Some heroes move through time as easily as the average person makes a daily commute, but the consequences can be far more devastating if things go wrong — like landing in the wrong place, the wrong planet or even the wrong era. Worse, a time mishap can leave a well-meaning adventurer without the means to get back home to loved ones, or even to send a signal that you’re okay. It can help if you’re a member of a superteam and they’re searching for you, but that doesn’t always happen, nor do they always arrive in time.
Heroes such as Rip Hunter and Booster Gold devote their attention to fixing the things in the timestream that aren’t right, although sometimes “fixes” lead to other, worse problems, as different members of the X-Men have found over and over again. Then there are the street-level heroes who aren’t possessed with cosmic abilities or chronal equipment, like Captain America, Jonah Hex and Batman, who have had fantastic adventures in environments ranging from the dawn of time to centuries in the future. Here are 16 heroes who have battled through time and space.
Fifteen-year-old Kara Zor-El was sent from Argo City to Earth, but her rocket went off course. She landed on the post-Crisis Earth, where she met — Supergirl! This was in the “Many Happy Returns” storyline in Supergirl (Vol. 4) #75-#80 (December 2002-May 2003). This title was headlined by the Linda Danvers Supergirl, a human who had merged with the Matrix Supergirl from a pocket dimension.
The two Supergirls become friends, but learn from The Spectre that Kara faces a dire fate! Staying where she is will destroy all of time, but she will die in the Crisis on Infinite Earths if she goes to her proper place. Danvers tries to avert this by going to Earth-One in her stead. While there, she and Superman fall for each other, marry and have a daughter, but when the Crisis begins, she learns she must send Kara back or all reality will end.
15. RIP HUNTER
The linchpin character of the CW’s Legends of Tomorrow, at least during its first season, Rip Hunter first appeared in Showcase #20 (May-June 1959). His own series, Rip Hunter… Time Master soon followed in 1961 for 29 issues. In those early days, Hunter led a team of four through various adventures, but later was shown working alone. He was linked to the Challengers of the Unknown, and was one of the Forgotten Heroes who helped Superman thwart one of Vandal Savage’s schemes in Action Comics #553 (July 1983).
It’s later revealed that “Rip Hunter” is an alias; he conceals his personal history to keep enemies off his trail. Hunter aids Booster Gold in his title series from 2007-2011, but doesn’t reveal he is Gold’s son. Hunter survives through Flashpoint, Convergence, and has a role in Rebirth, appearing in Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps.
14. IRIS WEST
The steady love of Barry Allen, Central City Picture News reporter Iris West first appeared in Showcase #4 (September-October 1956), the comic that debuted the Silver Age Flash. West and Allen marry in The Flash (Vol. 1) #165 (November 1966). In The Flash (Vol. 1) #203, West learns she was born in the 30th century in the year 2945. Her parents sent her to the past for her safety just before a nuclear blast triggered by their homeland’s enemies.
West was murdered by time traveler Professor Zoom in Flash (Vol. 1) #275 (July 1979), but it was revealed that her parents in the 30th century arranged for her consciousness to be placed in another body. The Flash came to join her after “The Trial of the Flash” storyline for a time, before he met his end in Crisis On Infinite Earths #8 (November 1985).
13. SPIDER-MAN 2099
The Spider-Man from the future was Miguel O’Hara, lead genetic scientist for the Alchemax corporation. He was introduced in Spider-Man 2099 (November 1992), created by Peter David and Rick Leonardi. O’Hara developed his spider powers while trying to purge his body of a drug called Rapture, which was added to his system by his corrupt boss Tyler Stone to ensure loyalty.
O’Hara came to the past in Spider-Man 2099 Meets Spider-Man, a 1995 one-shot in which the title heroes traded places through a time anomaly. More recently, Spider-Man 2099 was stranded in the past during the 2014-2015 “Spider-Verse” crossover, which involved every version of Spider-Man from all of time and space. Spider-Man 2099 tangled with the Superior Spider-Man — Otto Octavius, who at the time had control of Peter Parker’s body.
12. BOOSTER GOLD
Michael Jon Carter was a college football star in the 25th century who bet on his own games. Disgraced, he became a guard at the Metropolis Space Museum. Inspired by displays of 20th-century heroes, he took Rip Hunter’s time sphere from the museum and went to the past. With a powersuit, Brainiac 5’s force field belt, a Legion of Super-Heroes flight ring and a security robot named Skeets also taken from the museum, Carter set himself up as a hero — but one who also was an incessant self-promoter.
Booster later joined Justice League International and struck a close friendship with Ted Kord, the Blue Beetle, who was murdered by Maxwell Lord during the Infinite Crisis crossover. Booster later works with Hunter to fix errors in the time stream, although his attempts to prevent Barbara Gordon’s shooting and Kord’s death fail. Booster debuted in Booster Gold #1 (February 1986).
11. RIP VAN SUPERMAN
In Superman #107 (August 1956), Perry White alerts Clark Kent and Lois Lane that the cyclotron at the university has gone haywire. Superman rushes to the scene, plunges inside the device and fixes it, as a scientist exclaims, “He’ll never make it! Not even Superman can survive that terrible radiation!” Superman stumbles out and collapses into a coma. Superman is placed inside a glass coffin wired to sound an alarm when he revives.
When he does, it’s 2956; he’s been asleep for a thousand years! Humans have developed superpowers through vitamins and hormones, and robots do all the work. But when a villain in the prison colony on the moon starts a revolt, only Superman has the savvy to fight back. Two grateful citizens use an experimental time machine to send him home — and he wakes up in the glass coffin only a week after he was put in!
Bishop, who was introduced in Uncanny X-Men #282 (November 1991), is a time-traveler from an alternate future 21st century in which the Sentinels have conquered North America. He and his sister Shard are Aborigine Australians who were sent to America just before the continent was destroyed in a nuclear explosion. They were raised in mutant concentration camps and later joined the Xavier Special Enforcers.
Bishop came to contemporary times to capture the fugitive Fitzroy, who opened a portal to the past. Bishop remained in this time, becoming Professor X’s personal bodyguard. He helps the team defeat Onslaught. During the “Age of Apocalypse” caused by the accidental murder of Professor X. With the Earth-616 timeline altered, Bishop restores things by preventing the murder. Bishop later co-founds X-Treme X-Men with Storm, on a quest to find the Books of Truth. Bishop also worked with the Uncanny X-Force with Storm, Psylocke, Puck and Spiral.
Cable is another time traveler tied to the X-Men. Nathan Summers came from the future with the mission to prevent the mutant villain Apocalypse from subjugating the world. Cable is the son of Cyclops and Madelyne Pryor, later revealed to be a clone of Jean Grey. Cyclops sent the infant Nathan to the future to cure him of a techno-organic virus supplanting his flesh with metal. The souls of Cyclops and Jean Grey were pulled to the future and placed in cloned bodies so they could rear the child. While there, they defeated Apocalypse and returned home. Cable went to the past to take on Apocalypse there.
In contemporary times, Cable sided with the New Mutants against the Mutant Liberation Front, revamping the team into X-Force. Cable also has been associated with Deadpool and battled Bishop. Cable first appeared as an adult in New Mutants (Vol. 1) #87 (March 1990).
8. SUPERMAN AND WONDER WOMAN
When Wonder Woman comes to Superman’s home looking for help in Action Comics #761 (January 2000), of course he says yes. But this means fighting in Valhalla for a thousand years! Wonder Woman is suddenly summoned to Asgard to honor her pledge to support Thor — the DC Universe version. Unfortunately, Thor only had the power to bring her and Superman; they can’t go home until the war against the demons besieging Asgard is won.
The months turn to years, the years turn to decades, the decades turn to centuries, and Wonder Woman and Superman train Asgard’s warriors, fight by day and rest by night. As Superman’s memories of Lois Lane fade, he and Diana grow close … but on the night before the climactic battle, Superman stays true to his wife.
7. JONAH HEX
The former Confederate soldier turned post-war bounty hunter Jonah Hex had a hard time fitting in anywhere. Introduced in All-Star Western #10 (February-March 1972), Hex headlined the book, later renamed Weird Western Tales, and his own title. Jonah Hex #92 (August 1985) abruptly shifted Hex from 1875 to the post-apocalyptic future of 2050. Hex #1 (September 1985) begins an 18-issue run of his adventures in the future. His return to the past was never explained.
In the New 52, Hex encounters Booster Gold in All-Star Western (Vol. 3) #19 (June 2013), and in #21, winds up in 21st-century Gotham City. After various adventures in which he meets Batman, Superman, Swamp Thing and John Constantine, Hex has a motorcycle crash and goes into a coma. When he awakens, he finds plastic surgeons have restored his face. Hex returns to his own time in #28.
6. IRON MAN AND DOCTOR DOOM
Iron Man (Vol. 1) #149-#150 (August-September 1981) starts with Iron Man out to retrieve Stark technology sold to Latveria. Doctor Doom, naturally, won’t cancel the sale, and sends minions to take the stuff back. Iron Man and Doom fight in Castle Doom, until Doom’s lackey triggers Doom’s time machine and sends them to Camelot! While there, Doom forms an alliance with Morgana LeFay: She’ll help him free his mother’s soul from hell and he’ll defeat King Arthur with her zombie army. Iron Man sides with King Arthur and saves the day. Then Iron Man and Doom strike a truce to get back home, using parts from their armor.
There were two sequels, in Iron Man (Vol. 1) #249-250 (November-December 1989), and the 2008 miniseries Iron Man: Legacy of Doom. There also was What If (Vol. 1) #33 (June 1982), in which Doom leaves Iron Man stranded in the past.
5. THE RED SKULL
The Red Skull was created to be the opposite number to Captain America, and they battled bitterly during World War II, since he first appeared in Captain America Comics #7 (October 1941). (A retcon later said the Skull who appeared in issue #1 was an impostor.) Their last clash during the war resulted in the Skull being trapped in his hidden bunker after the Allies dropped a blockbuster bomb on it.
The Skull first appeared in modern times in Tales of Suspense #79 (July 1966). The story reveals that the collapsing rubble in that bunker released an experimental gas that put him in suspended animation for decades and also kept him from aging. The Skull was found by agents of THEM, an offshoot of HYDRA, and renewed his battles with Captain America.
4. THE WINTER SOLDIER
Bucky Barnes went from being Captain America’s junior partner to being a formidable villain. Barnes first appeared in Captain America Comics #1 (March 1941), fighting by Captain America’s side through World War II until they both were presumed to have been killed in the explosion of a drone plane, as told in Avengers #4 (March 1964).
Captain America (Vol. 5) #11 (November 2005) revealed that Barnes had survived, but lost his left arm and went into suspended animation just as Captain America had (but without the arm situation). He was found by Soviet sailors and turned over to the Winter Soldier Project, which put him in cryostasis, installed a cybernetic arm and brainwashed him to be an assassin sent on covert missions. He was returned to cryostasis when finished to preserve his youth. An encounter with Captain America in modern times led to Barnes regaining his memories and mind.
3. CAPTAIN AMERICA
Captain America is well known for being a man out of time, fighting in World War II and then falling into suspended animation before being revived in Avengers #4 (March 1964). But at the end of the 2006-2007 “Civil War” crossover, Captain chose to tell the anti-registration group he was leading to stand down, and surrendered. When he was being taken to the federal courthouse in New York, he was shot by a hypnotized Sharon Carter.
The six-issue Captain America: Reborn series (September 2009-March 2010) revealed that he wasn’t shot with an ordinary weapon and did not die from the shooting; he was frozen “within space and time.” Captain America flashes through the key moments of his life and into an alternate future where the Red Skull rules America and fights for control before he is fully restored to his proper life and time.
Batman also had a jaunt through time shortly after Captain America, when he was seemingly killed by Darkseid in the sixth issue of the crossover series Final Crisis (July 2008-March 2009). But the Omega Beams that struck Batman actually sent him to prehistoric times. The story continues in the series Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne (July-December 2010).
With no memory of who he is, Batman moves through time from the prehistoric era to witch trials in Gotham to pirates in the 18th century to cowboy days to the 20th century, as the Justice League searches for him. The journey concludes at Vanishing Point, where the Justice League and the Time Masters need to prevent the destruction of reality from energy built up in Batman’s body through the Omega Beams.
1. DOCTOR MANHATTAN
Doctor Manhattan is the god-like figure in Watchmen, the acclaimed maxiseries (September 1986-October 1987) and graphic novel. He began as Dr. Jon Osterman, a nuclear physicist who was steered away from the family trade of watchmaking when his father deemed it obsolete after the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Osterman, working at a research facility, was accidentally locked inside an intrinsic field generator and disintegrated.
The energies transformed him, and he reconstituted his body, giving him the ability to manipulate matter and perceive time across the past, present and future simultaneously. Doctor Manhattan’s growing strength upsets the power balance between the United States and the Soviet Union, leading to a growing risk of nuclear war that is resolved by Ozymandias in the story’s conclusion. In 2016, Doctor Manhattan is introduced in DC’s Rebirth as having created the New 52 after Flashpoint.
Which other heroes do battle with time on the regular? Let us know in the comments!
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