Art by George Pérez.
|First appearance||All Star Comics # 35
|Created by||John Broome
|Team affiliations||Injustice Society
|Abilities||Skilled armed/unarmed combatant, semi-precognitive 'Time Vision', Genius-level intellect, Master Planner and Tactician, Time travel equipment, Intangibility, Seeming immortality|
Per Degaton is a fictional character, a DC Comics supervillain who can travel through time. Per Degaton made his first appearance in All Star Comics #35 (June/July 1947) and was created by John Broome and Irwin Hasen. The name "Per" is Swedish and short for "Peter".
Fictional character biography
Per Degaton has been obsessed with time travel ever since he was an assistant to the Time Trust, a group of scientists developing a time ray in order to go to the future and acquire an effective bombing defense for use during World War II. In 1942, the Justice Society of America is sent 500 years into the future to retrieve such a defense, and acquire a formula that produces a bomb-proof shield after proving they are the real Society to the Future and each receiving a segment. Nazis attempt to steal the formula, but are foiled by the JSA. In a fit of jealousy, Per Degaton sabotages the formula, causing it to fail its second test, and leaves the Time Trust soon after. Later in 1942 he is employed at Project M, another secret scientific group. During this time he meets the time traveling robot Mekanique, who enlists his aid in her war against the All-Star Squadron. In exchange for his help, Mekanique promises to give him the secrets of time travel. They fail in their attack on the All-Stars, and Mekanique’s body is destroyed, but Degaton salvages her head. He keeps her head by his side for the next five years, and they fall in love.
By 1947 Degaton is assisting Professor Malachi Zee, a former member of the Time Trust who, with Degaton and Mekanique's help, finishes finish a time machine. Degaton plans to take the machine for himself and shoots Zee, who unexpectedly falls into it, sending him 40 years into the future. Mekanique suggests that the two of them simply wait four decades for the machine to reappear, but this idea drives Degaton into a lunatic rage. He buries Mekanique’s head, and makes new plans for himself. Degaton begins a short career as an evil para-military commander and joins the Injustice Society of the World (ISW). He attempts to take-over the Washington Monument, but is met by Doctor Mid-Nite. Degaton seems to be blinded by one of Mid-Nite's smoke bombs, but he escapes via a rope leading down to the Capitol dome, where he overcomes Mid-Nite. Eventually, the ISW is defeated by the JSA after Green Lantern fakes his death after battling Brainwave, impersonates the Thinker and frees them; Degaton is then sent to prison for 30 years. However Degaton was either free at some point thereafter or connected enough to function from within jail to influence Senator Joseph Fallon's role in discrediting the Justice Society in 1951 (revealed in America vs the Justice Society #4).
After his release, Degaton roams the streets as a derelict until his old ally Brain Wave finds him at a soup kitchen, homeless and in very poor health. Brain Wave decides to restore his vitality in hopes that Degaton would make him a new body. Under cover of a series of natural disasters that he causes, Brain Wave uses a machine to sap the Justice Society's willpower and to divert it to restore Degaton to his former power and youth. After being defeated by the JSA, Degaton returns to prison, but is paroled ten years later due to advanced age.
Degaton reconstructs Mekanique, and the pair battle Infinity, Inc. at the site where Zee’s time machine is to arrive. When it reappears, it contains not only the dying Zee but a 1947 version of Degaton himself (a 'chronal duplicate' - see below). It is revealed that when Degaton lunged at the disappearing machine in 1947, the machine’s energies created two Degatons, one who lives a normal life and one who is carried along with the time machine. The older Degaton disintegrates instantly due to the paradoxical existence of two Degatons at one moment. Mekanique kills the younger Degaton as well as herself, fearing this Degaton would end up betraying her once more.
In pre-Crisis continuity, the time machine still reappears in the 1980s. Taking advantage of the revelation of "Batman's Diary", a document that supposedly convicted the Justice Society of treason, Degaton uses his remaining influence to attempt to indict the group in Congressional sub-committee. Degaton recognizes that this is likely his last chance, since the return of Zee's time machine was close at hand. As the Congressional sub-committee becomes less and less convinced by evidence against the JSA, Degaton kidnaps Richard Grayson, Earth-2's Robin, and waits at the spot where the time machine should appear. It is revealed the diary was Batman's subliminal attempt to warn the Society about Degaton. The JSA, in pursuit of the captive Grayson, catch up to Degaton, literally lifting away the walls of the building in which he is hiding. At a dramatic moment, the time machine re-appears and Zee staggers out, accusing Degaton of murder with his final breath. Surrounded by witnesses and facing prison for a 40 year old murder charge at his advanced age, Degaton placed the gun to his temple and fatally shot himself (America vs the JSA #1-4) in a retcon of this story.[clarification needed]
Several times prior to his death in the Infinity, Inc. story, the 1947 Degaton chronal duplicate tries without success to alter the course of history for his own benefit, including thwarting the course of ancient historical events like the Battle of Arbela between Greece and Persia in 331 B.C., thus halting technological development and allowing him and his henchmen to conquer an America of medieval-levels of technology with modern weapons which he had left in specially-prepared caves, safe from the alterations to the time stream. Just before Zee reveals when the timepoint was changed, he is shot again and needs penicillin to save his life. The JSA stop various plans by Degaton and history reverts to normal, with everyone losing the memory of these event. The story closes with Professor Zee in his lab with Per Degaton, who seems to remember some foolishness about him dreaming that he ruled the world. The JSA is able to learn of their own success through Wonder Woman's magic sphere. Meanwhile, Degaton's chronal duplicate was returned to 1947.
Similar results are achieved when the All-Star Squadron thwart the chronal duplicate's attempt to change the circumstances of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Degaton tried to stop the JSA with the help of the villains he had pulled back in time: the Monster, King Bee, Professor Zodiac, Sky Pirate, Solomon Grundy and Wotan, who imprisoned the JSA in a magical aura. However, the All-Star Squadron got involved, and though they were captured (during which time Degaton explained his plan), the sword of the Shining Knight enabled them to free themselves and to stop his attack on San Francisco. When Degaton tries to destroy the island where the JSA are imprisoned, they free the Spectre, who frees the other members, after which Degaton returns to 1947 and returns the villains to their own time periods. His escape prevents the JSA from intercepting the attacking Japanese forces and also results in Danette Reilly attaining her fire-based powers and becoming the second Firebrand (this is a distinct change to the formula of having all of his actions in past times erased, though everyone involved still forgets his involvement).
In addition to these 1947 "resets," another standard feature is that, prior to each new time-travel attempt, Degaton remembers all prior attempts, usually through a dream that happens the night before Zee tests the time-machine (linking all of his attempts to alter time back to this one moment in a kind of Möbius strip). These memories stay with the chronal duplicate for the duration of each new attempt to change history he makes, though it is unclear if the older Degaton retains these memories also.
The Degaton chronal duplicate remains a foe of the Justice Society, continually trying to alter history to his will. During one of the 1982 (pre-Crisis) meeting between the Justice League of America (JLA) of Earth-One and the JSA of Earth-Two, Degaton nearly conquers Earth-2, having discovered he can travel between alternate Earths after accidentally traveling to Earth Prime and then to Earth-Three, where he gets the Crime Syndicate of America to steal nuclear missiles from the Earth Prime's Cuban Missile Crisis, which he brings to Earth-Two's 1942. When the Syndicate betray him, they are sent to 1982, rematerializing on the JLA satellite and quickly overcoming the surprised heroes who were waiting for the JSA's annual visit; the JSA, meanwhile, is sent to the Crime Syndicate's interdimensional prison. Although Degaton had double-crossed the Syndicate, they return to assist him until they can strike back. They once again fought the JLA, the JSA, and the 1942 All-Star Squadron, but the combined forces of these heroes are enough to defeat Degaton. With his changes undone, he is again returned to 1947 with no memory of the events, while everyone else involved likewise lose their memories of events, and are returned to their proper times/worlds.
Frustrated for being unable to harm the JSA, Degaton's chronal duplicate uses his time-traveling abilities to "watch life hurting [his enemies]". Sequentially confronting the JSA members, he tells them that he saw them die, and reveals some hints on their final moments. For example, he provides the revelation of the gruesome punishment that Atom Smasher will suffer at the hands of the Spectre, the breaking down of the relation between Stargirl and Captain Marvel; only the intervention of Daniel Hall prevents Degaton from telling Hector Hall details of his eventual passing.
Now equipped with a time disc, Degaton has the ability to live "between seconds", apparently ageless in an intangible state, from which he can only be forced with the concentrated tachyons found in the hourglass of Hourman.
After sending his genetically enhanced agents from the future (the "Red Morgue") to kill all relatives of Stargirl, he causes the JSA's temporary 1950s dissolution to become permanent and disgraces all the masked crime-fighters as traitors, thus erasing from history all subsequent superheroes. Degaton is eventually stopped by the early-2000s JSA, and beaten to a bloody pulp by Atom Smasher (whose hands were soaked with the concentrated tachyons of the hourglass). The timeline is restored so that his changes never occurred. However (in a break from the established story-formula), Degaton retreats into the time-stream with his memories intact rather than being forced back to 1947 with his memories wiped, renewing his commitment to watching his enemies' deaths across time.
Due to the events of the Crisis on Infinite Earths, Per Degaton was reformatted to the unified Earth to be an almost immortal wraith-like being who is out of time sync. He can see the future to a limited degree, but still seeks to rule the world despite his largely immaterial form.
The Degaton chronal duplicate's comments reveal he is one of the few people aware of the Crisis and the former Multiverse that once existed, and still refers to "other realities" in-story.
After Infinite Crisis, Degaton returns briefly in Justice League of America and then in Booster Gold as part of a team with the Ultra-Humanite, Despero, Supernova, and Black Beetle, who have formed "The Time Stealers," a supervillain group that appears to be manipulating the timestream to their advantage. This version of Per Degaton, along with Ultra-Humanite and Despero, is from an earlier period in the timeline.
Later an older version of Degaton appears, calling himself Prime Degaton, who seems to have been present during the earlier plans of Per Degaton. When the Justice Society make Monument Point their new base he appears with greater power over time and battles them, but is captured, though escapes his cell while telling Jesse Quick he came to warn and what happens to the world will be "your doing". Later he appears during the funeral of Alan Scott, who had apparently been killed fighting the villain D'arken. He claims D'arken was a fallen god and he came to Monument Point to deliver punishment for what happened, but instead delivered a warning. Jesse Quick was accidentally responsible for D'arken's release from beneath Monument Point and when Jay Garrick seems about to assault Degaton she tells Jay it was her fault.
Powers and abilities
The Per Degaton chronal duplicate possesses a limited "time vision," allowing him to know what will happen in the near future. He is out of phase with normal time, which renders him intangible. Hourman's tachyon-filled hourglass has been shown to blur his time vision and allow anyone possessing it to hit Degaton. He is also aware of changes to the timestream and has made mention of remembering events from before Crisis on Infinite Earths.
It is unclear whether these are innate abilities the Degaton chronol-duplicate acquired or if they are the result of his time disc.
The Per Degaton chronal duplicate travels on a "time disc," a machine that allows him to travel through time as well as having fail-safes to return time to normal should his plans fail. It is capable of flight and he has mentioned a camera in it. The Degaton chronal duplicate also uses small time discs which can be thrown. Upon contact with a person, it speeds up metabolism. The speed varies; Hourman was sped up an hour until his powers ran out whereas the Atom was sped up to the point where his atomic physiology could explode.
In other media
- Per Degaton appears in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "The Golden Age of Justice" voiced by Clancy Brown. The Justice Society of America enlist Batman's help when Per Degaton is revived from suspended animation by his assistant Professor Zee. When he attacks the city, he uses the Spear of Destiny to age Batman, Doctor Mid-Nite, Flash, Hawkman, and Hourman to old age. He is defeated when the Spear backfires, turning him into an old man. In "The Siege of Starro Pt. 1", Per Degaton appears in a flashback attacking the White House with an army of robots until he is stopped by the Justice Society of America.
- All-Star Squadron #2 (1981)
- All-Star Comics #10 (1942)
- Young All-Stars Annual #1 (1988)
- All-Star Comics #35 (1947)
- All-Star Comics #58-59 (1976)
- America vs. The Justice Society #4 (1985)
- Infinity, Inc. Annual #2 (1988)
- The term 'chronal duplicate' is a descriptive term used here to help differentiate and reconcile the actions of a youthful Degaton from 1947 manipulating historical events while an older Degaton lives out his life from 1947 onward, aging normally up to the Infinity, Inc. story. This term is used only in the context of that story. Also, as a result of the character's time-jumps, chronological order for his activities is difficult to determine with absolute certainty since at any time it could be revealed that one, or more, additional attempts were made from the same starting point in 1947. It can be assumed, however, that as long as a youthful Degaton is time-traveling in a story, it will have to be the 'chronal duplicate' prior to his appearance with his older self in the Infinity, Inc. story since neither survive that encounter, and to-date, there have been no time-travel stories with a definitively post-1947 Degaton. He has no personal realization that he is a duplicate, nor do his opponents who, if anything, simply view him as just the 1947 version.
- Justice League of America vol. 1 #193, All-Star Squadron #1–3 (1981)
- Justice League of America vol. 1 #207–209, All-Star Squadron #14–15 (1982)
- JSA #59 (2004)
- JSA #66–72 (2005)