New 52: Retconning Already

The massive retcon that is the New 52 is now retconning within itself after barely a year.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Teen Titans #1

In what is a bit more evidence that the DC's New 52 had a very 'canon by the seat of their pants' philosophy when it started, the new Teen Titans collected edition has retconned some crucial dialog that appeared in Teen Titans #1 out of existence – specifically the mentions of Tim Drake being "Robin" and that there was ever any incarnation of the Titans before the one that came to pass in this series.

Bleeding Cool has the before/after pics for comparison. The line you see in the image above, "I used to be well-known as Robin, The Boy Wonder," becomes "Also known as Red Robin. I used to be Batman's Boy Wonder." And the three caption boxes mentioning a previous Titans team is just erased without comment.

To be fair, this is Scott Lobdell we're talking about, who often seems to exist in his own world – an ever-expanding world now that he's taking over Superman – and at convention panels would occasionally contradict his own established continuity while appearing to be oblivious to it until fans pointed it out. It's possible that he is just so firmly about writing in the moment that he honestly forgets the past – even the recent past. Some writers do forget little throwaway lines – hell, sometimes I'll forget what I've written in the last sentence.

However, having covered many of those con panels since this whole thing started, they certainly came across as tools DC used to figure out their own angles and where they were stumbling and what they needed to address. One supposes that's the optimum use of a panel like that, and one imagines that some Ts will not always be crossed properly in an undertaking as massive as this – something about the number of irons in the fire and what-not.

But methinks those throwaway lines weren't really throwaways at the time. When the New 52 came out, it was a HUGE pill to swallow for fans conditioned to enjoy the minutiae of continuity and tradition, so the best way to mollify them was to promise them that "no, we're not erasing EVERYTHING! Just a lot of things!"  With that tactic, fans were left in a holding pattern of 'goddammit, we have to wait and see instead of registering our disgust throughout the world and howling to the moon in blood-red rage about how Ted Kord never existed and yet somehow Identity Crisis is still supposed to have happened."

As that huge pill was choked down, though, Lobdell's 'there, there, fanatics' efforts mentioning Drake as Robin and earlier Titans became less necessary, as DC either belatedly realized they actually wanted to throw out most everything or they'd planned to sweep the rug out from under their readership in increments rather than all at once. No, no Crises ever happened now. There's probably no way The Death of Superman ever happened. Mistakes? Oversights? Changes of heart or mind? Blatant lies? That's up for interpretation.

All we can be sure of at the moment is The Killing Joke happened, since it's a huge part of Batgirl that could not be as easily erased as Lobdell's verbal indiscretions, and that Blackest Night happened in some form. DC is still saying things like 'most of the things you remember still happened, but just not in the way you remember them' or words to that effect, still trying to quell discontent with those platitudes, but it's becoming more and more obvious that an immunity is building up to that particular kind anti-psychotic.

Best to assume it's all a blank slate at this point – now that it's too late for that boiling fan rage to have any discernible effect. The New 52 is just like any other group of comic books – some yay stuff, some meh stuff and some nay stuff. It's just artists and creators trying to make their bones telling stories. That rage can maybe be redirected towards more deserving targets. Like Kardashians.