Welcome to the 2021 A to Z Challenge! My theme this year is DC Comics. And that’s mostly because of my undying affection for the comic book characters and stories that I grew up reading in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s. So stay tuned all month to (maybe) learn a little something about 26 corners of the DC Multiverse.
I’d be willing to bet a lot of folks have never heard of Waverider before. And that’s okay. He’s never really had his own series. And he spends much of his comic book history just hiding out in the background, only revealing himself from time to time.
So why would I go with Waverider instead of Wonder Woman for W day?
First of all, everyone knows Wonder Woman. More now than ever, thanks to the two recent Wonder Woman films. Secondly, Waverider is one of the first characters outside of Superman that I decided I was a fan of.
Looking back at my childhood, I really can’t pinpoint the very first comic book I ever picked up. But I know one of the earliest issues I got from the local 7-Eleven was Superman Annual #3. It told the story of a potential future in which Superman has gone way overboard in his fight for truth, justice, and the American way. I want to say his change in attitude was inspired by Lois Lane’s death at some point in the future. Eventually, Batman was forced to take down Superman using Lex Luthor’s kryptonite ring.
It was here that I was initially introduced to Waverider, who was responsible for giving the audience this glimpse into Superman’s possible future. This issue was a part of a year-long storyline called Armageddon 2001, a fact which I only realized after reading this Superman annual. The story began in Armageddon 2001 #1, played out throughout the entire line of DC Comics annuals throughout 1991, and wrapped up in Armageddon 2001 #2.
Waverider’s first appearance came in that first issue, which I was able to pick up soon after reading Superman. In this origin story, it’s explained that the future world is under the control of a villain calling himself Monarch. Scientist Matthew Ryder remembers being saved from a collapsed building by a superhero as a child, inspiring him to fight against Monarch’s dictatorship. He theorizes that Monarch was once a hero who turned bad. So Ryder works to find a way to travel back in time so he can stop Monarch from ever coming to power.
Somehow, Matthew becomes a part of the timestream, giving him the power to travel at will in time and space. He is also able to read individuals’ pasts and potential futures with just a touch, even without those individuals being aware of his presence. From then on, he calls himself Waverider.
This leads Waverider to the year 1991 as he visits heroes across the DC Universe in his effort to discover Monarch’s true identity. Though… if he could touch individuals and read their timelines without them knowing he’s there, why not just visit Monarch in 2030 and read his past. I guess because then DC couldn’t sell a couple dozen annuals all tied together under one story banner.
It was kind of a big deal when it was revealed who Monarch really was. Not because of who it was, but because of who it was supposed to be. The internet was kind of in its infancy at this point, but somehow the identity of Monarch was leaked to the public. Captain Atom was intended to be the man behind Monarch’s armored mask. But because of the leak, at the last minute, a change needed to be made to Armageddon 2001 #2, which ultimately revealed the hero Hawk (of Hawk & Dove) was the villain.
I remember the story’s resolution not making a whole lot of sense when I was a kid, but I thought it was just because I was a kid and maybe I had missed something somewhere. But I had all of those annuals that year. I read them all. Even Hawk & Dove. I saw Hawk’s future… He wasn’t Monarch. It wasn’t until I later learned of the accidental story leak that I realized it didn’t make sense because they had to change things up in the end.
Waverider went on to help Superman when he faced Doomsday for a second time, showing Superman the monster’s origin and history. He also eventually joined a team of individuals who took it upon themselves to police the timestream, the Linear Men. This team of Linear Men included another version of Matthew Ryder from an alternate timeline. Because that wasn’t confusing.
I think Waverider has been killed a number of times. I’m pretty sure he was absorbed by the villain Extant (who was once Monarch, who was once Hawk) during the Zero Hour event. But then I know Waverider showed up again during the 52 series after Infinite Crisis and was implied to have been killed by Booster Gold’s robot sidekick, Skeets.
It’s possible Waverider exists again in the New 52 or Rebirth era of DC’s continuity, though I’m not 100% on that.
I’ve always thought that Waverider’s power set was really cool. I mean, he’s part of the timestream. He’s depicted as basically sliding along this brightly colored timeline and can show up whenever and wherever he thinks of. And then being able to look into people’s possible futures? That’s just bonus awesome.
Had you heard of Waverider before reading this post? If so, what do you think I left out? Let me know what you think down in the comments!