JSA Legacies: No. 8 – Hourman

Hourman 1 by Murphy Anderson

Hourman was created by writer Ken Fitch and artist Bernard Bailey and made his début in Adventure Comics 48, appearing in that title until issue 83 in 1943.
His real name was Rex ‘Tick-Tock’ Tyler, a mild-mannered, indeed timid chemist who created the amazing Miraclo pill, that gave him super powers – strength, speed, agility, limited invulnerability – but only for an hour at a time. Tyler initially advertised his services to those in need of help via a newspaper advertisement signed ‘The Man of the Hour’ but after adopting an acrobat’s costume, shortened his name to Hourman. In the early days, his name was often given as Hour-Man or The Hourman.
Tyler’s costume consisted of a yellow hood and eye-mask, with collar and yellow cape, long-sleeved black top and trunks, yellow leggings and red and black boots. Around his neck he wore an hourglass on a chain: each time he took a Miraclo, he would flip the hourglass, whose sands would then measure how much of his hour was left. Very much later, the hourglass would be retconned to contain frozen tachyons instead of sand, to be a gift to Rex Tyler in childhood from Hourman 3.
There has also been confusion at different times over how often Rex can use Miraclo: sometimes it’s only once every twenty-four hours, sometimes he can’t take a new pill until an hour after the previous one has worn off.
Hourman was the final founder member of the Justice Society but appeared in only five adventures, the third lowest count of any of the Forties members, taking leave of absence after All-Star 7. For decades, it was assumed that he was dropped because his series had been cancelled but, although Hourman was indeed the first JSA member to be lose his strip, this did not happen until 1943. The actual reason has now been identified as being Detective’s enthusiasm for their new Starman character, who they believed to be a winner. Detective wanted him to get full publicity immediately via All-Star. One of the Adventure alumni had to go to make room for him, and Sandman was the more popular. No reason was given at the time for Hourman’s leave.
Rex Tyler did not return until the first JLA/JSA team-up in 1963, after which he made sporadic appearances over the next twenty-three years. He was paired, improbably, with Doctor Fate for two issues of Showcase, the second of which introduced his intended wife, actress Wendi Harris.
Hourman did make a brief reappearance in the All-Star revival, coming in to help the active JSA when it was under pressure, but, because of his unfamiliarity with the new security systems etc., he was the weak link that enabled the new Injustice Society to capture JSA HQ.
It was not until the Eighties, through Roy Thomas, that Hourman began to have more attention. Indeed, from that time forward, most of Rex Tyler’s appearances focused, to one extent or another, on the fact that his powers were chemically-dependent, that Hourman was a drug addict. His leave of absence was attributed to his first concerns about Miraclo’s addictive properties.
Different shifts were tried to ‘detoxify’ Rex Tyler. Miraclo was redesigned to be non-addictive, a black light ray was used to activate residues of Miraclo in Tyler’s body, and in the Nineties Justice Society of America series, Tyler’s ‘hour of power’ was linked to the then-widespread ‘metagene’ theory (that superpowered people shared an unpredictable gene that responded to crisis conditions by providing an infinite variety of superpowers) which Rex became able to access by repeating, in mantra fashion, ‘Man of the Hour’.
More recently, the tone of such (retrospective) stories have undergone a subtle shift, following James Robinson’s Elseworlds JSA story, The Golden Age, which reorients Rex Tyler’s addiction as being to ‘The Life’, i.e., to being a superhero.
When Crisis on Infinite Earths was proposed, Roy Thomas began negotiating to keep Earth-2 (under a ‘This all happened before the Crisis’ rubric). When this was denied, as being a glaring inconsistency in the whole project, Thomas rapidly created new versions of three JSA members who would disappear, one of whom was Hourman.
Hourman 2 was introduced in Infinity, Inc. He was Rick Tyler, son of Rex and Wendi, who started his career by using his Dad’s Miraclo to save people trapped in a burning building. Rex opposed Rick following in his footsteps, but Rick rebelled, demonstrating his rebellion by designing a brand new (and horrible) Hourman costume in purple and white, without a cape, and with a massive H design and a clockface on the chest, though after Hourman 1 had gone into limbo following Crisis, he switched to using his Dad’s uniform.

Hourman 2 – will you look at that costume?

Unfortunately, Rick had underestimated the extent to which, over the years, Rex had refined and re-refined Miraclo to his own DNA. Their genetic connection enabled Rick to be powered up, but his use of Miraclo carried with it a terrible price, as it led to his contracting an advanced form of leukaemia, which took Hourman 2 off the scene for many years.
As for Hourman 1, Rex’s end came in the JSA’s final battle against the Extant in Zero Hour when Extant used his ability to manipulate time to accelerate Rex Tyler’s metabolism until he died of old age. However, that was not the end of the story.
Without an Hourman, the way was open for DC to create Hourman 3, the first and only one of the Hourmen to get his own series. Hourman 3 was introduced in the 1998 crossover series, DC One Million. Hourman 3 was neither robot nor android but rather a machine colony artificial being from the 853rd century (the conceit was that this would be when Action Comics 1,000,000 would be published) where he was a member of Justice Legion A, who guard the Solar System. Hourman is able to control time. The Tyler connection is maintained as he is built to incorporate the Miraclo-enhanced DNA of Rex Tyler.

Hourman 3 – toy-style

Justice Legion A visit the Justice League to invite them to the forthcoming 853rd century celebration of the original Superman ending his 15,000 year self-exile in the Sun. Much excitement takes place, at the end of which Hourman stayed in the 20th Century and joined the Justice League. Not for long because, within six months, he had moved on to the reformed Justice Society in JSA.
Hourman’s powers were never fully defined. For a time, he was possessed of the Worlogog, the ultimate map of space and time. Believing this was too much power for anyone, he first restricted himself to access to it for one hour per day, then returned all but a fragment of it to its creator, Metron of the New Gods. Otherwise, he could see through time, move through it, and summon a timeship, which took on whatever shape he wished, to take others through time.
The solo series only lasted 25 issues, with Hourman 3 adopting the name Matthew Tyler, but mainly being known simply as Tyler, and Hourman left the JSA after issue 16, when he (temporarily) let the Extant escape through indecision, and decided he needed time to properly train himself.
This opened the door for Hourman 2 to return, in issue 33. Off-stage, Rick’s ongoing battle with leukaemia had been cured by Hourman 3 (later retconned to be a disguised Amazo, long-standing JLA foe).

Hourman 2 in revised garb

Rick had redesigned his father’s costume by inverting the colour of the hood and cape to black outside and yellow inside, and added ‘time gauntlets’ that were the gift of Hourman 3. One gave him a dermal injection of Miraclo to invoke his powers, the hourglass of frozen tachyons gave him occasional prophetic visions an hour into the future, but it was the other gauntlet that gave Hourman 2 the most original, and affecting power.
For Hourman 3 had removed Rex Tyler from the timeline in the instant before his death, setting him up in a pocket dimension known as the Timepoint, which Rick could access to talk to his father about tactics etc. The Timepoint existed for one hour, and time passed only when the gauntlet was used to access it. Rick was given a final hour with his father, to use sparingly. Who among us would not wish that blessing?
But the Timepoint became an issue when Hourman 2 was mortally wounded in battle. Ingeniously, he teleported to the Timepoint, forced his gauntlets onto his father and sent him out, back into life. This froze Rick until his father could return, with expert medical aid.
So Hourman 1 was thrust back into life, a life in which he was given the chance to ask Wendi’s forgiveness for his neglect of her, and admit his failings and regrets, and to discover that she had never ever fallen out of love with him, as Rex had believed.
And when, with Hourman 3’s aid, Rex got back to the Timepoint, with the JSA’s ace surgeon Doctor Mid-Nite 3, the story suddenly went into high gear.
Rick was repaired and saved, but it took the remainder of the Timepoint’s hour, leading to Rex being summoned back to his death. Rick intervened, determined to take his father’s place and sacrifice himself. Father and son fought over who was to die for the other and the story ended with both supplanted by Hourman 3, who took Rex’s place and experienced his death, allowing both Rick and Rex to return to life.
Rex went into retirement, with Wendi, determined to repair Hourman 3. Time traveller Rip Hunter observed that Hourman 3 was absent for a subjective year, but in actuality the machine colony Hourman never reappeared.
Rick continued as Hourman 2 with the JSA, forming an attachment to Jesse (Jesse Quick) Chambers that, when the series was rebooted as Justice Society of America, she had become Liberty Belle 2, and the couple were happily married.
Since the New 52, there has been no sign of any Hourman, though I’d put money on a new version of Rex Tyler being planned eventually. Maybe in an hour’s time?

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