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Comic Book / Time and Time Again

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Time And Time Again is a seven-part Story Arc that took place in the Superman comic book titles in 1991, published by DC Comics. It was written by Dan Jurgens, Roger Stern, and Jerry Ordway, with artwork by Dan Jurgens, Bob McLeod, Jerry Ordway, Brett Breeding, Dennis Janke, Tom Grummett, and Jose Marzan.

In the story, a mysterious time traveler known as the Linear Man shows up in present-day Metropolis (circa 1991) to bring Booster Gold back to his own proper time period. In the middle of a fight between Linear Man and Booster Gold, Superman intervenes, but in the process he accidentally activates the Linear Man's time-traveling device, causing a hole in space-time to open that sucks Superman in and transports him to the 30th century where he meets with the first three members of the Legion of Super-Heroes. However, an explosion knocks him back in time to World War II, then another puts him back in the 30th century, then another sends him back to the Earth's prehistoric age, and so on.

The collected edition paperback includes two more stories following this one — "Time And Time Again Again" and "Time Ryders" — both with Superman and Waverider from Armageddon 2001 encountering a group called the Linear Men, which the Linear Man had belonged to.

This story arc provides examples of:

  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: In the Jimmy Olsen-Lucy Lane subplot, Jimmy's mother drops in and ruins the date by showing Lucy photos of her son when he was a child.
  • An Arm and a Leg: The Linear Man loses a hand as he travels from his own time to the 30th century to resume the countdown to the Earth's moon's destruction. He even explains that constant time travel requires some physical reconstruction on his part.
  • Analogy Backfire: Privately invoked by Superman; when he's forced to accept an offer for help from the also-time-displaced Chronos, he muses that he doesn't trust Chronos further than he can throw him, but has to privately concede that he could throw Chronos quite a distance if he wanted.
  • Assassin Outclassin': Franklin D. Roosevelt's would-be assassin is foiled by Superman's timely incognito appearance in the hotel room, with one of the assassin's bullets ricocheting off Superman and striking him instead.
  • Batman Can Breathe in Space: Played with. At certain points, when Superman arrives from his time traveling in a place where there is no oxygen (like the Earth's moon or a dead planet), he is able to speak and breathe for a short period of time without any problem. In the seventh and final part of the story, when Dev-Em goes on his rampage on the moon and fights with Laurel Gand, there is enough oxygen to allow him to speak to his adversary before flinging her away.
  • Being Watched: Dr. Fate tells his fellow Justice Society of America members that he has this feeling when Superman sees them gathering inside the Smithsonian in Washington, DC with his X-ray vision in 1943.
  • Big "NO!":
    • Morgaine Le Fey when Superman stops her advance into Camelot by pulling up the floor underneath her feet.
    • Superman when he sees the Linear Man resume the countdown to the moon's destruction...and also after it happens.
  • Big Word Shout: "MONSTERS!" by Superman as he stands outside an underground Nazi bunker and overhears their plan to use a bomb on the Jewish people as their test subjects.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Superman does make it back home to his own time...though it cost millions of lives on Earth's moon in the future, and Superman realizes that he can't return to the future to stop it from happening.
  • Black Knight: Morgaine Le Fey magicked Superman to serve her unwillingly as this in her assault upon Camelot. Etrigan the Demon stripped Superman of this armor with his flame breath, and Merlin undid her spells and changed Superman into a white knight to defend Camelot.
  • Breaking the Bonds: Part of Superman's circus act as The Amazing Samson whenever he appeared in the spotlight in 1943.
  • Car Cushion: Booster Gold lands on top of a parked car when the Linear Man blasts him away to prevent him from touching the time-travel controls.
  • Covert Emergency Call: The Linear Man purposely activates Skeets' "silent scream" to alert Booster Gold and draw him to Metropolis so that he could capture the hero.
  • Ear Ache: Shrinking Violet gives Dev-Em a painful earache that fells him and stops his rampage.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: The Earth's moon is destroyed in the 30th century, sending Superman back home to the present.
  • Feed It a Bomb: The Legion of Super-Heroes try feeding a bomb to the Sun Eater by having Wildfire fly straight to the center under his own power carrying it, but that fails as his containment suit suffers a puncture before he reaches the center of the creature. Two other Legionnaires try to help out Wildfire, but the Sun Eater's energy discharges stop them, and the bomb detonates, causing the three heroes to be propelled from the creature without doing it any damage. With Superman helping on their second try, Wildfire flies to the center of the Sun Eater using only his Legion flight ring and fires all his contained energy at the creature, emptying the containment suit so that Shrinking Violet can turn it into a bomb that would destroy the creature. Superman comes along and flings Shrinking Violet riding inside the containment suit's earpiece to safety before the jerry-rigged bomb explodes and takes out the Sun Eater.
  • For the Evulz: Dev-Em causes a lot of mayhem on the Earth's moon basically for his own sick pleasure, culminating in setting the moon to self-destruct.
  • Godzilla Threshold: Superman pushes the Nazis to this during his time in 1943; after he's destroyed the lab where they were building their atomic bomb, they waste their prototype trying to kill him as they feel he's too great a threat (the blast appears to kill Superman from their perspective, but really he's sent on his latest jump through time).
  • Have We Met Yet?:
    • Indirectly; Superman has met some of the Legion of Super-Heroes during his initial trip to the pocket universe created by the Time-Trapper, but in his first two visits to the Legion's time period most of the Legionnaires he encountered then haven't even joined the current team yet.
    • Prior to this story, Superman had met Mr. Z before in his own present time and was trapped in the latter's spirit crystal, with Mr. Z claiming that they have met before then. It is in this story where Mr. Z (as General Zeiten) has his first encounter with Superman during World War II, although now because Superman is aware of Mr. Z's spirit crystal, he doesn't fall for being trapped inside it.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: After Superman saves President Roosevelt from a German assassin, the Secret Service point their weapons at him, but Roosevelt points out that a man who could crash through a wall and crush a gun in his bare hands could have easily killed him already if that was Superman's intention.
  • Immune to Bullets: Franklin D. Roosevelt's would-be assassin is surprised to discover that Superman, disguised as a common street person circa the 1940s, is immune to bullets, though a ricochet ends up hitting the assassin and killing him.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: Jimmy Olsen's mother drops in on her son's date with Lucy Lane as they were kissing each other.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: The reporter whom Dev-Em had killed with a piece of debris on the Earth's moon.
    Reporter: This reporter would guess that they might well be Constructs or Daxamites or...
  • Left Hanging: The graphic novel of the story doesn't show the aftermath of the Moon's destruction, which was actually followed up in the Legion of Super-Heroes title. Superman does visit that time period again following this event in Armageddon: Inferno and sees what has become of the Earth following the destruction.
  • Marriage to a God: Discussed between Clark Kent and Lois Lane in the early part of the story, as part of the aftermath of Lois Lane just learning at that point that Clark Kent is actually Superman. Lois says that marrying Clark Kent is the easy part, but marrying Superman is like marrying a god.
  • Meaningful Rename: Superman is temporarily given the name The Amazing Samson during his time as a circus act in 1943, due to his incredible strength (even in how he dealt with a lion on the loose) and his temporary blindness.
  • Meanwhile, in the Futureā€¦: In this case, it's Meanwhile, in the Present Time... as the story cuts between Superman's time-traveling adventures and what's going on in Metropolis during the single night in the present time where Superman was absent. As for what was going on: Lois Lane waiting for Superman to return, Jimmy Olsen's date with Lucy Lane, Perry White talking to his wife and comforting her over the loss of their son, the LexCorp board members discussing finding Lex Luthor's heir, and Bibbo Bibbowski getting himself drunk in his own bar.
  • Mythology Gag: Superman's Amazing Samson costume has a triangular S-shield, just like some of the earliest Golden Age stories.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: When Superman and Chronos find themselves trapped in prehistoric times, Chronos is able to deduce how Superman is jumping through time. He attempts to use Superman as a power source for his own time-jump, but Superman is able to destroy Chronos's equipment, leaving the villain trapped while Superman is sent on his next jump through history.
  • Planet Eater: The Sun Eater makes its appearance in the story during one of Superman's trips to the 30th century.
  • Relocating the Explosion: Superman catches a bomb that the Nazis drop on the Jews and flies it toward outer space where it explodes without harming anyone, though it sends Superman out of 1943 and into the 30th Century.
  • Shaving Is Science: Superman uses his heat vision to keep his face nice and clean-shaven in 1943, although he has to deal with the fact that there were no durable metals in 1943 that he could use to reflect his heat vision beam with.
  • Shout-Out: Superman sings "Walk The Dinosaur" by Was (Not Was) in the prehistoric past.
  • The Slow Path: Superman ultimately spends months getting sent between different time periods before he finally returns to the present, in which only a few hours have passed. The alternate version is also invoked; during the time he is stuck in 1943, he wonders if the only thing for him to do is wait out the 48 years naturally.
  • Temporary Blindness: Superman's eyesight is incredibly blurry for a time after he arrives in 1943.
  • Time Bomb: Dev-Em activates a series of bombs embedded within the Earth's moon by the Dominators that are set to go off in less than a minute. Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes rush together to stop both Dev-Em and the bombs, but ultimately Saturn Girl finds the button and stops the countdown with only a second or two left to spare. The Linear Man, realizing that the moon's destruction is the only way that he can send Superman back home to his own time, arrives at the scene after the Legion leaves with Dev-Em to resume the countdown and destroy the moon.
  • Time-Passage Beard: Superman grows one in the prehistoric past, which ends up being removed when he appears in Medieval England during the time of King Arthur.
  • Time Police: The Linear Man fancies himself as one, though he acts more like a time-traveling Bounty Hunter.
  • Time Travel: Superman finds himself traveling uncontrollably between the past and the future, visiting three different incarnations of the Legion of Super-Heroes in the process. His going from one time period to another is caused by his exposure to explosions and energy surges, and also by the Linear Man's manipulations to send him to the point where a cataclysmic event would cause enough of a disruption to create a controlled time-jump that would send Superman back home to his own time. Superman spends a few months trying to get back home to his present time, but his disappearance from the present occurs only over the course of a single night.
  • The Tooth Hurts: Superman causes some dental trauma to a dinosaur when he rescues the villain Chronos from being devoured by one and the creature tries to take a bite out of the Man of Steel.
  • Trainstopping: Superman stops a train full of Jewish refugees from delivering its cargo to a bomb's test site in 1943 by standing right in front of the train and letting its engine section plow straight into him, wrecking the engine.
  • What Year Is This?: Asked by Superman a few times whenever he was in a time period that actually had a calendar to determine the actual year.
  • Wipe That Smile Off Your Face: When Etrigan the Demon reveals Morgaine Le Fey's black knight to be Superman, Merlin the magician bids the hero to speak, only to see that a metal plate has covered his mouth via one of Morgaine's magic spells.
  • You Monster!: Superman cries out "MONSTERS!" when he overhears what General Zeiten and the Nazis have planned for the Jews.
  • Your Head Asplode: One of the reporters on the Earth's moon reporting Dev-Em's rampage is killed by a piece of debris flung at him at bullet-speed by Dev-Em that rips through his spacesuit helmet and also through his head, causing this to happen.

The two Linear Men stories provide examples of:

  • Alternate Self: The leader of the Linear Men is the Matthew Ryder from the main timeline in which Monarch's plan to destroy all superheroes has been thwarted.
  • Beat: That moment in the second story when Pete Ross with Lana Lang is talking to Clark and Lois on their dinner date together.
    Pete Ross: How about you two? Planning to have little ones once you tie the knot?
    (Clark and Lois spend a panel together in silence with nervous smiles.)
    Lois Lane: Well...Clark?
  • Bomb Disposal: In the first story, the quantum field generator that Superman and the Metal Men try carefully to extract from a pile of wreckage in Metropolis becomes volatile and ready to explode. Superman tries to fly it safely away from Metropolis, but it ends up exploding...though its explosion is stopped in its process by Liri Lee of the Linear Men transporting both the generator and Superman to Vanishing Point to study it. The Linear Men, however, have no interest in stopping the generator from exploding and killing people in Metropolis, but Waverider, seeing what their technology can do, takes one of their time-travel controls and uses it to transport the generator to the distant past, where it explodes harmlessly without hurting anyone.
  • Brainwashing: Mr. Z in the first story mesmerizes a rescue worker who came to find survivors of a plane crash, to make him believe that there were no survivors so Mr. Z could go about his business without any interference.
  • Domestic Abuse: Clark and Lois encounter his next-door neighbor Gary, a wife abuser, walking down the hall to his apartment, simply saying that he's getting counseling to work out his problems and nothing more after that.
  • Downer Ending: The second story ends with Matthew Ryder's grandfather dying, and Superman being unable to do anything about it, and also realizing that the Linear Men could stop it from happening, but won't because it would violate the sanctity of the space-time continuum.
  • Endless Corridor: Vanishing Point, the place where Waverider and Superman first go to in the first story, is a never-ending hallway that somehow causes Superman's telescopic vision to warp around so that he ends up seeing himself and Waverider from behind.
  • Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act: Talking with Superman about the purpose of the Linear Men's observation of history, Liri Lee cites Hitler as an example; it would be easy for them to ensure that he died during the First World War, but since they can only be sure that events would be different without Hitler, they can't be sure the new events would be better. Superman concedes to their point, acknowledging how he didn't dare to make any changes to history during his own time in the past.
  • In the Hood: The leader of the Linear Men wears a robe and hood that covers his face, though at the end of the first story, he lowers the hood to reveal himself to be the Matthew Ryder from the main timeline in which Superman saved him and his parents from an explosion.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Waverider's reaction in the second story when he kills the other Matthew Ryder and learns from his alternate self's history how basically essential his existence is to the new timeline.
  • Never the Selves Shall Meet: Although Waverider has encountered his younger self as Matthew Ryder in Armageddon 2001 without any problems, discovering that he was the superhero who rescued himself, he was tempted to make himself fully known to both his younger self and his parents, but realized that he couldn't do that because that would disrupt events in the space-time continuum. He did meet his alternate adult self in the new timeline that was created, however, and that first meeting turned out to be disastrous for both Waverider and everyone else.
  • Other Me Annoys Me: In the second story, Waverider is so angered that the Linear Men's leader is the Matthew Ryder that grew up having Waverider's past life being lived in the new timeline that he ends up killing the other Matthew Ryder. Of course, in doing so, he traps himself, Superman, and the Linear Men in a Nullsphere from which they couldn't escape...until Waverider uses the energy from Hunter's eye beam to save the other Matthew Ryder from being killed in the first place.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: The death of Matthew Ryder's grandfather during Clark and Lois' date together with Pete and Lana triggers the rest of the second story about Waverider's feud with the Linear Men.
  • Ret-Gone: In the first story, with the (seemingly) successful defeat of Monarch's plan to destroy all superheroes, Waverider mourns the fact that his family, which was birthed in that awful timeline, would no longer exist in the new timeline.
  • Time Police: The Linear Men are introduced into the DC Universe as that in these stories.
  • Time Stands Still: In both stories, Waverider and Superman alternately experience time standing still in the situations they happen to be in, with Superman in the latter instance changing from Clark Kent to Superman while time is frozen. In the first story, Superman also remembers a time when he was alone with Lois Lane and all time had stood still between them, which Liri Lee reveals was her doing in order to make up for the time lost between Superman and Lois Lane during the Time And Time Again story arc.
  • Time Travel: A given in these stories, as Waverider and the Linear Men have this ability. Of course, Waverider steals a bit of Linear Men technology in order to deliver an explosive piece of equipment, the quantum field generator, from present-day Metropolis to the distant past where it will do no harm to anyone.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: Invoked; when Waverider kills the other Matthew Rider, it erases the Linear Men base of Vanishing Point because apparently some of the materials necessary to construct the facility would have been collected by Ryder in his personal future. Waverider is subsequently able to negate that timeline by reaching back in time and drawing Ryder away from his attack in the millisecond before Waverider made contact.
  • Useless Protagonist: Superman in "Time Ryders" can do nothing but try to talk reason to Waverider and the Linear Men as they feud with each other.
  • Who Watches the Watchmen?: Superman's criticism of the Linear Men in the second story after Waverider is admitted as a new member.
    Superman: You have all the answers, don't you? Don't you? You people — all four of you — wield so much power and you're so out of control it worries me! Who polices your decisions? Who keeps the Linear Men in line?