Comics / DC Comics History

DC Comics History: Rip Hunter, Time Master (1964 - 1967: The New Look)


By Deejay Dayton
February 1, 2020 - 09:54

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Rip Hunter, Time Master saw his series come to an end during the period 1964 – 1967: the New Look, but not before he got to see Cleopatra again, fight against George Washington, team up with Hitler, and gain a sort of recurring villain. Jack Ely remained on the art throughout the latter part of the series, though Jack Miller passed the scripting chores to George Kashdan. Since there were no real developments or changes during this era, I am just going to look at some of my favourite stories from this run.

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Adolf Hitler gets to guest star in Rip Hunter, Time Master 20. Rip and his crew, Jeff Smith, Corky and Bonnie Baxter, have travelled back in time to World War 2 to take footage of the events, but wind up getting shot down by the Nazis, and captured by them as well. Hitler himself happens to be on the scene, and Rip is forced to explain his time machine. He expects Hitler will want to use it to flee into a different era, but this is before the attack on Russia, and Hitler simply wants to learn Napoleon's secret route out of the country, a route he plans to use to invade. The story sort of requires one to believe that Napoleon's retreat was not accompanied by a devastating loss of life among his soldiers. Anyway, Rip winds up heading back to go get Napoleon, with Bonnie along for the ride. Jeff and Corky are being held by the Nazis to ensure their good behaviour.

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But Napoleon is none to keen on aiding the "Prussians." Nevertheless, he comes back with Rip, and Hitler just starts idolizing the guy, to the jealousy of Mussolini, which is sort of funny. Rip then appears to join Hitler's side, as he and Napoleon promise to lead the Nazi troops safely into Russia. But of course, this is all a trick, and the men lead the troops into a Russian trap. With the Nazis busy, Rip and his crew escape, and drop Napoleon back off on their way home, presumably. We don't actually see this happen, but it's a safe bet.

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Rip Hunter, Time Master 21 brings back Cleopatra, and contains my very favourite tale from this series. A movie producer promises to give a fortune to charity if Rip will go back in time and gather up some of histories' great beauties, in order to have them all compete against starlet Liz Traymore. Miller must have an obsession with Elizabeth Taylor. So Rip agrees, and with Jeff Smith, Bonnie and Corky Baxter in tow, he heads first of all to ancient Troy, where they persuade Helen of Troy to take part. Stopping off to pick up Cleopatra, they arrive at a slightly later time. She is now with Mark Antony. The roles the women are given in this story are really atrocious. So sexist and terrible that it all winds up playing preposterously funny and absurd. The women, of course, all start cat fighting with each other. Cleopatra and Helen of Troy bicker over which of them is truly older. Rip and crew pick up Scheherezade, as well as the Empress Theodora.

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Theodora actually wangles her way into empressdom by agreeing to take part in the contest, although Cleopatra then does her best to seduce Justinian. The time sphere is getting pretty crowded by this point, and the women keep fighting with each other, and wind up sending the time sphere hurtling out of control. They wind up picking up a young French serving girl, rescuing her from some wolves. Then, when it's time for the big contest, Theodora tries to cheat by using a powder that makes all men fall in love with her. But then the powder winds up landing on the serving girl, who wins the competition to the distress of all the other contestants. An appallingly sexist story, but so much fun.

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A mystery woman is at the centre of the story in Rip Hunter, Time Master 22, which once again veers towards pure comedy. At the end of a number of time trips, Rip Hunter, Bonnie and Corky Baxter and Jeff Smith discover a woman hiding in the time sphere. It's a puzzle to me where she was concealed, the sphere seems to consist of one big circular room, but no one questions this. She tells them she was the lover of Richard the Lionheart, and they take her back to the period when he was being held captive. Of course, Richard has no idea who she is. One very nice touch in this story is that Richard's imprisonment by the Holy Roman Emperor is shown fairly accurately, as two old friends hanging out together, the imprisonment and ransom demand just part of the power politics of the day.

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The mystery woman then claims to be Maid Marion, but this is a lie as well. The era they head to is late in the life of Robin Hood, and both he and Marion are much older than usually shown. The woman next claims to be the lover of Casanova, but by now Rip doesn't believe her stories. He seems to have met Casanova before, as he enlists the man's help in making himself look and act old and repulsive, in order to make her admit the truth. She was from the present all along, an engaged, but wanted one of history's great lovers instead. Weird that she chose the gay Richard I, but perhaps that wasn't known in the 60s? Although I cannot think of any story that makes Richard a romantic hero anyway.

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Rip Hunter, Time Master 23 contains a strange tale that I find really entertaining, but it strikes me that a lot of Americans would not. This also happens to be the final issue written by Jack Miller. Perhaps there was a connection. The issue opens with Bonnie Baxter trying to convince Rip Hunter that the two of them should leave her brother Corky and his friend Jeff Smith behind and take a romantic time trip together. Rip insists that he is too old for Bonnie. Then the main plot gets going, as a letter is discovered that seems to indicate that George Washington offered to betray the Revolution to the British for payment. Lyndon Johnson, president at the time, sort of appears in the story, but only in silhouette.  Rip and crew head back in time, and are shocked when Washington confirms that the letter is genuine. Rip returns to the present with the sad news, and this causes riots across the country, as well as demands to re-name everything called Washington. The chaos is hilarious.

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Rip and crew head back again, determined to find some explanation that will clear Washington. They get into a sea battle with the time sphere, which looks cool, but just learn that Lafayette is in on betraying the revolution as well. Rip gets so angry and frustrated that he actually attacks Washington! Then things start to clear up, when Rip finds that the chest of money is counterfeit, and the whole thing was a strangely complicated plan in which Washington would pretend to be willing to betray his own troops. I guess it really had to end this way, but it almost feels like a let down. By accident or design, the Time Masters miniseries from the 90s would also have a story with a traitorous George Washington, though a very different tale.

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George Kashdan takes over the scripting of Rip Hunter, Time Master with issue 24. This story is also a lot of fun. It brings back the Hollywood director who was behind the Beauty Contest of the Ages. Now he is making a movie about Sir Walter Raleigh, and gets Rip to bring the actor who is going to play Raleigh back in time with him, to meet the original. Bonnie Baxter, Corky Baxter and Jeff Smith are also on the trip. Jeff and the actor do not get along, but Bonnie becomes quite important in this tale. Rip finds the real Raleigh, who is all cowardly when confronted by Spanish ships. Rip uses the time sphere to scare away the Spanish, and Raleigh brings Rip to the Queen in order to explain what has happened.

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Queen Elizabeth is so taken with Rip Hunter that she decides she wants to marry him. Bonnie is horrified, and insults Elizabeth, winding up getting tossed into the Tower of London. The actor is in love with Bonnie, and for a while schemes against Rip before realizing which side he needs to be on. Rip breaks Bonnie out of the Tower, with the help of the time sphere, and though he does manage to get out of marrying Elizabeth, he tells her about the forthcoming Spanish Armada, so stays in her favour. It's bizarre romantic comedy, but wonderful for its absurdity.

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Galileo is the object of Rip Hunter, Time Master's time trip in issue 26. A rocket gets shot to the Moon, but winds up going off course, heading for Jupiter. What does any of that have to do with Galileo? Well, it turns out that Galileo had better information on Jupiter than NASA has. How exactly they know this is puzzling, as they need Rip Hunter to go back in time and get Galileo's information. So Rip heads back in time to Renaissance Pisa, along with Jeff Smith, Bonnie and Corky Baxter. They find Galileo operating a robot monster of his own creation. In this version of reality, Galileo is being persecuted not by the church, but by an evil general who wants his inventions. Rip gets captured, along with Galileo, and put on trial, and sentenced to execution.

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Corky actually gets a decent role in this one, going in disguise as a Pisan boy in order to find out what is happening with Rip. Rip's crew help the pair escape execution, and defeat the evil general. Galileo even helps Rip and his friends get away, using a flashlight that Rip gave him to distract the troops. Rip gives Galileo's information to NASA, and the rocket gets back on course.

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Rip gets turned into a monster by an 18th century Polish sorceror, Kraklow, in Rip Hunter, Time Master 28. The story opens with Rip as a rampaging monster, and Jeff Smith and Bonnie Baxter are horrified when the beast changes back into Rip in front of their eyes. Rip explains to them, and to Corky, how he went back in time to check out Kraklow, to see if the sorceror had actual magic powers. It turns out Kraklow has a magical clay, and he can bring to life and control anything he shapes it into. By making a statue of Rip Hunter, and then re-making it into a monster, he is able to change Rip's shape, and control him. Rip gets thrown into jail briefly, but Kraklow changes him into monster form and makes him break out and come back to the past, and his crew joins him.

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Kraklow keeps a second statue of Rip by his side, using it as a threat to force Rip and his crew into attacking and overthrowing King Stanislaus, and giving them control of Warsaw. Jeff manages to get the statue of Rip, and makes a monster statue out of it, which he can control and use against Kraklow. The sorceror gets overthrown, and Stanislaus is restored to the throne.  The tale ends with a tease for the villain's return, as the second statue of Rip gets lost in the final battle. Kraklow sort of counts as a recurring villains, since he would return, though not for twenty years, as part of the Forgotten Villains, in DC Comics Presents.

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Rip Hunter, Time Master 29 is the final issue of the series. Super heroes were the big thing at this time, and try as they might, this series just couldn't compete. A shame, as I do enjoy it. I wish they had done what all later incarnations of the Time Masters have done, and used DC characters from other periods in history. The story begins with giant bugs on the rampage in the present day. A scientist contacts Rip Hunter and explains that he and an assistant were working to re-create the growth formula of an alchemist from the 1500s. The assistant got bonked on the head and turned evil, as tends to happen in comics. He has been using the formula to turn insects huge and cause chaos. So Rip Hunter, Bonnie and Corky Baxter and Jeff Smith head to 1561 to find the alchemist and learn what the antidote is.When they get there, they find the alchemist giant sized, and tied down a la Gulliver’s Travels. Rip uses a flamethrower from the time sphere to free the man, and he takes Rip and crew to his friends, who are also giant sized.

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The alchemist explains how his formula got dropped and caused him and his friends to grow. They fled to avoid being treated like monsters, but need to come back to the town to get food. Rip and his friends take care of that, while the alchemist works out an antidote, using it on himself and his friends. When the gang get back to the present the find the cities overrun with giant bugs. It takes a few pages for Rip to make sure the antidote works on the bugs, and then find a way to spray it wide enough to affect them all. It's not a bad story, but not one of the best ones.

Rip Hunter and his crew are next seen in 1978, though Rip appears a few months before the rest, in the Challengers of the Unknown revival. Corky and Bonnie Baxter and Jeff Smith are next seen in Showcase 100.

Rip Hunter, Time Master: Rip Hunter, Time Master 20 – 29 (May/June 1964 – Nov/Dec 1965)

Next up – Mark Merlin!

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Last Updated: February 1, 2020 - 10:25

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