The Old 52: Hourman

Category: Old52
Last article published: 7 August 2012
This is the 12th post under this label


If you haven't read it, it's new to you. Every month I try to supplement the New 52 with a series from the Old 52. Series I've never read, but have always meant to.


When it was new: Though this android version of Hourman was created by Grant Morrison and Howard Porter in JLA #12 (Nov 1997), his solo series really spun out of DC: One Million (and his subsequent membership in the Justice League), lasting 25 issues by Tom Peyer and Rags Morales, from April 1999 to April 2001 (as the cover dates fly).

Premise: The temporally-powered android Hourman of the 853rd Century teams up with Snapper Carr to learn what it means to be human in the late 20th/early 21st.

Time out: "Tennessee" Tom Peyer really let his weird flag fly on this series, taking his cue from Morrison obviously, but bringing a lot of comedy to Hourman that probably would have been out of Morrison's reach. At his core, this Hourman is, yes, an ultimate legacy of the Golden Age Hourman (and the series deals with that, even resurrecting an old supervillain from the 1940s as a supporting character), but was also designed as DC One Million's answer to Red Tornado. He's an android "related" to T.O. Morrow's other creations, including Amazo and Tomorrow Woman, and in the series, sheds his temporal omnipotence to learn what it means to be human, tears sure to follow. That's Reddy. But Reddy done well. Hourman is a little hard to get a grasp on though, so the true lead character is the much-maligned Snapper Carr. He's an adult now and he's seen it all (and has all the DC t-shirts to prove it apparently), but his jadedness translates as a go-with-the-flow attitude that's rather endearing. He's best friends with his (previously unknown) ex-wife Bethany, he hangs out at a diner that's obviously inspired by Spider Robinson's Callahan's (especially once a demon is invited to be part of the gang), which tells you something about the HUMANITY this book is chock-full of, and as narrator, he's also witty and amusing. If it's a shame that Hourman only lasted two years, it's really because we lose sight of this version of Snapper, and the rest of the supporting cast.
Hourman himself is a great excuse for temporal weirdness - fighting foes out of sequence, centuries that are thematic rather than numbered, issues that pastiche the Golden Age and Snapper's Silver Age JLA adventures, and a couple of the strangest legacies on the books. 1999-2001 means Peyer was doing Steven Moffat's Doctor Who years ahead (as seems appropriate for a time travel series). The book is always clever, weird and surprising and manages to balance the epic DC One Million stuff with the small suburban world Hourman has CHOSEN to inhabit (up to and including mall demons). Like its title character, it's rather sweet and charming.

My one problem with the series is that I generally dislike the art. Rags Morales gives his characters (especially Snapper) sunken cheekbones and a rictus grin, while Bethany has a ridiculous figure and is always showing her midriff. It's the tail end of the 90s extreme, kind of trying to ape JLA's Howard Porter but failing. Morales is much better at doing tributes to other eras, honestly. And I don't lay it all at his feet. The coloring through the first year at least is so dark as to smother up the action. Hourman's purplish brown and golden yellow look is really hard to render in the first place. But when the color credits change, the book looks better - the proof is in the pudding.

Collected? No! You'd think this series would have made a good companion to One Million or Grant Morrison's JLA (which WERE collected), or that Hourman's later presence in the JSA would have merited it. I'd propose a Snapper Carr Curse, but it hasn't stopped early Justice League of America issues from being collected several times. What gives, DC?


Tony Laplume said...

If Chronos isn’t on your radar for this series, I’d definitely recommend it. Unless of course you’ve already read it.

Siskoid said...

I read it at the time, but still put it on the master list because I agree it could stand a reread.


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