DC Comics History: Rip Hunter, Time Master (1960 - 1964: the Silver Age)
By Deejay Dayton
Jun 18, 2017 - 7:52
Rip Hunter, Time Master returned during the period 1960 – 1964: the Silver Age, getting a second tryout run in Showcase before moving into its own book. This is a series I really enjoy, even though the stories are jam packed with errors and anachronisms. Nothing much really develops during the course of the run, although the team does get proper costumes. I have selected some of my favourite stories, although in some cases it’s the sheer badness that makes me enjoy them.
Rip Hunter, Time Master’s second tryout run begins in Showcase 25. Joe Kubert does the cover and interior art on Jack Miller's story. Rip Hunter, Bonnie and Corky Baxter are back, but Jeff Smith is not. Mention is made of him, though, so it's not like he was dropped from the series. Rip gets asked to take a professor back to the 900s, but the professor will not explain anything more. The professor takes off when they get there, and later the team gets captured an imprisoned by the king of the land.
The king is in a power battle with a wizard, who demonstrates a number of impressive powers. The wizard has the team exiled to the valley of monsters, where they encounter the deadly beasts on the cover, and some others, like a giant porcupine man. Using the quills, they are able to climb up and escape the valley. The team return to the time sphere and find the king a captive there. The professor had shaved his facial hair and taken the man's place.
Pretending to be the king, the professor is in the process of making a deal with the wizard, that he will turn the kingdom over to him and depart, in exchange for the secret of his magic. Rip and crew burst in with the real king, and then Rip takes the wizard's ring, which he had deduced was the source of his powers, and destroys it. As they depart, Corky comments that this was their best adventure yet. I have to agree.
Rip Hunter, Time Master, gets his fourth and last tryout issue in Showcase 26. Jeff Smith is back, along with Bonnie and Corky Baxter, as the team head to ancient Egypt, after Rip finds some inscriptions showing the people worshipping some odd looking gods. Sure enough, as the cover states, these "gods" are aliens, who have a robot factory, and are planning to use robots to enslave the world. Rip and his crew are taken as more invaders by the Egyptians, so they have two sides to fight against.
The best part of the story involves a giant creature used by the aliens to bring Rip's ship down, simply by blowing really hard. But despite the amazing array of weapons the aliens have, Rip notices how vulnerable the robot army is to sand, and uses it to wipe them out. Great visuals, but I did prefer the story in the previous issue.
Ross Andru and Mike Esposito provide the art as Rip Hunter, Time Master moves into his own book. Rip Hunter has the same crew as before, his friend Jeff Smith, girlfriend Bonnie Baxter, and her little brother, Corky. Rip's friend, Martin Craig, is due to get married, but is worried about a long family curse, which tends to kill off the men in the family at age 25. Rip heads back in time to find the origin of the curse. Their first stop is the pre-Revolutionary American colonies. This chapter is uncomfortably white supremacist, taking the view that the white settlers have more right to the land than the natives, who are portrayed as evil savages. Rip saves one of the Craig men by scaring the natives away, but a different one dies. Rip and crew learn that the curse goes back to the 1300s. So that's the next stop.
This time they wind up dealing with a fake monster, created by another Craig ancestor, trying to convince the town that he is not a coward. From the 1300's chapter they learn that the curse goes back to the 900s, and that's the final stop. In this quasi-Arthurian time they find a wizard putting a curse on the family, and then killing one of ancestors, making it look like the man died magically. Rip finds the wizard's diary, and brings it back to the present to prove the curse is a fake, even though it does seem to have caused a large number of Craig men to die at age 25.
Alex Toth does some excellent art on Rip Hunter, Time Master 6. The story centres on a book of prophecies, which range from the distant past to the present day. The final prophecy is about an island being destroyed in the year they are in. Rip Hunter leads Corky and Bonnie Baxter, and Jeff Smith, back to Baghdad in 798 AD, the time the book is from. The Turks are attacking Baghdad, using a giant iron robot the spews fire, and which also wears a turban, which is sort of cute. Rip and his people prevent the robot from burning everyone, using modern fire extinguishers, and scare the Turks away by using the time sphere to fake a flying carpet. But they also find out that the prophet merely copied an older book.
This sends Rip and crew back to Herculaneum, just before the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. Once again it turns out that the book was copied by the Romans, but when Rip examines the original he finds a coin from the year 2025. It turns out the book of "prophecy" was brought from that year by another time traveller. At the end of the tale, it will be theorized that the man was Rip Hunter's son.
The finale of the story takes place back in the present, and is the most outrageous part of the tale. Thanks to the book of prophecy/history, Rip and the others know about the meteor that is going to destroy an island that is being used to stockpile dangerous chemical weapons. Rip has men cut the island in half, and tow the part with all the chemicals to safety. Because islands float when they are cut apart. At least in the DC universe they do.
Rip Hunter, Time Master 10 deals with the war between Rome under the Emperor Aurelian, and Palmyra under Queen Zenobia. It does so really badly, but at least it's a fun read. There are so many stories that begin with archaeologists making discoveries. Usually they are unnamed, and those that are named never appear again. Makes one wish there had a been a proper supporting archaeologist character in the strip. Anyway, that's how this one opens as well, with the discovery of a fresco that shows a monstrous beast leading Roman troops. Rip and his crew go back to determine the truth of it, but he and Jeff Smith wind up captured by the Romans and put to work on a slave galley, until Corky Baxter fires off a new chemical device from the time sphere, which the Romans believe is a sun god coming for them. The pair then get captured by Palmyran forces, lead by the monster, which turns out to just be a guy in a costume.
They are brought to Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra. She looks just like Bonnie Baxter, and the two men kidnap her to try to restore her memory. It turns out this is the real Zenobia, and the situation gets cleared up when Bonnie Baxter is brought to them. The Palmyrans who found her thought she was their queen but with some amnesia about her identity. Once that all gets cleared up, the story turns the Roman conquest of Palmyra into a happy and peaceful merger. This Zenobia doesn't even want to be a queen, and is happy to abdicate and go live in a villa in Tivoli. You almost expect her to proclaim that she is looking forward to shopping in Rome.
Rip Hunter, Time Master 11 is one of the earliest I read from this series, as it was reprinted in an issue of World's Finest Comics in the mid 70s, a 100 pager. It was single handedly responsible for my thinking Calypso was an evil old witch, until I actually read the Odyssey. In this story, Rip Hunter, Bonnie and Corky Baxter, and Jeff Smith, head back to Greece in the 2nd century BC, to investigate what seem to be the footprints of a griffin, recently found by yet another insignificant archaeologist character.
Jeff and Rip run into some centaurs, and then fall victim to Calypso, who is basically given Circe-like powers to transform men into beasts. Bonnie winds up in the hands of Zeus, but Theseus falls in love with her. Rip escapes from Calypso and makes it to Mt. Olympus. He begs Zeus' help to save Jeff, but Zeus puts him, and Bonnie, through a series of very entertaining trials. It turns out that none of the characters are really Greek gods.
They are all aliens, and Calypso is really the good one, trying to round up Zeus and his crew before they conquer Greece with their weapons. The aliens made the most out of the Greeks thinking they were their gods. Theseus also turns on Zeus, in order to save Bonnie, and the vanquished aliens leave Earth. The alien element allows a lot of fun with the Zeus character, without any problems of continuity with the Greek myths.
Rip Hunter, Time Master 14 sends Rip, Jeff Smith, Bonnie and Corky Baxter back to Renaissance Florence, in a story by Miller and Ely. The story opens with the discovery, in Florence, of a sealed metal container with Leonardo Da Vinci's name on it. No one is able to open it, but Rip heads to the past to find out from Leonardo what is in it. When Rip arrives, he sees Leonardo's flying machine, and Cesare Borgia and his men complaining that it doesn't work. Rip uses his time sphere to tow it and make it look functional. But then he finds out that Leonardo intentionally made it to fail. He says he had developed a deadly new weapon and sealed it away in the container, after discovering that Cesare Borgia was planning to use it to conquer the world, and then went on to make inventions that wouldn't work, hoping Cesare would lose faith in him. With Cesare Borgia chasing him, they hide the metal tube, tossing it down a well.
But then Jeff shows up with the other time sphere, telling Rip that the assistant to the archaeologist who found the cylinder. The man has taken the sphere to the year 2550, the year in which is it meant to be opened, according to the inscription. Rip and his crew head to that era to try to retrieve it. The story then veers into a totally different direction, with aliens showing up in their own sphere. It turns out that the aliens had brought the weapon to DaVinci, who lied about creating it. It was needed for exactly this time on Earth, in order to destroy a rogue moon that would have collided with Earth.
Rip Hunter, Bonnie and Corky Baxter, and Jeff Smith get brand new matching costumes in Rip Hunter, Time Master 16, which the team will continue to wear for the remainder of the series. The story also introduces the Encyclo-Matic, their comprehensive collection of all historical data. Like, everything. Every bit of data on every historical period. It must be huge. The story begins as a wanted fugitive, number on the most wanted list, comes across Rip Hunter's lab, and takes Corky, the only one there, hostage. They head off in the time sphere, as the bad guy intends to round up the greatest villains in history and form a gang to raid through time. Rip, Jeff and Bonnie find a recording Corky made before they left, and set out to find them. The villain stops in England and recruits highwayman Captain Hawkins, and then they head to medieval France, to get the Black Knight. All the time Rip and crew are hot on their tale.
Rip winds up jousting against the Black Knight, defeating him in a tournament that the Knight needed to win, having already accepted Spanish gold to kill an opponent. The fight against the Black Knight winds up comprising the rest of the story, and kind of overshadows the entire notion of the criminal league raiding through history.
Cleopatra makes her first, but not last, appearance in this series in Rip Hunter, Time Master 19. The story is clearly aimed at viewers of Elizabeth Taylor's film bio of the Egyptian queen, who is even drawn tor resemble her. Rip and his team, Jeff Smith, Corky and Bonnie Baxter, are travelling through history taking footage of major events, when the time sphere breaks down in the first century BC, and Rip runs into Cleopatra. This whole story ties far more closely to the major events in the early part of her reign, during her war against her brother, than most tales do, presupposing a familiarity with the events, again because of the film.
Rip Hunter winds up passing himself off as one of Julius Caesar's emissaries, and then Cleopatra starts claiming that Rip is Julius Caesar himself. Rip goes along with his, to the confusion of his team, until they find out she has placed him under a hypnotic spell. Bonnie and Corky wind up meeting up with her brother, Ptolemy, and though this all centres around warfare, it becomes a very entertaining farce.
At the end, Julius Caesar shows up, and falls quickly under Cleopatra's spell. Bonnie was none too happy about the romantic spell she placed Rip under, and is very happy when this adventure concludes.
Rip Hunter, Time Master continues in the next period, 1964 – 1967: the New Look.
Rip Hunter, Time Master: Showcase 25, 26 (May/June – July/Aug 60)
Rip Hunter, Time Master 1 – 19 (Mar/Apr 61 – Mar/April 64)
Next up – Mademoiselle Marie!
DC Comics History: Rip Hunter, Time Master (1960 - 1964: the Silver Age)
DC Comics History: Rip Hunter, Time Master