A Tribute to the of

One of the things I really enjoy about this gig, at least over the last handful of years, is the opportunity to interact a little with the creators who produced these four color wonders. A case in point was when I recently picked up the Retroactive Flash book that I recently reviewed. I took the initiative to dash off a note to Cary Bates telling him that I really enjoyed it and that it was like picking up an old friend. He thanked me and said I might also like his other offering in the Retroactive line, which was a "lost story from the '70s" Justice League of America tale, "Enter Justice League Prime!" So, I recently got a copy of it and liked it even more with the exception that for some odd reason they broke the story up among some different artists, so it gave it a little bit of a distracting, uneven feel. I was also a bit dismayed that they listed "Ernie Colon" as having done the cover when it was clearly the late, great Ernie Chan's work. (Where's a good editor when you need one?) Despite that I really liked the story and one of the highlights for me was the appearance of Julie Schwartz and he used some classic, Silver Age era copies of Mystery in Space to help Adam Strange get his bearings back. One of the issues Julie brandished was MIS #81 from February of 1963, edited by him, of course. I just happen to have a copy of that edition in my collection, so let's look at it now. "The Cloud Creature That Menaced Two Worlds!" was written by the great Gardner Fox and the terrific art team of Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson rendered both the interior and cover artwork.

The story opens in New York City, which is a little unusual, considering a lot of settings in DC's Silver Age take place in fictional locales. Adam Strange is driving in traffic when he encounters officer Tom Boyle, who has had the dubious honor of witnessing Adam disappearing before his very eyes on two prior occasions. Editor Schwartz, ever helpful, tells us that those can be found in MIS #72 and #77 respectively. Boyle is trying to get him on his way before his habit of disappearance happens again when Strange spots, to his astonishment, his Rann-based girlfriend, Alanna, walking along the street. Quickly parking and bolting across the street, he greets his lady love with a kiss and asks how she got to Earth. She replies that she and her scientist father devised a duplicate of the ray-gun radiation that afforded bringing Adam to Rann with an improved Zeta-Beam (which Julie reminds us also happened in MIS #77) and decided to come to Earth instead of bringing him to Rann.

A delighted Adam says that he'd planned to catch the Zeta-Beam in a couple of days, but doesn't need to now and he proceeds to take Alanna on a sight-seeing tour of Earth.

The next panel shows a classic Infantino silhouette scene two days later where a figure is in Australia, waiting for the Zeta-Beam. We soon learn more about this mysterious stranger as he carefully places a cyber-ray weapon to catch the Zeta-Beam, which supposedly only Adam Strange and the JLA know about.

Soon he and the weapon are on Rann where a surprised Alanna awaits. He introduces himself as Alva Xar and fires the weapon at her, causing her to dissipate. He then rises into the air and resolves to himself that he can fulfill his goal of 1,000 years to take over Rann and that he will not fail as he did before.

A peek back 1,000 years into that past reveals that an atomic war destroyed the civilization on Rann as a result of a relentless battle between Ranagar and Zared. Alva Xar was the dictator of Zared and he realized that his quest to be world emperor has failed due to the mutual destruction of the opposing forces. He retreats into suspended animation in a concealed underground chamber. Centuries later, as Zared is rebuilt, an alien race called the Arvese came to the subterranean chambers (also from issue #77) and the introduction of fresh air triggered the equipment that had kept Alva Xar alive, releasing him from his centuries-long slumber.

With his technology, he is able to see the efforts of Adam Strange leading to victory over the Arvese and he is further able to scan Adam Strange's mind to learn of his travels via the Zeta-Beam. Ultimately he develops his Cyberay, but he must visit Earth to make it function. He then plots to use the Zeta-Beam to accomplish his mission and sets up the scenario with the help of his mind scanner and Memorisorber, recording Alanna's memories and thoughts. Ultimately he uses all these tools to find a duplicate "Alanna" on earth and fills her head with the real Alanna's memories to distract Adam so that Alva Xar can arm his terrible weapons and work toward his conquest of Rann. That rather complex chapter closes and it's on to Chapter II.

Adam is literally giving "Alanna" the world tour and they jet around the planet, seeing things like the Golden Gate Bridge and the Taj Mahal as they plan to marry upon returning to the U.S.

Back in New York, the pair are touring the museum where the new Adam Strange wing is about to be dedicated when "Alanna" suddenly goes rigid as a statue. Adam notes that it has happened to everyone in the museum and on the street. Hurrying to his apartment to don his uniform he heads for the Pentagon, only to discover the same phenomenon. Hoping to find some sort of warning that may have been transmitted, he determines the "freezing" began in Tasmania. Jetting over to the island, he discovers a glowing object, which he retrieves and then re-enters the atmosphere when he is suddenly clobbered by a cloud, in a duplication of the cover. Adam drops like a rock into a live island volcano as the cloud utters the following: "Rash creature! All life on this world is suspended in time! Only you dared challenge my solitary rule!" Fortunately our hero revives before falling into the lava, but when he emerges from the top of the cone he still has the cloud creature to contend with and he isn't confident his ray gun will be of any help.

The creature scoops up water from the sea, creating a tidal wave to smash Adam against the rock cliff, but Strange is resourceful enough to use his ray gun to tunnel through the water, vaporizing it into steam as he flies through it. The danger is far from over, however, as the creature continues to menace Adam, first with a large chunk of mountain that our hero is able to outmaneuver, and then concussive shock waves from clapping its massive "hands" together. Adam continues to perform impressive defensive flying, then pauses to try to see if the glowing weapon he scooped up can be of any help. Before he can do anything, however, the creature's massive hand closes over him and it speaks again: "I'll tell you what it does. It made me! I evolved from the raw power it contains! And I feed on time itself!" Before Adam can be drowned in the sea, he is abruptly struck with inspiration and cries out, "Break up! Disappear!" The creature does dissipate and Strange realizes that the device converts thought into reality. As he hurtles back to New York he notes that the effects are wearing off around him, closing Chapter II.

Chapter III brings us nearly full circle where Adam has had time to get back into his street clothes and meet up with who he believes is his lady love, but as she and the others revive she slaps him before he can lay a smooch on her, explaining she's Betti Smythe, engaged to Dr. James Nichols and she has no idea how she got there.

Very perplexed and anxious, Strange swiftly plans to catch the next Zeta- Beam in South America and wonders what happened to the genuine love of his life. That sounds like a segue prompt and sure enough we are now at a lunar landscape on Rann called "The Land of a Thousand Smokes." Multiple miniature volcanoes are emitting streams of steam when Alanna regains consciousness and then jets away, determined to alert Ranagar about the threat of Alva Xar. As she makes her way back to civilization she sees refugees traveling through the wilderness. When she lands she learns of what has transpired. Alva Xar has single-handedly been taking over Rann, city by city with his invincible weapon. Alanna changes course for the next Zeta-Beam appearance and hopefully Adam Strange, but as she waits, she ponders about what her love can do against such a paralyzing force.

Adam does appear as Chapter 4 opens and the lovebirds quickly compare notes. She also tells him the object he's carrying is a match for the one wielded by Alva Xar. Adam deduces that it must be charged with Zeta- Beam properties. Next, the couple goes to the encampment outside Parmaleen to face their enemy. The duel begins, but each force that Adam brings against the dictator is quickly countered and he soon learns that his handicap is Alva Xar's mental scanner, which allows him to read Strange's every thought and immediately react to it.

Abruptly, Adam casts aside his weapon, seemingly admitting defeat, but Alva Xar sneers that it's a trick to release the cloud creature and indeed it does begin to form, but in the next critical moments, everyone but Adam Strange is frozen in place. Adam's thoughts reveal his successful strategy: "Only I am normal—just as happened on Earth! The cloud-creature can't affect my body—because it's been charged by the regular Zeta-Beam! Alva Xar read some of my thoughts, but the main one—that the cloud- creature caused a suspension of time—I kept out of my mind! I knew by casting away the Cyberay from my person, the menacing cloud would form and overcome Alva Xar! Before Alva Xar can recover from the suspension of time that grips him, I'll remove his menta-scanner and make him my prisoner!"

A restored Alanna remarks that Adam's plan was very much like the one he used to defeat Kanjar Ro (Julie gives us our final reference to the classic Mystery in Space #75 [Sage #150]), but Adam replies that he actually beat the villain by not thinking at all, so that he wouldn't deduce the ultimate goal. Finally, in the wrap of the adventure, Adam Strange mentally commands the duplicate Cyberay's to destroy each other, forever neutralizing the threat, ending the danger and this story.

It occurs to me that the Adam Strange stories are not only filled with adventure and imaginative science fiction, but they are also a love story. Few could dispute how devoted Adam is to Alanna and what a major element it lends to his many adventures. He is the hero of Earth and Rann, but is also bound and determined to shield Alanna from every danger that may arise, giving me added motivation to use his wits to succeed.

This was a good, if complex story and while I'm a major fan of Gardner Fox's work, I confess I had to re-read some portions of this one as I got a little confused. I also wonder how a cloud creature could cause any physical changes around itself, but I suppose in a science fiction story, you really have to suspend your disbelief. I'll give this one a 6 on the ol' 10- point scale. I should note as well, that Infantino and Anderson are a nearly unbeatable art team. These Adam Strange stories are always a tour de force in that regard and I can't recommend them enough on that basis alone.

It's always our pleasure to host you here, dear reader. The Silver Lantern is the home of all things Silver Age in the DC comics realm, so explore the site and enjoy and don't forget to drop a line any time to me at professor_the@hotmail.com.

Long live the Silver Age!

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