Working with the James Bond novels last year got me thinking about compiling another chronology for a great period adventurer of the last century — Dr. Henry Walton Jones, Jr., better known by the name he swiped from the family dog, “Indiana.” If you piece together his entire life story, as the Holy Bee has just done, you know that he’s not just Indiana Jones, professor of archaeology, expert on the occult, and obtainer of rare antiquities. He’s also Indiana Jones, Titanic survivor, World War I veteran, boy-toy of the notorious spy Mata Hari, romantic rival of Hemingway, roommate of Eliot Ness, amateur jazz musician (adept at piano and soprano sax), widower at 26, highly-decorated Army Reserve Colonel, and much, much more.
As we know, the movies, and most other Indy media, generally start off with a year written right on the opening scene, or first page. That has pretty much taken all of the detective work out of assembling a base-level chronology…unlike the James Bond stories, which may only hint at a year once every few books.
There’s also the “Indycron.” The Indycron is a private database maintained and curated by Lucasfilm to ensure story and character continuity across media platforms. Every novel author, every game designer, every comic book writer has to check with the Indycron to prevent contradictions and repetition.
The Indycron is a relatively recent development, however, which makes creating a logical timeline incorporating the massive amount earlier material a bit tricky — and at times, impossible. (Sorry, Marvel Comics.) Sloppy mistakes by the actual creators don’t help, either, particularly the novel authors. (All of them are guilty of facepalm-worthy screw-ups, but I’m especially looking at you, Martin Caidin. Your description of Indy as a “professor of Medieval Literature and Studies at Princeton” — when that was his father’s position — is unforgivable. Did you forget Indy is an archaeologist? I know you’re interested in technical details about vintage aircraft far more than characters or story, but at least give the background packet provided for you by Lucasfilm more than a cursory glance, you weirdo.) These errors, inconsequential as they may be within an individual story, collectively made my task very difficult.
Plus, I’m sorry to say, the Indycron actually does a pretty lousy job even with recent material. Indy meets Belloq under at least three different circumstances, and the Lost Journal of Indiana Jones and Indiana Jones: The Ultimate Guide, both Lucasfilm-approved books released in 2008, contradict each other all over the place.
Also unlike the James Bond novels, you may have noticed that we’re working with more than one medium, which makes for a lot more material to absorb. All of the original Ian Fleming and Fleming continuation novels, along with the “Young Bond” series, numbered around 27 books, all of them pretty slim. It was the work of 4 or 5 months to get through them, and that was at a pretty lackadaisical pace. Yes, watching a movie takes less time than reading a novel, but still — the sheer bulk of the Indiana Jones universe is daunting: four feature films, 22 ninety-minute installments of Young Indiana Jones on DVD, 13 novels, 17 young adult novels, 36 comic books (according to the Holy Bee canon), and various other bits and pieces floating around out there. Even though we’re given a year for almost every story, it can still be a challenge to make it all fit together coherently across all media. It’s enough to make armchair chronologists tear out their hair…but also gives them their rush. I know I’m not alone in this particular pastime. Other websites have attempted it as well.
So…if the years are already given for pretty much every story at the suggestion of Lucasfilm, and James Luceno’s richly-illustrated coffee table book Indiana Jones: The Ultimate Guide and multiple websites have already assembled chronologies, then what’s the point of doing this?
- It’s my blog and I can do as I damn well please. I burned through my last summer break doing little but computer gaming, and I decided I wanted to spend this summer doing something that engaged me a bit more creatively.
- The existing chronologies suck. They’re sloppy and perfunctory, in some cases simply using the blurb on the back of the book cover, or even just giving a year and a title.
- In a lot of places, they’re just plain incorrect, at least according to what I observed right there on the screen or page in the primary sources. I have broken from the established orthodoxy a number of times (see #5) based on first-hand observation.
- They often attempt to include dubious works like the German-language novels and the “Find Your Fate” series, which make for many contradictions (beyond those which already exist) and cram the timeline full beyond all reason.
- This is probably my most noticeable deviation from other chronologies and may make some cry heresy: The established timelines state that Indy taught at a “Marshall College,” but most of the onscreen and on-page evidence points to Indy teaching at “Barnett College.” Therefore, there is no Marshall College in my timeline. This will be is further explained (and defended) below.
- Other timelines stick to the original dates provided by the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles TV series, as opposed to the re-edited versions on the slightly re-titled Adventures of Young Indiana Jones DVD sets that remove the dates and shuffle quite a few things around, making the original dates incorrect in several places if narrative continuity is to be maintained. I used the original dates when possible, but the DVD sets are the final say in how Lucasfilm wants the material presented, so when contradictions arose, I went with how the story is assembled on those sets.
- And maybe most importantly — most of the other timelines stick strictly to the plots, and don’t include all the other “life and times” nuggets that turn up as passing mentions or references. That’s where a lot of the fun stuff is. When Indy casually mentions visiting Haiti at some point, or Marcus Brody remembers being held at gunpoint with Indy in Algiers, I have to find a place where those visits logically fit.
Anyway, I gave all the other timelines a quick look to ensure that they could be improved upon, and then did my best to forget them. All dates here are informed by or inferred from my own viewing and reading, beginning on June 15, 2017 when I cracked opened the Raiders of the Lost Ark novelization, through August 27, when I turned the final page on the young-adult book Young Indiana Jones and the Eye of the Tiger.
I own the original films, and the Young Indiana Jones DVDs were easily Netflixed. It was just a matter of committing the time to sit and (re)watch them and take notes. None of the novels took a particularly long time to read (two or three afternoons, usually). Two exceptions to my DIY approach to creating this chronology: 1) I didn’t have the necessary platforms to play through the old video games, and 2) I had hoped, through the Amazon used-book marketplace and my fairly-extensive local municipal library system, to personally lay eyes on all the print material. I came very close, but unless I wanted to spend insane amounts of money on a handful of out-of-print Young Indy kids’ books, I did have to rely on outside summaries for that stuff. (Young Indiana Jones and the Face of the Dragon’s current lowest price on Amazon is about $52.) If I luck into any of it later at a reasonable price, I will update if needed. (And of course, I will update in three years when the fifth Indiana Jones movie is scheduled to be released.)
The films and Young Indy DVDs are the highest level of canon, although the films themselves do have a few real-world chronological errors. (For example, in Raiders, Indy flies over a completed Golden Gate Bridge in 1936. The bridge was not completed until the following year, and the seaplane he boarded is from the 40s.) Lucas and Spielberg were not (yet) used to eagle-eyed nerds examining every frame of their films.
Next in the canon is the print material. I have to say, after reading everything, the Dark Horse comic book authors seemed to take the most care with the IJ timeline. The novelists, as previously noted, made a lot more errors. So I tended to give more canonical weight to the comics. And I have to admit the Young Indiana Jones books — intended for kids — are, from a pure story perspective, usually much more entertaining than the adult novels, which were kind of a humorless slog, and struggled to capture the character. Try as I might, I frequently failed to picture Harrison Ford’s cinematic Indy doing and saying some of the things in those novels.
At the bottom level is the “ephemera” (video games, Disney rides, the glut of random non-narrative books put out in conjunction with the release of Crystal Skull in 2008, etc.)
Since a lot of my source material was borrowed and not owned, I took extensive notes on everything. I used logic to guide me, as much as such a thing is possible in the world of Indiana Jones. He seems to run off from his teaching job whenever it suits him, so I tried to make his adventures coincide with breaks from a typical college schedule (summer vacation, etc.) but more often than not this proved impossible. If he did everything he was said to have done, I doubt he would have spent more than a few weeks during any given semester actually teaching his classes from 1925 to the end of World War II. But I’m not here to editorialize, just to chronicle, which is why when Crystal Skull time comes around, you’ll be reading no snarky comments about fridge-nuking or monkey armies.
I tried to take into account period-accurate travel times to and from the various locations For example, in Raiders, getting from the west coast of U.S. to Nepal is as simple for the audience as spending a moment following the red line on the map, but in reality it would have taken almost a full week, if not longer.
I will be as specific as possible. When actual dates are provided (“May 6, 1939”) I will of course go with those. The more precise a date, the more useful it is for extrapolation forwards and backwards. When something can be dated from the context of actual historical events (which happens most often in Young Indiana Jones), that will be utilized as well. Sometimes, Young Indiana Jones will present an historical impossibility. Young Indy cannot have witnessed both the signing of the Versailles treaty and Paul Robeson’s “New Idealism” speech at Rutgers University as he does in the episode. We’ll just have to live with it.
In most cases, I’ve found it best to go with a basic month/year format, or half-month/year (“Early June 1935”), or seasons (“Spring 1938”). If it’s a particularly vague reference (“Abner died two years ago”), I’ll just have a year. Sometimes I’ll make an educated guess.
I also tried to take account of the creator’s intent, if he has made it known. For example, the comic series Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Gods is meant to take place between Temple of Doom and Raiders. That’s never explicitly stated in the story, but author Rob Williams has mentioned in more than one interview that that’s when it took place. He wanted the story to explain the change in Indy’s character from the “fortune-and-glory” treasure hunter of Temple of Doom (set in 1935) to the more morally-centered protagonist of Raiders (1936).
My own personal “speculations” will appear in italics, projecting from or expanding on clues or asides in the stories.
SOURCES FOR THE HOLY BEE’S INDIANA JONES CHRONOLOGY:
The Original Films:
- Raiders of the Lost Ark
- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones DVD Sets:
Vol. 1: The Early Years
- My First Adventure
- Passion for Life
- Perils of Cupid
- Travels with Father
- Journey of Radiance
- Spring Break Adventure
- Love’s Sweet Song
Vol. 2: The War Years
- Trenches of Hell
- Demons of Deception
- Phantom Train of Doom
- Oganga: The Giver and Taker of Life
- Attack of the Hawkmen
- Adventures in the Secret Service
- Espionage Escapades
- Daredevils of the Desert
Vol. 3: The Years of Change
- Tales of Innocence
- Masks of Evil
- Treasure of the Peacock’s Eye
- The Winds of Change
- Mystery of the Blues
- Scandal of 1920
- Hollywood Follies
NOTE: These are the episodes as they currently exist in their only available form. The original TV episodes have been re-edited for three DVD box sets. Each “chapter” combines two 45-minute episodes from the television broadcasts on ABC, including material from four unaired episodes, four TV movies produced for the Family Channel a couple of years after the ABC series, and some new linking material. For these sets, the original chronology is scrambled to organize the chapters more “thematically.” The dates of the original TV episode titles (eg., “Paris, September 1908”) have been totally removed.
In the new re-edits, the Paris sequence of “Passion for Life” now has to be in 1909, or the whole thing collapses. Other examples of that sort of thing crop up with annoying frequency. The “Interactive Timeline” included as a DVD-ROM feature adds to the mess, but since it’s not part of the actual episodes it can be safely ignored. The DVD menu screens also sometimes display the wrong years, as if they ignored their own re-edits.
The Family Channel movies and new linking material are easy to spot, due to their lower production values, Corey Carrier as Indy being noticeably older, and the makeup department completely forgetting Lloyd Owen’s colored contact lenses, so we get a Professor Henry Jones, Sr. with piercing blue eyes instead of the proper Connery brown.
The original broadcasts presented the events out of chronological order. A 1917 episode one week might be followed by a 1909 episode the next. Several more episodes were planned and got as far as the story stage before the show was cancelled. A couple of these were referenced specifically in episodes that did air, giving them canonical status.
Flawed as they are, the DVDs are now the only way to see Young Indy.
- Indiana Jones and the Peril at Delphi — by Rob MacGregor
- Indiana Jones and the Dance of the Giants — by Rob MacGregor
- Indiana Jones and the Seven Veils — by Rob MacGregor
- Indiana Jones and the Genesis Deluge — by Rob MacGregor
- Indiana Jones and the Unicorn’s Legacy — by Rob MacGregor
- Indiana Jones and the Interior World — by Rob MacGregor
- Indiana Jones and the Sky Pirates — by Martin Caidin
- Indiana Jones and the White Witch — by Martin Caidin
- Indiana Jones and the Philosopher’s Stone — by Max McCoy
- Indiana Jones and the Dinosaur Eggs — by Max McCoy
- Indiana Jones and the Hollow Earth — by Max McCoy
- Indiana Jones and the Secret of the Sphinx — by Max McCoy
- Indiana Jones and the Army of the Dead — by Steve Perry (not that Steve Perry)
The Young Adult Novels:
- Young Indiana Jones and the Plantation Treasure — by William McCay
- Young Indiana Jones and the Tomb of Terror — by Les Martin
- Young Indiana Jones and the Circle of Death — by William McCay
- Young Indiana Jones and the Secret City* — by Les Martin
- Young Indiana Jones and the Princess of Peril — by Les Martin
- Young Indiana Jones and the Gypsy Revenge — by Les Martin
- Young Indiana Jones and the Ghostly Riders — by William McCay
- Young Indiana Jones and the Curse of the Ruby Cross — by William McCay
- Young Indiana Jones and the Titanic Adventure* — by Les Martin
- Young Indiana Jones and the Lost Gold of Durango* — by Megan & H.W. Stine
- Young Indiana Jones and the Face of the Dragon* — by William McKay
- Young Indiana Jones and the Journey to the Underworld — by Megan & H.W. Stine
- Young Indiana Jones and the Mountain of Fire — by William McCay
- Young Indiana Jones and the Pirates’ Loot — by J.N. Fox
- Young Indiana Jones and the Eye of the Tiger — by William McCay
- Indiana Jones and the Pyramid of the Sorcerer — Ryder Windham
- Indiana Jones and the Mystery of Mount Sinai — by J.W. Rinzler
- Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (#1-4)
- Indiana Jones: Thunder in the Orient (#1-6)
- Indiana Jones and the Arms of Gold (#1-4)
- Indiana Jones and the Golden Fleece (#1-2)
- Indiana Jones and the Shrine of the Sea Devil
- Indiana Jones and the Iron Phoenix (#1-4)
- Indiana Jones and the Spear of Destiny (#1-4)
- Indiana Jones and the Sargasso Pirates (#1-4)
- Indiana Jones and the Tomb of the Gods (#1-4)
- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Yearning (6-page giveaway comic, Comic Book Day)
- “Facing Death!” (3-page insert in the 6-issue UK-only magazine Indiana Jones and the Lost Treasures)
- “Skullduggery!” (4-page insert in Indiana Jones and the Lost Treasures)
- “Mid-Atlantic, 1916” (2-page insert in the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles magazine)
- “Young Indiana Jones and the Mountains of Superstition” (limited-run comic strip in the UK Daily Telegraph)*
- Indiana Jones Adventures (digest)
- Indiana Jones Adventures 2: Curse of the Invincible Ruby (digest)
The Video Games
- Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine (NES/Windows video game)*
- Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb (Xbox/PS2/OS X/Windows video game)*
- Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings (Wii/PS2 video game)*
- Indiana Jones Adventure, at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA. I was not going to use this one because it’s, well, a ride and not real media, but the ride designers worked so hard crafting a narrative that fit into the Indy-verse that I felt it would be a shame to exclude it.
“EPHEMERA” USED AS BACKGROUND WHEN NEEDED, AND CONVENIENTLY IGNORED WHEN THEY SCREW UP:
- The Lost Journal of Indiana Jones (book)
- Indiana Jones: The Ultimate Guide (book)
- The World of Indiana Jones (primary sourcebook for the role-playing game, although I won’t be using any of the games’ narratives themselves, see below. I used this book and the two above very sparingly, as many of their dates conflict with each other and other canonical material). Other game manuals may be referred to from time to time.
- The various novelizations (adult and “junior”) of the films and TV series.
- The diary entries put up by the Indiana Jones Facebook page to promote the 2012 Blu-Ray release of the films. They supposedly gave exact dates for several events of the movie, but as was frequently the case, were sometimes problematic when placed in chronological context with other sources. The diary entries were removed after the promotion, but can still be tracked down by internet archaeologists like the Holy Bee
*an asterisk indicates works I did not get a first-hand look at, for reasons detailed above
NOT INCLUDED AS SOURCES FOR THE HOLY BEE CHRONOLOGY:
First and foremost, Marvel Comics’ The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones was regretfully dropped from my timeline. This one was painful to have to eliminate, especially considering the time I put into reading and annotating ⅔ of the entire run (and I’m really — really — not much of a comic book fan), before realizing it just wouldn’t work. That’s a week of my life I won’t get back. Originally issued from January 1983 through January 1986, these comic books were the very first “expanded universe” for Indy, half of them coming out before the first film sequel. The writers had no idea how much Indy material would come flooding out over the next two decades, so almost the entire run was set in a never-ending, post-Raiders “1936.” It would have been difficult under ordinary circumstances, but I almost made it work — until Rob Williams came tromping along in 2008 with his Dark Horse comic series Indiana Jones and the Tomb of the Gods, with an Indycron-approved date of…mid-1936. There was simply not enough months left in the year if Raiders happened in the second half of 1936, so Further Adventures, with its weaker claim on canonical accuracy, had to go. A lot of the other amateur chronologies complained that Further Adventures was “too far out” to be taken seriously, what with their bloodthirsty yetis and hibernating dragons, among other outlandish encounters…but c’mon, we know the world of Indiana Jones is nothing to take seriously. I thought the Marvel series captured the weird, rubber-monster-anything-goes spirit of old 1930s serials (that this whole Indy universe is supposedly based on) pretty spot-on. If one can accept the incredibly supernatural endings of the films themselves (especially the last two, with their immortal knights and weird-headed aliens), then dragons are really not much of a stretch. That’s why I can’t be too mad at Crystal Skull. It’s old-school pulp. Anyway, Indy’s nutty “further adventures,” in my mind and on these virtual pages, are consigned to an alternate universe. Similar to the original Marvel Star Wars series (1977-86), which featured a green alien rabbit (left). God, I hate comic books sometimes.
Also not included in my timeline:
- A series of eight novels written entirely in German and never published in the U.S. I can’t read German, and I want this to be (as much as possible) based on my own reading. Also, for better or worse, Lucasfilm had oversight and final approval of the U.S. novels, and none whatsoever for the German novels, so that’s just a little too far off the reservation for my comfort.
- A series of young adult novels written entirely in French and never published in the U.S.
- The “Find Your Fate” books — a series of Choose Your Own Adventure knock-offs with multiple narrative variations for juvenile readers. These can join Further Adventures in the “alternate Indy-verse.”
- The WestEnd role-playing games, and the board game Indiana Jones and the Wrath of Hecate
- Indiana Jones and the Lost Kingdom — an early computer puzzle game.
- The Lego Indiana Jones video games.
- Indiana Jones Desktop Adventures — a cartoon-y computer game with no attempt to craft a real narrative.
- Indiana Jones in Revenge of the Ancients — a very old text-based computer game, no graphics.
- Indiana Jones Adventures (Facebook game).
- Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis video game — the story is told in the comic of the same name.
- The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles — a Nintendo game that simply follows the storyline of the TV series.
- Young Indiana Jones and the Instruments of Chaos — a Sega video game that contradicts and conflicts with TV series.
- The “Old Indy” episode bookends from the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. As they
originally aired, each episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles featured brief opening and closing sequences of 93-year-old Indy in modern New York City. When the series was re-edited for DVD, these were dropped. Since the Old Indy sequences have been discarded by Lucasfilm and are no longer officially available for viewing, I consider them out of canon. There’s a few of them on YouTube, and actor George Hall, with his high, reedy voice and fussy mannerisms, is nothing like Indy, who at least should retain some of Harrison Ford’s baritone rumble, even in old age (probably more so, if the real-life Harrison Ford is anything to go by.) One thing this project has done is given me a deeper appreciation of how much Ford brings to the table in portraying this character, and how much his presence is missed in all the print and TV iterations
Barnett College and/or Marshall College? Because of conflicting movie tie-in novelizations, Indy is associated with two colleges. The names are never mentioned out loud in the films themselves. The Raiders novelization, set in 1936, states that he works for Marshall College in Connecticut (named after Raiders producer Frank Marshall), and the Last Crusade novelization, set in 1938, states that he works for Barnett College in upstate New York. Other chronologies deal with this by simply stating that he switches colleges sometime in 1937, and returns to Marshall by the time of Crystal Skull (1957)…but it may not be so clear-cut. I think there was not a “Marshall College,” and that Indy has been continuously at Barnett since the fall of 1934. Let’s examine the evidence, giving the most weight to what’s in the films themselves:
- The establishing shots of Indy’s college are the same in both Raiders and Crystal Skull. It is the same building. (In reality, the location is the Faye Spanos Concert Hall at the University of the Pacific).
- Indy’s classroom in Raiders is the same one that’s in Last Crusade — they were filmed in the same location, at the Rickmansworth Masonic School in England. (His Crystal Skull classroom was built on a studio set, but is clearly intended to be the same room.)
- All three films that feature Indy in his university environment are visually linked. The filmmakers clearly intended for Indy to be at the same college from 1936 through 1957, and it was the carelessness of the tie-in novelization writers that forced two colleges into the timeline. Marshall was the first one named in 1981, but Barnett receives more frequent name-checks at higher level canon.
- Students in Last Crusade are shown holding notebooks labeled “Barnett College.” This small visual clue is what led to writer Rob MacGregor using the name in the novelization, and is an indicator of what the filmmakers intended the university to be called.
- Indy is entertaining a job offer specifically from Barnett in 1934 at the end of the novel Indiana Jones and the Secret of the Sphinx.
- Barnett College is mentioned several times in the Dark Horse comic series — Marshall College, never. (The distinctive “establishing” building is shown in Indiana Jones and the Tomb of the Gods, but is unlabeled.)
- In the digest comic Indiana Jones Adventures, Vol. 2 set in 1931, he does hold a telegram addressed to him at “Marshall College” — but the prequel novels have already established him at Princeton University from 1930-34 (thanks to that colossal blunder by author Martin Caidin that subsequent authors had to accept and work with.)
- The Marvel Comics series does mention Marshall several times — but we know what became of the Marvel Comic series in the Holy Bee’s timeline.
- Marshall College is mentioned as Indy’s place of employment in the YA novel Indiana Jones and the Mystery of Mount Sinai, which is set in 1941, a period already firmly established as the Barnett College era in many other stories.
- “Marshall College” had entered the Indy lexicon by the time of Crystal Skull, so a lot of the extras are wearing MARSHALL letterman jackets in the diner scene. My theory is that Marshall is a local high school, which would be far more suited to the whole “letterman jacket” look, though maybe things were different in the 50s. My theory can be de-bunked in two ways. 1) One of the students is shown ordering a beer. 2) Indy refers to one of them as “Joe College.” I have an answer to both — the minimum drinking age was 18 in many places up until recently, and “Joe College” can be the derogatory nickname of a clean-cut, preppy-looking guy of any age.
After a period of soul-searching on par with what actual college to attend in real life, I decided to eliminate Marshall as there was no logical reason to keep two identical-looking East Coast brick colleges in the narrative, and the evidence for the name “Barnett” was stronger.
The real lesson here is that Lucas, Spielberg, et al. do not care about this nit-picky stuff as much as we do.
The chronology will appear in installments over the next five months. Part 1: Childhood, Part 2: Risks and Rewards, Part 3: The Young Archaeologist, Part 4: The Golden Years, and Part 5: The Last Adventures.
Overall, it turned out to be a much more challenging — and frustrating — project than my James Bond chronology. It is also easily the most epic blogging project I’ve ever foisted upon you…and I can’t say I was sorry to close the book on our intrepid archaeologist.
By the time I’m ready to see that fedora and bullwhip again, it’ll probably be time for Indy 5, already scheduled to hit movie screens in July of 2020.
Next month, the chronology begins…