Comics

Standing Still: Stan Lee’s The Traveler #1

James Orbesen
Made From Time: Stan Lee's The Traveler taps a magical element of comics--its timelessness.

Comicbooks have one irreproachable strength over other forms of storytelling. Timelessness. The characters in comics are eternal. This is a point that is made abundantly clear with Stan Lee's latest foray into the comics medium, BOOM! Studios' The Traveler #1.


Stan Lee's The Traveler #1

Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Length: 22 pages
Writer: Mark Waid
Price: $3.99
Publication Date: 2011-01
Amazon

Comicbooks, although only capturing a fraction of their original mass market audience, have one irreproachable strength over other forms of storytelling. Timelessness. The characters in comics are eternal. Certain core tenets must be upheld when writing these characters.

For all the innovations and storytelling eccentricities on display in modern comics, the medium is essentially a static field. Simply look at the seventy plus years of publishing history behind Superman and Batman, the two most iconic superhero comic book characters in existence. While the characters may be more refined and complex today than they were in the 1930s, they are undoubtedly the same characters.

Superman may have been a social crusader with a bit of a mean streak when he first appeared, but his cape, tights and boots, along with his commitment to protect the innocent, have endured until today. Batman initially dispatched criminal with extreme prejudice but still remains (arguably clarified through Grant Morrison’s recent changes) a creature of the night.

Neither of these characters has grown up and, conceivably, neither character will ever receive an ultimate end. Batman’s vast publishing catalogue will never end with him settling down and marrying to the quiet suburbs. Comics are too static, timeless and archetypal for this to be played out.

Stan Lee’s The Traveler, the second launch in the writer’s efforts to create an all-new comic universe, showcases the timeless aspect of comics in a very direct way by granting the protagonist time altering powers. The Traveler confronts the dastardly Split Second Men, a trio of time travelers with ostensibly nefarious schemes that involve, in a very Terminator-esque way, plots to kill otherwise average women who may have a date with destiny down the road.

Although little is revealed about the Traveler and his adversaries, it is made clear by writer Mark Waid and artist Chad Hardin, that there is a greater cosmology in play than the reader is privy to.

However, the caveat to the Traveler’s powers is that although he faces off against time travelers, he himself is unable to move throughout time. When asked by a woman he saves if he can time travel, the hero simply states, "No. I can play some wonderful tricks with it, however." These include speeding up and slowing down time, examples include accelerating time to make a quick escape or slowing down time to cushion his fall, but the Traveler cannot suddenly jump forward fifty years like his enemies can.

This demonstrates the inherent timelessness of comic book heroes. Villains are typically not constrained as heroes are. There are plenty of instances of comic book villains evolving and growing well beyond their original roots.

However, comic book heroes are relatively static. Comic book writers give the impression of movement, akin to the Traveler’s ability to speed up or slow down time, but are essentially locked in place. Captain America will always be the man out of time. Superman will always fight for truth and justice. Writers can toy with these concepts but there are irrefutably central to the composition of the character.

Mark Waid is an expert at highlighting this in his seminal collaboration with Alex Ross on Kingdom Come. While that story is set in the future of the DC Universe and has an eclectic cast that have gone through numerous physical changes, the character themselves remain largely the same. The Flash still lives between the ticks of a second. Batman still strives to prevent the wrong done to him from being committed against others.

This attribute is one of comic’s greatest strengths. What other form of media can purport a seventy year old uninterrupted publishing schedule focused on a beloved character? Television can’t match that. Hollywood, despite its fixation with sequels, can never attain that status. Even other print sources have a hard time matching the publishing prowess of Spider-Man, Superman and Batman. The Traveler is living proof that comic book superheroes exist eternally in the imagination of fans and writers.

Nevertheless, as the Traveler indicates "Freezing time is not as easy as it looks.” This timelessness has also been identified as one of the core drawbacks, by such figures as writer Alan Moore, to superheroes, making this attribution a double edge sword. While these characters may be eternal, they are also endless. The beginning of a character is as equally important as its end. Many comic book characters will never know an end.

Regardless, Stan Lee’s The Traveler is an insightful look at how comic book superheroes exist within a vacuum of time. Their stories may grow more complex but they are essentially the same. Their doubled edged iconography not only ensures they have a persistence in popular culture but also denies them a fitting conclusion to their saga. For better or worse, comic book characters can never die.

7

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

West London's WheelUP Merges Broken Beat and Hip-Hop on "Stay For Long" (premiere)

West London producer WheelUP reached across the pond to Brint Story to bring some rapid-fire American hip-hop to his broken beat revival on "Stay For Long".

Music

PM Picks Playlist 4: Stellie, The Brooks, Maude La​tour

Today's playlist features the premiere of Stellie's "Colours", some top-class funk from the Brooks, Berne's eco-conscious electropop, clever indie-pop from Maude Latour, Jaguar Jonze rocking the mic, and Meresha's "alien pop".

Culture

Plattetopia: The Prefabrication of Utopia in East Berlin

With the fall of the Berlin Wall came the licence to take a wrecking ball to its nightmare of repression. But there began the unwritten violence of Die Wende, the peaceful revolution that hides the Oedipal violence of one order killing another.

Music

Electrosoul's Flõstate Find "Home Ground" on Stunning Song (premiere)

Flõstate are an electrosoul duo comprised of producer MKSTN and singer-songwriter Avery Florence that create a mesmerizing downtempo number with "Home Ground".

Music

Orchestra Baobab Celebrate 50 Years with Vinyl of '​Specialist in All Styles'

As Orchestra Baobab turn 50, their comeback album Specialist in All Styles gets a vinyl reissue.

Music

Hot Chip Stay Up for 'Late Night Tales'

Hot Chip's contribution to the perennial compilation project Late Night Tales is a mixed bag, but its high points are consistent with the band's excellence.

Music

The Budos Band Call for Action on "The Wrangler" (premiere)

The Budos Band call on their fans for action with the powerful new track "The Wrangler" that falls somewhere between '60s spy thriller soundtrack and '70s Ethiojazz.

Music

Creature Comfort's "Woke Up Drunk" Ruminates on Our Second-Guesses (premiere)

A deep reflection on breaking up, Nashville indie rock/Americana outfit Creature Comfort's "Woke Up Drunk" is the most personal track from their new album, Home Team.

Books

For Don DeLillo, 'The Silence' Is Deafening

In Don DeLillo's latest novel, The Silence, it is much like our post-pandemic life -- everything changed but nothing happened. Are we listening?

Music

Brett Newski Plays Slacker Prankster on "What Are You Smoking?" (premiere)

Is social distancing something we've been doing, unwittingly, all along? Brett Newski pulls some pranks, raises some questions in "What Are You Smoking?".

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Becky Warren Shares "Good Luck" and Discusses Music and Depression

Becky Warren finds slivers of humor while addressing depression for the third time in as many solo concept albums, but now the daring artist is turning the focus on herself in a fight against a frightful foe.

Music

Fleet Foxes Take a Trip to the 'Shore'

On Shore, Fleet Foxes consist mostly of founding member Robin Pecknold. Recording with a band in the age of COVID-19 can be difficult. It was just time to make this record this way.

Books

'We're Not Here to Entertain' Is Not Here to Break the Cycle of Punk's Failures

Even as it irritates me, Kevin Mattson's We're Not Here to Entertain is worth reading because it has so much direct relevance to American punks operating today.

Film

Uncensored 'Native Son' (1951) Is True to Richard Wright's Work

Compared to the two film versions of Native Son in more recent times, the 1951 version more acutely captures the race-driven existential dread at the heart of Richard Wright's masterwork.

Music

3 Pairs of Boots Celebrate Wandering on "Everywhere I Go" (premiere)

3 Pairs of Boots are releasing Long Rider in January 2021. The record demonstrates the pair's unmistakable chemistry and honing of their Americana-driven sound, as evidenced by the single, "Everywhere I Go".

Books

'World War 3 Illustrated #51: The World We Are Fighting For'

World War 3 Illustrated #51 displays an eclectic range of artists united in their call to save democracy from rising fascism.

Music

Tiphanie Doucet's "You and I" Is an Exercise in Pastoral Poignancy (premiere)

French singer-songwriter Tiphanie Doucet gives a glimpse of her upcoming EP, Painted Blue, via the sublimely sentimental ode, "You and I".


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.