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Characters that are tied to a particular period of history and tend to remain tied to it even as the passing of real time would tend to make them die of old age, or the passing of Comic-Book Time
would tend to shift them to a later period. It is essentially the hardest aversion of the Sliding Timescale
applied to just one character, normally occurring when the time period becomes highly emblematic of the character or is needed to provide a strong point in their characterisation.
This trope is invoked every time you see an adult in their forties, fifties, or sixties complain about the music the kids are listening to these days. The original fans of rock and roll, even assuming they were all fifteen back when rock began, would be in their sixties today and anyone who grew up listening to punk rock in the late 70s would think today's music tame by comparison.
This causes problems of logic for when the Refugee from Time
ends up inside a Sliding Timescale
. By all Fridge Logic
the person should be older or even dead, they may at one point follow what should be the time and then flip back to pick up some attributes from another time. At some point the character may have started aging naturally before they realised that it wasn't going to hold. For example, Magneto's backstory involves being in the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz. Each new iteration shifts his age down, with Applied Phlebotinum providing excuses for him to be magically or scientifically rejuvenated.
Occasionally a significant cultural event will become such an important marker that its appearance in fiction seems to completely detach it from the normal timeline and have it follow around any character it can find. Woodstock would have to have been held within a TARDIS
to cover all the fictional characters that have claimed to be there. Wars are another matter. Rather unfortunately the regular appearance of wars give writers the chance to continuously update their veteran characters.
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Anime, Light Novels, Manga
- Lupin III: The titular thief, Arsene Lupin the Third, is The son of Arsene Lupin the Second, who is the son of Arsène Lupin. While the Grandson exists in Comic-Book Time, the grandfather is not as lucky, as he was written in the early 1900s. Early 1900s.
- Captain America will always be a result of the World War II Super Soldier program. The time he was trapped in the ice in the Atlantic will just become longer.
- Mark Millar originally considered averting this, doing what has been done with other Marvel characters and shift the war he is associated to something more modern note when he was creating The Ultimates. Then he realized that the World War II imagery and the sense of gravitas and historical realism was too much to give up.
- Nick Fury is likewise always a WWII vet, but he got some Super Soldier Serum-Lite (an annual injection of the Infinity Formula) that keeps him biologically the same age. (Referring to the main Marvel Comics universe.)
- The Punisher is always a Vietnam Vet no matter how many years have passed. He has died and come back to life twice (once when he became the Angel-Punisher, and once with the Franken-Castle scenario), with both returns de-aging him (the Angels wanting him to suffer more and the process naturally aiding his health respectively). As of 2011, The Punisher's origin has officially been updated to make him a Gulf War vet.
- Over in the DC Universe, the Justice Society always fought in WWII (although some of its more popular members, such as Superman or Wonder Woman, have been retconned out in various ways), so usually there is a plot device to have had them not age in the decades between the end of the war and the beginning of the "modern" age. This sometimes causes problems in regards to their non-super supporting cast, though only Post-Crisis (when they were placed into the same sliding-timeline-only universe as their JLA cohorts). Pre Crisis, the JSA members all aged in real time on Earth-Two (while Earth-One, like the current DCU, has a sliding timescale). Thus, Earth-Two's Batman and Catwoman had a daughter in the late 50s, who grew to adulthood by the 70s stories she debuted in. As the Huntress.
- It has become an established part of Scrooge McDuck's past that the character took part in the Klondike and Yukon Gold Rush — currently more than a hundred years ago. Don Rosa fixed this problem, at least in his own comics, by establishing that all his McDuck comics take place during the late 1940's and early 50's. Thus Scrooge could very well have taken part in the gold rushes as a young man. Some other McDuck authors follow this, but others ignore it and set their stories in the present.
- Magneto's backstory is so entrenched in Auschwitz by this point that writers struggle with keeping him as a Holocaust survivor and still keeping him and his contemporary Charles Xavier up to date. There have been attempts to retcon this, but they always Snap Back in the end. The solution seems to be giving Xavier and Magneto anti-aging treatments periodically.
- The Simpsons Comics: Radioactive Man started out fighting Nazis in the 1940s (as his Golden Age counterpart, "Radio Man"), but by the time he was finally reunited with his long-lost parents in 1996, he was still only about 25 years old rather than the 80-something years he should have been by that point — and, of course, his mother and father would most likely have been centenarians at the youngest, but in 1996 they were still middle-aged. (Justified in the mother's case, as she was turned into a cyborg by the Nazis and is thus presumably semi-immortal.) RM briefly lampshades this: "Gee, I've been in my twenties for a long time. No wonder I never get any birthday presents."
- Dick Tracy, astonishingly, still occasionally makes reference to fighting Nazi spies like Prune Face and the Brow during the second World War.
- Inverted in Doonesbury, which does not use a sliding timescale: every character ages in real time, except for Uncle Duke, who has been around 45 years old since the 1970's. None of the other characters seem to have noticed this, and it's never been explained.
- Curtis's father still hates all the "rap stuff" the title character likes, despite by current standards he should have grown up on hip hop.
- Similarly, Jeremy's parents in Zits are firmly children of the sixties; this gets harder and harder to reconcile as time goes by (his mother would have had to have given birth to him in her mid to late 40s by now). Maybe they're New Age Retro Hippies.
- In Something Fresh, the first Blandings Castle novel, P. G. Wodehouse stated that Lord Emsworth had been at Eton in the 'Sixties (that is, the Eighteen-Sixties). Assuming he was as young as possible (13) in the very last year of the decade (1869), this would still mean that he would have been 122 years old at the time of the publication of the last book, Sunset at Blandings in 1978.
- The secret agent Quiller was mentioned in the first book written in 1965 as a veteran of clandestine service during World War II. In the last book written in 1996 Quiller Balalaika, he's still a secret agent. He's been an active (very active, as he beats up young guys constantly) for over 50 years.
- Kind of related, though song lyrics can't normally be updated: the song "Hotel California" becomes even creepier as the time period implied by "We haven't had that spirit here since 1969" increases. And even more so when you listen to the full lyrics and realize that the eponymous hotel can be taken as an allegorical version of Hell.
- Again, 1969: "Summer of '69" by Bryan Adams was written by two people. Jim Vallence wrote a nostalgic piece that was going to be just called "The Best Days Of My Life" until someone looked at a line and said Throw It In. The piece was always going to have that nostalgic tone (with some Getting Crap Past the Radar with the line "me and my baby in a '69") but the audience ages and attitudes would change slowly. Bryan Adams on the other hand, has now started stating that the '69 was always meant to be about the sexual position with it meant to be bleedingly obvious. This feels a bit more like a shoehorn to keep the lyrics relevant and make it a justified Refugee from Time. Although for Adams, who was only 10 years old in 1969, its entirely possible the song means to him precisely what he says it means.
- On South Park, a flashback in one episode showed Stan's mother and father as having been to Woodstock in their youths, while other episodes show Stan's uncle Jimbo was a Vietnam War vet. Meanwhile, Stan (and his older sister Shelly) are perpetual children/pre-teens, which makes this problematic as time goes on (or not, given the bizarre nature of their world).
- Parodied in the episode "WTF" when Stan dresses up as the Professional Wrestling character "Stan the Man", who is a Vietnam veteran - even though Stan isn't old enough to have served in Iraq.
- The Simpsons
- You have Grampa Simpson, who will always be a World War II vet.
- And the Vietnam veteran Seymour Skinner.
- Montgomery Burns has Victorian-era memories that must make him absurdly old at this point. Burns' age is yet another case of Flanderization on the part of the Trope Namer. In the 1990 episode "Simpson and Delilah", Burns tells Homer that he's 81 years old, which would place his birth date in 1908 at the earliest. Burns's age was then exaggerated in later seasons; by the mid-'90s he was usually stated to be 104 years old. While this is of course an age that most people never reach, it's still not downright absurdly old. At that point in the series, flashbacks to Burns childhood were usually implied to take place in the late 1800's, which made sense since the episodes aired in the 1990's. The thing is though, that even in the episodes airing now in the 2010's, Burns still seems to be a child of the late 1800's. Since he also appears to be old enough to have vivid memories of the time, this would probably make him the oldest person in the world today.
- One episode has him listing his birthplace as Pangea.
- In another episode, Mr. Burns momentarily forgets his PIN, only for Smithers to remind him it's the same as his current age. Mr. Burns quickly types in two digits, hesitates, types in another, hesitates longer, and then another. It's possible the first two digits were zeroes, but if not, it suggests Mr. Burns is thousands of years old.