Innovative Lessons on Temporal Mechanics from Bad Silver Age Comics

Just for shits and giggles, I picked up a collection of old Silver Age Batman: Brave & the Bold comics from the library. While I still intend on focusing primarily on Modern Age, if it’s there to read for free, there’s no real reason not to check it out.

Short summary of the first adventure collected, The Brave and the Bold #59, Time Commander. John Starr, the self proclaimed Modern Day Monte Cristo, has escaped from jail, shown a film lecture with supposed evidence that he couldn’t have committed the crime of which he was found guilty, convinces the public, and makes a successful appeal to Batman to aid his cause. Batman acknowledges that Starr has made a pretty good case for his innocense. John Starr’s IMMEDIATE and inexplicable (seriously, with the public and Batman on his side, what could he hope to gain here?) betrayal comes as no shock, however, given that he is shown on the cover page battling Batman and Green Lantern. John Starr’s plan? Steal Green Lantern’s power by posing as an enervated Batman and terrorizing Gotham to blackmail the city into granting him a full pardon. I can’t stress this enough: the man who the public and EVEN BATMAN were convinced was innocent is going to blackmail the city into giving him a pardon. His original crime and supposed evidence of his innocense are tossed aside shortly after the first few pages and never really mentioned again. Can’t let that get in the way of a good Silver Age team-up story!

It’s stupid, it’s silly, it has the Whirly-Bat. So why do I feel like I have to write about it? Because of the absolutely baffling, yet novel and innovative, approach to how time works. In this story, Time is not a line. It is not a dimension. It is not some bendable flexible continuum. An object’s place is time is an attribute, as much as its mass, volume, and density. Matter can exist only in the moment in time in which it currently exists. There isn’t a ‘past’ version of an object or a ‘future’ version of an object, only the object and where it is currently in its own present. Confused yet?

Time Commander’s power is moving objects and locations in time. His strategy is to divide GL and BM and get them out of his way. He does this by sending GL one day into the past and BM one day into the future. Now, if you think of time as a continuum, all 1 day in the past GL would have to do is either find Batman from that day or wait until tomorrow to foil Time Commander. Batman, being 1 day in the future, is essentially ONLY missing from one day in time; he could try to thwart Time Commander in the day he was sent to, or he could just meet up with Green Lantern, who will have simply lived one day twice in his past. It’s implied, however, that they can’t do these things, because being sent into different times completely removes them from each other’s present reality. Green Lantern will always only exist in yesterday and Batman will always only exist in tomorrow; though they can send one another messages across time, their matter does not exist simultaneously. There are no infinite individuals existing in infinite moments, only one individual that experiences infinite moments in a fashion that we have rationalized as time. (Interestingly enough, the boardgame Omega Virus uses a similar concept of time, in that the titular virus hides itself by existing a few seconds in the future, which is why you need the Negatron to find it.)

Because Time is treated as an attribute of matter and locations, Time Commander is able to send entire sections of the city into different times. Part of the city is sent into the distant past, in which dinosaurs and volcanoes terrorize the inhabitants sent there. However for this to make sense, rather than sending the city into the past, past matter is brought into the future, which is the only way that the city which exists in the present can experience these things. I also want to know if the future in which Gotham is attacked by flying saucer men occurs canonically, and, if so, when.

Anyway, somehow, Green Lantern and Batman are able to send out a high powered Jamming signal that gets all matter that has been shifted out of their appropriate times back to where they need to be, and John Starr, a man who was well on his way to being exonerated, is thrown back into prison forever because of his stupid plan.  Still, it’s a much more thought provoking story than the subsequent one in which Batman bends Catwoman over his knee and spanks her.

Update:
It was Queen Bee, not Catwoman.  She was stealing the Cat Emerald, so I just assumed.  SORRY!