HOURMANMedium: Comic Books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1940
Creators: Ken Fitch (writer) and Bernard Baily (artist)
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Comic books fielded their first break-out hit in May, 1938 — and like all break-out hits, Superman served as the template for a host of imitators, with dozens of publishers
jumping onto his bandwagon. Few jumped harder or faster than Superman's own, DC Comics. Within a couple of years, practically everything DC put out had a superhero as its cover feature. Hourman was first seen on the cover of DC's Adventure Comics #48 (March, 1940).
Rex Tyler (nicknamed "Tick Tock" for his compulsive punctuality) was a mild-mannered young scientist working for a big chemical company, who created an amazing substance — Miraclo, a chemical which, when taken orally, made a man incredibly strong, incredibly fast, and almost invulnerable to harm for one hour. Following the fashion of post-Superman comics, he put together an eye-catching outfit, complete with mask and cape, and went into the crime bashing business. The origin story, and many of his subsequent escapades in Adventure Comics, were written by Ken Fitch (Tex Thompson/Mr. America, Johnny Dynamite) and drawn by Bernard Baily (The Spectre, Treasure Chest).
Aside from his Adventure Comics gig, Hourman was one of the stars of All Star Comics, starting with the first issue. And in #3, when the all-stars got together to form The Justice Society of America, he was right there as a charter member, along with Green Lantern, Hawkman and other luminaries. But other than The Flash, who was removed when he got his own comic, Hourman was the first JSA member to drop — in #8 (Dec-Jan 1941-42), he was replaced by Starman, who also pushed him off the Adventure Comics cover.
He continued in the back pages of Adventure until #83 (February, 1943), after which he wasn't seen again for 20 years. When, in 1963, the JSA started having annual team-ups with The Justice League of America, he was in the very first. In '65, he teamed up with Doctor Fate in a couple of issues of Showcase. After that, he became a semi-regular supporting character, turning up from time to time but never played up as a star.
During the 1970s or '80s, it was finally acknowledged that Miraclo, like the power-inducing substances ingested by Roger Ramjet, The Black Panther and Asterix the Gaul, is, let's face it, a (shudder) drug; and since superheroes were starting to show their dark sides by that time, naturally, it came out that he had a problem with it. He fought Miraclo addiction, suffered unwanted side effects, etc. — it even got into his genes, enabling his son, Rick Tyler, to become an updated version of Hourman and hang around with the other second-generation superheroes of Infinity Inc. He worked out alternate methods of powering himself up — fortunately, one of Miraclo's long-term effects was eventually to enable him to do so by a simple act of will.
All this time, like the other 1940s JSA members, he was staving off old age through means as improbable as Miraclo itself. But it finally caught up with him, and he was killed off in Zero Hour #3 (September, 1994).
Tho the old Hourman is dead and the young one not currently a likely candidate for stardom, there's a third Hourman running around the DC Universe. This one is a time-traveling android infused with Tyler genes, who hails from the 853rd Century. And so it goes