Today we’re looking at how Batman used to fix time travel by a completely nonsensical method that DC finally decided to fix after a decade.
In every installment of Forsaken love We will examine comic book stories, plots, and ideas that were abandoned by a later writer without actively revisiting the previous story. If you have any suggestions for future releases of this feature, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PROFESSOR CARTER NICHOLS MAKES HIS DEBUT
How I wrote last yearWhen I talked about how Dr. Carter Nichols returned to continuity in the 1970s after a decade of disappearing, the introduction of time travel into the Batman myth was part of the nature of creating comics during the Golden Age. The predominant design was oversized comics with innumerable stories, with each character given its own function. As some characters became popular enough to have their own ongoing series, these characters suddenly not only appeared as a feature in a larger anthology, but also had to star in their own anthology in which EVERY feature starred a character. With a setup like this, it’s only natural that comic book creators often look for ideas they could bring in for recurring features to fill in some space a little easier than coming up with a novel story idea for each issue. This led to the introduction of the recurring feature in Batman’s ongoing series, in which Alfred was solving puzzles himself on the side.
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It also resulted in some writers trying to come up with other recurring ideas that they could regularly reconsider. While recently discussing how Batman put a dinosaur robot in his Batcave, I have stated that continuity was a thing during the Golden AgeIt just wasn’t as strict as it was in later years. Continuity during the Golden Age primarily meant recurring characters and traits.
One of these recurring ideas was featured by Joe Samachson and legendary Batman artist Dick Sprang in Batman # 24 from 1944. Dr. Carter Nichols was a scientist who could send Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson back in time. However, he did this through … hypnosis?
HOW DOES THIS BATMAN REALLY SEND TIME?
Yes, somehow Nichols found a way to hypnotize a person and make them travel through time while in the hypnotic state. When you think about it, it’s basically just an excuse to have a dream adventure, isn’t it? And honestly, while that’s weird, that’s fair enough. Getting people on dream adventures was the fodder for a number of stories at the time, and it was the basis for a number of other stories in the 1960s when “imaginary stories” became an integral part of DC Comics.
But that’s the problem. These are clearly NOT dreaming. Batman and Robin actually traveled through time, only the time travel method was hypnosis. You would actively CHANGE the story in these stories so that they were clearly traveling back in time, but the method just didn’t make sense.
However, if the goal was to create a recurring piece it was a huge success as these stories were repeated for YEARS on almost every edition basis …
Over a decade later, they were still a staple of the book, though later writers (all just following the original approach) got even stranger as Nichols now had them sent for these stories through the time with hypnosis. In other words, Nichols apparently had time travel telepathy or something like that, as in that story from Batman # 98 (by Arnold Drake, Dick Sprang, and Charles Paris) …
Hilarious, Bill Finger wrote very early in Dr. Carter Nichols in Batman # 43 (by Finger, Jim Mooney, and Ray Burnley), a story in which Nichols invents an IST time machine, but it soon turns out to be a scam on a group of crooks (including one who pretended to be Nichols) . So a real-time machine would be absurd, but Nichols HYPNOTIZING PEOPLE THROUHH TIME was apparently totally cool.
Finally, in 1957 Batman # 112, well over a decade after Dr. Carter Nichols first appeared as a regular supporting character in the Batman titles (and by this point he was also featured in the world’s best comics, where Superman could be in a story by Bill Finger, Dick Sprang, and Charles Paris), Nichols decides to make his Using hypnosis ideas and actually building a real time machine …
Nichols would then use this new time machine for the next five years or so (refining it over time, adding other bells and whistles to the concept, like a “time box” added in the world’s best comics from 1959 # 107 by Bill Finger, Dick Sprang, and Sheldon Moldoff, who would enable Batman and Robin to instantly go back to their time if they hit the button on the time box) until they finally, after a long time, acted as editors of both Batman titles, Jack Schiff and World’s Finest Comics lost his job in favor of a new approach to the character through editor Julius Schwartz, who took over the books in 1964.
As a result, some of Schiff’s more eccentric concepts were removed from the Batman books, and Professor Carter Nichols’s final story appeared in World’s Finest Comics # 138 (by Bill Finger and Jim Mooney) in late 1963.
What really strikes me about this whole thing is how many writers were willing to just stick to the line of setup. Samachson had a concept developed, and whether they liked it or not, the other writers followed it for well over a decade until Finger finally decided to drop the ridiculous approach and just use a standard sci-fi trop, the literal one Time Machine.
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About the author
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Brian Cronin, Senior Writer at CBR, has been a professional contributor to CBR comics for over a dozen years (primarily with his “Comics Should Be Good” column series, including Comic Book Legends Revealed). He wrote two books on comics for Penguin-Random House – Was Superman a Spy? And other comic book legends revealed and why does Batman wear shark repellants? And other amazing comic trivia! and a book from Triumph Books, 100 Things X-Men Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die. His writing has been published on ESPN.com, the Los Angeles Times, About.com, the Huffington Post, and Gizmodo. He presents legends of entertainment and sports on his website, Legends revealed. Follow him on Twitter at @Brian_Cronin and don’t hesitate to email him suggestions for stories about comics that you would like to see at firstname.lastname@example.org!