As part of ‘The Society Pages,’ I recently read all of “Hourman,” a 1999 series that spun out of “DC One Million” and featured the ‘intelligent machine colony’ from the 853rd century that shared a name, memories, and some abilities with Justice Society member Rex Tyler. Written by Tom Peyer and illustrated for the majority of its 25 issues by Rags Morales, the series was a revelation to me. Despite having an emotionless titular character, the book brimmed with heart and humor and redemption. I was so enamored with it that I reached out to Peyer to discuss the book.
The entirety of the run is on the DC Universe app, and there are far worse ways you could spend your quarantine than enjoying this quirky, wonderful comic.
One of the really special things about the book is the relationship between Hourman and Snapper Carr. Was Snapper always going to be a player in the book, or was that originally planned to be someone else?
Tom Peyer: It was always going to be Snapper. That was Grant [Morrison]’s idea; I think it was his idea to give the series to me, as well. At the beginning, he gave me a few paragraphs outlining the basic status quo and it was all great. I used everything in #1, and it gave me a lot of room to come up with more.
Rags Morales did some incredible work over the course of the series, and managed to be a real chameleon, especially in the JLA flashback issue (#16). What was the working relationship with Rags like? Do you have a favorite issue he illustrated?
TP: The work Rags did was amazing, and our working relationship was friendly; we talked on the phone a lot. He’s smart, charismatic, energetic. One of those people who really makes an impression. He did a wonderful job on every issue he drew, but I always think about #16 and its homages to early “Justice League of America” covers. It also featured this beautiful panel of quiet, natural poses:
I was really impressed with how deftly you took a (likely mandated) ‘Day of Judgment’ tie-in and used it to create a supporting character that would continue in the book until its ending. Was Torcher someone you had in mind before the crossover, or was it just so much fun writing a demon in a coffee shop that you decided to keep him around?
TP: I didn’t have Torcher himself in mind before writing that story, but I did have a principle I wanted to follow: Whenever possible, the villain would reform and join the circle of friends. We did that with Dr. Togg, too. It just seemed to be more in line with the book’s purposes than, I don’t know, throwing them in jail. Our cast shared their world with super-heroes, even cooperated with super-heroes, but they didn’t think like super-heroes.
The late 90s/early 00s saw a lot of revivals of JSA characters, as well as the new JSA ongoing. Why do you think that the Golden Age was suddenly the hot source material around the turn of the 21st century?
TP: I was a Silver Age baby – I think most people in comics were either Silver or Bronze Age fans then – but all of the Silver and Bronze material was off-limits. Those were the stories that “Crisis [On Infinite Earths]” destroyed on-panel, so the people running things were never going to let us play with them. If you were going to revive anything, it had to be the Golden Age characters, who’d been reintroduced when the infinite earths combined.
Similarly, a lot of these books, including “Hourman,” went to great lengths to establish locales that felt unique and distinct. Was that something editorial insisted on, or was that just a common trait among folks like yourself, James Robinson, and Geoff Johns? And what, to you, did Happy Harbor have to be? Was there a particular inspiration you were looking to?
TP: It was really just the sum of its characters. I was going for types you didn’t see in comics very much: the police officer with a personal grudge against the hero; the aging hipster who runs a coffee shop; the divorced couple who are best friends. Being able to set it in Happy Harbor, the locale of early JLA issues, was a geeky thrill for me.Continued below
The end of the book felt a little more rushed than you would’ve liked, and certainly faster than myself and many other readers would’ve liked. Where would you have taken the book if you had more time?
TP: I had the ending in mind, to pull out whenever we needed it. And, fortunately, I had a couple of issues’ warning it would end, so there was some room to get there. Editor Tony Bedard was our real-life one-person Justice League; he fought hard for us all along the way (and sales were low enough that he had to fight). He’s the reason “Hourman” lasted for as long as it did, and the reason we got a couple of extra issues to wrap it up. There were no stories you didn’t get to see; the second I was informed of our cancellation, I stopped making them up.
If DC came to you tomorrow and said, “Tom, we want you to do another Hourman story,” what sort of tale might you tell for Ty, some 20 years or so after your last time writing the character?
TP: Oh, I suppose he’d look up a 50 year-old Snapper. Maybe give him a taste of youth again. Or take him far away in time. Or introduce him to more alternate Snappers. There’s a lot they could do.
Finally, please share a favorite moment with the character.
TP: I guess when he went to the potluck dinner at Justice Society headquarters and his contribution was a blister pack of bologna. When I was a teen-ager, I really did that, and I didn’t know it was funny.