Earlier this year, after a collection of Gold Key’s short-lived (two issue) comic book series based on Irwin’s Allen’s TV show The Time Tunnel was solicited, I asked about the show itself with an eye toward maybe watching it on DVD in conjunction with reading the comic book. Commander Benson was able to answer all my questions about the show and I decided to wait to read the comics first, then to decide whether or not to buy the first of two DVD sets collecting the one-season show in its entirety. I read the collection just last night and now I want to watch the TV show more than ever, not because of the comics themselves, necessarily, but because of the introduction written by Alan J. Porter. It’s not that I think The Time Tunnel is great science fiction or anything like that, but it sounds like a (pretty cheesy) show I’d really enjoy. Refreshingly, these time travelers do try to change history, willy-nilly, with no thought as to how history might be affected!

The Gold Key comic book stories are centered around: the assassination of President Lincoln; the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and the destruction of Pompeii; the first space flight to Mars in 1980; the rise of the Fourth Reich in 2068; and Custer’s Last Stand.

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The only point that I would immediately quibble with is that girl in the heroic unit has not been replaced by a vessel or other non-animate object. Starting in the "Swinging 60's" she was replaced by the girl-of-the-week. The hero, for whatever reason is not to be tied down with the cares of mundane domesticity such as remembering anniversaries and avoiding leering at attractive female passers by in the presence of his significant other. He is tied only to whatever it is that he does and next week he will be doing that somewhere else footloose and fancy free.

Captain Comics said:
Speaking of acting, that raises a concept that's been bouncing around in my head for a while. It's still kinda fuzzy, and I don't even have a name for it. I'll call it "The Heroic Unit" for now, until someone comes up with a better one.
Is that the real tragedy of Ben Grimm? Obviously, Reed was meant to be and is the Older Scientist, Sue was meant to be and is the Girl, Johnny was meant to be and is the Kid, and Ben was meant tobe the Hero, but ended up as the Tragic Figure instead...
I hadn't thought of that, Baron, but FF is another Stan Lee twist on the Heroic Unit. You're right; if Fantastic Four had been a Gold Key title, Reed would have been Sue's father, not her husband, and Ben would have been the handsome Hero (with Sue his sweetie). Johnny would probably have been about 12 and been the comic relief.

I wonder if sometimes, on his black days, Ben doesn't think "this isn't the way the story is supposed to go."
Captain Comics said:

I wonder if sometimes, on his black days, Ben doesn't think "this isn't the way the story is supposed to go."

Well, I know some days I do! ;)
I'm not certain if the "Heroic Unit" is something that's gone for good, or if we're just waiting for the pendulum to swing back the other way. Sometimes it's a long, slow swing.
Toonopedia notes in its articles on Sea Devils and Rip Hunter that their teams were parallel in make-up to the Fantastic Four. Lee and Kirby departed from this existing model by given their characters fuller personalities, making the Thing a tragic figure (initially, also bitter and violent), making Reed more cerebral than the others' leading men, and playing up the internal conflicts of the team.
Well, in discussion of "The Time Tunnel", I have a simple question to ask about time travel, the fourth dimension, the possibilities of changing the past and of setting up alternate futures:


Thank you for your consideration.

I remain,
Eric L. Sofer
The Silver Age Fogey

Okay, I must have MORE to say on this than that, right?

Cap: I like your heroic unit theory, and I think that it's change over the years - but I think it's been consistent in use if varying in format. I think it's included trios - the ones you noted, but also trios without a female component - the lead guy, the "muscle", and the "trouble focus" - not necessarily the one causing the problems, but the one around whom the problems just seemed to swarm. I immediately think of "Lost in Space", with Will, the robot, and Dr. Smith. I also think of "Gilligan's Island", with Gilligan, the Skipper, and the Professor. I think of "Get Smart" with Max, 99, and the Chief. "Star Trek", as you noted (and I think that Captain Kirk can be both the troublemaker and the hero in this - although, as I once discussed with someone about D.S. 9, if one is doing Star Trek, one has to have an additional character - the space ship. One of the reasons I think D.S. 9 had problems was that they stayed in one place, so trouble had to come to them; and once they added the Defiant (along with a big war coming to them), I think that changed the flavor of the show considerably.)

But I like your duos idea, all the way from Batman and Robin to Peabody and Sherman.

Most of the quartets combinations were a flex on the trio idea, but added the girlfriend, who was not always the trouble focus. But so darned many teams were this setup; the Fantastic Four, Rip Hunter and his crew, Cave Carson and his crew, the Sea Devils - even stretching it a little bit to include the Teen Titans and the X-Men. So I think you've a valid idea there (which of course, it must be - it's Captain Comics, after all!)

As to time travel itself - the possibilities are so endless and so unimagined that I'm not sure we can discuss it at all without noting that we HAVE to have an agreed upon genre and rules for that genre. In this so called real world, time travel is almost completely incomprehensible if only humans are involved, because (in my mind at least), I cannot conceive that in an era where time travel had been invented, SOMEONE wouldn't use it to for immoral gain - and fail it so badly that the era to which he traveled would learn of the time travel. Even if it were merely someone who wanted to show their power by coming back to the past and advertising, "I know the future! I know the future!" without any other motivation would seem to be very likely.

But again - it's very hard to speculate since there are so darned many possibilities. Maybe some other time... :)


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