While the Time Tunnel TV series lasted only 30 episodes and ran for less than one year, many science-fiction fans regard it with nostalgia, and as with many sci-fi properties of the era, there were product and comic book tie-ins that related to the show. Time Tunnel’s life was brief but memorable and spawned two issues of a comic book series that have been collected by Hermes Press.
Readers who are familiar with the series already know that they shouldn’t expect a great deal of depth or scientific insight from Time Tunnel. The modus operandi of much 1960s science fiction was bombastic pseudo-science and speculation about things that science didn’t truly grasp yet (but desperately wanted to), and Time Tunnel embraces this apologetically: A couple of hapless scientists have thrown themselves into their “time tunnel,” Quantum Leap-style, and hop around in time --- usually, and very coincidentally, to historic moments at which they invariably hope to turn the tide, and constantly fail.
Or maybe they don’t fail. Maybe their bumbling turns history in the precise direction that we now know it, playing into the “secret history” genre of science fiction. That’s about as deep as these comics get.
Their approach to traveling in time breaks every tenet of time travel that science fiction fans hold dear: Don’t mess up the past, don’t tell people that you’re from the future, and generally, don’t be an idiot. Between the two issues collected here, the pair of scientists fight Native Americans, future Nazis, citizens of Pompeii, and just about everyone they meet. After they fail to stop the assassination of President Lincoln by yelling at anyone within earshot like lunatics, they proceed to their next encounter in another era and do the same thing. All of this has an excited, ebullient charm, as if two children were using history as a playground. Two relatively intelligent scientists sit back at headquarters, watching them trip through time but unable to communicate with them in any way. More often than not, the travelers get themselves into an impossible mess and are only rescued by disappearing back into the time tunnel at the very last moment.
If there’s a deeper lesson in this, I’m not certain where to find it, but this kind of Silver Age excitement is hard to match. There’s a purity of intent that transcends a directionless kind of storytelling.
The reproduction quality of these pages is slightly fuzzy, though Hermes has chosen to retain the off-center registration of some of the original published colors, lending it a feeling of authenticity. The scans of these original pages could definitely be clearer, but it doesn’t prevent enjoyment of the comic.
While this collection is more strongly geared toward collectors, there’s definitely an appeal for anyone who is interested in classic comics, or a very superficial (and likely incorrect) view of historical events. Violence doesn’t extend beyond the typical guns and fistfights present in most fiction of this genre, and the appearance of futuristic Nazis bearing swastikas might need an explanation for younger readers, but at the end of two issues, I was left wanting for more, which can’t possibly be a bad thing.
Reviewed by Collin David on October 15, 2009
Time Tunnel: The Complete Series