How Old Would Comics Characters Be If They Aged Normally? (And What Would They Be Doing Now?)

We begin with Green Lantern Hal Jordan, who first appeared in 1959, which is 58 years ago.  

Well, the first question we have to answer is, how old was he in 1959?

(Bear in mind, that all of this is based on my admittedly incomplete knowledge of the character. I am open to correction.)


I don't know that an exact age was ever given, if it was, I never heard about it.  I always took him for about 30.  The way he was drawn, he didn't look to me like he could be much younger than that.  Plus, while I don't know much about becoming a test pilot, minutes of internet research has led me to believe that one doesn't simply roll out of flight school and become the sort of test pilot that Hal Jordan was shown to be. I had the impression that he'd been in the USAF, so presumably he did at least a minimal tour of duty, and spent sometime establishing himself as a civilian test pilot, so I figure that 30 is a reasonable estimate.

In that case, Hal Jordan would be 88 now.

So, what would he be doing? I like to think he would have had a long, noteworthy career in the Green Lantern Corps and the Justice League of America.  Undoubtedly, he would eventually have been offered a spot in the Guardians; Honor Guard, but it wouldn't surprise me if he turned them down for more active duty.  

I expect he would be retired by now, although I can imagine an older Hal taking a hand in training younger or less experienced Lanterns.  I expect these would be like the children he never had - I just can't see him as the "settling down" type, somehow. Now, he's living somewhere in comfortable solitude, occasionally getting together with Barry and Ollie and maybe some of the others for a beer, and listening as they tell him what their grandkids did.  It's become a custom that when whoever is the current Green Lantern for Sector 2814 is out Earth way, they make it a point to stop by if they can, and fill him in on the latest Corps gossip and scuttlebutt.

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Jeff of Earth-J said:

"In my opinion, the all-time master of continuity was Rex Stout, author of the Nero Wolfe stories. The first one was set in the mid-thirties, the last four decades later. Each story was completely contemporary to its time and previous stories and characters were referenced when necessary, but over the series' 40-year lifespan, the characters seemed to age only a few years. When it comes to characterization, Stout was one of the absoluter best, and when we work on these revivals, I take his technique to heart." 

Ed McBain took a similar tack in the 87th Precinct series, which spanned 1956 to 2005. Each story was completely contemporary to its time, and it frequently called back to previous stories and characters, but without mentioning the year when anything happened. 

In the earliest books few of the officers had served in the Army, and one had served in the Navy, during World War II; later books referenced their military service without citing the war. Lead character Detective/2nd Grade Steve Carella was about 34 when the series began and turned 40 near the end of the series. He also got married in the second book, and became the father of twins who spent a lot of time being 8 years old before becoming about 13 by the series end.*

* Yes, yes, I know if doesn't square that a man can have 13-year-old children during the same period he aged only six years. But who's reading these with an actuarial chart close at hand?

So Walt Wallet is 122, and Skeezix is 101.   Would it cause that big of a stir if they killed old Walt off?

I've long thought that there are two types of super heroes; "adult" age (e.g., Batman, Reed Richards, etc.) and "young" age (the X-Men, the Human Torch, the Legion of Super-Heroes). I figured around 28 for adult heroes and 16 for young heroes.

Obviously there are exceptions. There are non-human and non-standard heroes (Wonder Woman, Dr. Strange, Captain America, Aquaman, etc.) and sidekicks - I'll use Robin and Bucky. I figured that Batman was 28 when he ward'ed Dick Grayson at about 10 - 12. Steve Rogers - well, he was a young man trying to join the Army, so I'll remove one restriction from his joining and give him an age of 18 in 1944. Bucky was a pretty smart operator by the time Steve met him, so I'll figure him at 12 or 13.

Stan, I reckon, didn't figure that Marvel Comics would last 60+ years, so assigning fictional characters to real dates wasn't a consideration (and it DID add to the verisimilitude of the characters to put them in a war setting - Reed Richards, Ben Grimm, Charles Xavier, Nick Fury, Steve Rogers, etc.) Again, granting them some super proficiency at achievements to attain their statuses at 18 - 20 years old, I put their birth years around 1918 - 1920. But that means that even in 1961, they were in their 40s! Oh, Steve could be in 1926, but still...

However, the characters I mentioned were all different from "standard" humans at the time they started (and Professor Xavier could easily be a 40 year old professor.) In every case, their aging could have been retarded by their powers (or the Infinity formula.)

DC didn't really get around this, because most of their high profile characters were in the Justice Battalion during World War II (per All-Star Comics) or fighting 5th columnists and saboteurs during the war - so again, I figure birth years around 19-20 again. Now it was noted that the JSA, when they returned in JLA #21, were older and felt it - but were still in fighting fettle. And there were exceptions and explanations for every one of them (save for Black Canary, whom I figured was younger than the guys anyhow.) And again, in 1963, this was their early 40s.

As for how old would they be today - WWII heroes would be 100 years old, 1961* heroes would be in their 60s - a bit too old for full time full effort crime fighting. Even the young heroes (the X-Men, the Teen Titans) would be in their 50s. Again, the exceptions can be made for those whose powers retarded their aging - but it still didn't stop it.

So I estimate that Spider-Man or the Torch are 75, 76 and Hawkman or Batman are 90s aged. That Bat-signal better be really bright! 

*Yours truly was born in 1961 - so I know whereof I speak!

The Baron said:

So Walt Wallet is 122, and Skeezix is 101.   Would it cause that big of a stir if they killed old Walt off?

The short answer: Yes.

The longer answer: Gasoline Alley is built on commemorating Skeezix's birthday each Valentine's Day and aging the characters, although I understand a previous writer/artist dropped that angle but the current one brought it back. Over the years, Walt's best buds Doc and Avery died off-stage, but Walt's wife Phyllis died on-screen in 2004

So my impression is Gasoline Alley will avoid establishing a final fate for Walt or Skeezix as long as possible ... and possibly even longer than that. 

Interesting.  I don't have a good idea of how popular the strip is these days, as in whether anybody much younger than I am cares about it.

ClarkKent_DC said:

The Baron said:

So Walt Wallet is 122, and Skeezix is 101.   Would it cause that big of a stir if they killed old Walt off?

The short answer: Yes.

The longer answer: Gasoline Alley is built on commemorating Skeezix's birthday each Valentine's Day and aging the characters, although I understand a previous writer/artist dropped that angle but the current one brought it back. Over the years, Walt's best buds Doc and Avery died off-stage, but Walt's wife Phyllis died on-screen in 2004

So my impression is Gasoline Alley will avoid establishing a final fate for Walt or Skeezix as long as possible ... and possibly even longer than that. 

"I understand a previous writer/artist dropped that angle but the current one brought it back."

Gasoline Alley has had only three main cartoonists since the beginning: Frank King, Dick Moores and Jim Scancarelli. Scanarelli has been doing the strip since the mid-eighties. He maintained the "real time" angle for a while but I thought he dropped it when it became untenable (Walt is 122 and Skeezix is 101). I don't know how much of a stir Walt's death would cause, but I don't see that it's necessary, any more than, say, Dagwood or Dick Tracy.

Regarding Marvel Comics' characters, I recommend Spider-Man: Life Story (2019) and Fantastic Four: Life Story (2021), which ages the characters in real time, each issue covering a decade, while the plot adapts storylines from those decades.

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