Whether it’s Superboy visiting the future to hang out with a legion of teenage superheroes, or X-Men traveling back in time to prevent the creation of an anti-mutant future, time travel is a long-standing plot device in comic books. In fact, a fantasy time travel adventure strip appeared in the very first comic book to feature solely original content, New Fun: The Big Comic Magazine #1 (cover dated February 1935); the title of the strip was The Magic Crystal of History.
In the strip, two young siblings – brother Bobby and sister Binks – are transported back in time by a magic crystal ball. In stories published consecutively from issues 1 through 10, the two-page feature depicted Bobby and Binks having adventures in a variety of time periods; the children return to the present at the conclusion of each adventure. When the strip resumed in issue 12, the premise of the strip changed – Bobby and Binks no longer have time travel adventures in the past, but instead remain in the present, passively observing historic moments via their crystal ball.
The educational fantasy strip was created by artist Adolphe Barreaux, who also produced art for pulp magazines. In addition to illustrating pulp prose stories, in 1934 Barreaux created the pioneering adult comic strip Sally the Sleuth, featuring the eponymous detective Sally; Sally endured risque adventures that often left her wearing minimal clothing. Published in the pulp magazine Spicy Detective Stories, the popular Sally the Sleuth strip inspired the publication of other adult comic strips in pulp magazines.
A far cry from Sally the Sleuth, Barreaux’s The Magic Crystal of History strip appeared in 48 issues of New Fun (the title of the comic was changed to More Fun with issue 7) and has the distinction of showcasing the first time traveling characters to appear in comic books.
NOTES AND FURTHER READING: The Comic Book Bin website has a summary of The Magic Crystal of History strip, which can be found here. The banner image used for this post can also be found at the site.
A biography of Adolphe Barreaux by David Saunders can be found here.
A publishing chronology of comic books featuring time travel can be found at the site storypilot.com.
The above image for The Magic Crystal of History can be found at the blog site ultraboy8888.blogsport.com.
The Sally the Sleuth image used in this article can be found in a facsimile copy (published by Adventure House, 2006) of the April 1941 edition of Spicy Detective Stories.
More information about the Sally the Sleuth strip can be found in The Encyclopedia of American Comics: From 1897 to the Present, edited by Ron Goulart.
The images above are the property of their respective owner(s), and are presented for not-for-profit, educational purposes only under the fair use doctrine of the copyright laws of the United States of America.