Every day, the possibility that Hourman will actually get his chance to star on the small screen seems all the more likely, and I have no complaints. The more superheroes on TV, the merrier—that’s what I say. Though, he would not have been my first choice for development. The Birds of Prey, for instance, has already had two thirds of its core cast introduced on Arrow; surely an easier transition could be met if said series would spin out of the existing one, but maybe that’s a thought that’s crossed the minds Arrow’s show-runners in regards to Hourman as well. Hourman, of course, is the fourth DC Comics property being developed by CW, the others being Arrow (now in its second season), Flash (potentially spinning out of the aforementioned Arrow), and Amazon (the long awaited pilot rumored to be about Wonder Woman’s early years).
What we know so far
Most of the news we have so far comes out of Hollywood Reporter, which reports that
Hourman centers on a brilliant-yet-troubled pharmaceutical analyst who discovers that the visions that have plagued him since childhood are actually glimpses of tragic events occurring one hour in the future. Determined to win back his ex-wife and son, he heroically prevents these tragedies from unfolding, finding both purpose and redemption along the way.
The article goes on to report that
Michael Caleo (Ironside, The Sopranos) will pen the script and executive produce the drama alongside Dan Lin and Lin Pictures‘ head of television, Jennifer Gwartz, for Warner Bros. Television, where the banner is under a new two-year overall deal.
Aside from the production notes, elements of the Hourman mythos have already begun to surface on CW’s Arrow. In episode six of season two, titled “Keep Your Enemies Closer,” the super-human serum, Mirakuru, which sounds suspiciously like the source of most versions of Hourman’s powers, is introduced via a flashback. Dr. Ivo reveals that he is searching the nearby islands in hopes of finding a super soldier serum developed by the Japanese Imperial Army during the Second World War. The entire stockpile of the serum was being transported on a submarine when it was run to ground by U.S. military forces, and said serum has been lost in the region for over sixty years. This is a great nod to Hourman but risks little in the end. If the Hourman plans fall through, the introduction of Mirakuru (in comics Miraclo) could also be used as a segue for other performance enhancements that were spawned from Miraclo, such as Venom, the drug of choice for Batman villain, Bane. Aside from potential future plots, as of episode seven of Arrow, the flashback portions seemed to be steering towards the island survivors banding together to find the serum simply to heal a very burned Slade Wilson (the eventual super-soldier, Deathstroke). In any case, Mirakuru/Miraclo will be around for a while.
Who is Hourman anyway?
The first Hourman is comic book Golden Age character, Rex Tyler. Using his pharmaceutical genius, he develops Miraclo, the miracle vitamin. The supplement provides him with super strength, stamina, and durability, but the effects only last an hour, hence “Hourman.” As a founding member of the Justice Society of America, he eventually evolved into an elder statesman to the superhero community. Interestingly enough, Rex became one of the first superhero cautionary tales in the comics because of his addiction to the performance-enhancement drug he uses. Crime fighting also became a strong addiction for him.
The second Hourman, Rick Tyler, is the son of the original. His adventures are limited and derivative of his father’s. Rick’s relationship with his father was the usual basis of many of the stories about him. Eventually, he did develop the same addiction to Miraclo as his father, but he quickly kicked the habit. Later in his career he marries fellow legacy hero, Jesse Chambers, who goes by either Jesse Quick or Liberty Belle depending on the era of comics you’re reading.
The third Hourman, Andrew Tyler, is trippiest of all. An android from the future, Andrew has all the memories of Rex and epic time manipulation powers to boot. He adventures back in time to warn Rex and Rick about coming cataclysms. Aside from cryptic glimpses of the future, Andrew provides Rick with limited time tech that allows him to see an hour into the future. Eventually, Andrew is forced to sacrifice himself for Rex who was stuck in some sort of collapsing time bubble.
Why this nobody and not (insert your favorite unappreciated hero)?
It’s a bit of a head scratcher, isn’t it? Who would find a guy who has powers for an hour at a time interesting? My response is that we need to think about the constraints of television. Though Smallville was a greatly successful show for CW, writers and producers were forced to tone down the power of the character, who by his very nature is meant to take on gods. For instance, one of my biggest hang ups when watching Smallville was the fact that it focused so much time on angsty, repetitive dialogue and not enough on all the shit that Supes could do. The guy is larger than life, but because of the constraints of television he becomes grounded in a way that is debilitating to what makes his comic book adventures so great. Further, the moments when Superman actually attempts to be super are hindered by the cheap effects that budget constraints necessitate. Admittedly, the show did find its audience, but the point still stands—that audience was not necessarily the same audience as that of the source material, largely due to the quasi-castrating changes which occurred in the translation between media.
However, shows such as Arrow prove that it’s possible to have a fully realized superhero drama on television, as long as that superhero, in his or her source material, is not incredibly super-powered. From episode to episode, audiences of Arrow witness fight sequences on the streets of Starling City, which are badass, but this is all that the hero’s powers require to be included in the show’s production—Oliver solves cases and punches bad guys. That’s all. The writers can, thus, focus on the story and plot development; they don’t have to make excuses about why his powers are so limited or why he can’t reach his full potential (which is, of course, realized in the comics).
So, my point is that there needs to be a power limit to TV superheroes so that their individual potentials can actually be met through the course of their respective runs on television. This is why Hourman is a great candidate to jump from the page to the small screen via a CW superhero drama: he is typically stronger than the average human—easy—and the show-runners intend to give him premonitions—also easy. This graceful transition between media should allow for the wide, new fanbase that a CW show naturally gathers while still retaining the comic book-reading viewers. Plus, he’s an obscure character who conveniently does not have the same baggage as more notable ones, which makes him more malleable for the show creators.
Common Themes and Plot Predictions
My guess, just from reading the short blurb from Hollywood Reporter, is that Hourman will see a fusion of the three characters who held his name in comics: the origins of Rex, the youth of Rick, and the time powers of Andrew. It would be a mistake for the show-runners not to take as much as they can from Arrow as they can, so I predict the inclusion of Miraclo in some way. A.R.G.U.S. has already been introduced, so who’s to say that the organization doesn’t contract Bannermain Chemical (the company Rex used to work for) or the protagonist himself to do research on the newly rediscovered serum. Possibly, he realizes how crooked the organization is via his now confirmed premonition powers and uses the serum on himself to save himself or someone else or just to plainly escape.
Going forward, the show could deal in with addiction and the protagonist’s fight against corporate greed and government interference in the private sector. He could fight crime, too. In comics he doesn’t have an interesting rogues gallery to play off of like Batman or Green Arrow, so his main adversarial force is himself. He’s a man fighting against time and then, later, addiction.
Other themes and plot devices likely to appear are: legacy within the DC Universe, super soldiers, time travel, time limits, creating perfect human specimens, the desire to see what’s to come, and performance enhancement substance abuse.
What I don’t want to see
I don’t want to see him not be a superhero. I don’t want the writers to dance around it. The same way that Oliver Queen dresses up and has gimmicks and fights other dudes who dress up and have their own gimmicks, that’s what I want out of an Hourman TV show. The above quote from Hollywood Reporter about who Hourman will be in the new show is directed towards a general audience, so I don’t get much out of it. I just hope that it doesn’t turn into a show about a guy predicting crimes and then talking down criminals, like a reverse CSI. I need the hood. I need the hourglass. I need him to bust through windows, kicking mofos in the face.
Get hype y’all. I know I am. Hourman is not a character I was clamoring to see on TV, but you bet your biscuits I’ll be there day one, rooting for the Man of the Hour. Won’t you join me?