Monday, August 15, 2005

Laughable Retcon Awards 2004

The inaugural Laughable Retcon Awards Ceremony was held in the lobby of a specially recreated Baxter Building. The gathering included a host of industry luminaries plus selected superheroes such as evil Max Lord with a phalanx of sternly dressed beauties, Jessica Drew with a box of doughnuts, the Black Panther beating Captain America senseless, and several hundred thousand mutants fearful of getting the chop at the end of House of M. Five different Wolverines appeared: three with different X-Men teams, one with the Avengers and one morosely on his own.

The Character Flip-Flop Award went, as expected, to Brian Michael Bendis (writer) and Tom Brevoort (editor) for the inexplicable and fantastical metamorphosis of Wanda Maximoff from middle-ranking spell-caster to universe-endangering reality changer. The judges greatly appreciated the fact that it was based on a mini-series which nobody had read, or indeed wanted to read, since 1987. Special commendation was given for the depth of their retcon: by deciding that Wanda had been insane and powerful for a long time, they had effectively retconned every Avengers story for the last two decades. The judges felt this was dedication beyond the call of duty, and Wanda then demonstrated her new-found power by hilariously aging and de-aging Steve Rogers.

But audible groans could be heard from Bendis and Brevoort as they found out they had missed out on the top prize. The Laughable Retcon of the Year Award for 2004 went to J. Michael Straczynski (writer) and Axel Alonso (editor) for the "Sins Past" arc of Amazing Spider-Man. This outstanding retcon, where Spider-Man's dead girlfriend Gwen Stacy turns out to have had two children by the Green Goblin without Spider-Man even noticing, had impressed the judges with its span (around 25 years), its total lack of plausibility, its rewrite of a Stan Lee story, its use of rapidly aging twins and last but not least by Straczynski's claim that he wanted Peter to be the father, not Osborn, but the Marvel wouldn't let him.

The judging panel then attempted to work out whether "Sins Past" would have made any more sense if Peter had been the father, but were forced to retire baffled after several hours. After which Straczynski gave an emotional speech, in which he promised he would be in the running in future years with his forensic examination of exactly why the spider had decided to bite Peter. He then waved a heavily annotated copy of "Essential Fantastic Four Volume 1", shouting, "there's some good stuff in here, too". The new Grey Goblin, Gabriel Stacy, then lunged at Straczynski, only to be pummelled senseless by Spider-Man. Gabriel subsequently fell to the floor with amnesia and was carried out by bemused sunbathers. Gabriel's charmless drug-dealing sister, Sarah, was then expelled for selling the mutant power enhancer "Toss" (or "Flum" or "Plop" or "Slap" or whatever it's called) and for trying to suck the tonsils out of a surprised Peter Parker.

Joss Whedon (writer) and Mike Marts (editor) then picked up the Leaping Lazarus Award for the most pointless resurrection for the return of Colossus in Astonishing x-Men. Colossus, last seen (in a story of little artistic merit) blowing himself up in order to destroy the Legacy Virus, had turned up in an alien's basement for no reason whatsoever. The judges especially wanted to commend Whedon for bringing back a character whose original death had caused sighs of relief worldwide.

During the intermission, Wonder Woman and Thor came to the dias to read from the braille edition of their latest paper, "Retinal Damage in Mythical Heroes: The Challenge for Ophthalmologists", but were ambushed by a swooping shrill-voiced harpy. Diana responded to this assault in a robust Amazon fashion by cutting off her own ears. Thor then changed into Dr Donald Blake in an attempt to stop the profuse bleeding, momentarily forgetting that Blake himself had been retconned out of existence.

Mark Ricketts (writer) and Tom Brevoort (editor) picked up the second last award of the evening, the Feeblest Effort Award for reinstating Tony Stark's secret identity by the old trick of getting Happy Hogan to put on Tony's armour at a press conference. Some argument followed as to whether this counts as a proper retcon, since it involved no change to past stories. However, since a secret, once out, can never be made secret again, it was decided that this was in spirit a retcon, and a useless one at that.

At this point there was a complaint from DC that they had missed out on every award. The judges were forced to sheepishly admit that was because the only DC book they had read last year had been a stunningly slow Superman story. They then pointed out that DC had some strong resurrectees and a massive cross-over going on, and would surely figure in next year's awards. Indeed, they could still figure in this year's awards, since the award ceremony itself could be retconned at any future point.

To finish the evening, the envelope containing the first ever Lifetime Achievement Award was opened to a hushed audience. After weeks of deliberation, it had been decided that the worst ever retcon in the history of the universe was the Resurrection of Aunt May in Amazing Spider-Man. In this classic story, Aunt May was brought back by the device of having the Aunt May who had previously died turn out to be an actress, while the real Aunt May was held captive by Norman Osborn. The reader is expected to believe that Peter Parker would have lived with this actress for a period of time without noticing any change whatsoever (and indeed without the mildest tingle of his Spider-sense), and that the actress would have actually given a death bed speech and passed away without giving up the pretence.

The judges felt that there had been many more damaging retcons than this, but none had managed the sheer depth of arrogance, disdain and stupidity that this story had plumbed, nor had they managed to insult the reader's intelligence so contemptuously.

As was typical with the Clone Saga, no-one could work out who was responsible for this story, so finally a tearful Aunt May went up to collect the award herself, until it was pointed out that she was actually an imposter, and the real Aunt May was being held incommunicado in a dungeon complex in Languedoc-Roussillon. At which point Jarvis the Butler attempted to seduce her, and the Award Ceremony broke up in some confusion.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good picks. I'd have named Claremont's laughable resurrection of Magneto as being more absurd, arrogant and contemptuous than Whedon's resuscitation of Collosus - the guy gets his head lopped off at the end of a decent arc, and Claremont brings him back with no explanation, and for no real reason other than to do his umpteenth cliche "Magneto and Xavier talk real deep" story. But maybe that happened in 2003. I've lost track.

1:26 pm  
Blogger Disintegrating Clone said...

You're quite right. I'd somehow managed to blank the whole "Magneto returns for a bun and a chat with Xavier" thing. It could easily have won "Leaping Lazarus" and "Feeblest Effort". But I think this story deserves a special award of its own. Give me a few days and I'll retcon one in.

9:06 am  
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