The Time Trapper

The Time Trapper

(pop culture)
Things were much simpler in comics' Silver Age (1956–1969). In those days, Superman began his career during his youth, and as Superboy often broke the time barrier to travel to the thirtieth century, where he was a member of the teenage Legion of Super-Heroes (LSH). The Time Trapper, one of the Legion's most powerful foes, originated millions of years after the LSH, at the End of Time, where he lived in a portentous citadel. A mysterious figure clad in a tattered purple robe, his face in shadows, the Time Trapper regarded the timeline as one might regard a room: whereas a homeowner reconfigures a room by moving furniture, making it, in essence, an entirely different place, the Time Trapper did the same with pieces of time, affecting the lives, and the histories, of populations across the universe in grandiose gestures of “housecleaning.” With its infinite paradoxes, a crisscrossing timeline might have proved too convoluted a subject for the juvenile readership of 1960s-era comic books had the Time Trapper's creator, science-fiction novelist Edmond Hamilton, and artist John Forte not simplified matters by rendering the timestream as a spectrum of colors labeled with dates (Superboy flew past “1974” … “1984” … and so forth, until reaching the future). Hamilton was a master of temporal fiction—his first published novel, The Time Raider (1927), involved a figure who snatched beings from the past, a prototype for his Legion villain. Premiering in Adventure Comics #321 (1964, although the Trapper was mentioned in issue #317, when the Legion was barricaded from time travel by the Trapper's Iron Curtain of Time), the Time Trapper endeavored to steal the Legion's weapon the Concentrator. The Time Trapper regularly returned, and the Legion's later writers added story twists (including different identities under the villain's purple cloak) that might have made a bewildered Hamilton scratch his head. A difficult foe to defeat given his ability to reconstruct reality, the Trapper was sidelined as part of DC Comics' own housecleaning event, the maxiseries Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985–1986), but was soon summoned to repair a leak in the continuity dam. When Superman was reintroduced, post-Crisis, by writer/artist John Byrne in the 1986 The Man of Steel miniseries, Superboy was eliminated from the hero's mythos. This damaged Legion lore, as the LSH was founded in honor of the Boy of Steel's legend. DC's editors brainstormed the solution. In Superman vol. 2 #8 (1987), readers were informed that the Time Trapper, still alive at the End of Time, had fashioned a “Pocket Universe” containing the Silver Age—or “Earth-One”—versions of Earth and Superboy's homeworld, Krypton. The Legion interacted with the Superboy of this realm, and the Pocket Universe eventually spawned a heroic Lex Luthor, Phantom Zone villains, and a new Supergirl, before overloaded storylines (including two concurrent versions of the Legion and a new timeline fashioned by the chronal-sorceress Glorith) led to the Time Trapper being eliminated in yet another house-cleaning event, Zero Hour: A Crisis in Time (1994). Since Legion of Super-Heroes has been rebooted in the 2000s, will the Time Trapper be introduced anew? It's only a matter of time before readers find out.