Batman has been around since 1939, Superman has been around since 1938 and yet both of them haven’t aged, despite the world around them changing. The reason for this is called Floating Timeline.
One of the more unique concepts in comic books is the so-called Floating Timeline, also known as a Sliding Timeline and occasionally Fluid Timeline. This is an explanation for the people I meet at our raids who are new to comics and who are curious to know how the worlds in the funnybooks functions.
How Time Works in the Real World
You know this. Every year, a year passes. This might sound painfully obvious, but this is important.
Let’s assume that we’re looking at the life of a person born in 1950 and lives in a random city. By the year 2000, 50 years have passed. The person is now 50 years old. The city the person lives in also has had fifty years of development: Architecture, technology, the cars driving in it. Represented graphically, this would look like so:
You’d expect comic books to reflect that. But they don’t. There is one notable exception, namely Judge Dredd. The timeline in Judge Dredd looks like this.
This is the exception to the rule. Even The Walking Dead where time does pass, it is not in real time.
Floating Timeline – Most Heroes
Most heroes live in a Floating Timeline. Basically, time behaves differently, especially when considering character’s ages. To illustrate this, we’ll look at the ages of Batman alias Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson, the first Robin later known as Nightwing and now Agent Grayson of S.P.Y.R.A.L.
Batman’s simplified sliding timescale is fairly easy.
- Batman showed up in 1939 in Gotham City which he claimed to be his territory.
- Time passed in real life, and Gotham changed accordingly.
- The city’s development stopped for a year during No Man’s Land where an earthquake hit Gotham and the city was too busy surviving to develop much. It has caught up since.
Dick Grayson’s is more complicated and thus requires a bit more explanation.
- Dick Grayson was first introduced in 1940
- In 1984, he permanently put away his Robin costume and became known as Nightwing
- Nightwing still lived in Gotham City
- He eventually moved to his own territory in 1996: Blüdhaven
- In 2006 Blüdhaven was destroyed by the Secret Society of Super-Villains who dropped a character named Chemo onto the city.
- Since then, Dick Grayson has lived in New York and Gotham.
- Since 1940, Dick Grayson has aged from his early teens to his mid 20s.
The Floating Timeline can be used to explain how Batman has been active for ten years and still is the same age while a new hero who is now 20 years old how he once saw Batman as a child and got inspired. Or how villains can grow up hating a character while the character doesn’t age a single day.
The entire DC and Marvel universes hinge on the ability to neglect a character’s age in favour of a compelling story.