Tag Archives: time

Three Kinds of Time

I was thinking about the timeline of DC Comics’ Earth-51 (home to the Great Disaster in Countdown to Final Crisis) and trying to wrap my head around what the past and present might mean for a world that’s been created and destroyed twice in as many years, and realized that some of the time paradoxes make much more sense if you consider that there’s more than one kind of time.

Real-world time is, as you’d expect, the time that passes between when two stories are published. For example, it’s been 45 years since Spider-Man first appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15 (Aug. 1962).

In-story time is the time that passes within a story. So even though it’s been 70 years since Superman first appeared on the newsstand, it’s only been 10–15 years since his debut within the DC Universe.

The tension between these two leads to a strange, fluid take on time, which has its own issues.

But then you get into time travel and cosmic retcons, and in-story time can’t quite explain things. Continue reading

How Long is a Day in Cyberspace?

I had an interesting thought looking at the Blog Action Day, um, blog, which remarked on what, for me, was Sunday:

And so we come to it at last… Blog Action Day has now officially begun for the first countries closest to the International Dateline.

I realized that it wasn’t going to stop after 24 hours the way that, for instance, Slashdot’s April Fools days run (GMT midnight to midnight). The event was designed to be October 15—not October 15 in a particular time zone. If you start with the first zone to reach a date, and run through the last zone to finish it, “October 15” would last about 48 hours.

I’m too sleepy to do the math myself, so I’ll trust Wikipedia’s entry on Time Zones:

Because the earliest and latest time zones are 26 hours apart, any given calendar date exists at some point on the globe for 50 hours. For example, April 11 begins in time zone UTC+14 at 10:00 UTC April 10, and ends in time zone UTC-12 at 12:00 UTC April 12.

So there you have it: a worldwide event tied to a calendar day but no time zone lasts 50 hours.

And here you thought things moved faster on Internet Time!

It’s Comics Time

Time in comics is a strange, fluid thing. When you keep adventure characters in print over the course of decades, you don’t want them to get old. And so characters like Superman, who debuted as twenty- or thirty-somethings 60+ years ago, are roughly the same age today.

This is hardly unique to superhero comic books. The same is true of James Bond movies, the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books, and even newspaper comic strips. (How long has Dennis the Menace been five years old?)

Still, it makes for interesting contradictions. If Superman debuted 14 years ago, he can hardly have met JFK, so clearly any stories dealing with him are no longer “canon.” On the other hand, if the story doesn’t depend on JFK having been the President at the time, the nefarious super-villain plot may still be part of Superman’s history. But sixty years of chronicled adventures crammed into fourteen years makes for a pretty busy life! (And how frequently does the US hold Presidential elections in the DC and Marvel universes?)

The time-squishing effect is easiest to see with flashbacks. Continue reading