Rip's background story has gone through different versions. From his first appearances he was a contemporarily born man and scientific expert that developed a way to travel through time. His depiction has changed over time - he has been now depicted as a traveler from the future who spends a fair amount of time in the present day, but now in addition to that acts as to ensure the continuity of the timeline. The character has reappeared in the new 52 though it is not evident as of yet exactly what changes have been made to his background, if any.
In the 1950s in the late golden age DC created the series Showcase to try out new characters to see if they would be popular enough to have any staying power. Some that passed through this series became almost instantly famous (such as Barry Allen) while other maintained a following but didn’t manage to impress fans as much. Rip was one of the latter kind of characters, after his appearance in Showcase #20.
Rip has changed in his character portrayal based on his background. In his earliest appearances his portrayal was more in line with the serial type of adventure he was involved in, more adventure based than a true superhero. In the 1980s the character became one much more focused on the future implications of present events which lead to a worldwide apocalyptic event and it was his obsessive goal to stop it. More recently as someone with ancestral origins from the 25th century his portrayal is different still, more of a protective overseer.
Major Story Arcs
His earliest stories in the golden age and silver age were generally self-contained stories where he would visit different eras and deal with threats associated with them (for instance in his first appearance he must battle dinosaurs.) Rip’s early stories contained a constant adversary, though not necessarily villain, in the role of John Charles James. He had been competing with Rip and his colleague Jeffrey Smith for a research grant. As soon as Rip found a power element that would not melt, he was able to complete production of his time sphere and he would receive the grant. Grant traveled to the past in order to change it, but he inadvertently ensured their own success because he provided them the element they needed in the first place.
Rip and Jeffrey were soon joined in their efforts by recently graduated history major Bonnie Baxter and her brother Corky. As with many other characters his portrayal depended greatly on when he was in his own series versus as a guest in other series. However, when not it was not uncommon to see him in cameo appearances as the expert on time travel.
In his silver age adventures he formed an unlikely friendship and alliance with Cleopatra. After aiding the Egyptian Queen in her dealings with Julius Caesar she regarded him as a friend and she came to his aid on other occasions when he scoured antiquity for aid. The team met a number of other historical figures from a wide range of historical eras, some as far back as ancient times, some as recent as the Second World War in Germany (at one point they met Adolf Hitler, who at the time of publication had not yet been dead for even twenty years.)
In a journey to the beginning of the universe the team unexpectedly found a temple, but upon beginning to investigate it were automatically sent back to their original time frame. Soon they joined Superman to journey to past to stop a plot by Vandal Savage. This story was later retold with a pyramid in place of the temple, but soon after Rip joined the Forgotten Heroes. This team stayed together until the Immortal Man was killed during Crisis on Infinite Earths.
After Crisis the character was somewhat redesigned. Although he was still a genius and master inventor, time travel was for a period in the DC universe only possible if a new method of travel was used each time. During his travels though he discovered that at one point the world had suffered a cataclysm and he was obsessed with stopping it. This became exceptionally frustrating for him as he was stuck in the present trying to discover another method of time travel.
During the course of the story arc 52, Rip works with Booster to ensure the stability of the timeline and to stop it being corrupted by Mister Mind. It is later revealed that Rip is actually Booster’s son but he cannot reveal this at risk of upsetting the timeline. As well Rip keeps the place and time of his birth a secret so that his enemies cannot remove him from existence. Rip Hunter was also seen in the Booster Gold series from 2007-2011. He was giving Booster Gold plans to stop things that happened and some he can not fix at all from happing like Barbara Gordon being shot and to stop the event that happened OMC Project and the death of his friend Blue Beetle II and Maxwell Lord evil plans. In a Booster Gold series it was reveled that Rip Hunter is Booster Gold son after saving Goldstar from a past event in the DC timeline. Booster Gold douse not know that at all and Rip Hunter will not tell him. Rip Hunter knew because they have gold hair. Rip is seen a short time later as a member of the new Time masters which include Superman, Booster and Hal Jordan who are tracing the steps of Batman through the timeline after his disappearance during Final Crisis. After eventually finding Batman, he and Booster returned to his lab where they found Goldstar waiting. It was soon revealed that there were new clues on his blackboard which led the path to other future events which would need to be stopped.
The New 52
In the new 52 Booster is installed as the leader of Justice League International in a move that many considered to be purely for image as they expected the team to go nowhere. Booster refused to accept that his team was only for publicity and fought hard to make them relevant, but he suffered a number of missteps along the way, including the death of Rocket Red and severe injuries to Ice and Fire. As he struggles to make the team functional, he is betrayed from within as O.M.A.C. tries to both destroy the team (by attacking and nearly killing August General in Iron) and destroy their information databases. Booster is able to stop him but not at the expense of the dissolution of the team as Guy Gardner had previously quit and as new recruit Blue Beetle is drawn away by his suit. At this point a different Booster Gold appears and informs Booster that something is wrong. He informs him that the entire Justice League International is out of place, that members Godiva and Olympian were meant to form a new Global Guardians. Instead the other Booster shows the contemporary Booster an image of Superman and Wonder Woman kissing as an example of what is wrong with the time stream (the kiss occurred in Justice League #12). Booster wonders aloud if he is meant to have stopped this but he disappears (presumably with the other Booster) before there is an answer. While they were conversing the other Booster informs the contemporary one that Rip is monitoring everything and that he will remove this conversation from the timeline so that it does not pollute the time stream and potentially cause both Boosters from existing. It is not evident if this was successful or not as both did in fact disappear. Rip Hunter name was mentioned in the last issue of Justice League International Annual because there will be big plans to be happing and ready to come.
In the new Vertigo series called Time Warp we see Rip Hunter Time Sphere taken back in time to Germany during World War II by a young adult who wanted to see time and space and change things around. Rip Hunter will play part in this series and helping a new team in this comic book remake of the series.
Powers and Abilities
Rip is a regular human though he is skilled in firearms and hand-to-hand combat. He also has in his possession a number of high tech items which he uses for his travels through time. In the early appearances of the Time Sphere it contained a device called the Encyclo-Matic which was a computer with extensive data files on the past. There were also devices to provide speech translation for all the people from the different time eras that they encountered. Above all it is Rip’s mind which is his greatest asset and he is one of the greatest inventors in the DC universe. For instance he has been shown to have an advanced enough understanding of science and technology that he could modify Goldstar's costume to make it protect her against the effects of time travel. In addition his knowledge of temporal physics is rarely matched in the multiverse.
Rip appears in season 3 of Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
He is mentioned by Eobard Thawne/Harrison Wells in the season one finale of The Flash. He is due to appear in the spin off show, Legends of Tomorrow, played by Arthur Darvill. In the trailer he says he is from East London in the future. He also states that he is a member of the Time Masters. He will be part of a team of heroes and villains trying to stop Vandal Savage.