Dennis O’Neil: Men of their Hour
Is Hourman Lance Armstrong’s patron superhero? Does Jose Conseco cherish his copy of All-Star Comics #1, featuring Hourman? Did Alex Rodriguez have his own special version of the Miraclo pill, Hourman’s after dinner mint of choice?
Ah yes, Hourman: one of the second (or third) string superheroes created just as the nation was edging into World War Two and decades before the athletes named above and other sports stars were accused of using steroids to enhance performance.
Hourman is not a character who has ever occupied much of my attention. I’ve been aware of him for a long time, and that could mean that I encountered him when I was very, very young, or that I came across him when I was working for DC Comics. I may have even considered reviving him. I wouldn’t put it past me, the editor who, quite briefly, resurrected the original Vigilante, because I remembered liking him when, again, I was very, very young, and Air Wave because I thought I could give him a quirky spin. (These were not my most glorious moments as a DC employee, these flings with yesteryear.) But now, there he is, camping in my psyche – Hourman is back (should we rejoice?) thanks to our brethren in videoland, who are planning an Hourman television show. If the news item I read was accurate, they have ideas for a fresh take on the man of the hour.
The original Hour-Man (he later lost the hyphen) was Rex Tyler who, while working as a research scientist, discovered a drug that would give him super strength and super speed but only, darn it, for an hour. He made two decisions: he would limit trials of the drug, dubbed Miraclo, to himself, presumably to spare innocents possible side-effects, and he would use his awesome but temporary powers for good. As origin gimmicks go, this isn’t bad: it’s novel, and it builds into the premise the venerable ticking clock plot trope. And in the innocent forties, readers probably weren’t bothered by the notion that problems could be solved by swallowing something; anyone who’s ever struggled with addiction knows that the notion is dangerous. To their credit, later writers acknowledged this danger and gave Hourman a druggie’s woes.
The television Hourman’s power will be a form of prophecy. He will be able to see into the future – but, alas, only a single hour into the future. Extremely useful at the race track, but not much good at questions of geopolitics. But it might facilitate some interesting storytelling, especially if the writers are allowed to do heavy character stuff. How would being able to glimpse the future twist a man’s psyche? Would the man become addicted to the facilitating drug and/or the powers it gives him? In popular fiction, it’s always the recipe that matters most, not the ingredients. The Hourman show, if it ever gets onto a television screen near you, might be worth – yes! – an hour of your time.
Meanwhile, you can watch a game.
THURSDAY AFTERNOON: The Tweaks!
FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases
SATURDAY MORNING: Marc Alan Fishman