Comic Book Time

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"That's right folks! Batman was twenty years old when he started out! Nowadays he's -- uh --three-orty? Ish?"
Linkara, Atop the Fourth Wall reviewing the origin comic of Batman from the early 1940s

Also known as Sliding Time Scale.

The problem is this. On one hand, Superman is a high-selling, successful character with a lot of licenses and so on based off of him. You don't want him to age or die, because that means losing that successful character. On the other hand, Superman exists as part of a greater universe, and if all the stories in that universe are continuously frozen in time, that cuts off a lot of possibilities.

So what do you do? Comic Book Time. You use the illusion of time passing. You never refer to specific dates if you can help it, and you let characters change, but only a little.

This can prove harmful to characters that are tied to a certain time period. For example, Magneto's backstory involves being in the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz. This causes a particular type of aversion, the Refugee From Time where you just don't allow any Sliding Time Scale at all or at least not for one character.

Another factor of Comic Book Time is that it does not pass at the same rate for everyone; secondary characters may catch Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome and age from children to teenagers and then young adults while their adult counterparts remain roughly the same age. Or minor characters can drop out of the narrative, only to return years later, aged, while their counterpart heroes remain youthful. This concept was picked up on in the Fourth Wall-breaking She-Hulk series, in which a Golden Age character decided to hang around She-Hulk as much as possible to stay youthful.

Stories focused around youngsters are especially vulnerable to this, and even aging characters usually aren't allowed to progress to the point they'd be separated from their peers.

One possible justification is that publication time does not equal the passage of time in the book. Particularly in recent years, comic book publishers have tended to adopt a model where each monthly issue of the book in question is a single instalment of a longer story-arc; for instance, a six-issue story arc where Batman takes on the Joker may only equal one night in the actual passage of time. Despite this, the story has taken up half a year of "real time". This, naturally, is going to affect both how quickly you can develop the overall narrative and how contemporary you can make it. However, all characters in a universe tend to inhabit the same "present", despite when they first appeared or how much time has passed in their series.

Indeed, this is a valid point, because an open-ended series that wants to keep using the same characters and keep them in a given age-range for a long time pretty much must use some variant of comic-book time.

An adaptation of a series that has this can usually avoid it, as most of them only last a few years. On the flipside, non-comic series that last long enough also tend to use this.

Stories that take place in the future, naturally, are allowed to completely ignore this—unless the same future is referenced again later, in which case it'll have slid forward the same amount.

Compare Frozen in Time, Webcomic Time, Talking Is a Free Action and Can't Grow Up. Often results in Outdated Outfit. See Year Zero for a compromise, and Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome for similar peculiarities in live-action productions. Not Allowed to Grow Up is what happens when a production team tries to enforce Comic Book Time on a growing child actor in defiance of all common sense.

Examples of Comic Book Time include:

Comic Books[edit | hide | hide all]

Selina Kyle: I've known the Departed since... well, it was a couple of years before Pearl Harbor. I guess that dates me.

    • After Infinite Crisis, it's closer to twelve years, one of which was covered by the "One Year Later" jump.
      • Pre-Flashpoint and the New 52 reboot, Batman and Superman debuted in the same year. Circa the start of Final Crisis, Bats, Supes, and the in-universe Silver Age of Superheroes is around 13–14 years old.
    • The Batman is a textbook example of adaptations avoiding this; it starts right when Batman has been around for three years, and advances in time as it goes along (in the third season Bat-girl was in High School, and in the fifth we discover she's already started college; Robin also gets noticeably taller in the fifth season).
  • In the final issue of Grant Morrison's Animal Man run, Grant Morrison himself has a conversation with the main character and justifies Comic Book Time by implying that, in order to get from point A to point B, a comic book character moves instantly from panel to panel instead of actually walking there, saving a lot of time.
  • In DC Comics, this problem was temporarily deferred from the 1960s to the mid-1980s by introducing parallel universes, where the original version of a long-running character lived on "Earth-Two" and aged, while the current version of the character did not age, but lacked most of the long history. Earth-Two was destroyed in 1986 in Crisis on Infinite Earths, but Crisis also reset the histories of many characters, again halting the problem for a few decades. The whole thing was, however, done piecemeal and in an inconsistent way; Batman, for instance, has only had minor resets done, and his history back to the 1960s still has to fit in the aforementioned "about twelve years".
    • However, characters which existed only in Earth-Two and were re-integrated as the Justice Society were allowed to bring along their age: Alan Scott as Green Lantern, Jay Garrick as the Flash, Wildcat, and the original Hourman have all visibly aged. Even still, Jay Garrick is looking remarkably well-preserved these days for someone who should be pushing 100 years old.
      • A notable, headache-inducing sidenote for the Earth-Two characters is that Earth-Two used a rough approximation of real time while Earth-One used Comic Book Time. The fact that the two crossed over regularly was only going to get more bizarre as time went on if it hadn't been halted by Crisis.
        • Another consequence of this is the utter retcon of Black Canary, originally from Earth-Two and Green Arrow's on-again/off-again love interest. Originally an older woman, she's now clearly younger than Ollie's given age of early 40s, possibly by as much as a decade. It doesn't sound so bad until you put the couple into context with Nightwing. Ollie's infamous in-universe for being a Batman copycat, so everything Batman's done, Ollie did a little later, like get a sidekick. Speedy (later Arsenal, later still Red Arrow, and now Arsenal again) is clearly a year or two at most behind Nightwing in age. In his late teens, Speedy also had a drug problem, from which Black Canary helped him recover while she and Ollie were split. The experience tied Black Canary and Speedy together so closely that they consider each other mother and son. The problem is that this story was written when Black Canary was in her mid-30s, Ollie in his late 20s, and Speedy in his mid-teens. The timeframe now is such that only seven years at the most separate Black Canary and Speedy in age, so even assuming Black Canary was exceptionally mature for her age, the "mother" moniker would be unlikely. Even more egregious is, of course, that if this occurred approximately ten years ago in continuity, she and Ollie would have been very early in their relationship, and more importantly, she'd have barely known Speedy, who had turned to drugs after an extended absence from Ollie.
          • The "fix" applied to Black Canary (circa 1980) was that she suddenly discovered that she was actually her own daughter, with false memories.
    • This isn't even consistent among all writers. Brad Meltzer, for example, had Elongated Man muse that he'd been a hero for almost two decades in the opening pages of Identity Crisis.
    • The maxi-series 52, which covered the "One Year Jump", was notable for being explicitly real time, with each of the 52 weekly issues covering the week since the last release.
      • Its weekly sequel, Countdown to Final Crisis, claimed to be real time early on, yet took place concurrently with the rest of the Comic Book Time DCU.
      • As of Adventure Comics #2, the time between Superboy's death in Infinite Crisis and his return in Final Crisis (ie 52 + Countdown) is said to be slightly over a year.
        • The confusion was caused by, of course, Countdown to Final Crisis. Because of DC's original stance that Countdown was going to be in real time like 52, Geoff Johns initially believed that Final Crisis was going to occur "two years" after Infinite Crisis (a panel in an early issue of Booster Gold stated "Week 104, The Final Crisis"). But since Countdown was shunted into "vague what-ever time" status... yeah. Or maybe Geoff doesn't know how long it's been since Infinite Crisis... no one can say.
    • After The Death of Superman, DC released an in-universe Newsweek equivalent that had, at one point, short quotes from various real and fictional people about Superman, his life, his death, etc. One was from William Shatner, describing how he wore a towel around his neck and jumped off his garage roof when he was six. This makes William Shatner roughly 16 in the DC universe.
    • This trope is taken advantage of in the Batman: Hush storyline, where a flashback has Bruce Wayne, age 8 or so (before his parents' murder), watching the original Green Lantern fight a supervillain. Originally, of course, both superheroes were active at the same time (Batman's even "older" in terms of publication history!), but because the issue of Comic Book Time was handled differently for each of them, Green Lantern was active when Batman was a kid.
    • Pre Crisis, Superboy's time-era was originally shown as being either vaguely defined or taking place at the time of publication (a 1952 story shows Lana Lang competing to become "Miss Smallville of 1952" for instance). Starting in the late 50s, the writers corrected this and set Superboy as taking place in The Thirties (before Superman's 1938 debut date in the comics). By the late 1960s, this was clearly becoming unfeasible, and Superboy was then placed firmly on a sliding timescale 13–15 years behind the present-day Superman, moving his time-era up to The Fifties and then the late 1960s/the early 1970s by the time Crisis on Infinite Earths hit. Comic Book Time thus resulted in such things as the classic early 60s story "Superman's Mission For President Kennedy" being retold in the early 80s as "Superboy's Mission For President Kennedy."
  • In the long-running comic strip The Phantom, the hero married his girlfriend in 1977, following an on-and-off relationship that began in 1936; to look at the happy couple, you wouldn't think either of them had been born in 1936. Their eldest child, born in 1979, is still school-aged.
  • Pretty much everyone in Fantastic Four, but most especially Reed and Sue's son Franklin, who was born in the late-60's and has yet to reach puberty.
  • The comic Spider-Girl started in the late 1990s in a version of the Marvel Universe without Comic Book Time; Spider-Man was in his 40s, and had a daughter with Mary Jane, the titular Spider-Girl. Of course, after the book started, Comic Book Time kicked in; it's been about ten years, and she's moved from a sophomore to a junior in that time.
    • The 2008 Miniseries GeNext does the same real-time gimmick and stars the kids and grandkids of the X-Men.
  • Kitty "Shadowcat" Pryde of the X-Men was introduced during the 80s as a thirteen year old girl. Character Development saw her grow from an inexperienced kid into a full member of the team, go through numerous names, develop as an electronic whiz, psychically learn a lifetime of ninja skills, become a founding member of the British based superhero team Excalibur, and work as an agent of SHIELD... yet she takes a break from being a superhero to go to college full time. Unless a government agency is allowed to hire minors for dangerous covert ops, Shadowcat seems to have experienced retrograde aging.
    • Special mention must go to how her first romantic relationship with team member Colossus was aborted due to the fairly wide gap in their ages. Twenty years of real time later, when Colossus comes Back from the Dead (long story), Kitty has effectively aged to her early/mid twenties, while Colossus has apparently stayed the same age as always. The two resume and then consummate their relationship. It's greeted with the reaction of "About time" from Wolverine.
    • New flash on the college thing: "going to college full time" doesn't make you a minor. There are a significant number of people who attend college in their 20s and 30s. A significant and relevant demographic are those who serve a term or two of military service ... and "X-Men to Excalibur to SHIELD" definitely has parallels to more traditional uniformed service.
  • Variations of Kitty Pryde's lack of aging can be seen in the entire New Mutants generation of X-Men introduced in the 80s, who are maybe five years older than characters introduced nearly twenty years later.
    • And at least Kitty eventually managed to reach her twenties (thanks mostly to Warren Ellis writing her into a relationship with the thirty-something Pete Wisdom). Jubilee was about fifteen when she was introduced in 1989 and has managed to age perhaps two years in the twenty years of real time that followed, at one point having her age given as thirteen without any sort of de-aging plotline involved.
      • Ellis' hands were tied with Kitty to a certain extent, especially in how much leeway he had to show the, shall we say, nature of her and Wisdom's relationship; he's said in Q & A's that he personally thought of her being nineteen or twenty, but that the Marvel bosses didn't want to age her too much. It was eventually addressed in, of all places, an Excalibur letters page, where the editors were of the opinion "Kitty's a mature girl in her late teens, and she and Wisdom are kind of like Han Solo and Princess Leia."
      • As for Jubilee, she may now be exempt from the aging issue since as of the "Curse Of the Mutants" arc, she is now a vampire.
  • In a bizarre inversion of this trend, the Beast somehow went from a person who hadn't entered college yet (and might not even have been eighteen yet) in X-Men 66 (March 1970) to a person with a Ph.D. in Amazing Adventures 11 (March 1972). In other words, in only two years of real world time, enough time had somehow passed for him to go from being a high school grad to a doctor, somewhat like a comic-book case of Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome.
    • Beast is a bona fide genius. Who's to say he couldn't accomplish that in two years, or two days?
    • They even mentioned he was having his 30th birthday in a few days/weeks' time in an early '90s of "Adjectiveless" X-men.
      • And that Jean Grey wasn't even close to 30 at the time (or at least she wasn't turning 30 anytime soon after him).
        • Beast was the oldest of the original X-Men, though, and Jean was the youngest. There was always a few years seperating them.
  • The Punisher averts this trope; his history has him as a Vietnam vet, and he has aged real-time. This makes him somewhat paradoxical in the Marvel Universe, since everybody else around him ages in Comic Book Time. It's best not to think about it too much.
    • Of course, at one point, he died and was brought back to life by Heaven. They could de-age him in the process.
      • And more recently, was killed, resurrected as a Frankenstein-like being and returned to life by a magical McGuffin.
    • Frank is a special case. While it is true that there is a Frank who has aged in real time, that one is only the MAX continuity (which branched off of the normal continuity at some point during the Marvel Knights run). That Frank is a Vietnam vet, whereas the traditional Frank (the one who went to Heaven and became Frankencastle and the like) varies depending on the author, much like any other character.
  • The ABC Comics universe averts this. In most of their books, the date is featured quite prominently. For those characters who have very long backstories, explanations are given (Example: Tesla Strong, daughter of hero Tom Strong, was born in 1938, but as of the turn of the century was only in her late teens. This was explained by a childhood accident with the life-extending drug that allowed her parents to stay in their physical prime past their hundredth birthdays.) They even had the end of the world take place in 2004—and the dates given in subsequent comics are usually earlier than that.
  • Ignored in Hellblazer, in which John Constantine's birthday (10 May 1953) has remained static over the years and he has aged realistically, with issues being set on his 35th and 40th birthdays. Likewise, his niece has grown from a ten-year-old girl into an adult, and his friend's granddaughter has aged from a baby into a young girl. This does cause problems when he interacts with DCU characters, such as at Hal Jordan's funeral or Green Arrow and Black Canary's wedding. There is also his relationship with DCU's Zatanna—when their past dating history was established, he was only a couple of years older than her, but as he aged while Zatanna didn't, their relationship looks more and more problematic with each passing year.
    • This is another reason why most Vertigo stories are not considered in-continuity with the regular DC Universe. See also Exiled From Continuity.
    • Well, it's Zatanna, whose father was originally a 1940's hero, & whom immortal Homo magi Doctor Mist apparently thought was like him or could become like him. Who says she isn't magically letting the world see her as young?
    • Note that, despite this, he does look pretty youthful for his age. Speculation is that the demon blood's keeping him young.
  • Glaringly obvious in Tintin. The hero remains a "Boy Reporter" from the 1920s to the 1970s, while all around him the world is changing, as shown by advancing technology and various Ripped from the Headlines plots. Members of the cast who arrived after the story started are likewise frozen in time.
  • Averted in Judge Dredd. The story has a 1:1 time-passage rate. Dredd really is thirty years older now than he was in the late 70s. Even all his treatments and cyborg implants have their limits. Dredd facing his old age, watching long-time supporting cast retire, and training the new generation of Judges is a major theme now.
  • Another exception: Virtually all comic book universes created by Jim Shooter. All stories that took place in The New Universe, Valiant Universe, Defiant Universe and Broadway Universe unfold in real time, and the characters aged accordingly.
  • Yet another exception: in Image's Savage Dragon, where events have progressed and characters have aged in realtime since the series was launched in 1992. Creator Erik Larsen has said this makes crossovers with series that have Comic Book Time a brain-straining nightmare.
  • Runaways actually subverts this for other series. When the Avengers did a guest spot, it was explicitly stated that Luke Cage fought Tombstone as Power Man three years earlier, and Spider-Man wore his black costume when Chase (who was nearing his eighteenth birthday) was in grade school.
    • However, it plays it straight for its own timeline; the series has been running since 2003, and only Chase and Molly have had birthdays, but the references to years keep changing.
  • Zot plays with this by making the alternate Earth that the hero hails from stuck at 1965. Characters from the "real" Earth notice this oddity.
  • Completely inverted in Fables (possibly due to the characters being immortal). Some references to past events imply that, given the frequent timeskips in the storyline, events may be progressing twice as fast as real-time.
    • IIRC, one early arc had a character's recovery over a year happen in a single issue, yet some other story arcs will take place over as little time as a week. Fables seems to run on "whatever time is most convenient".
  • One of the problems with the sliding timescale results in a variant of Fad Super Syndrome. In Infinite Crisis, Black Lightning claims that he chose his name because, at the time, there were very few black superheroes. Which was true enough in the seventies, but by this point, he had to have gotten his start in the nineties with the rest of the DC crew. In fifteen years or so, he'll have chosen the name Black Lightning sometime around now.
  • Interestingly, Don Rosa and Carl Barks's Donald Duck universe has a static timeframe. That is, Scrooge McDuck was born in 1867, made his first dime in 1877, retired in 1942, met Donald in 1947, and died in 1967 at the age of 100. The stories take place in the late 40's and early 50's. All technological innovations get a Hand Wave as coming from the decades-ahead-of-the-times mind of Gyro Gearloose. Of course, under other authors, Comic Book Time still applies.
    • Not only does Rosa's timeline only apply to his own stories, it's also officially unacknowledged, and Rosa is forbidden from making specific references to this passage of time beyond subtle references and background details that will go unnoticed by most. The direct mentions of the years have only appeared in behind-the-scenes editorials in the trades reprinting his works, and the date of Scrooge's death only in a fanzine. Officially, the Donald universe operates in Comic book time, and anything going against this is simply considered fan theories by the editors.
    • Funny note here: due to the amount of stories produced per year, all by different countries, the Disney characters have actually had more Christmases, Halloweens, birthday, April Firsts, or whatever holidays more than actual years that have passed by. Donald has celebrated at least 200 Christmases.
  • So, which war/conflict was Iron Man injured in again to get his chest plate?
    • Rule of thumb for that: Whatever the big international crisis-point was 8 to 15 years ago (so currently it is generally regarded as the Middle East or Afghanistan).
  • Much like Dick Grayson, many sidekicks (and young superheroes) during The Golden Age of Comic Books aged visibly through the years while their mentors remained the same.
    • Black Terror's sidekick, Tim/Kid Terror, was eleven years old during his debut in 1941. By 1944 or so, he was increasingly depicted as a teenager. He was shown attending high school until his last Golden Age appearance.
    • Kitten, sidekick of the Cat-Man, was 11 at the time of her debut. She remained young for a while, but as years passed, artists started drawing her as a teenager more and more often (it wasn't terribly consistent) until they finally settled on a teenage look that lasted through last eight issues of Cat-Man Comics.
      • And appears in 1990's AC comics as an adult woman, married to Cat-Man (who gets disapproving looks from female heroes), and still shorter than average. It should be pointed out that, somewhere down the line, AC Comics decided to retconned Kitten's origin, stating that she was already an adult when she and Cat-Man met.
    • Airboy, young aviator hero who was 12 at the time of his 1942 debut, was one of the very rare early cases when a Golden Age comic book character that aged close to real time. He managed to last until 1953, so readers saw him growing up into a 20-something adult throughout the course of his run.
  • Averted in John Byrne's Superman/Batman Generations series, which operated under the premise of "what if comic books followed real time from the beginning." Kal-El and Bruce Wayne make their heroic debuts in the 1930s, as in real life, but then proceed to age and have families, with their children taking up their respective heroic legacies. Eventually, the heroic lineage intersects when Kara Kent (Supergirl) and Bruce Wayne Jr. (Robin II/Batman III) are married.
  • The Invaders, a Marvel World War II-era superteam, were touched by Comic Book Time in an unusual way. Some of them, like Spitfire, aged in real time (only to be aged down again later), others were ageless (Human Torch was an android while Namor ages much slower than humans), others frozen (Captain America and Bucky), and a handful were just left to reach old age (Toro). However, look up how long Captain America was frozen for, and you'll find that the value has changed repeatedly, of course.
  • Averted in Astro City, where characters age in real time. However, any given story may be set in any time period, meaning that characters may still be milked for an arbitrarily large number of stories.
  • The Blackhawks, since their series continued without interruption until 1968, following a sliding timescale up until the 1970's, in which they operated as mercenaries in then modern times. Most subsequent revival published since the 1970's have appeared as period pieces set in the 1940's to the Vietnam War at the latest. Birds of Prey #75 revealed that almost all of the original Blackhawks have died.
  • Lampshaded in Neil Gaiman's The Sandman. During the Wake, we see Clark Kent, Batman, and J'onn J'onzz discussing their dreams. Clark mentions that he has a recurring dream where he gets infected with a virus that forces him to only move one direction through time.
  • Top Cow Universe seems to be heading in that direction. Originally, it stayed fairly close to real time. In the 2003 universe handbook (published on the tenth anniversary of the line's debut), most characters are given concrete, real-time birthdays and chronological references to past events that worked perfectly well if you assumed that their stories took place during the year they were published. In more recent stories, writers seemed to be backing away from that. While they do acknowledge that the characters have been around for a couple of years, they carefully avoid giving any exact dates. It's probably just as well - if the above-mentioned birthdays were still canon, the current Witchblade would have turned forty in 2010.
  • Doctor Yuriko Takiguchi, a Marvel Comics character that originally appeared in Godzilla comic, is an interesting exception. When he originally appeared, he was already a middle-aged man. When he reappeared in the recent issues of Uncanny X-Men, he aged quite visibly, which would make sense of one was to assume that in Marvel continuity, Godzilla comics took place in the same time as they were printed (mid 1970s). The thing is, though, Godzilla comics took place in then-contemporary Marvel Universe, and many characters that age in Comic Book Time appeared in supporting roles. It's probably best not to think about it too much.
    • Like the fact that he's got a girl's name?
  • Invincible made a solid effort to avoid this, but realities of the genre (the whole "six months to publish one day's adventures" thing) and Schedule Slip have been hobbling it. So, on the one hand, the entire cast has visibly aged since the series started, and Mark started out as a high school senior and has graduated high school, gone to college for a while, dropped out, and gotten a job. On the other hand, it took him eight years to do all that. On the other other hand, the most recent arc (the Viltrumite War) has gone into accelerated time, with one issue taking place over the span of many, many months, so it's catching up a bit.
  • Someone mentioned that Wonder Woman "has lived among us for nearly a decade" in a comic from 2003, nearly six decades after Wonder Woman's real world debut.
  • None of the Young Avengers seem to have aged at all since their debut in 2005.
  • Sort of used in Marvel's Transformers Generation 1 comics. The Transformers on the Ark awakened in 1984, and that date remained consistent for the entire run; thus, in issued printed in 1989, a couple of characters mention having been active for five years. Also, Simon Furman's future stories always take place exactly 20 years after the mainline stories; thus, the future segments of "Target: 2006" take place in 2006, while those of "Time Wars" take place in 2008. However, Buster and Jessie never seem to advance through high school, nor does Spike graduate from college. (Granted, these are very minor quibbles, but it's still noticeable).
  • Marvel's Power Pack are a particularly bizarre example. They started out as a group of kid heroes, all aged 5–12 with given age. Katie, the youngest, is "5" in a May 1986 comic, and five and a half in July of 1989. Alex is established as 12 near the start in 1984, but in 1990 his dad thinks he's just now going through puberty. Alex appeared to be about 18 in Fantastic Four, and Julie Power seemed like she was in her mid-twenties when she showed up in Runaways and The Loners. Their Sixth Ranger Franklin Richards is one of the best/worst examples of this (see above).
  • On the subject of Batman, this Shortpacked explores some of the consequences of Comic Book Time.
  • A short-term example happened for Daredevil during the Inferno Crisis Crossover: He gets beat up by an assembled gang of his enemies and dropped in a ditch during a Fourth of July parade. He gets out of that ditch and vaguely healthy again just in time for the Christmas issue, implicitly no more than a week or two later.
  • This gets really weird in the adventures of Douwe Dabbert. When Douwe is first introduced, he is a very old although surprisingly spry man. None of his adventures are explicitly dated and we are never told how much time passes between his adventures. Then, in one of his very last stories, he is reunited with Thorm, a character he met in his second adventure, and explicitly says that it has been twenty-two years since they last saw one another. This is possibly Lampshaded when he returns Thorm to the animal kingdom at the end of the story and remarks to the other animals that they haven't changed a bit. But wait, it gets stranger! Duting his travels, Douwe befriends a family of wizards, who recur throughout his adventures. The wizards are established to age very slowly. Pief, who looks and acts like a ten-year old boy, is Really Seven Hundred Years Old. But it is Pief who grows up during those twenty-two years. Compare his first appearance to his last and you will note that Pief now looks more like a teenager and acts much more maturely. All this while Douwe himself shows no signs of aging. (Although it is revealed in one of the stories that he has some wizard blood, so that might go part of the way...)
  • Dennis the Menace UK: Dennis has been about 10 years old since he first appeared back in 1951. It's "about", because his physical appearance has changed repeatedly, getting sometimes taller and stockier like a teen, and sometimes smaller and more round-faced like a younger boy of 6 or 7 or so. However back in 1998, his mother got pregnant, carried a baby to term (his sister Bea), and little Bea is now walking and talking at the level of a 2-year-old (and friends with 4yo pre-schooler Ivy the Terrible), while nobody else has aged one iota. Bea was retconned back to a baby when the 2009 CBBC cartoon started and the comic adopted its art style and continuity.
  • The Archie Comics main characters have been in high school for over sixty years.
    • Someone once wrote in to the Archie letters column demanding an explanation for this, theorizing that the characters must be really, really dumb if they can't graduate. Reggie Mantle (yes, the character) responded by explaining that he and the other characters had simply been stuck with eternal youth.
  • Cherry from Cherry Comics has always 'just turned 18'.
  • COMPLETELY averted with the modern day stories in Valiant Comics which had almost every single story set in the month it was published (the only exceptions being multi-issue stories which would take place somewhere in that time frame as well).
  • Justifiably averted for Doctor Strange, who met Death as part of his trials to become Sorcerer Supreme: the encounter locked him in the age he was when it happened (his mid-forties), where he has remained ever since.
  • Asterix and the villagers have been the same age since their publication, and it's always the year 50 BC, despite not one, not two, but three comics dealing with different character's birthdays (of which two were Obelix's).


Anime and Manga[edit | hide]

  • After over 15 years of Pokémon, Ash is (according to the official Japanese site) still 10 years old. On a 1:1 basis, he'd be 25 as of 2012. To be fair though, this would make his friendship with Dawn (who debuts nine years into the show at age 10) incredibly awkward... To make things even worse, they've acknowledged that a year or more has passed more than once; apparently, time passes but nobody ages.
    • And just to drive the point home, the dub has Meowth telling Dawn in their first meeting that "We've been chasing Pikachu since you've been alive."
      • Given Team Rocket's status as local fourth-wall breakers who have explicitly referred to the show's staff in the past, Meowth's in a pretty good position to be referring to actual production time that nobody else in the cast would know about.
    • For the record, the Pokémon Special manga (which follows a plot closer to the video games) does not follow this trope; there are numerous timeskips, and save when characters are drawn chibi, every character ages correctly.
    • Other manga do not follow Special though. The protagonists stay the same age no matter how long it is. Even the second adaptation, and the longest airing one, follows this. It follows a similar plot to the anime (despite being five months older), with the protagonist going various regions with his Pikachu.
  • Detective Conan is a more extreme case, as it frequently references the current time of year, with some holidays celebrated more than once, yet after 12 years of episodes, Conan is still in the first grade. A clear example can be seen during the time Conan is investigating Eisuke Hondou; the "Shadow of the Black Organization" arc combines two cases that take place at New Years and Setsuban respectively, while his disappearance in the next plot arc happens at the end of December. The latter arc keeps things vague by referring to an event that happened a few hundred episodes before Eisuke Hondou even appeared as "several months ago". Granted, this is necessary to the whole point of the series; if Conan aged in real time, he would be older than he was before the de-aging.
    • As an update to the above, it would now be 14 years in the anime, 16 in the manga. Word of God even confirms that it is Comic Book Time. Most fans assume that only the episodes relevant to the main plot are actually happening, and maybe a few other episodes important to character development.
  • While the first three shows in the Pretty Cure franchise aged characters in real time, Yes! Pretty Cure 5 has instead made use of Comic Book Time—all the characters are the same age now as they were in February 2007, despite clearly going through summer and Christmas. Part of this is may be because Karen and Komachi are in their last year of middle school.
  • Likewise, the Ouran High School Host Club anime has Honey alluding to graduating from high school next year. Since the manga is still ongoing, the author tells us not to worry about stuff like that.
    • The manga explicitly ignores the passage of time, except to give seasonal settings, keeping all the characters in the same year as when they started. However, it's been averted since they've finally graduated.
  • Serious discussion on whether the goddesses in Ah! My Goddess age mostly glosses over the fact that the manga has been running for 20 years; aside from Art Evolution and the characters learning and doing new things, nowhere near that much time has passed for them.
  • Lampshaded in One Piece's letter column, where the author explains that "The characters have their birthdays every year, but they turn the same age every time, those lucky bastards."
    • And yet somehow Coby became noticeably older when he reappeared. The author claimed he had a growth spurt.
    • Later comments made by the author indicate that they haven't gotten noticeably older simply because all the events of the series hadn't yet covered a year, making this more a case of Webcomic Time.
    • And then the Time Skip happened, and they actually got 2 years older.
  • Averted in Maison Ikkoku. While just about every other Takahashi series is entrenched in comic book time, this series follows real time exactly (aside from a few issues that leave off on a cliffhanger, which are made up next issue by having twice as much time pass).
    • Note that, despite this, nobody (save the two recurring children) visibly ages; however, this is most likely because all of the main characters (save the children) were in their early 20's to early 30's at the start of the series, and the series only ran seven years.
  • Averted and lampshaded in City Hunter, as people age and seasons go exactly in tune with the manga's release dates, and fourth wall jokes are made by the characters about how, in many mangas, people do not age, but "years are strictly counted in this one".
  • Inuyasha ran from 1996-2008. Kagome was exactly fifteen in the first episode (it was her birthday). She hadn't quite hit sixteen when the next to last chapter was published, then there was a three year Time Skip to the last episode.
  • The Kimagure Orange Road anime fell prey to this. Kyosuke (and, by extension, since they shared the day, Hikaru) only ever got one birthday that we saw on-screen. And what year of life it was for them never actually got mentioned. This makes things a tiny bit jarring when we can see that time is definitely passing, but there weren't any real clues to which year of school they were currently in—and then we jump ahead in the first movie, to Kyosuke and Madoka's entrance exams for college...
  • From the passing of seasons, which are clearly marked, Aria spans the better part of three Martian years, or five to six Earth years in the anime and manga, respectively. Yet Alice, who we first meet at 14 years old while attending middle school, doesn't graduate from it until five Earth years have passed. The other main characters also seem to have aged little—most noticeably, in the anime, Ai.
  • Each chapter of Yostuba&! takes place on a specific date, which in 60 chapters has run from mid-July to mid-October. However, Word of God is that each chapter is set in the year it's published, which allows the author to keep technology and pop-culture references current, instead of stuck back in 2003 when he started.
  • In Fruits Basket in other people's flash backs the three oldest members of the juunishi, Hatori, Ayame and Shigure, have a tendency to look younger, but not young enough. Or, in the case of Hatori, doing things he shouldn't be able to at that age—he is apparently already a doctor when he erases Momiji's mother's memory. To be fair it's not clear how old Momiji is at the time (and he probably looks younger than he is), but he couldn't really be older than 5 (people leaving his mother having a breakdown for 5 years is pushing it). If Momiji is five then it makes Hatori 16...and already a qualified doctor and not aging all that much for 11 years until the series starts. Hmm....
    • In one of the fanbooks, it's made clear that Hatori was not yet a doctor at the time, and that while he also followed his father into medicine, the memory erasure is a separate ability also handed down in his family.
    • Notably, Hatori was in his school uniform when he erased Momiji's mother's memory, so he clearly wasn't a doctor yet.
  • Glass Mask. The (still ongoing) manga started in 1976, and was set in then-present day. In later volumes, we're told outright that a little more than seven in-universe years have passed since then; the characters age believably, and the technology level is entirely compatible with the mid-80s... except cell phones and the internet have been featured and discussed (as in, "in this day and age it's normal to talk to people you've never met over the internet").
  • From Eroica with Love embraces this trope fully.
  • Lupin III has been around since 1967, and none of the characters look any older. This is fine, since the franchise clearly runs on Negative Continuity, but Lupin's grandfather is still canonically Arsene Lupin. Who was born in 1874. Assuming an average of 45+ years between each generation of the Lupin dynasty isn't impossible (especially considering their reputations), but gets a little less probable with every passing year.
  • Doraemon managed to outlive one of its creators, and yet poor Nobita and his friends are still in the fourth grade.
  • Crayon Shin-chan sadly also outlived his creator. To give an idea of how bad this series is with Comic Book Time: Shin-chan is 5 when the manga starts. His mother's friend Keiko marries, gets pregnant and has a baby. Later on Shin-chan's mom also gets pregnant and has a daughter, Himawari. Shin-chan's still five, and even better, the babies are the same age!
    • Even better, an episode parodying Back to The Future aired in 2010 claimed Shin-chan's parents met "8 years ago". When they travel back to said 8 years ago, it's 2002. Apparently Shin-chan was born in 2005, nearly a decade and a half after the series started.
  • Episode 7 of Daily Lives of High School Boys anime downright declares:

Hidenori:Well, this anime is like Sazae-san. We'll always be in our second year of high school.


Film[edit | hide]

  • Pierce Brosnan's role as James Bond continues from Timothy Dalton in a post-Cold War world, and yet GoldenEye, set six years after Licence to Kill has Bond at about the same age. Several films also reference Bond's loss of his love in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, back in the 60s.
  • Superman Returns is set "five years" after Superman II (1980), but a newspaper dated 2006 appears prominently.
    • Especially problematic thanks to the casting of Kate Bosworth who was 23 when the movie was released (22 during filming) and looked at least that young. She must have gotten a really early start at the Planet (and a really early start at some other things, considering the age of her son). Brandon Routh, 26 during filming was a little less noticeable. Jimmy Olsen looks older than Lois (and in fact Sam Huntington is about a year older than Bosworth), despite being about a decade younger in most continuities.
  • Averted in Godzilla; the Godzilla films actually do not follow a sliding timescale, since most human characters in the Showa and Heisei films who have returned were portrayed by the same people. Raymond Burr returned as Steve Martin in Godzilla 1985. Momoko Kouchi, also in the first film, reprised Emiko Yamane in Godzilla vs. Destoroyah in 1995, and Hiroshi Koizumi resumed the role of Professor Shin'ichi Chujo from Mothra (1961) (which did not actually feature Godzilla) in 2003's Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. The films have recast the Shobijin with younger actresses, however. Kenji Sahara played someone named Segawa in both The Terror of Mechagodzilla and his Heisei era films, but since The Terror of Mechagodzilla does not form part of the continuity of the Heisei series, it is unclear whether it involves the same personage.
  • Each of the Night of the Living Dead sequels were made in a different decade and show the characters using products, inventions, and fashions from the decade they were made in. This means that either global capitalism was surprisingly unaffected by the Zombie Apocalypse, or the sequels are using Comic Book Time.
  • The third story of Trilogy of Terror 2 presumably picks up a few hours after the third story of the first film. The first film was from 1975 and the sequel was from 1996, and it's a bit hard to reconcile how different things look between the two films.
  • Tarzan underwent constant recasting, from Johnny Weismuller (who played Tarzan from 1932 to 1948) to Lex Barker and further (Mike Henry served as the last series Tarzan in theatrical film in 1968). Since Brenda Joyce stayed on as Jane from the last Weismuller film to at least the first Barker film, this represents a case of a sliding timescale.
    • It's most noticeable with their son Boy, who ages from infancy to childhood (about ten, in the movies) in the space of a cutscene, while his parents haven't aged a day.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • Comic Book Time is remarkably common in mystery fiction.
    • Nero Wolfe appeared in over 30 novels and more short stories published between 1934 and 1975. Each story is set in the year it was written, but Wolfe, Archie, and the main supporting characters don't age, even though Archie celebrates more than one birthday.
      • The 2001 television adaptation "A Nero Wolfe Mystery" displays this quite clearly, as the stories weren't done in anything like chronological order. The brownstone never changes, but the minute Archie steps outside and walks down the street... The show's use of a regular group of actors for the minor characters also magnified the effect, as last week's flapper is this week's flower child.
      • It's not just that the episodes aren't in chronological order, it's that there's no chronology. The show takes place in a mash of the late 30s to early 60s, with the only consideration being what works for the plot and/or what looks best.
    • Hercule Poirot is introduced shortly after World War I as a retired policeman. By the 1960s, although he has taken to dyeing his moustache, he still doesn't appear to be much over sixty. Similarly, Miss Marple, originally presented as a subversion of the "Victorian Aunt" stereotype in 1920s fiction, is described as having had a Victorian Aunt of her own in At Bertram's Hotel (published 1965). Each series ends with one novel in which the protagonist has aged and in fact Poirot dies in his novel; both books were written during the Blitz and were originally intended to finish the series if Christie was killed. They were instead published in the 1970s as is, which makes them somewhat anachronistic.
    • Jim Qwilleran of the Cat Who novels is 46 years old in the first novel, written and set in 1966. He's 50 years old in the last novel, written and set in 2007.
    • Robert Parker's famous PI Spenser fought in Korea and fought Jersey Joe Walcott in the fifties. He's still in business and in something of his physical prime. While Parker allows Spenser to age, he's taken on something of a "timeless" quality as a character.
    • Not only does Mike Hammer not age from 1947's I, the Jury to 1997's Black Alley, New York City doesn't age either.
    • Ellery Queen goes through numerous changes during his run, but he stays at about the same age from 1929 to 1971.
  • The first Young Wizards book was published in 1983, and the most recent in 2005, but only a couple years have passed for the characters. Despite this, each book takes place in approximately the year it was released. The usual fan response to questions about this is "Just go with it."
    • One of the books actually contain a note from the author to this effect, basically shrugging and admitting it's easier that way. The books are good enough that most readers are willing to roll with it.
    • The first novel's line "You don't even have a colour TV!" was changed to "widescreen TV" (or possibly "cable TV"?) in later editions.
  • Antonia Forest's "Marlow" books (published between 1948 and 1982) featured schoolgirl characters, who only aged a few years throughout the series, experiencing post-war rationing, colour TV and punk-style make-up. Her comment in an interview was similar to that of the Young Wizards author - setting the books in a consistent timeline would be more work for her and irritating for the readers.
  • William Brown of Just William is always eleven. He was eleven in the early stories between the wars. He was eleven during the stories set in World War II. In one, he says, "Mother, I don't seem to remember when there wasn't a war on." His mother replies, "Don't be silly, William, the war's been going on two years and you're eleven now." He was eleven when he celebrated V-E day. He was eleven when he tried to copy the pop stars he'd seen on colour TV.
  • Sweet Valley High and Sweet Valley Twins are known for doing this.
  • This was retro-fitted into The Boxcar Children series. In the original 19 books by Gertrude Chandler Warner, the series took place in the 1930s—and the Alden children have aged several years. When the series has been picked up again, the Alden children went back to their original ages, and the series was set in the modern era.
  • In the Babysitters Club books, the characters started the series at the end of seventh grade and moved to eighth, but stayed there for the rest of the series, leading some to suspect the author originally intended to age the characters but didn't once the series proved to be so popular. Similarly, the books originally covered a month each while being published once a month, but later moved to covering only a week each.
  • Beverly Cleary's books tend to take place around the time they were written, so Ramona Quimby goes from being 4 or 5 in the 1950s to just turning ten in the 1990s. In Ramona and Beezus (1955), she is 4; in Ramona the Pest (1968), she is 5; in Ramona the Brave (1975), she is 6; in both Ramona and Her Father (1977) and Ramona and Her Mother (1979), he is 7; in Ramona Quimby, Age 8 (1981), she is, um, 8, and stays that way in Ramona Forever (1984); and in Ramona's World (1999), she starts out 9 and turns 10.
  • Characters aged similarly in Judy Blume's Fudge books, though later editions of Superfudge changed a few details to catch up with the times: Fudge watches Cartoon Network instead of The Electric Company, and Peter asks for a laptop instead of a pocket calculator for Christmas.
  • Judy Moody plays this trope straight. Although many assume all the books could take place in one year, the recent book Judy Moody: Girl Detective is stated to take place the October after the Christmas Special book Judy Moody and Stink: The Holly Joliday. Although there should have been a summer vacation (and a change in grades) between those books, both books (and all the other books) show Judy as being in the third grade and aged eight.
  • It looks like the recently revived Goosebumps series is heading this route too. A few protagonists from earlier books have appeared, all still the same age as they were over ten years ago in real time.
  • The original editions of the first few Bobbsey Twins books took place in a clear timeline that affected the characters. The first book took place over most of a school year, with the older twins eight years old at the beginning and the younger twins four. The second book was set in the first half of the summer, the third tied up some plot threads from the second, and the fourth opened the following autumn, with the older twins "nearly nine" and the younger set "almost five". Then someone at the Stratemeyer Syndicate apparently realized that the characters would soon age beyond their readership; so in short order Nan and Bert aged to twelve and stayed there, with Freddie and Flossie stuck at six.
  • Similarly, Nancy Drew appears to have solved most of her seventy-three original mysteries the year she was sixteen years old.
    • This was even more weird in the 80s-90s updated series The Nancy Drew Files, in which Nancy was 18 (as in the revised editions of the original series). With the modern setting, it becomes increasingly unconvincing that the bright daughter of a lawyer wouldn't be either working or at college.
      • And in the games. Time passes, as made clear by calenders with dates spotted in the games, along with various references to recent events in history (such as the revelation that Pluto is no longer a planet), yet Nancy is still referred to as a "silly American teenager" by game 18.
  • Archer Mayor's Joe Gunther is a Korean War vet; the novels are always set in The Present Day, making him at least 75 years old and still a working detective for a state police agency.
  • One of Kim Newman's short stories, "Coastal City", featured a Commissioner Gordon-like character for heroine "Amazon Girl", on the edge of noticing that, among other paradoxes created by the sliding timescale of the universe he lives in, his war-hero past was being repeatedly updated, shifting from World War II to the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and now the Gulf War. Fortunately for him, a fresh crisis distracted him from the potential existential breakdown.
  • Leslie Charteris' The Saint has flitted back and forth in print between period pieces and a sliding timescale. In the introduction for Catch the Saint, published in 1975, Charteris notes that these stories took place before 1939, since "literary detectives sharper than Inspector Teal" would realize that, based on topical references in earlier adventures, the Saint would have grown too old to fight crime, and only a rejuvenation out of science fiction could deal with this situation. (While some Saint stories did feature the paranormal, which later collection in the anthology the Fantastic Saint, Charteris declined to pursue such an approach for the Saint's aging.) However, later books did not follow this trend. In 1997, Burl Barer wrote a new Saint novel that, in his blog, Barer stated took place in contemporary times. Viola Inselheim, a young child in 1934's The Saint in New York, has aged to adulthood in Capture the Saint, but Barer otherwise sidesteps the issue of time. Film and TV versions of the Saint have never gotten down as period pieces. The Roger Moore version took place in the then-contemporary 1960's. Post-Roger Moore TV versions such as those with Simon Dutton, Andrew Clarke, and Ian Ogilvy also eschewed the period piece approach. The 1997 Val Kilmer film, though released almost 70 years since the Saint's first appearance in print in 1928, took place in then contemporary times, if not the future. (In the director's commentary, Philip Noyce noted that he tried to extrapolate and anticipate developments in Russia. This was reasonably successful, as a plot point in that film involved heating oil shortages.)
  • PG Wodehouse wrote stories about Jeeves and Wooster and Blandings Castle from the 1910s to the 1970s. The characters don't seem to age, although it's hard to specify the time period the novels are set. There are generally a few references in each novel to new technology or cultural events in the time period it was written, but otherwise the setting remains in a fantasy (in the sense of "the world never existed this way", not in the wizards-and-unicorns sense) version of Edwardian England. For example, one of the very late books (published in the 1970s) has Bertie complaining about anti-war demonstrators causing traffic congestion.
  • The Dresden Files averts this trope for the most part, with each novel being set just at about the same time as it was written. However, Harry's young apprentice Molly somehow managed to have two birthdays (going from 17 to 19) in the ten-month interim between Proven Guilty and White Night.
  • The Executioner action-adventure series was created by Don Pendleton in 1969, and after being purchased by Gold Eagle is still going strong. The series starts with the protagonist Mack Bolan as a Vietnam veteran (early novels even mention service in the Korean War), a fact that's not even mentioned now as it would make Bolan seem too old.
  • Averted in the Honor Harrington series. Characters age as the books cover about 30 years of conflict. However due to quasi-magical 'prolong' therapy, the vast majority of characters will live for about 300 years and be at peak physical state for most of that.
  • The 87th Precinct series started in the 1950s and continued for over forty years. In a clear sign of a sliding timescale, the children of the police officers never grew up, with references to their ages not lining up to the amount of publishing time between entries in the series.
  • Some Spider novels from the 1930's and 1940's appeared in redacted versions in the 1970's, with Wentworth's military service changed from World War I to the Korean War. Another redaction; a collapsing building in The City Destroyers called the Sky Building replaced by the World Trade Center.
  • Richard Stark's Parker initially did not require a sliding timescale. Parker's series initially ran only eleven years, from 1963 to 1974. Westlake did not revisit Parker for another twenty plus years, till the second wave from 1997 to 2008. In The Outfit Parker states that he had been in the Army from 1942 to 1944. In The Outfit Parker also does state he had already been a thief for 18 years, and refers to a heist he committed in 1949.
  • Mary Stolz did it with her three Barkham Street books. In A Dog on Barkham Street (1960) Edward asks his dad if he could get transferred to Alaska, now that it's a state. The Explorer of Barkham Street (1985) is supposed to take place about a year later, but Martin reads his library book through a MASH rerun.
  • In The Fine Art of Murder, on page 214-215, Ed McBain admits to using the sliding timescale. In the section "On the Eternal Youth Syndrome", he says "I think I am going to have to inch Carella's kids toward puberty. That was a conscious decision I had to make a while back, to freeze the ages of the characters". McBain admits to having read comic strips when younger, noting that he had read Gasoline Alley (no sliding timescale), Little Orphan Annie (sliding timescale), and Terry and the Pirates (McBain recalls "little Terry grows up and has an affair with the Dragon Lady"). "The detectives in my books were originally veterans of World War II, or later the Korean War, but that got awkward later on. I tried to put that all to rest in one of the books by saying "Every male of age in America is a veteran of one war or the other". Now I just say "He was in the war". Maybe soon people will think of that made-for-television war-Desert Storm".
  • Repairman Jack follows a sliding timescale. F. Paul Wilson only wrote two novels about Repairman Jack before 1998; 1984's The Tomb and 1992's Nightworld. When Wilson wrote Legacies in 1998, he decided to have it as the start of a series of novels about Repairman Jack, and set it just after The Tomb. However, to do so, he decided that the amount of time since Jack's first appearance in 1984's The Tomb would serve as a constant snag, so he rewrote The Tomb to update various topical references. In the 2000 novel All The Rage, on page 82, Jack notes, when someone says he cannot operate as a mercenary for much longer, "I'm thinking maybe four or five more years and I'm out. I'll be forty then", and he says at age he would not feel sure of himself in combat. That places Jack as 35-36 in the present day of All The Rage, which would make him roughly nineteen in 1984, probably a tad too young for the way The Tomb presents him. Wilson notes that Legacies and subsequent Repairman Jack novels will serve as interquels between The Tomb and Nightworld.
  • In Harry Dickson's Adventures, the titular hero and his young sidekick have lived over 100 adventures, covering, it seems, the late Twenties and the Thirties. However, the hero is always described as being in his late forties, and his assistant as being a young, hot-headed, immature young man.
  • Sexton Blake's adventures ran from the 1890's to the 1970's. They feature the usual signs of the sliding timescale, particularly due to the presence of Tinker, Blake's younger sidekick.
  • Possibly averted to a degree by Nick Carter, which ran from 1886 to 1990, as the Nick Carter of 1964 to 1990 referred to himself as Nick Carter III, suggesting him as the grandson of the 1880's Nick Carter.
  • Most of the "pulp heroes" such as the Shadow, the Spider, Doc Savage, etc. did not run into this, as few of them lasted in the 1950's (though the Black Bat and the Phantom [Curtis Van Loan] did, and the Black Bat returned for 700 adventures in Germany). However, in the 1960's, Walter Gibson wrote The Return of the Shadow, and Dennis Lynds continued from there with stories of the Shadow set in contemporary times.
  • John Putnam Thatcher, protagonist of Emma Lathen's mystery novels, spends the entire series (from 1961 to 1997) "a youthful 60". Slightly averted with recurring character Kenneth Nicholls—while he doesn't appear to age and remains a junior trust officer, he goes from single to married with two kids.
  • The Alex Rider books supposedly take place over the course of a year (if that), but technology has kept pace with reality. Alex's gadgets are the most obvious example - in early books, they were hidden in Game Boys or a copy of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but they've since moved on to iPods.
    • Anthony Horowitz is fond of this; the first Diamond Brothers book came out in the eighties, while a later book features the London Eye and is stated to be set in 2004.
  • Madeleine L'Engle appears to have scrambled her own timeline in her "Chronos" books. The original edition of Meet the Austins (1960) was five chapters long: the sixth chapter, "The Anti-Muffins", was removed at her publisher's request for length. The action in Meet the Austins is not specifically dated, but its direct sequel, The Moon by Night (1963), is very definitely set in 1959: Vicky goes to see West Side Story, her father mentions having met Princess Grace "back when she was plain Grace Kelly", and the family are in the Hebgen Lake earthquake. "The Anti-Muffins" was published separately in 1980, and has been included in the text of all printings of Meet the Austins since 1997: it includes a mention of the Kenny Rogers song 1978 "The Gambler". (Not to mention the hobbyist-spacesuit reference buried at the beginning of Meet the Austins, which sounds like a nod to Have Spacesuit, Will Travel. L'Engle justified this in a letter by noting that she was more interested in kairos, the "appropriate time," than in chronos, rigorous clock time.)
  • The books in the Mrs. Murphy Mysteries series by Rita Mae Brown follow the seasons.
  • Patrick O'Brien did this for the Aubrey-Maturin series: around book nine or so, he encountered the problem of running out of Napoleonic War years. To get around it he had to fudge an "1812a or 1812b" to allow for the long sea voyages. Since he's pretty meticulous about Doing The Research, he admits this fact in the forewords of the books affected.
  • Averted in Ephraim Kishon's satirical short stories. We see Kishon's kids age in Real Time, from toddlers to teenagers.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Inverted in Heroes. The first four seasons have taken place over about a year in-universe, but Product Placement marches ever on so characters have lots of gadgets and cars that weren't out in late 2007 (Although they managed to almost avoid it with a reference to Guitar Hero 3 instead of 5, although they were still off by about a month). More explicitly, the fourth season/fifth volume says season one happened three years ago even though all the time that's passed up would be about 11 months since the beginning of the series.
  • Greek, when it's all said and done, will cover the time between Rusty's enrollment at college to his sister Casey's graduation in about 3 1/2 years (the span is actually about 2 years, as Rusty enrolled at the start of Casey's junior year.) It helps that It's Always Spring in the Ohio of the Greek world...
  • iCarly averted this in the first and second seasons, with them clearly moving up a grade, as well as the cast clearly entering puberty and growing up. They also explained how their school was a combined Middle and High school as they moved to a grade, that in almost all US education systems, means moving from a Junior or Middle school to a new High School.
    • After season 2 however, it gets hazy. It's likely they are now in grade 10, but it's possible they could still be in grade 9, or have moved ahead to grade 11.
  • In M*A*S*H, which ran from 1972 to 1983, the series last longer than the actual war, which started 25 June 1950 and was paused on 27 July 1953. Also, in the series, if one uses the few references to the actual war, the first three seasons must take place over a few months, although Hawkeye mentions several times they've been there for years (1-2). This is using the involvement of the Chinese in the war starting on 2 October 1950, which started in the fourth season, and Hawkeye's statement that he lived with Trapper for "over a year" at the beginning of season four when Trapper left. There are many other time issues, such as the Battle of Pusan Perimeter, where Hawkeye and BJ are surprised to hear a replacement surgeon's experience was in that battle and they say they heard "horror stories" about it, when in reality, that battle took place August–September 1950. Also, the fact that the MASH rarely moves, and seems to be located quite close to the 38th, we can only conclude that MASH 4077 is in a time displacement bubble, immune from outside influence. Using this, we can conclude that the MASH 4077 only existed for a few days, as it must have been after the Battle of Pusan which ended in September 1950, and it went through three seasons before the involvement of the Chinese, which started in the beginning of October 1950.


Newspaper Comics[edit | hide]

  • Characters from Calvin and Hobbes never age, although years are quoted, and Calvin frequently compares his summer vacations and Christmases to prior ones. In one late strip, Calvin tells his perpetual classmate Susie that her treatment of schoolwork as "fun" is one of the "ten signs of hopeless dweebism", to which she replies "I bet another is moving to the next grade each year."
  • Garfield has a strange zig-zagging of this. Garfield's 'birthday' is celebrated every year and he constantly complains about getting old....but none of the characters ever age physically. Also, Garfield is stated to be as old as the strip itself, even though he's already an adult cat in his first appearance.
  • This happens in pretty much every newspaper strip, including most of the serious, "soap opera" ones, so listing exceptions is probably a better idea.
  • The storyline of For Better or For Worse ran in real time from its inception to 2008. Then it rebooted to the early days, using a combination of reruns, modified reruns, and new strips drawn to look like the old ones. Word on the street is that this was the syndicate's idea.
  • Gasoline Alley, one of the oldest strips still in existence, also operates in real time (though temporarily halted and then restarted); old characters die off eventually, including the family dog and many of the original characters from the Alley. Walt Wallet is still hanging on, though, and the fact that he is now technically over 120 means that things are getting fudged.
  • Baby Blues has a slowly sliding timeline: Zoe started out as an infant and grew into a toddler as the need for new material arose. Since then, she has been given siblings as necessary to keep the strip's title accurate. Zoe is around 10 years old now (born in the January 7, 1990 strip), Hammie is around 7-8 (born in the April 29, 1995 strip), and Wren is 1 year old (born in the October 26, 2002 strip).
    • Wanda's pregnancies have both taken place in real time, however, without any noticeable aging from the other siblings occurring in the meantime.
    • Kirkman and Scott state that they age around a "Three to one Ratio".
      • It was two to one during Zoe's infancy; apparently having to siblings means simply a lot more storylines to deal with. They've also stated on record that "your children are always your babies" and the title has nothing to do with Wren's slow development.
  • First played straight and then averted with Doonesbury. From 1970 to 1983 the characters were always college students. Then the creator took a hiatus, improved his drawing style, and produced a play in which the characters finally graduate. Since then they have grown up in real time, and the original characters are now all middle aged. Oddly, this doesn't apply to Duke, who appeared to be in his forties when introduced over thirty years ago and still does.
    • According to the Word of God, Uncle Duke isn't a normal person. His age was unknown when he was introduced and remains so to this day.
  • JumpStart follows a similar formula.
  • Luann & company have been in high school since 1985, approximately twenty-four years.
    • Brad has since graduated high school and become a fireman, and Luann is now in high school, but this seems to be a case of a sudden one-time jump in the timeline about 10 years ago, combined with updated looks for the characters, which apparently pushed the non-adults forward about 4 years, but since then they've stopped aging again.
  • Many of the characters in Peanuts aged somewhat since their introduction. Schroeder and Lucy started out as toddlers, then grew to Charlie Brown's age; Lucy's "baby brother" Linus grew to one or two grades below Charlie Brown (and has been seen in the same classroom as him on occasion). Sally also started as a baby and later caught up to Linus. Rerun also was born during the strip's run and ended up as a toddler. Charlie Brown himself also aged somewhat over the course of the strip; he stated that he was four in an 1950 strip, six in an 1957 one, and eight and a half in an 1979 one.
  • Funky Winkerbean started off this way. The comic began in 1972 and the characters remained in high school for the first 20 years of the comic's existence. Then, in 1992, it was established that the characters had graduated high school in 1988, and the comic picked up in real time from just after their college days. In October 2007, there was another Time Skip, and the comic is now presumably taking place about 9 years into the future (The Other Wiki says that the original main characters were to be 46 years old after the time skip, and based on graduating in 1988, they probably would've been born during the '69-'70 school year and should therefore have only been 37 just before the time skip.) So far, it's been impossible to tell the difference between the two eras. (It's not clear whether the current setting is circa 2020, or the pre-Time Skip era has been retconned back 10 years, keeping the strip in the present day.)
  • Long-running Scottish comics The Broons and Oor Wullie both make heavy use of this, having kept all characters at identical ages since they were first published in the 1930s. While the setting progressed around the characters for the first few decades, the comics seem to have settled into a sort of temporal limbo that darts back and forth between the 1950s and the present day at will, shifting from a "present day" setting to a nostalgic yet nonspecific "good old days" one.
  • Dykes to Watch Out For is another exception: the story is set in the present day with constant references to topical events, and characters, both adults and children, have aged at pretty much chronologically accurate rates. The few exceptions, for a long time, included Mo's cats, who'd survived the strip's entire 20-plus year run; however, in the last year or two of the strip's run, they were shown increasingly frail and one of them finally died.
  • Dick Tracy's strip acknowledges his wartime activities against spies such as Pruneface without dealing with the question of why Tracy still works as a policeman decades later. For example, Max Allan Collins wrote a storyline (later collected by Ken Pierce books as Tracy's Wartime Memories) to a hitherto untold story where Tracy battled Flattop, Shaky and Mr. and Mrs. Pruneface during World War II. Tracy appears in the modern era looking the same, while characters who appeared in the flashback story having aged decades. (Flattop stayed dead, as did Mrs. Pruneface, but Pruneface underwent revival from his hypothermic death due to the efforts of a sympathizer to the Third Reich.) Some of Tracy's children have visibly grown. In July 2009 he visited his daughter Bonnie Braids. Sparkle Plenty has also grown into adulthood.
  • The characters in Heart of the City don't age, but their pop-culture references remain current. In 1998, Heart was an elementary-age girl swooning over Leonardo DiCaprio; by 2008, Heart was an elementary-age girl swooning over The Jonas Brothers. Also worth a mention is the fact that Heart and Dean have a new school teacher every year despite not getting older.
  • Little Nemo in Slumberland would actually Lampshade this from time to time. It was a once a week strip, and a lot of times when a plot was taking too long a character would complain about it seeming to take weeks.
  • Heavily lampshaded in long-running British strip The Perishers, where one of the titular kids noticed that they never seemed to get any older from year to year and concluded that "something funny's going on!"
  • Recently, Big Nate had this bit of Lampshade Hanging:

Nate's Gram: Nate, we're really looking forward to Grandparents Day at your school!
Nate: Yeah, but why? I mean, when I'm eighty, I'm not going to want to hang out at a middle school!
Nate's Gramps: Son, from what I hear, when you're eighty, you might still be in middle school!
Nate's Gram: Oh, Vern! Honestly!

  • Beetle Bailey: Current events form a vaguely acknowledged background for what's going on (with the exception that the strip is always about peacetime army even if there is a war going on), but if anyone really ages (which has happened to about two characters, Ms. Blip and General Halftrack), it's more of a Retcon reimagining their character concepts than anything else.


Radio[edit | hide]

  • The writers of Adventures in Odyssey have openly admitted that the passage of time in Odyssey doesn't really make sense. The best known-example is how Connie was sixteen for an extraordinarily long time, which they didn't hesitate to poke fun at, although she gradually made it to twenty-ish. Meanwhile, Whit, Eugene, and assorted kids have all aged at different rates.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Specifically averted in the Spanish role-playing game Superhéroes,Inc/ Rules are provided so that experimented super-PC's lose points everywhere (probably to avoid Godmodding), so that he should consider retirement and replacement.
  • Furthermore, depending on your group and how your GM handles time, it can lead to some problems when the characters seemed to have gone from low-level n00bs to walking gods without aging a single bit.
  • Averted by Freedom City by giving many prominent NPCs a Generation Xerox or flat out immortality. The Atom family has aged noticeably between the third and second edition.


Toys[edit | hide]

  • Bionicle averts this by having a story that progresses much slower than real-world time. Although the storyline started about a decade ago, in-universe, only one year and a couple of months have passed, no matter how many wild adventures the characters have gone through or how many world-changing events have happened since then. Also, even the mostly organic characters don't seem to age, at least physically.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Lampshaded at the start of Evolution by the hero, who hasn't grown an inch since he was twelve, so the fact that he's no taller between the first and second games can be ignored.
  • In the Street Fighter II series, all the main fighters were given dates of birth and ages that coincided with the release of each installment. Cammy for example, whose date of birth was originally January 6, 1974, is said to be 19 in Super Street Fighter II, which was released in 1993. Once Street Fighter Alpha came, Capcom started using vaguer dates. Sakura's date of birth is given as March 15, 197X, placing the events of the Alpha series (where Sakura is a 15-year-old high school student) somewhere between as early as 1985 or as late as 1994. The Street Fighter III series had no dates of birth for any of the new characters and whenever the year that the series takes place is mentioned, it's always "199X" and never a specific year. By the time Street Fighter IV came out, the dates of the birth of the returning characters have the exact years of when they were born omitted and most of the characters are seen using relatively modern computers and cellphones from the late 2000s.
    • Definitely justified, as it allows Capcom to modernize the characters without actually aging them. Trying to explain why Sakura is still a gawky, gangly, uncoordinated klutz with no muscle definition whatsoever after over a decade of fighting experience or a 40-year-old Chun Li doing cute-cute squee jumps would be simply too much of a headache.
  • Subversion: the Sega CD version of the original Final Fight, Final Fight CD, changed the game's setting from 1989 to 1992. However, instead of changing the characters' birthdates to match their ages in the original arcade version, they simply aged the characters accordingly by three years (Cody's age was changed from 22 to 25; Haggar's was changed from 46 to 49; and Guy's was changed from 24 to 27).
    • In the Japanese version of Final Fight 2, Haggar's age is 50, four years older than he was in the first game. For some reason, the American version changed it back to his original age of 46.
  • All the characters in The King of Fighters series have remained the same age since KOF '95, even though each game is supposedly set a year after the previous one. Oddly enough, the only other game where the characters were allowed to be aged by one year was in KOF EX, an Alternate Continuity Gaiden Game set after the events of KOF '97. In contrast, the Fatal Fury series from which KOF originally spun off from have maintained a real time continuity throughout the entire series up until Garou: Mark of the Wolves, the final installment so far.
    • Art of Fighting was a prequel to the Fatal Fury series, taking place in the 1970s with a younger Geese eventually showing up in the sequels. An adult Ryo was even a hidden boss in one of the Fatal Fury games. In King of Fighters, the AOF cast has essentially been transported a few decades into the future with no change to age or personality.
  • The original Rolling Thunder was a period piece set during the late 1960s. For some reason, the two sequels moved the setting to the 1990s, even though the Albatross and Leila from those games are implied to be the same characters from the original.
  • An interesting example is found in The Idolmaster where each of the characters have a birthday. However over the course of a year they never celebrate their birthday or age. In the end yup, Iori is still 14, Haruka is still 16, and the twins are still 12 even if you pass their birthdays.
    • This is almost averted in the second game which claims a year has passed from the first but this just raises further questions. Most characters have grown taller, (or for some weird reason in the case of Hibiki SHORTER) several have changed their hairstyle, and all have aged a year but nobody has improved much as an idol. Also Miki is unawakened and Ritsuko has quit being an idol. The official ending of the first game could be guessed at being the Futami Twins who only separate to debut solo in their best ending but neither is an A rank idol. It seems a year passed but the first game never happened ... even though it did; and now I'm getting a headache.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog has been fighting Robotnik since he was 10. For the last 20 years. He is now 15. Well, he had a birthday party in Sonic Generations, anyway...
    • He's actually had a couple of birthdays in the Archie comics but since they're always rebooting the universe he never ages beyond 16.
    • It's made even more painfully obvious by the aging of characters like Amy and Tails.


Web Animation[edit | hide]

  • Retarded Animal Babies hangs a lampshade on this in episode 21: Cat mentions that they're only six months old but can somehow go to two annual 4-H fairs in a row. (Assuming the previous one was the one briefly shown in episode 2, several years have also passed in Real Life time in that period.)


Webcomics[edit | hide]

  • Avalon averted this for the most part, with the majority of it taking placing in real time and with timeskips after long storylines. It was played straight near the end of its run when the ugliness that is Schedule Slip reared its head and caused week to month long delays.
  • This is parodied in Supermegatopia, in which Mongoose Lad really was Ferret Man's boy sidekick for decades, due to a mutation that caused him to age far slower than normal.
  • Achewood characters age normally... except for Phillipe. Phillipe is five. He will always be five.
  • From PvP:

Cole: It could be worse...Bart Simpson has been ten years old since 1989.
Francis: This blows.
Cole: You'll appreciate it when you're in your thirties.
Francis: I'm never going to be in my thirties!

    • Two years after that strip, Francis and Marcie lose their virginities to one another and immediately age three years.
    • This is done inconsistently, though, as this strip implies that less than four years have passed since the comic's launch, modern pop-culture references notwithstanding.
    • On the other hand, Cole's daughter (Born 1999/2000) dropped out of the strip for a decade and is now in college.
  • Averted in Kevin and Kell (and also in Bill Holbrook's other strips). Coney was born and is growing up, Lindesfarne graduated and went to university, and even Rudy has grown up and matured. A little.
    • And yet, initially it was played straight as Coney whose 'now' growing up, was born around when the webcomic began in 95 and didn't progress to being a toddler until a full 10 years later with time still being acknowledged as progressing.
    • The tags under the strips note strips in which Rudy's age is mentioned. He's aged six years between 1996 and 2012. Interestingly, Coney looks about six in the latter strip as well.
  • Done in Alice, in which the characters were in 7th grade until around 2005, and have gone to several Halloween parties, fall dances, and Thanksgiving Weekends. The later strips show them progressing to Grade Eight.
  • In this Shortpacked, Ethan considers some of the effects of Comic Book Time with respect to Batman.
  • While Sluggy Freelance does note holidays (And the strip's anniversary) and some events (Such as Zoe going through and eventually graduating from college) that indicate the passage of time, nobody noticeably ages. By rights, Riff and Torg should be close to 40 by now if they aged in real time.


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Legion of Net Heroes, due to being a superhero parody, has played with this many times. Probably the most explicit use of the trope is the Slide-Rule of Time, which can create and manipulate sliding timescales with elementary-level arithmetic.
  • In the Whateley Universe, time clearly moves more slowly than in the real world; Team Kimba arrives at the academy in early September 2006 (still in the future at the time the first stories were written), and by real-life early 2009 the storyline has advanced to begin to cover events in January/February 2007. On the other hand, the stories do provide plenty of concrete dates and times to help keep everything on track.
  • Averted so far in the LessThanThree-Verse, with actual dates matching those in the real world, and the core characters, The Brat Pack, less than a year from graduating high school.
  • Behind the Veil, being a Play By Post Game, runs by this trope out of necessity; the events of a eventful hour could take weeks to write out. Using some of the oldest characters on the site as a framing device, their first meeting which was written towards the end of 2007 happened roughly a year prior to current events.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • The Simpsons is an example of an animated TV show lasting long enough for this trope to become apparent. The births of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie, the year of Homer and Marge's first meeting, wedding, etc., all appear to shift as the seasons roll by so that the characters can constantly remain the same age (more or less). This usually manifests itself in the flashback episodes. Grandpa, however will always be a WWII veteran, even if this makes him unrealistically old. One Egregious example is Apu and Manjula's octuplets, who they decide to have after seeing Maggie, and were conceived, born, and are now toddlers that have shown to be able to stand and talk, while Maggie is still the same crawling, teething, silent infant.
    • Let's not forget how many episodes have Bart and Lisa beginning or finishing the school year, but they (along with their classmates) are always stuck in the same grade.
    • Frequently lampshaded in the commentaries by Al Jean, who loves to bring up the fact that one of the show's current writers was born after 1980, and is thus technically younger than Bart.
    • When, exactly, the backstory to the kids' birth takes place has never been treated very seriously (notably in two separate episodes Bart was 5 in 1990, but was concieved at the time of The Empire Strikes Back in 1980, making him 5 in 1986) and is always floating at "10, 8 and 1 year(s) ago". This is lampshaded in another episode where Homer remembers his childhood as "The fifties, or the sixties, or... maybe it was the early seventies."
      • This could be part of the reason Homer's mother was written out of the series. She left her family in The Sixties to escape the law but at this point, 39ish-year-old Homer would be too young for this to make any sense now.
    • The amount of Christmas episodes obviously suggests years passing, yet it never does. Doesn't anyone in Springfield realise Christmas only happens once a year? Two major events in the normally Negative Continuity show (Santa's Little Helper and Lisa turning Buddhist) happen over two Christmases, and on one occasion Homer counts up at least a dozen family Christmases which he had saved and/or ruined, even though he's only been married to Marge for about 10–11 years.
    • In the episode "Lisa's Wedding", Lisa sees into the far future her first love in the year... 2010!?
    • Lampshaded in a flashback episode set in The Nineties; Bart (who would have been born around 1998) says he's never heard of the 90s.
    • In the episode "All's Fair in Oven War", Marge decides to have the kitchen renovated which should be done in weeks, but TWO YEARS!! None of the characters aged during this episode.
    • Lampshaded in "The Last Temptation of Krust" Marge is taking Bart and Lisa shoe shopping for dress shoes. Lisa complains that they were two sizes too big and Marge says she'll grow into them. Lisa then asks 'When?' and Marge says 'Oh you're overdue for a growth spurt.'
    • Major League Baseball catcher/later manager Mike Scioscia made guest appearances in 1992 and 2010 and aged normally. Although the events of the 1992 episode were mentioned, his physical appearance was not lampshaded, despite a great opportunity to blame it on his tragic illness in the former episode.
    • The episode "Angry Dad The Movie" has a very strange time line, it is stated that Bart created Angry Dad in 1999 the original episode aired in 2002, later in the episode Bart claims he became a fan of animation after watching the early episodes of SpongeBob SquarePants as a toddler.
    • "Ned-Liest Catch" references Edna Krabappel's relationship with Aerosmith drummer Joey Kramer which took place in the 3rd season episode Flaming Moe's back in 1991 and he has aged in real time since then and no one comments on this.
    • Also in a "Behind The Scenes" episode, Lisa states in her "Tell All Book" that she has been given anti-aging hormones to keep her 8.
    • Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barrack Obama have all either appeared or been mentioned on the show and two of them held two terms.
    • In the first half-hour episode where the family gets Santa's Little Helper, Marge writes in a letter to her family that Maggie had taken her first steps, though she still fell down every so often. Maggie's been learning how to walk for more than twenty years.
  • The characters in South Park don't age much. Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny started out as 8-year-old boys in the third grade. In the 4th season, the boys move onto fourth grade and were 9-years old. By the season 15 episode "Crack Baby Atheletic Association", all the boys were 10. None of the other characters in the series have aged at all either with the exception of Ike who started out as a toddler who could barely speak coherently, as of season eleven he is a bit taller, wears different clothes and he can now speak in full sentences.
    • In the Facebook episode, "You have 0 Friends," first broadcast in spring of 2010, several of the boys' Facebook profiles were shown, listing their birth years as 2001—four years after the show started airing.
  • Arthur has featured the terms of an anthromorphic animal Bill Clinton and George Bush alike, yet Arthur and his friends are still in the third grade.
    • DW has also turned five and the baby Kate born and aged to around nine months, yet Arthur is still eight.
  • Lampshaded in Family Guy, twice:
    • During the first "comeback" season, Peter mentions that Bonnie has been pregnant for five years, and tells her to either have the baby or not. Stewie's age has been lampshaded a few times, notably when he says to Brian "But I'm only one!" and Brian replies "Still?"
      • Bonnie finally gave birth. Took almost ten years, but there you go. Quagmire even casually comments that "Can you believe she is already 18?"
    • On the other hand, one character, Bertram, has managed to be conceived, carried to term, born, and age enough to be allowed to play on the playground while Stewie remained one year old, all in one episode. Other episodes have also distinctly taken place over months of time with no change in Stewie's age. A good example of this was the episodes "The Perfect Castaway" in which there is a time lapse of a year, but Stewie (among practically all the cast) remaining the same.
    • Family Guy occasionally gives the main characters actual progression. There's the episode where Chris finally went to High School, an episode beginning with Meg's 17th birthday (she was 15 at the beginning of season 1, and aged to 16 in a later episode of the same season and aged to 18 by season 10), and another episode beginning with Lois' 41st birthday. However, it looks strange that Meg has aged somewhat normally while Chris only aged one year throughout the whole series.
    • Brian is always stated to be 7 or 8 years old in dog years and he is always mulling over about just how old he is getting, even though Brian never seems to get older at all.
    • While Chris and Meg have aged, the rest of the cast are pretty much frozen in their ages.
  • Scooby Doo has celebrated his fortieth birthday. He's still alive and the members of Mystery Inc. are still teenagers. Also, their ages are always the same, despite the various series having had more than one Halloween Episode. That Halloween must have been a really busy day for the gang.
    • The continuity that begins with Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island follows on from the original series, but has the teenagers growing into adults... and Scooby not aging at all, despite being a Great Dane—which breed has an average lifespan of 8–10 years. Similarly, A Pup Named Scooby-Doo has him as a puppy when the others were in elementary school, which is the same problem from the other end.
    • This was lampshaded in Scooby Doo: Pirates Ahoy! The Gang goes on a cruise to celebrate Fred's birthday. At the wharf, they ask him how old he is. His response? "37. *beat* 38... 39... Here it is. Dock 40."
  • King of the Hill has an interesting timeline. At the beginning of the series, Bobby was 11 years old and had a birthday. He turned 13 in the fifth season and hasn't really aged since. In the fourth season, Luanne stated that she was 19½, then in season 9, she celebrated her 21st birthday. John Redcorn was said to be 36 in a season three episode and 40 in a season 10 episode.
  • Rugrats. Just from the sheer number of episodes, some of which specifically take place over the course of multiple days, one would think that at least a year would've passed, but it doesn't. (Add in the fact that they have holiday specials almost all the way around the calendar, including multiple Valentine's Day episodes, and this gets a bit ridiculous. Then there was that not real-time pregnancy that nevertheless tried to pass itself off as the right amount of time (it was explicitly autumn when the pregnancy was discovered in a season finale, and summer in The Movie in which Dil is born (released before the start of the following season), so nine months is to be assumed), yet no time actually passes for anyone else. Lampshaded by the anniversary special called "Decade in Diapers". Then they make up for it by applying all ten years of accumulated time at once.
  • The main characters of the TV show Home Movies have stayed eight-years-old throughout its four year run.
  • Liberty's Kids- the show covered 1773 right up to about 1789, and the main characters never aged - although all the adults around them did! By the end of the series Sarah was still 15, James 14, and Henri only 8 - after about 16 years!
    • Leading to weird scenes where they recall events that happened—that they participated in—eight, ten, twelve years ago, and marvel at how much things have changed in the meantime...
  • On American Dad Steve will always be 14 and Hayley always 18 or 19, but the episode "Tears of a Clooney" alone takes place over the course of an entire year, with little room left in its chain of events for other events to occur. Though, since each of the Christmas episodes has involved time/reality manipulation of some sort, the Timey-Wimey Ball may be playing a role.
  • ReBoot subverts and justifies this. Everyone in Mainframe doesn't age much, but when Enzo becomes a game sprite, he comes back an older, grizzled self, along with his girlfriend, both having started as children. Then when they make it back to Mainframe, Enzo is visibly as old as his sister Dot who had always been much older than him. However, the faster rate of time in the Games is supposed to justify this.
    • It is worth noting that everyone is a program of some form and, as Enzo and AndrAIa show, age depends upon how much processing power is dedicated to them (games being CPU-intensive).
  • The Fairly OddParents: Timmy Turner has remained ten for over ten years. It was assumed that he had turned eleven in one episode, "Birthday Bashed", but a later episode, "Manic-Mom Day", established that he's still ten years old.
    • He even celebrates two birthdays over the course of the show, and did celebrate the fact that he'd held onto Cosmo and Wanda for a year in the third season. The Comic Book Time part was confirmed early on, because Timmy traveled back thirty years in two different episodes: to 1970 in the first season, but to 1972 in the third.
    • This is given quite a twist in the "Timmy's Secret Wish" special: Timmy once wished that everyone in the world would stop aging (and that Cosmo, the fairy granting the wish, would forget granting it afterwards). It turns out, by the time this is discovered, it's been 50 years! And apparently nobody in the entire world noticed.
  • Strongly Subverted in Young Justice, where there's a timestamp at least Once Per Episode establishing the date and time when events begin. Word of God says that the Universe Bible has a timeline that's 149 pages long, giving all the major events in the show's history. The show begins on July 4, 2010 (which was originally Twenty Minutes Into the Future) and the first season finale will apparently be based on New Year's.
    • T.O. Morrow built robots to destroy the Justice Society of America during World War II, and at the time of the show is still building them to destroy the Justice League. Of course, the real T.O. Morrow is an old man in a coma who built a robotic duplicate of himself to continue his work.
  • This trope is actually averted in Recess. While the show began in 1997 and ended in 2001 (and two Direct to Video films in 2003), it's been established that the show only takes place over the course of September 1997 to June 1998. This is firmly established in Recess: School's Out, where the villian talks about how he was holding revenge for thirty years since 1968 (the movie was released in February 2001, but takes place in June 1998)