Hourman is a name shared by three superheroes from DC Comics.
The first was Rex Tyler, who first appeared in Adventure Comics #48 (March, 1940). He was co-created by Ken Fitch and Bernard Baily. One of the original "mystery men" of The Golden Age of Comic Books, Rex was a biochemist who discovered a particular mixture of vitamins and hormones that he dubbed "Miraclo" which enabled enhanced strength, agility, speed and endurance for an hour before wearing off.
Tyler's decision to become a superhero was two-fold: 1) he wanted a human trial with a panel and subject he could trust (himself) and 2) he wanted the drug to be used "altruistically." As it ended up, he started his career by putting ads in the paper and aiding respondents. Eventually team-ups with other heroes led him to pool his resources with the Justice Society of America. Like most of his generation, a great deal of his crime-fighting career was in service to Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II.
Hourman was one of the first characters cut from the JSA roster, and the character vanished until the 1960s, when he would show up for the regular crossover stories between the JSA and JLA. He was a part of the short lived Justice Society of America series from the early 1990s, and then came Zero Hour...
Rex's career ended, along with most of the founding members of the JSA, when he was aged to death by the Crisis Crossover villain Extant in Zero Hour!. Next up in the line was his son, Rick Tyler, first appearing in Infinity, Inc. #20 (November, 1985). Rick spent time with other second-generation superhumans calling themselves Infinity, Inc. Rick was brash and overbearing in his career, embodying many of the darker aspects of his father's alter ego when left to run unchecked. Several events led to Rick giving up the mantle for a time, but he was ultimately stopped from continuing as Hourman by the illness that had ravaged his body from prolonged use of the toxic Miraclo. When the third Hourman found him, he was enraged at a robot taking up his father's identity. He attacked his usurper but was ultimately thrown into the Timepoint, a place of suspended time, where he would wait until a cure could be found several years later.
The third Hourman was an android called '"Tyler" or "Ty" by his friends. He first first appeared in JLA #12 (November, 1997) who had traveled from far, far, FAR in the future to help the modern Justice League of America. Ty begins as a Harbinger of future crises, then transforms into Chekhov's Gunman in the DC One Million mini-series. Afterwards, his omnipotent power mixed with a general lack of experience and maturity led to him seeking out the most humanizing sidekick/mentor in the JLA's roster: ...Snapper Carr. In the midst of his solo adventures with Snapper and several other friends, Tyler spent time connecting with the newest incarnation of the Justice Society of America. Years later, after curing Rick of his illness and reuniting him with his father, Tyler took Rex's place in the time-line, allowing himself to be "killed" and giving Rex and his son a chance to find their place in the current world.
After Flashpoint rebooted the DCU, no Hourman exists, although Miraclo does and was a plot point in Earth 2, a series that, fittingly, started as the place where alternate versions of the Justice Society characters existed.
Various incarnations of Hourman have appeared occasionally in live action. The Rex Tyler version briefly appeared in the Arrowverse series Legends of Tomorrow, portrayed there by Patrick J. Adams. On DC Universe's Stargirl, both Rex and Rick appear as Hourman in varying capacities; Rex as a posthumous character (portrayed by Lou Ferrigno Jr. in flashbacks) while Rick (Cameron Gellman) becomes the second Hourman in Stargirl's revived Justice Society. An Hourman series was also once reported to be in development at The CW in 2013, but it never materialized.
Tropes for the first version:
- Ax-Crazy: Rex gets a little... giddy... when first dosing on Miraclo. As his "genecestor" would later witness in "The Death of Hourman", getting hit by an ambulance into a brick wall (head first) just starts a laughing fit. Rex is also a much more gregarious and "forward" individual while taking Miraclo.
- Back from the Dead
- The Big Guy: The only one of the original Justice Society to have superhuman strength, he tends to fall into this role despite his scientific prowess.
- Disappeared Dad: Being an active crime-fighter and scientist/business tycoon, Rex had little time for his son, Rick.
- Heroism Addict: He became addicted to fighting crime, in part due to his Miraclo use.
- Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Until recently, Rex was portrayed as primarily a chemist. Recent stories have him theoretically capable of rebuilding Tyler, and the creator of Roxy, a Deadpan Snarker AI who acts as Mission Control for the All-Stars.
- Parental Neglect: He was so busy being a hero and businessman that he completely neglected his son Rick.
- Red Baron: "The Man of the Hour".
- Self-Made Man: Rex is basically a walking Horatio P. Alger story, having grown up in poverty, gone to Cornell on a scholarship and built his own company from the ground up.
- Shy Guy Hot Wife: Normally timid and reserved Rex is married to a cinema star.
- Super Serum: Miraclo, the source of Rex's powers, was originally just a "super-booster" that granted strength, resilience and speed for 1 hour increments (and required periods of downtime). Famously retconned by James Robinson into an addictive Psycho Serum that Rex took decades to overcome and recreate without its harmful side-effects.
- Super Strength: It always fluctuates though. At times, he's shown to be strong enough to hurl buses. At other times, he can duke it out comfortably with Superman. Regardless, he's the original JSA strong guy.
- Timey-Wimey Ball: He was plucked out of time from moments before his death and placed inside a library, where his son could visit him for one hour (spread out across however long he wanted from Rick's perspective), after which he would have to return to the moment of his death.
Tropes for the second version:
- All-Natural Snake Oil: How does Rick's current version of Miraclo have exactly the same effects, without being toxic or addictive? Because it's homeopathic, apparently.
- Ax-Crazy: When Rick was dying of his disease, and quickly had his hopes dashed of a cure when Tyler thought he could help him back when everyone still thought he had leukemia only to reveal its true nature, he took a sample of Miraclo he'd held on to and went on a rampage against Tyler.
- Calling the Old Man Out: A major source of tension between Rick and his father, though it was slowly weakened when they had only a limited amount of "frozen time" over a period of months to have an extended conversation and mend some fences.
- Battle Couple: Rick and his wife, Liberty Belle.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Rick's reaction when he killed the Wizard while escaping the Injustice Society ...or so he thought.
- Power Degeneration: Rick's use of Miraclo led to him developing a disease similar to leukemia, which Tyler eventually cured him of.
- Seer: One of the powers Rick was granted by Tyler was an ability to see one hour into the future.
- Sickeningly Sweethearts: Beyond kicking butt with the JSA, Rick and Liberty Belle seem to spend all their time obsessing over one another, while also acting like their own ship fandom.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Largely the reason Rick became a superhero.
Tropes for the third version:
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Averted by Tyler and Tomorrow Woman, but played straight by virtually every other android he encounters. He actively questions if it's an inevitable flaw of design or something he has a choice in.
- Heck, Tomorrow Woman did rebel against her maker; but since her maker was an evil Robot Master and she wanted to be a hero, that was actually a good thing.
- Arc Words: In the first issue, Snapper recites a list about a dozen strange terms ("The timepoint, the giant nanites, the Century of Solitude" and several others) which he doesn't understand, but which he knows are going to affect his and Hourman's future. Throughout the course of the series, each one plays an important role in the story. In the final issue, just before he and Hourman part ways Snapper recites the terms again, but this time as a list of fond memories.
- The Cape: At one point, Tyler was actively invoking this trope as he was reprogrammed to behave the way a superpowered crime-fighter was expected act.
- Catchphrase: "Metron's brain!"
- Chest Insignia: While Rex and Rick wear an iconic hourglass around their necks, Tyler takes it a bit further and has his embedded in his chest.
- Cool Ship: Viking longship covered in clocks that travels through time.
- Glowing Eyes of Doom: Really meant to be more mysterious and alien than ominous.
- Granola Girl: Bethany, the curious and precocious ex-wife of Snapper Carr and predestined girlfriend of Hourman.
- Heroic Sacrifice: In JSA, Tyler, after being told by Rex Tyler that he is "as alive as any of us", decides to save his predecessor from his historical death by impersonating him before the time-villain, Extant. As of early 2010, he's still "completely disassembled" - although this doesn't stop earlier incarnations from occasionally visiting.
- Just a Machine: How he tries to justify him dying in Rex's place. Defied by Rex, who declares that Matt is "as alive as any of us".
- Nano Machines: "An 853rd century intelligent machine colony constructed by Tyler Chemorobotics."
- Power Creep, Power Seep: Tyler's mastery of all time and space (thanks to wielding the Kirby-created Worlogog) becomes too much for him to handle responsibly and he self-limits himself to being a Flying Brick with one hour of his greater powers.
- Secret Identity: "Matthew" Tyler, a bushy-haired, runaway youth. An extension of Tyler's isolation and loneliness, but also a way to disappear into humanity when not working as a superhero.
- Side Kick: Snapper Carr, member of the first incarnation of the Justice League of America and the Rick Jones of the DC Universe.
- Time Travel: In earlier appearances, Tyler had complete mastery of all space-time. Later, it was limited to jaunts on his Time Ship.
- Time-Travel Tense Trouble: With his semi-omniscient view of time, Ty regularly interrupted conversations and asked they be skipped altogether for being superfluous or uncomfortable.
- Timey-Wimey Ball: Ty's "Time Vision" power seems to selectively age or de-age things, sometimes even fine-tuned enough to accelerate the healing process in a human body.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: A large theme of the Hourman series, Tyler goes around asking many other androids their perspective on identity and what it means to be a person.
- Younger Than They Look: While intelligent and physically adult, Tyler is chronologically only two years old. His immaturity shows in his lack of sensitivity or people skills.