Yesterday I complained about the fact that Doctor Who is less interested in telling stories about a guy with a time machine having adventures than it is with how a girl made that guy not sad anymore. If you’re like me and want those time adventures, what do you do? Why, you grab a bunch of Rip Hunter comics!
No lie, Wikipedia describes Rip’s adventures as “brisk and historically accurate”.
Who is Rip Hunter? He’s a guy who invented a time machine! How? Why? I SAID “TIME MACHINE”, NOW SHUT UP. He actually has two time machines. This time traveler of unknown origin uses these fantastic devices to ferry two adults and a kid (friend Jeff, girlfriend Bonnie, and her little brother Corky) around Earth’s history. Although the time spheres are not outright stated to be larger on the inside than the outside, the inconsistent artwork certainly gives that impression. Whenever and wherever they go they can easily communicate with the natives, which is at first not explained but then handwaved away with “speech converters” that apparently Hunter also invented which can translate any speech. They start out in prehistoric times and soon are visiting places like Atlantis, medieval England, ancient Meso-America, and Rome.
And what does he find in these places? Aliens! It seems as though Earth’s history is just lousy with aliens of one stripe or another, messing with events, setting themselves up as gods, generally causing mischief. Rip and his pals are constantly thwarting alien plans (and although they throw many a punch, Rip never shoots anyone with the gun he carries)
Okay, so this is sounding a LOT like Doctor Who, mostly because I’m making it do so. But get this: these comics are from 1961, two years before the show debuted. If you’re a fan of Doctor Who, there is no criticism you can level at these stories (including the extremely cavalier attitude writer Jack Miller has towards actually knowing much of anything about the history in which he’s having things take place) that can’t be turned back on the show. And yet, despite so much in common, they have completely different feels to them.
There are three main ways Rip gets involved in adventures. First, he knows a ton of Professors, and they like to use him to solve time mysteries like “what’s up with this coin” and “why are there aliens in these hieroglyphics?” The Professors in this volume are: Blakeslee, Senn (actually a Doctor), Watkins, “Jim”, Peters, Sayers, Wenzel, Stern, Crane, Blake, Blake (different one), Deering, and Firenzo. There’s also “Sportsman Rex Steele” who stands in for a Professor in one story. The next way is deception and outright kidnapping. Sometimes bad guys find out Rip has a time machine and their first thought is “We can get rich with it!” usually by going back in time and finding magic. “We’ll use this time machine to go back in time and grab Aladdin’s magic lamp and then we’ll be rich!” is one such plan. Sometimes these two methods combine, when a Professor goes bad. The third method is when government officials have a grave concern that only a time trip into the past can solve. SO FAR no heads of state have tricked Rip into going back in time to procure magic to make them rich.
I’m looking forward to volume two of this, assuming DC ever releases one. I’m afraid to ask because no doubt DC has “updated” Rip Hunter into a seedy “temporal mercenary” with an attitude and god knows what indignities have been forced upon poor Bonnie in today’s more “mature” comics climate.