A Tribute to the of
It's a new year and the Sage crosses the imaginary line between 2000 and 2001 with this review. Best wishes to you, favored readers, as we embark on this new time.
As you well know by now, another of the important aspects of what we call the Silver Age (with all appropriate reverence) is the significance of the science fiction and space angle. One of the seminal characters and the namesake for this very webpage, Green Lantern, spends a heckuva lot of time roaming his assigned space sector. He may be an earthman, but his mission covers a lot more than terra firma and some of the finer stories in the GL series find him teaming up with other members of the famed Green Lantern Corps and/or hanging out on Oa with the Guardians of the Universe. Superman? A Kryptonian. The Legion of Super Heroes? Many on the roster are from other worlds. The Martian Manhunter and Hawkman both hail from other worlds. Space travel? The Justice League and several of it's individual members spend plenty of time roaming the cosmos for one reason or another. I guess you get my point by now that a very familiar and recurring theme is other-worldly.
This time around, we're going to take a peek at a character that, frankly, I'm pretty unfamiliar with. He made his debut in Showcase back in 1958 in the very issue we'll look at now and while he's had enough of a following for him to endure for several years, he's more of a "niche" hero. He's worked with the JLA but not joined. He carried the Mystery in Space title from 1959-1965 and Strange Adventures from 1969 to 1973. His name? Adam Strange. His debut? Showcase #17, the December issue from '58 under the subtitle of Adventures On Other Worlds. The cover art is the work of the great Gil Kane. Let's learn about Mr. Strange together, eh?
The first story is entitled "Secret of the Eternal City!" and it's brought to us by Gardner Fox (script), Mike Sekowsky (pencils), Bernard Sachs (inks) and Julius Schwartz (Editor). As the yarn opens, we see a dashing figure on the splash page, cruising along in his personal space craft (convertible, no less) and scooping up a woman from the path of destructive beams that are flying all around. This could only be our hero, Adam Strange. He says to the fair maid, "If the Destructobeam from the Eternals' spaceship hits us--we're done for! Grab hold, Alanna!" From that exciting opener, we go to, of all places, the Andes Mountains in Peru, where Mr. Strange, archaeologist by trade, has just discovered the legendary Incan city of Carmanga. Over the next few panels I could swear that there's a pretty darn good case for a claim of plagiarism against certain persons who shall remain nameless but brought us the Indiana Jones saga. Strange discovers a hidden treasure horde and then is abruptly assailed by natives who are firing spears and arrows at him as he dashes off, fedora firmly planted on his head. All that's missing is the flight jacket and bullwhip. So, anyhow, he makes a death-defying leap across a 25 foot chasm to escape when, out of nowhere, a flare of light envelops him that acts a lot like garden variety lightning. When he comes to, he's facing some sort of weird creature in a tropical jungle and he promptly begins to hightail it out of there before the beast decides to try a taste test. As if things aren't weird enough, a spacecraft descends, nets the creature and discharges a beautiful woman speaking in some odd language. Apparently this archaeologist has some training in linguistics as he determines that she is telling him her name (Alanna) and that he wants him to accompany her to Rangar. Sure. Why not? He hops on board and they head for the city of Rangar and a laboratory setting where her father is toiling away. The first order of business is to breach the language barrier, so a Menticizer is utilized to teach Adam their tongue instantly. It is then that Adam learns where his leap has landed him. Alpha Centauri, a mere 25 trillion miles from Mother Earth. How could this happen? The father of Alanna, Sardath the scientist, puts forth his theory. The planet of Rann, being a similar world to Earth, had decided to transmit a Zeta-beam to Earth to make contact. Think of the zeta beam as an intergalactic flare. Then, old Murphy throws a monkey-wrench in the works causing the beam to alter during it's 4.3 year flight into a teleportation beam. As the webmaster says, this guy is the original Mr. Lucky. Sardath goes on to explain a brief history of Rann and the fact that nuclear holocaust had nearly destroyed their civilization and they've slowly evolved back. Afterward, Alanna takes Adam on a short sight-seeing tour. In the midst of that, we are shown three spacecraft entering the atmosphere of Rann. The craft look like (and I wish I were kidding with this description) giant yellow submarines. When did the Beatles come out with that song, anyway? We may have yet another plagiarism case on our hands.
Well, as you might expect, the ships begin blasting away and as Adam and Alanna tear out of there they hear on the cruiser's radio that the alien crafts have landed and the invaders call themselves The Eternals. The Eternals, it seems, are interested in a metal called Vitatron that allows them to be immortal. Apparently they've detected some on Rann and they've come to mine it. As the newscast ends, Alanna comes to the conclusion that the Vitatron could only be one place on Rann. The city of Samakand that appears every 25 years from the Fourth Dimension. "Say what?" That isn't exactly the phrase Adam uttered, but he was just as confused as I was when I read it. Alanna explains that during the wars in her planet's history, the scientific community who hung out on Samakand decided that the local warlords were not ready to utilize the things they were producing, so they'd just take their toys to the Fourth Dimension and check in every 25 years or so to see if they were ready to play nice. As luck would have it, the city was due to reappear any minute. They enter the city and are soon greeted by bald guys in robes who confirm that the Vitatron is there, but they don't know how to keep it from the Eternals. Adam quickly devises a plan and has the Vitatron loaded on the sole spacecraft in the city and then heads for space. The yellow subs hurl a gravity sphere toward our heroes but they're able to send it back toward the aggressors. They destroy the sphere but continue to pursue the ship. Adam sets the ship on auto-pilot for Samakand and he and Alanna bail out. Strange explains to Alanna that the scientists agreed to trap the Eternals in the Fourth Dimension with them, where they'll have no power to return and will be effectively neutralized. Adam then begins to fade. "The charge of power put in my body by the zeta-flare has worn off! I--I'm being teleported back to Earth! But I'll return, Alanna--I promise--" Seconds later, he finds himself back in the Andes. In the final panel of the story, Adam studies a map. "Alanna's father told me about the other attempts they made to contact Earth! The next zeta-beam from Rann will strike off the Malayan coast, south of Singapore--I'll be there waiting when it does, 62 days, 16 minutes, 5 seconds from now and somehow I know Alanna will be waiting for me, too--" That ends the first story.
The second tale, [by the same creative team as the first] entitled "The Planet and the Pendulum!", shows Adam Strange in a red uniform, firing some sort of ray gun at a pendulum that is being swung from the base of a spaceship. He's flying with the aid of a jet-pack and dodging space torpedoes.
The story opens with Strange in a small vessel on the ocean, counting down to the return of the zeta-beam. He catches it just right, which is fortunate since the story would have ended right there otherwise, and is immediately teleported back to Rann. Unfortunately, instead of finding himself back in the city of Ranagar, he's on the outskirts somewhere and is promptly detained by a group of barbarians who believe him to be a sorceror. When they take his pistol and see what it can do, they are only more convinced of his occupation. He is sentenced to The Tower of the Rainbow Doom, where he's placed into a chair and a switch is thrown that floods the chamber with multi-colored lights. Adam notes that it's some sort of magnetic force gripping him in the chair. Somehow the chair transports him to a different planet where he stumbles across a wrecked ship. Inside he finds Sardath, unconscious at the controls. He soon discovers Alanna as well, who tells him he's on the planet Anthorann. She begins to explain what has transpired since his trip back home. When the city of Samakand was sent back to the Fourth Dimension with the Eternals, the city's scientists came to Ranagar to share their knowledge. Some of the devices created with the new knowledge led the neighboring barbarian settlements to believe that the people of Ranagar were sorcerers. Alanna goes on to explain that a colony was created on Anthorann, which neighbors Rann where an artificial lake and a great protective dome was constructed. They called it New Ranagar. So, Alanna's old man decided to build a ship so that they could try and find this colony. As they began to descend toward Anthorann, they were blasted by another spaceship, leading to a crash landing.
Enter Adam Strange. He has discovered a space suit in the ship and puts it on as Alanna finishes up by telling him that the Rainbow Doom is actually a transporter that brought him there. This getup is the uniform readers see Adam wearing from this point forward. It's your typical form-fitting gear in a bright red with stars like a brigadier general's on the collar and a helmet with yellow wings on the front and a fin on the top that's sort of a reverse of the one seen on Starman. The couple then decide to search for New Ranagar with the aid of the radio from the ship. After broadcasting for awhile, their signal is intercepted and they receive a reply from the colony, who quickly dispatch a vehicle to pick them up and return them to New Ranagar. They explain that the invaders are from Morleen and that they want to take over the planet to ease overpopulation on theirs, but they've been unable to penetrate the dome, which holds the planet's only source of water. Wouldn't you know that the Morleen raiders show up and issue an ultimatum. The ship has been equipped with a pendulum that sports a blade of Diamondium (Mr. Fox must have spent plenty of time dreaming that one up) which just happens to be the hardest of all metals and they'll slice the dome right open.
Adam Strange decides it's time for action. Donning a jet pack, ray gun and bubble for his head, he's off to do battle with the ship. That brings us to the scene from the splash page as he fires at the pendulum, dodges the torpedoes and tries to work around the shockwaves as they detonate harmlessly against the dome. He is ultimately successful in blasting the shaft apart and the blade falls, eliminating the threat from Morleen, at least for now. As he reunites with Alanna, he does his fade routine again and is suddenly in the Australian desert. Adam Strange activates his jet pack and flies for home, plotting for the next appearance of the zeta-beam so that he can return to the planet and woman he has grown to love. The story ends there.
So, here we meet a new hero, though he doesn't do his deeds on the Earth and he is more or less a victim of circumstance. He just happens to be in the right place at the right time and is thrust into the role of defender of the planet Rann. He has no powers, only his wits and courage and now the help of a personal propulsion system. A whole new career for archaeologist Adam Strange of Earth.
My rating for this one is an 8. I enjoy sci-fi, but this isn't my favorite character. Still, it's a great example of the way in which DC was expanding their horizons during the Silver Age. As always, I welcome any feedback at email@example.com. Be sure to come back in about two weeks when we take another stroll through the vault.
Long Live the Silver Age! This feature was created on 05/01/00 and is maintained by B.D.S.
©2000-01 by B.D.S.
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