This edition of “Who Is …?” will feature Rip Hunter, the time traveling guardian of DC’s time space continuum and the man who marshals together the team that will confront the menace that is Vandal Savage on the CW’s Legends of Tomorrow premiering tonight. Here’s everything you need to be in the know about the show’s central figure.
Who Is Rip Hunter?
Rip Hunter is another very old DC Comics property having made his first appearance in the twentieth issue of DC’s Showcase in June of 1959. Showcase was a series that ran for one hundred and four issues between March 1956 and September 1978. The series featured a mixture of war and spy themed stories along with superhero stories showcasing characters like Hawkman, Adam Strange, the Phantom Stranger, Hawk and Dove, and of course, Rip Hunter. The series would be revived again between 1993 and 1997 following the same formula minus the non-superhero related stories. Rip’s time traveling exploits through his various appearances in Showcase eventually led to his own series Rip Hunter: Time Master that ran for twenty-nine issues between 1961 and 1965.
Rip traveled through time extensively in his books. Aided by a team that included fellow time traveling adventurer Jeff Smith, their buxom assistant Bonnie Baxter and her precocious little brother Corky, the Time Masters explored the time stream adventuring everywhere from the prehistoric, dinosaur roaming past, to the far flung and scientifically marvelous future.
The stories are charmingly antiquated by today’s standards but they’re worth noting because, for a while, Rip Hunter was a pretty popular property for DC Comics. Historically speaking Rip is representative of the shift to science based characters fueling a revival of interest in comic books during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. It was an era when Americans (and North Americans more generally) were inspired by the space race and the scientific advances it produced. Marvel and then DC were quick to seize on this interest ushering in the Silver Age of comics – the era of radioactive spiders, purple spacemen bestowing green rings, mutants, and lightening infused chemical baths.
After DC cancelled his series Rip, Jeff, Bonnie and Corky fell into disuse and remained in limbo for the most part until 1984’s Crisis on Infinite Earths wiped out their continuity in the company wide universal reboot.
Rippin’ It Up Post-Crisis
Post-Crisis Rip Hunter becomes closely associated with then newly created character Booster Gold in the 1986 series named after Booster. In the comic series Booster Gold hires Rip to invent a means to travel through time so he can return to his own time – the 25th century. Successfully creating the soon to be famous Time Sphere Rip and Booster head out on a road trip to the future only to witness a future full of fear after a nasty nuclear war and a United States governed by a brutal police state.
Returning to the present Rip brings together his old pre-Crisis team in an eight issue limited series titled Time Masters. You can read my review over on my Tumblr if you feel so inclined. As it happens, the premise of this series provides the source material for the first season of Legends of Tomorrow. In it, Rip becomes convinced that Vandal Savage is the cause of this nuclear ravaged future and he sets out on a logic defying tour through time to find Savage and stop him.
After the great misadventure that is Time Masters Rip sets out to travel the chronal highway on his own for some time, eventually meeting up with and joining the Linear Men, DC’s group of time traveling heroes responsible for protecting the time space continuum from constant attacks by various time traveling villains. Despite his early popularity and attempts by DC to launch Rip Hunter back into the spotlight the character never took hold in the post-Crisis era and hasn’t gotten his own book since 1990 – watch for this streak to end now that Legends is about to make the character a household name. I digress. Rip does appear periodically in various books with the Linear Men whom play an important role in containing the damage done by Parallax (former Green Lantern Hal Jordan) during Zero Hour.
The last great hoorah for Rip occurs following the events of Infinite Crisis as he teams up with Booster Gold again to investigate anomalies resulting from the re-introduction of the multiverse. In a nod to the past, the pair find a home in the second volume of Booster Gold which ran for an impressive forty-nine issues between 2007 and 2011. During this time period, but in a separate six issue series titled Time Masters: Vanishing Point, Rip and Booster were instrumental in rescuing Bruce Wayne from the time stream where he had been wandering and trying to find a way back to the present since the conclusion of Final Crisis. Once the Flashpoint occurred, DC’s 2010 reboot of their universe, Rip simply blinked out of existence when the company’s three timelines: DC Comics, Vertigo, and Wildstorm became one singular timeline within the multiverse.
For the twenty odd years between Crisis on Infinite Earths and Infinite Crisis Rip was essentially a character without a home. Time travel wasn’t a plot device that was used in a significant fashion and readers weren’t clamoring for Rip Hunter or Linear Men comic books. With the exception of Zero Hour which was a soft reboot for the company’s future continuity (left untouched by the original Crisis which only dealt with the present time line) Rip was left to wander throughout the DCU appearing here and there from … time to time. Get it?
For the Long Boxes
For those looking to spend some real money you can purchase Rip’s origin issue, Showcase #20, for anywhere from $95.00 on the low end to $2400.00 for a Near Mint edition. You’ll likely have to dig around for it, or have access to a comic shop that will do the looking for you. It’s not going to be a super common book, but it wouldn’t be impossible to find either. Likewise, anyone hoping to add Rip’s adventures from his first self-titled series, Rip Hunter: Time Masters, will need to be prepared to fork over some dough. While you’ll have to pony up over $1400.00 for the first issue, and likely more after the speculators have had their filthy ways with the issue in the wake of Legends, the rest of the series drops in value steadily after that. We’re still talking anywhere from $545.00 for issue two to $95.00 each for the last eight issues (Near Mint values), but those price points aren’t as inaccessible as some of the other Silver Age books of other characters we’re profiled so far in the “Who Is…?” series.
If you’re not interested in going vintage, but you’d still like to explore the character and add some Rip Hunter to your long boxes you’d do well with seeking out the second volume of Booster Gold, particularly the first thirty one issues of which Geoff Johns and Booster Gold creator Dan Jurgens write most of, and which Jurgens also pencils a significant majority of. Beginning with issue 32 Keith Giffen and J.M. Dematteis assume responsibility for the series. They do a good job and it’s worth collecting the entire series, but personally I’ve never understood fandom’s adoration for these two creators. That being said, to many fans their run on Justice League International/Europe and their take on the relationship between Booster Gold and Blue Beetle is sacrosanct and so seeing them close out the second volume of Booster Gold is appropriate. Even I can appreciate the nod to history and posterity DC’s Executive Publisher Dan Didio sanctioned prior to ending the era in which these characters lived with the Flashpoint. All of these issues are easily available and go for their original cover prices for the most part.