There’s a cliche in most time traveling stories in which one character tries to explain the workings of time travel to another character, who usually replies with something along the lines of “my head hurts” in response to the confusion. We can all relate to that character since time travel is indeed very confusing: does going back in time to prevent something then prevent the need for you to go back in time and cause the original thing to still happen? See? You’re already confused aren’t you?
Part of the reason time travel is so confusing is because of the time travellers themselves, what with all their continuity and timeline distorting shenanigans. Some of the worst offenders are in comic books, especially superheroes. Time travel stories are a constant in superhero stories, everything from future children coming back to prevent dystopian futures to adventures with famous historical figures. As result of these adventures, time traveling comic characters end up breaking a lot of the unwritten “laws of time travel.” Traveling through time is already a bit of a crime against reality itself, but these 15 comic characters take it to extremes, making them some of the worst time travellers of all time.
15. REVERSE FLASH
Eobard Thawne has had a few different origins throughout the various DC continuity reboots and retcons, but one thing remains constant in each of these stories: he’s obsessed with Barry Allen. One of Thawne’s origins depicts him as a scientist from the future that idolizes The Flash, going so gar as to get plastic surgery to look like Barry and recreating his powers so that he could travel back in time to meet his hero. Thawne eventually had an identity crisis and went crazy, going on a crime spree and becoming known as the Reverse Flash, at one point even altering the timeline so he could kill Barry Allen’s mother.
Thawne’s biggest crime as a time traveller is definitely his motivation, he’s a fanboy who wants to meet his favorite superhero, using a cosmic treadmill to do so. That’s like using a particle accelerator to make fireworks, an irrationally irresponsible reason to mess with the fabric of time.
14. ALL-NEW X-MEN
In November 2012, as part of the Marvel Now! comic line, Brian Michael Bendis introduced a rather interesting X-Men story entitled All-New X-Men. In it, as a result of Cyclops’ newfound mutant terrorist/extreme activist status, Hank McCoy goes back in time to bring the original five X-Men (a younger version of himself included) to the future as a means to give Scott some perspective on the person he’s become.
This is actually a pretty great idea from a story perspective, and we can even forgive the original five for sticking around for a little bit to do what Hank brought them there for. Unfortunately, their presence does nothing to deter Cyclops and they haven’t returned to the past. That’s right, after five years, they’re still here, just sort of hanging around. Come one, guys, get back to your own time, will ya?
13. BART ALLEN
The speed force is connected to a whole lot of confusing and convoluted time travel stories, retcons and reboots. One of the speed force’s many time travelers, Bart Allen first premiered in 1994. Originally appearing as Impulse, Bart Allen is the grandson of Barry Allen who was brought to the past in order to fix his freaky metabolism, which was causing him to age faster than normal. With the help of Barry, Impulse’s speed force metabolism was system shocked into functioning normally.
Impulse was a member of the Teen Titans for a long time, eventually taking on the Kid Flash moniker after Wally replaced the deceased Barry Allen. Like the original X-Men, Bart’s crime against time is that he’s still just hanging around in a time period that’s not his own. Though, we might forgive him since his future isn’t exactly an ideal one to go back to.
12. RACHEL SUMMERS
Another X-Men character? Yes, and strap in because there are a lot of them. Rachel summers in particular is from the alternate future of the Days of Future Past timeline in which mutants are oppressed, hunted and placed in internment camps. When Rachel was young, she was kidnapped by Ahab and turned into a “Hound,” a mutant-hunting mutant. She eventually broke free of Ahab’s control and helped Kitty Pryde to send her mind back in time and stop the Mutant Registration Act.
Through a series of confusing events, Rachel found herself in the present timeline of the 616 Marvel universe as a member of the X-Men. With her history as a hound and a conduit of the phoenix force — as well as her presence in an alternate timeline’s present — Rachel is definitely one of the most headache-inducing time travellers in Marvel comics.
11. BOOSTER GOLD
Easily one of the worst time travellers in the DC comics universe and an overall showboating douchebag whom all readers either love to hate or hate to love, it’s Booster Gold. Created by Dan Jurgens and premiering in 1986, Michael Jon Carter was a night security guard for the Metropolis Space Museum in the 25th century who stole superhero technology that was on display and used it to travel back in time. He planned to become a famous superhero and build a brand around his name so that he could live a comfortable life.
Booster Gold is a shameless self-promoter, focusing more on movie and commercial deals and his public image than on actually being a hero. Like Reverse Flash, Booster Gold uses time travel for personal gain, though we might give him a pass since he’s had a bit of a rough life and eventually comes into his own as a hero.
10. DR. DOOM & THE FANTASTIC FOUR
Reed Richards has had a bit of a history of letting his inventions, experimentation and scientific adventure get a little screwy — it’s the basis of a lot of great Fantastic Four stories — and they’ve had their fair share of time-traveling stories. All of these adventures revolve around the time platform, an invention of Dr. Doom. Doom first used the platform to force the Fantastic Four to go back in time and steal Blackbeard’s treasure, which he hoped contain the Merlin Stones.
Later, Reed would study and use the time platform over the years, accidentally letting a T-Rex through it at one point and even using it to go back to ancient Egypt, meeting a fellow time traveler. While the time platform has been used by other Marvel Superheroes, it is primary used by Doom and Reed.
9. THE TERMINATORS
While the Terminators are originally from The Terminator film series, we couldn’t not include them on the list, especially since there have been quite a few Terminator comic books. Besides the obvious time travel continuity confusion that the movies have ravelled themselves into, the comics have their own share of time travel shenanigans.
In the Dark Horse comics of the ’90s, four Terminators go back in time to protect developers of Skynet from a group of resistance soldiers who have also come from the future in order to kill said developers. While the story is nicely self contained and well done, the presence of this timeline — as well as ones in which Terminators have a crossover with Robocop, Superman and even the Aliens and Predators — only raise further questions about the Terminator multiverse.
8. SUPERBOY & THE LEGION OF SUPERHEROES
As an adult, Superman has had his fair share of time-traveling adventures, but his exploits as a young Superboy are just plain weird. As a teenager, Superboy was taken to the future by the Legion of Super-Heroes, a team that would start as a one-off story and would eventually break out into several of its own ongoing series.
The Legion of Super-Heroes traveled to Superboy’s time to recruit him into their ranks, the Legion itself being inspired by Superman’s adult exploits. Once again, these time travellers’ crimes are related to the fact that they are using the powerful and dangerous technology of time travel to pretty much just hang out with a teenage Superman. We can’t blame them of course, since that sounds awesome, but the Legion is lucky their time traveling hasn’t had any ill-effects (that we know of, anyway).
7. THE DOCTOR
The Doctor of course originated on the BBC TV series Doctor Who, but he’s also had plenty of comic book spin-offs and side stories to garner an inclusion on this list. Theres been a lot of incarnations of The Doctor, too many to cover in just one entry, so we’re gonna choose two of the most popular: the 10th and 11th, though they are all arguably some of the worst time criminals.
The 10th Doctor’s biggest time crimes in the comics usually involve him losing, breaking or otherwise being straight-up careless with with the TARDIS (an acronym for Time And Relative Dimensions In Space), a space-time machine of immense power that he should really be more careful with. In a similar fashion, the 11th Doctor’s comic involves him just using the TARDIS — again super powerful and not a plaything — to bring sidekick Amy Pond to tourist spots throughout time, usually causing some sort of ruckus or attack to occur.
Hailing from an alternate future in which the Roxxon corporation has taken over the world, Deathlok was once Luther Manning, an American soldier who was killed and reanimated as a cyborg soldier. As cool as this sounds, Manning’s origin and comics history is horribly confusing, time travel being one of the most headache-inducing aspects of the character.
First off, there are multiple Deathloks, and we’re not just talking about the multiple cyborgs who were given the name, there are two of the original Luther Manning Deathloks. There’s the Earth-616 version who is actually different from the one from the future of Earth-7484 who traveled to the alternate/prime timeline past of Earth-616. If that wasn’t confusing enough, since the character was created in the ’70s, the dystopian “future” he come from was originally stated to be 1990. So extreme.
5. MARTY MCFLY & DOC BROWN
Marty McFly and Doc Brown are perhaps the most famous and beloved time travellers in American pop culture, which is part of the reason why the (pardon the pun) Universal-ly loved film, Back to the Future garnered several comic book series over the years. Marty and Doc’s original time traveling adventures, though accidental for the most part, were already enough to consider them some of the worst offenders of the time travel “rules” but the comics make them even worse.
Not only does Doc get in trouble in the past, requiring Marty’s help in the future, but also the pair’s new time-traveling adventures in the comic seem to never end. They fumble about through various timelines, solving one time problem and causing another, making the pair a veritable Abbot and Costello of time travel, breaking and fixing things as they go.
4. KITTY PRIDE
While the Days of Future Past is one of more beloved X-Men stories, its timeline is pretty confusing in relation to the main Marvel continuity. At the center of the entire story arch is Kitty Pryde. In the dystopian future, Kitty, with the help of Rachel Summers, has her future consciousness transported into her past body. With her knowledge of the future that is to come, Kitty seeks to stop the passing of the mutant registration act.
We’re not well-versed enough in the science of time travel to determine if having your future brain take over your past body is technically “time travel,” but we’re gonna go ahead and include the density-shifting mutant on this list anyway. Kitty Pryde is one of the most beloved X-Men characters, but her time-traveling history makes her one of the worst offenders of continuity confusion and convolution there is.
3. PARRALAX (HAL JORDAN)
After his home town of Coast City was destroyed by Mongul, Hal Jordan lost his mind and began killing off the entire Green Lantern Corps. In this crazy state, Hal began to go by the name Parralax, a name which would later be revealed by Geoff Johns to be that of an ancient evil parasite born of the yellow fear energy that had taken over Hal’s body.
As Parallax, Hal collects the rings of the Green Lanterns he slaughtered as a means to gather as much of the Green Lantern Central Battery’s power as possible. With that under his belt, he then used that power to control cosmic chronal energy. Hal planned on using this energy to rewrite history so that Coast City was never destroyed. Though retcons have made it so that no actual time-travelling occurred during Hal’s stint as Parallax, he originally destroyed all of time before a slew of DC heroes recreated it by reproducing the Big Bang. Needless to say, he’s earned a spot on the list for threatening to destroy the very fabric of time itself.
Boy, the Grey/Summers family really can’t keep to their own time, can they? Much like his sister Rachel, Nathan Summers hails from a dystopian alternate future, traveling to the 616 timelines’s past and just sort of hanging around ever since. Though, to be fair, he’s actually originally from the present and got transported to the future as a baby, where he grew up and trained as a warrior, eventually returning to his “original” time.
If all that wasn’t confusing enough, Cable has gone back and forth in time so much that it’s not really clear which one he considered “his” time. Further, every time he arrives in the present, it’s usually only to join some new overly-macho Liefeld-esque super team (which, granted, is actually pretty badass) or to get into shenanigans with Deadpool.
1. BARRY ALLEN
At last we come to the worst time traveller of all. The time crimes of the CW’s The Flash is nothing compared to his comics counterparts. Seriously, Barry Allen should be in locked up in all eternity in every time prison in every possible timeline for how much he screws around with time travel.
There was the time he went back in time to stop his mother’s death, which resulted in an alternate future that he had to go back and fix. Then when he fixed said timeline, it resulted in the post-flashpoint New 52 Universe (due to the influence of Pandora). And most recently, after his antics in Flashpoint erased the original Wally West from existence, Barry pulled his nephew out of the Speed Force and returned his existence and memories to the current timeline. Man, our heads hurt now.
Can you think of a time traveller who messes up the timeline worst than these comics characters? Let us know who in the comments!