anyway, it was eventually revealed that Dr. Strange, with the help from Iron Man and Mr. Fantastic, pulled off a global mind wipe so no one could remember Spider-Man’s true identity.
How convenient! Sadly, I’d probably use this option so much that Dr. Strange would make it so I could never remember his phone number.
3. You Die
I can’t speak from experience, but being dead is probably just the worst thing ever. If the computer I’m typing this on suddenly explodes and sends Apple shrapnel through my brain, I’d most likely die. And then, who knows what follows that – probably black nothingness.
I know, so depressing!
Now in comics, the possibilities are endless. Characters die all the time, and aside from a few, they pretty much always come back. In a comic book universe, I could end up in Heaven and fight my way back to the land of the living, just like the X-Man Nightcrawler. Or maybe I didn’t actually die when my computer exploded. Perhaps the blast was so powerful it split open the space-time continuum and sent my conscience hurdling through time. That’s basically what happened to Captain America and Batman, right? Just without the exploding computers.
In all honesty, the exploding Apple computer wouldn’t kill me. We’d learn that in Steve Jobs’ final moments, he imprinted his personality on a microchip in the iMac that was eventually sold to me. The explosion, which was set to go off several years after Jobs’ death, launched the microchip into my brain where the late Apple co-founder could then assume control of my brain. Through my body, Jobs would resume the work death interrupted and mass-produce Apple products that would include personality-imprinted microchips, essentially ensuring Jobs’ immortality.
Okay, I realize I was writing an article about retcons here, but I now I need to go write the screenplay for the next great Steve Jobs movie! Also, I totally just retconned Steve Jobs!
Like what we do here at AIPT? Consider supporting us and independent comics journalism by becoming a patron today! In addition to our sincere thanks, you can browse AIPT ad-free, gain access to our vibrant Discord community of patrons and staff members, get trade paperbacks sent to your house every month, and a lot more. Click the button below to get started!