Comicbook Time : an article in temporal movement by: GF Willmetts

January 2, 2018 | By | Reply More

One of the biggest dilemmas in comicbook universes is the measure of time. Back in the 1960s, it was considered that seven comicbook universe years equalled one of ours. All well and good, except they seemed to have at least four Christmases per year in that time. Maybe their version of the Earth has a longer orbit and they need something to break up the seasons more. I know, how they can have snow regularly during that time? Add in changing the angle of inclination of the Earth being a little different and you can justify anything but that’s cheating.

I should point out that in the Marvel Universe this seven year equivalent was based on the time it took Peter Parker to leave High School and get his degree at university. Somewhere into this mix, we also have the original X-Men team also graduating but staying at their alma mater until Hank McCoy left to get a job at the Brand Corporation. There were other defining moments like Johnny Storm, the Human Torch, also getting older and going to university and the little matter of the marriage of Reed Richards and Sue Storm and their own son, Franklin and look how long it took for him to grow up. Everyone else had indeterminate age with no one else growing older and only school/college/university leaving age was the real determination point of anyone actually aging. Immortality wasn’t just a fixation of Asgardians and Olympians.

Logistically, when anyone reached maturity then their agelessness took over. One could think that it might be an attribute to their super-humanness except that it also affects their immediate families and neighbours and no one seems to notice.

This doesn’t just happen to the Marvel or DC Universes but across the board. The numerous newspaper kids like ‘Peanuts’ in America and ‘The Perishers’ in the UK, other comicstrips are available, have never grown-up, regardless of how many school holidays they’ve had. None of their readers ever had any problem with this. The problem with the likes of the Marvel and DC Universes is the expectation of the characters to get older, especially when there are older characters around as well. Then some of them also die and then come back to life again, so clearly things aren’t quite the same as in our reality. One could surmise that they might have an Illuminatus moment and not aware they are fictional characters, well except for Animal Man and She-Hulk who break the fourth wall anyway.

Of course, originally it was expected that after a couple years the kids would have grown up and moved on so no one would notice the age problem, That was until the early 60s and where the popularity of Marvel Comics ensured teenagers kept reading even when they grew up and what we have today.

It’s then that the element of why the characters don’t age as we do. We either take notice of it or accept it as a fact of life or rather comicbook life.

In some part of this analysis, we would rather see characters in the prime of life than infirmed and dying of natural causes. That’s not to say that hasn’t happened as you only need to look at the graphic novel ‘The Death Of Captain Marvel’ to see it can be tastefully done. You can’t even play the age card when you consider the likes of Wolverine was already twice a natural life-span and forever is a long time for the immortals of Asgard and Olympus. Even death is no restriction as various people come back to life and have nary that big a problem with it. You do have to wonder about social security numbers let alone tax returns in all of this but like American medical treatment, you don’t get to see all the details or problems.

For every time you think there’s an obstacle, then there are examples showing otherwise. I suspect there is a comicbook series story out there someone has followed a character from birth to natural death, It isn’t unusual. It happens in normal fiction a lot after all. To show an entire life means covering a lot of important events.

Really, the story is about an important event in a character’s life rather than to speculate on why they aren’t aging. It hasn’t hurt the likes of James Bond over the years and if he kept his original age would surely have had his century letter from the Queen by now.

Even so, aging does present a dilemma for storywriting in any medium. It needs research into earlier decades to present some level of accuracy and, more importantly, how they react to that time of life. If the writer has personal knowledge of the time, so much the better. Experience counts if not full research. Even so, if you’re going to age a character then it can’t be done in a vacuum but in an organic way and all other associated characters need to age as well. It is all a matter of balance of how age and well-being against what the reality has to offer. At any age, you shouldn’t expect any character to use all the facilities available. By not doing so, you are setting characterisation traits. No one likes or dislikes everything. It’s what defines differences. Learn from your own experiences and tastes and, more importantly, why those particular decisions are made.

What if the character or characters should appear ageless? When you look at yourself, do you suppose yourself of your actual age or the age you want to be? Then surely other characters must feel the same way themselves.

The only guiding light that can be offered in all of this is that nothing runs normally in any comicbook universe and no one has spotted that it within the realities. It can only be taken as a given. Never has the edge of Science Fiction and Science Fantasy been more stretched.

© GF Willmetts 2018


Category: Comics, Superheroes

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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