Welcome to the latest edition of Super Blog Team-Up! This time our theme is immortality. I will be taking a brief look at the comic book character Ivar Anni-Padda, aka the Timewalker, the immortal time travel whose adventures are published by Valiant.
Truth to tell, I was already planning to do a piece about Ivar, since this month marks 25 years since the publication of Timewalker #1, which came out in August 1994. (Time really does fly!) So when this installment of SBTU came along, it felt like synchronicity.
Ivar the Timewalker is a free-spirited swashbuckling adventurer who over his thousands of years of life has crisscrossed across the ages. Both his visual appearance and his immortality evoke Conner MacLeod from the original Highlander movie released several years earlier. However, in regards to both his more lighthearted personality and his time traveling exploits Ivar seems to anticipate another immortal figure by more than a decade, Captain Jack Harkness from Doctor Who and Torchwood.
As I have mentioned before, the 1990s often have a bad reputation when it comes to comic books. Yes, a lot of really bad comics came out in that decade. However, there were also some really great ones, as well. Some of the best were published by Valiant Comics, a great company that was founded in 1989 by Jim Shooter, and which in its early days saw significant contributions from talented creators Barry Windsor-Smith and Bob Layton. I really should have blogged about Valiant before now. In the first half of the 1990s I avidly followed their comics. I was especially a fan of Ivar, who eventually starred in his own series.
Initially in the Valiant universe it was established that there were two immortal brothers: Gilad Anni-Padda, aka the Eternal Warrior, and Aram Anni-Padda, aka Armstrong. The two were polar opposites. Gilad was a fierce & ruthless warrior who worked in the service of the mystic Geomancers who sought to safeguard the Earth. Aram, on the other hand, was an alcoholic hedonist, a millennia-old party animal who in the present day had established a friendship with the mortal teenage monk Archer.
In early 1993 we finally met the third brother, Ivar. Archer & Armstrong / Eternal Warrior #8 was a double-sized issue combining the two ongoing series. It features Armstrong telling Archer the true story of D’Artagnan and the Three Musketeers, who in the Valiant universe were actually Gilad, Aram and Ivar.
Written & penciled by Barry Windsor-Smith, inked by Bob Wiacek, colored by Maurice Fontenot, and edited by Bob Layton, “The Musketeers” relates how in France in the early 18th Century the Geomancer Angelique D’Terre foresaw the events of the French Revolution and attempted to forestall them. Working with Gilad, she ruthlessly maneuvered to replace King Louis XIV with his secret twin brother, the so-called Man in the Iron Mask.
However, inverting the events of Alexandre Dumas’ novel, in this reality Louis is merely an incompetent moron, whereas his brother Henri is a brutal monster. Belatedly realizing that replacing Louis with his brother will make a bad situation infinitely worse, Angelique and Gild are able to undo the switch, but not before Henri has raped & murdered D’Artagnan’s fiancée. Ivar is completely disgusted at Gilad’s machinations, and at what the failed scheme has cost their friend D’Artagnan.
Sooon enough we meet Ivar again, this time in then-present day London, England, within the pages of Archer & Armstrong #10-11 by the team of Windsor-Smith, Wiacek & John Floyd, and Fontetot. Ivar is attempting to access a “time arc” that will at long last take him back to Egypt in 37 BC, back to the side of his beloved Queen Nefertete.
Armstrong arrives to visit his brother, with young Archer in tow. The trio is soon ambushed by a group of time-displaced civilians from across the centuries who have all ended up in 1992, and who believe Ivar is responsible for abducting them. Armstrong, however, informs them that he is to blame, that his efforts to find a way to return Ivar to Ancient Egypt inadvertently drew all these people from across the ages. Fortunately the nuclear-powered Solar arrives to inform Armstrong that an old foe of his is tearing up Los Angeles looking for him. Solar is able to use his powers to re-energize Armstrong’s time portal, which he uses to send all of the abductees back to their proper time & place.
Solar offers to finally send Ivar back to 37 BC. Faced with the possibility of finally being reunited with “Neffi,” Ivar is actually nervous. Letting down his guard, revealing for once the cost he feels immortality has exacted, Ivar explains to his brother:
“It’s been, like… three thousand years since I last saw Nefertete, man — and I’ve lived a zillion lifetimes since… I’m not the same guy she loved back then… I’m afraid that I may have… changed too much for her to accept me again.”
Armstrong tells Ivar that if he has changed in the millennia since he’s seen Neffi then it’s probably for the better. Encouraged, Ivar enters the time portal. Unfortunately F7, a robot from the 41st Century who has grown attached to Ivar, leaps in right after him, hoping to join him in Ancient Egypt.
When we next see Ivar it is in Magnus Robot Fighter #33 (Feb 1994) in a story plotted & penciled by Jim Calafiore, scripted by John Ostrander, inked by Gonzalo Mayo and colored by Mark Csaszar. Due to F7 jumping into the time arc, he and Ivar instead end up in North Am in the year 4002 AD. Unfortunately since F7 has been away the Earth has been invaded by the sentient alien robots the Malevs.
F7 quickly comes under the control of the Malevs, who scan his memory and learn about Ivar. The Malev Emperor realizes that if it can capture Ivar and replicate his powers, the Malevs can travel back in time to prevent the births of Magnus and Rai, thereby ending the resistance against the invasion before it even began.
Ivar, understandably annoyed at once again being in the wrong place at the wrong time, encounters Magnus. Soon discovering exactly who Ivar is, Magnus realizes he needs to keep the time traveler out of the Malevs’ metal clutches long enough for another time arc to materialize. At long last one does open.
Hopping on a sky cycle while the Robot Fighter is being overwhelmed by Malev soldiers, Ivar promises that he will send help. He then flies into the time arc, and for a minute it looks like Magnus is going to be killed, until literally out of nowhere Rai and his allies arrive to save him, with a mystified Rai explaining the nanites in his blood told him to come to here, that somehow the nanites knew Magnus needed help at this exact time & place.
And elsewhere in time, now in a vast barren desert, in an example of what Doctor Who would later describe as “wibbly wobbly timey wimey,” Ivar records a journal entry:
“Time jump report, supplemental. Make note – the next time I see Bloodshot, have him program the information about Magnus into his nanites. Have to be careful so that Bloodshot himself doesn’t learn too much about his own fate. If I understand all this correctly, the nanites will compel the man known as Rai to go to Magnus’ aid.”
Having completed his report, Ivar wonders where exactly he has gotten to this time.
Both Ivar and the audience would learn the answer in the Timewalker Yearbook #1. Published in early 1995, this annual was plotted by Jon Hartz, scripted by Kevin VanHook, penciled by Elim Mak, inked by one of my favorite artists, the talented Rudy Nebres, and colored by Eric Hope.
Offhand I didn’t recognize the name Jon Hartz, so I asked VanHook about him on Facebook. I also told VanHook that Timewalker was one of my favorite Valiant characters. He responded:
“Jon was our head of marketing. He was also very creative and had a hand in building the character of Timewalker.
“I always liked Timewalker. I didn’t get to do a lot with him, but I enjoyed the character.”
Opening in the same place & time that Magnus #33 ended, the Yearbook has Ivar still exploring the vast desert on his sky cycle. A loud rumbling and dust storm on the horizon comes towards him, and in the next instant Ivar is nearly overrun by thousands of stampeding dinosaurs, followed by an immense tidal wave. Ivar belatedly realizes the desert he was in was the Mediterranean Basin, and the titanic deluge of water is the Atlantic Ocean flooding over the Gibraltar Straight to create the Mediterranean Sea.
Of course, it is now generally accepted that the cataclysmic flooding of the Mediterranean Basin actually occurred approximately 5.3 million years ago, long after the dinosaurs died out. But, hey, I’ll let this one slide, because the spectacle of charging dinos makes for a dramatic moment, and Mak, Nebres & Hope certainly do an incredible job of depicting it.
Just in the nick of time, another time arc opens as the massive wave reaches Ivar, bringing him to a New York City rooftop in April 1992. This very wet & violent arrival brings Ivar to the attention of the ruthless Harbinger Foundation, which dispatches several operatives to investigate. That, in turn, results in the Foundation’s rivals the H.A.R.D. Corps also wanting to bring in Ivar for questioning. The Foundation’s team of Eggbreakers captures Ivar, but he is quickly rescued by the Corps. Ivar finds himself in another one of those lovely time paradoxes when he addresses the Corps’ leader:
Ivar: Listen, Gunsliger… I know we’ve never really gotten along…
Gunslinger: Gotten along? I don’t even know you, buddy.
Ivar: That’s right… not yet.
Three pages later Ivar learns exactly why Gunslinger later doesn’t like him when the time traveler blows up the wrecked sky cycle in order to escape. And two months later, waiting to catch another time arc in the Rocky Mountains, Ivar humorously reflects on the paradox…
“Have to remember to look up when I met Gunslinger. I think it was ’94 or ’95… Too bad I can’t warn myself that he’s going to slug me! Oh, well… I’ll deserve it!”
I like the idea that Ivar kept a journal of his travels. Considering he had lived for thousands of years and he was constantly bouncing back & forth in time, it was a good way for him to keep track of his innumerable experiences.
Going back in time, at least publishing-wise, we finally get to the first issue of Timewalker. The series spun out of Valiant’s company-wide crossover The Chaos Effect. A dark necromantic power from the end of time follows Ivar back to 1994, where it consumes the planet’s electrical energy.
I found The Chaos Effect to be sort of an underwhelming storyline. Whatever the case, at least it led to Ivar finally receiving his own solo book.
Ivar spends most of The Chaos Effect unconscious, but he wakes up in time for an epilogue written by Bob Hall, penciled by Don Perlin, and inked by Gonzalo Mayo. Once again meeting Magnus, this time in the present day, Ivar shares some slightly tongue-in-cheek insights into his experiences as a time traveler:
“History’s all relative, anyway. If history describes something a certain way, and you go to the time where it happened, then you were always there… so it probably turned out the way history describes just because of you. You may as well just show up and have fun.
“Beyond that, carry condoms, a flashlight and matches, beware of the drinking water, make loud noises to scare off bears and humans, and take chewing gum. Every era likes chewing gum.”
With that Ivar leaps into the next time arc, and into the pages of his own series.
“Ivar the Traveler” is by the team of Hall, Perlin & Mayo, with colors by Stu Suchit, and editing by Layton. Ivar’s latest journey through time deposits him in Briton during the time of the Roman occupation. The time traveler ends up trying to fight off a group of drunk, violent Roman soldiers who are doing the whole “rape & pillage” thing, including one who spots Ivar and shouts “You!!! I told you if I ever saw you again I’d kill you!” Of course, Ivar hasn’t met this fine fellow… yet!
Cursing the perils and paradoxes of time travel, Ivar attempts to fight off the soldiers. And then another time arc opens, scooping up Ivar. Looking around, the time traveler spots a Nazi patrol, and realizes he is in Europe during World War II.
Successfully infiltrating the Nazi forces, Ivar eventually ends up encountering the captive Professor Weisenfeld and his young son. Pretending to interrogate the scientist, Ivar explains how he has come to be there:
“In 1998 you have a grandson named Mack. He’s a friend of mine and he’s fixing my tachyon compass… He told me that when I land here I have to rescue you. Otherwise he doesn’t get born and my compass doesn’t get fixed.”
And as if this story wasn’t already wibbly wobbly timey wimey enough, a minute later the Eternal Warrior bursts into the prison, leading to the following exchange:
Ivar: Gil, what are you doing here?
Gilead: You told me to come! 1934, you told me to show up here, don’t you remember?
Ivar: No! I haven’t done that yet!
Good thing for Ivar that Gil wasn’t still holding a grudge over their argument back in 18th Century France!
The brothers fight their way through the Nazis. Gil leads the Professor, his son, and the other prisoners to safety while Ivar holds off the goose-steppers. Ivar is shot, but another time arc materializes, and he leaps into it. His destination: the year 1854, during the Crimean War.
Ah, but that’s a story for another time… so to speak!
The ongoing Timewalker series lasted for 15 regular issues, plus the aforementioned Yearbook, as well as a Zero issue featuring Ivar’s origin that came out a few months after the series ended. I definitely enjoyed it. Ivar’s adventures were an enjoyable mix of comedy and drama.
Perhaps I’ll do a retrospective on the rest of Timewalker at a later date. But, honestly, it’s such a great series, I recommend seeking out the back issues. Trust me, you’ll probably have a more enjoyable time reading the actual comic books than you would having me yammer on about them at this blog!
Valiant unfortunately experienced difficulties in the second half of the decade. In 1994 they were purchased by Acclaim Entertainment, who I feel pushed the company to expand too fast. Then the market imploded in the mid 1990s, leading to the cancellation of the line. Acclaim did restart a handful of the series in the late 1990s, as well as creating a few new titles, but those did not last long. At that time Acclaim appeared to have much more of a focus on developing video games based on the Valiant characters than in actually publishing quality comic books.
The Valiant universe was eventually re-launched in 2012 by a new group of owners under the Valiant Entertainment label. Over the past several years the company has had a reasonable amount of success. Among those rebooted characters has been our pal Ivar. Ivar: Timewalker ran for 12 issues between Jan and Dec 2015. The entire run has been collected into three trade paperbacks. I haven’t had an opportunity to read those yet, but they are definitely on my “want” list. Hopefully I will get to them soon. After all, unlike Ivar, and the other subjects of this edition of SBTU, there’s only a limited amount of time available to me.
So many great comic books, so little time!
Here are links to all of the other Super Blog Team-Up participants. I hope you will check them out. Thanks!
(Some of these links will not be active for another day or two, so if they are’t working right now then check back again soon!)