With the player set so far we have one PC and one team member (Superman and Flash, respectively) with time travel, one PC and one team member with immortality (Vigilante and the Hawks, respectively) and one PC as a legacy hero with heroics going back 90 years in her family (Zatava). This means I have to give some thought to the timeline and key events both past and future. So here we go.
Note: many of these plot ideas come from things in the Best of Fenix anthology, which is just wonderful.
The first rule of time travel is that it’s relatively easy to get to a period about 512 years ahead or behind of the current day – this is what 0 AP of Time Travel gets you. Each AP after that lets you get half again as close to the current day and twice as far away. Superman has 2 AP of Time Travel, which means he can get as far back as 2048 years from now (or 0 AD more or less) and as far forward as 4060 AD. He can also get as close as 128 years ago (about the Reconstruction era, as close as 2140 AD. The more powerful a time traveler you are the closer you can get to the absolute now, which is where the real power is in possibly being able to effect things. The further away you are the more likely the time steam will wash over the changes or break off a separate stream rather than change absolute now.
9 to 23 AD – Wang Mang’s China
The period when Wang Mang was emperor of China, this is the far edge of how back Superman can go with his time travel. Wang Mang is one of Superman’s most bitter foes, seeing him as the embodiment of everything that is not classical China. Once Wang Mang lears of his existence and, by extension, the events of the next 2000 years he puts into place a two millennia conspiracy to restore proper culture to the world.
64 AD: Nero’s Rome
When Jimmy Olsen puts Superman in contact with a historian looking for specific critical information on the early Roman empire Superman agrees to bring Jimmy back to ‘get the story’ – there they uncover a plot by ancient Egyptian cult of Ammut, the crocodile god of dreams, to replace Nero with a homunculus. When Egyptian magic reduces his power Superman is forced into a gladiatorial bout as Jimmy manages to reveal the faux Nero. The last remnants of the Ammut cult are destroyed in the fire and the proper Nero returned to power. Superman recovers his power enough to return Jimmy and himself to the 21st century.
1174: Between the Second and Third Crusade
In the chaotic period between the second and third crusades, as the crusader states are intriguing against one another in the wake of the second crusade and Saladin is gathering his power in the East, a small group of crusaders following clues from an ancient Chinese scroll accidentally wake a huge red dragon. One of the survivors of the dragons first attack on a small crusader unit was Etienne of Navarre, as he and Isabo were travelling to Jerusalem in hopes that the True Cross could break their curse, and survive only because a red and blue angel appeared to defeat the dragon. 830 years later the Hawks relate the story to Superman after their first team up, and the Man of Steel travels back to fulfill the time loop, barely defeating the enraged magical beast. He strongly suspects this was a planned assassination attempt on him by Wang Mang. (Note that the Hawks don’t have their flight gear yet, as it was Da Vinci’s design)
1770: Revolutionary Dating Triangle
Because part of me adores the old silly stories of Superman time travelling, there definitely has to be one where Superman travels back to the pre-revolutionary war period and gets into a romance triangle between the forceful and passionate Mary Ludwig (future Molly Pitcher) and the beautiful Elizabeth Phoebe Griscomb (future Betsy Ross). Is this entirely illogical? Well, no, both women were alive and unmarried in 1770, but other than that yeah, it’s totally absurd. We are therefore doing it anyway. I think we tie this to a fictitious precursor event to the revolutionary war (the Boston Massacre is on March 5, the Golden Hill Incident is January 17, so it’s right in that time period). Two possible options are that this is a story of Superman when he was a boy and young Betsy Ross sews the first Superman costume for him to wear while preventing another massacre, or it’s another one of those wacky “Jimmy Olsen convinces Superman to time travel and they end up double dating Molly and Betsy” stories. I could go either way.
1881: Rockets in the West
Nikolai Kibalchich, a Ukranian engineer and anarchist, built the bomb that killed Tsar Alexander II. He later escaped from prison, and then the Russias, with a solid fuel rocket of his own design. Making his way to the American west he perfects his designs and tries to use them to foment more anarchy in the US but is defeated by a team up between Vigilante and the Hawks. (The Hawks now have their glider wings, but don’t yet have the full flight capability because they haven’t yet been upgraded by the Wright Brothers.)
1927: Arthur Conan Doyle
Towards the end of his career Doyle became deeply involved in the Spiritualist movement even as he perfected the art of modern detective work. He wrote about the latter in his fictitious Sherlock Holmes stories, and the former in his non-fiction accounts of discussions with his spirit guide and the completion of final novels by other writers who had passed on. In 1925 he predicted an enormous upheaval of earthquakes and floods in 1927, but later told people he was wrong because he and his spirit guide were using the wrong calendar! The truth is that this was the first rumbles of the Mayan Apocalypse of 2012, forestalled by the combined work of Doyle, Vigilante (who was there learning detective techniques) and a young Zatara (who was mastering his ability to speak with the dead).
1931: New York City
The construction of new towers allows the ancient gods shadowy access to Manhattan, influencing people, manipulating effects, forming cults and otherwise trying to alter the world. Only the works of Zatara prevent moldy Babylonian gods from appearing in Central Park West to tear up the city.
2130’s: the Arctic Circle
A series of enormous solar flares has shut down much electromagnetic technology and communications, and combined with existing warming trends to melt the polar ice and reveal a whole new landscape to the North. This is exactly Ken Hite’s “wild west in the future arctic circle” article from Fenix, it takes place at closest future timeframe Superman can access and Vigilante is, of course, right in the thick of it because it’s a Western. A whole arc of the “Vigilante as immortal in other times and places” comic “Legends of the Vigilante” takes place here.
500 years in the future, the only thing I know from here is that it’s where the Reverse Flash comes from. Yes, we have a Reverse Flash because shut up Reverse Flash that’s why.
31st century: Legion of Super Heroes
With the conclusion of my X-Men PBEM my next likely play by email project will be a rebuilt from the ground up Legion of Super Heroes. If that’s the case they will totally be part of this timeline, explaining part of where Superman was between developing his powers and going public as Superman. It’s a full on bright Gernsback future where a group of teenagers use their non-human powers to emulate the super-heroes of the 21st century.