A Tribute to the of

During my last review, which explored the debut of the Space Ranger, I speculated that he may have inadvertently become a dry run for the next new character introduced in Showcase, namely Adam Strange.  We first saw Adam's maiden run in issue #17 of Showcase (available in the archives here at the Silver Age Sage), followed in rapid succession by consecutive appearances in issues 18 and 19, the latter in March/April of 1959.  The powers that be at DC must have decided the character was strong enough to continue, but not quite strong enough to carry his own title, so a few short months later, in August of 1959, Adam Strange made his new home at Mystery in Space beginning with issue #53 and continued as the lead feature for a long time to come, including the issue I'm offering this time around.  Let's watch the hero of Rann at work in a story entitled "The Deadly Shadows of Adam Strange!" from Mystery in Space #80, December 1962.  The intriguing cover comes courtesy of Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson, who also provide the excellent interior art.  Our writer is the immortal Gardner Fox with Julius Schwartz in the editor's chair. 

Our story opens on the planet Rann, a mere 25 trillion miles from Earth.  Things are picking up where they left off in issue #79, according to our editor's note and Sardath, father of Adam's lady love, Alanna, is discreetly closing a door on the couple, who are engaged in a kiss.  He walks away quietly, completely unaware that he's being followed until its too late.  He is grabbed from behind by a figure and is able to only get out a muffled cry.  It is enough, however, for the lovers to hear and soon Adam and Alanna are dashing down the hallway and out the door of the laboratory building, just in time to see a flier take off, presumably with Sardath aboard.  The couple does not hesitate and activate their jet backpacks to continue their pursuit.  As they fly over the Sea of Abyx, however, fate intervenes and Strange begins to disappear as the Zeta-Beam radiation that allows him to be on Rann is wearing off, drawing him back to his native Earth.

Adam soon finds himself in an African jungle.  He disgustedly muses that he'll have to wait 3 weeks for the Zeta-Beam to take him back to Rann.  Deciding to make use of his time, he jets across the continent to a cache where he keeps a supply of clothing and gear for his day job as an archaeologist.  He somehow knows that the Zeta-Beam will strike in Australia, but meanwhile he can examine the Zambebwe ruins.  (I don't know where Gardner Fox came up with that name, but that's how it is spelled.)  His goal is to prove that Carthaginians built the city and he resumes his vocation.  Several days later, however, he finds himself exhausted and feverish, succumbing to a tropical disease.  Fortunately natives have discovered the white man and take him by litter to Nairobi for help.  Once checked into the Nairobi hospital, he speaks of Alpha Centauri, Rann and Alanna in his delirium.  The physician and nurse humor him and when his fever breaks a few days later the doctor even tells Adam that he'll soon be able to return to Alanna.  Alarmed, Adam wonders if he's accidentally revealed his secret life on Rann to the world.  (Somehow a couple of Caucasian health care workers in Nairobi don't seem like "the world," but I guess when you lead a double life it's a hazard of the job to worry.)  The doctor then comments that he and Nurse Calkins will keep things to themselves as they enjoy science-fiction, too and he must as well to have such fantastic dreams.  Rest easy, Adam Strange.  The physician then says they're going to try a new drug as part of Adam's treatment.  Twelve hours and several doses later, Strange is a new man and is ready to leave the hospital.  The nurse tells him to say hello to Alanna when he gets to Rann and Adam thinks that she little realizes that's precisely where he's going.

Adam takes a plane to Melbourne, Australia and then a car to the rim of the desert where he has another handy cache and is soon again in his uniform, preparing for the arrival of his ticket to Rann in the form of the Zeta-Beam.  He soon takes flight with his jet pack over the Arunta desert when he intersects the beam and is teleported to the third planet of the star-sun Alpha Centauri and is reunited with Alanna.  Quickly, he inquires after her father and Alanna responds that she went to Ranagar for help and for 3 weeks they've searched all over Rann.  They found the flier yesterday in a crater caused by a meteor that destroyed the city of Alkamar.  The duo flies there to investigate.

At the edge of the crater, Alanna points out the flier and then turns to show him where it landed within.  Behind, Adam takes a look below, but suddenly his shadow emerges from the rock wall behind him and strikes him in the back of the head.  It then pushes the Earth man over the edge of the crater toward certain doom.

Luckily, Alanna heard the scrape of Adam's boots on the pebbles and unhesitatingly plunges after him into the abyss with the aid of her jet pack.  She reaches his comatose form and frantically grasps at his body only to tear away some of the cloth of his uniform.  A second grasp allows her to reach the leather straps of his jet harness and she saves him from the jagged rocks below at the last possible moment.

Once safely outside the crater, Adam revives and Alanna queries him about his fall.  Did he get dizzy and stumble over the edge?  Strange replies that he was struck and shoved by two hands.  She says that's impossible as they were the only people there, but he retorts that the bump on his head tells another story.

Simultaneously in the capital city of Ranagar, Sardath suddenly shows up to the relief of local officials who'd been searching for him.  Sardath asks where Adam Strange is; that he's learned that Adam is in terrible danger and he managed to escape so that he could warn him of an incredible doom.  That startling statement closes Part I of the story.

Part II takes us to the ruined city of Alkamar where Adam and Alanna are cautiously working their way to the flier that contained her father.  Abruptly Adam halts, noticing that the shadow he is casting against the wall is making a move that he isn't making.  In the next startling moment, the shadow opens fire in a duplicate of the cover.  In the next split second, Adam takes flight and returns fire, blasting the silhouette.  As he does so he thinks that perhaps it was his shadow that had ambushed him at the rim of the crater.  He engages in some fancy aerial maneuvers to dodge the energy bursts while doing his own ray gun blasting, but to no avail.  Soon, the menacing shadow fades.  Adam examines the wall and discovers it's been treated with a particular kind of radiation on a section 8 feet by 4 feet.  He removes it in order to subject it to further examination back at Ranagar.  Using a life raft from the flier, Adam and Alanna are soon towing the specimen from the wall, along with samples from above the crater.

Upon their arrival at Alanna's home they discover Sardath and ask who took him prisoner.  He replies that it was Mortan, who they last encountered in Mystery in Space #62 (September, 1960), according to the handy editor's note.  Mortan had told Sardath that it was nothing personal, just a means to an end; specifically a means to take out his revenge on Adam Strange for capturing and imprisoning him.  He further divulges that he's discovered a method to bring shadows to life and that he's set up strategic traps on Rann for Adam.  When his shadows touch the traps the shadows will come alive and under his control will destroy our hero.  The walls were treated with Pi-radiation and were designed to act like an electric eye when Strange's shadow fell upon it.  Then, Mortan's control mechanism animates the shadow by unleashing a burst of energy from the Pi-radiation.  The life of the shadow is short due to the nature of the Pi crystals, but Mortan was confident that the element of surprise was the most important part of the trap and the silhouette didn't need to exist for long.  He then imprisoned Sardath as bait and waited for Adam to come and spring the trap.  Sardath, however, used a wooden spoon he'd received and carved it into a cell lock key affording him a means of escape so he could warn Adam.

Armed with this knowledge, Adam prepares to go after Mortan, as soon as he learns a bit more about the Pi radiation.  He spends the next two days working in the lab studying the treated stone segments.  Among other things he notes an odd phenomenon.  When the overhead light shines on the Pi crystals his hand goes invisible.

His research completed Adam jets off to the hideout of Mortan.  Night has fallen when he at last arrives at a huge flat stretch of rock and sandstone known as the Giant's Table.  Strange notes that it will take him some time to find the entrance, but since darkness has fallen he needn't be concerned about rogue shadows.  Once he lands on the surface, however, a trap of walls spring up around him and a disembodied voice, laughing evilly (don't they all?) declares that this is a trap that Adam Strange cannot possibly escape.  Adam finds himself illuminated under high intensity lights and multiple shadows of him on each of the many walls surrounding him.  Mortan boasts that he deliberately allowed Sardath's escape as a way to lure Adam here to his doom.  A very calm Adam Strange replies that there is a way out.  Mortan merely issues an order to his shadow minions to fire upon the Earthman.  As the silhouettes obey, the crossfire strikes…nothing.  Mortan curses his luck as he decides the Zeta-Beam chose that moment to wear off.  The villain then emerges into the walled arena from a hidden trapdoor below.  It is then that a shadow speaks and fires upon Mortan, stunning him into paralysis.  The shadow is, in fact, our hero and he explains himself:  "By covering myself with particles of the Pi crystals I scraped off those "doctored" stone sections—and by treating them with a special light—I made myself invisible!  You thought I'd gone back to Earth—but actually I stepped into one of my own shadows—to avoid casting a shadow and betray my presence here!"  He then hauls Mortan off to jail.

In the closing panels, Alanna and Adam are discussing this latest adventure.  She asks where he got the special light for his triumphant maneuver.  He replies that he simply adjusted his ray gun to emit the proper light to affect the crystals.  The story ends as it began, with Alanna giving Adam a smooch while observing her shadow similarly rewarding his.

As a brief side note, I see in the letters column, "Wonders of Space via Rocket Mail" that each person who was able to get their letter published was rewarded with original art, or, in the case of the final letter, the story manuscript from Mystery in Space #77's "Ray-Gun in the Sky!"  Lucky dogs…

The backup story in this magazine is the 5th adventure of the Star Rovers and it was also scripted by Gardner Fox with art by Sid Greene.  It's entitled "Who Saved the Earth?"

The Star Rovers debuted in Mystery in Space #66 dated March, 1961 and filled out issues #69, 74 and 77 (+ splash page original art). They are described as "Friendly rivals whose daring deeds and fearless feats have set them against one another time and time again!"  They consist of Playboy Rick Purvis, who looks a bit like Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Karel Sorensen, glamour girl and expert marksman and Homer Glint, novelist, hunter and adventurer.

Each of them is at distant locations from one another throughout space when they receive notifications from Earth that each is being presented the space-hero medal for saving the Earth.  By turn, they are all baffled as none of them can think of what they'd done to receive the honor.

Soon Rick, Karel and Homer are bound for Earth and contact one another to do some friendly gloating when they discover the others are also being similarly honored.  Still confused, they listen to a news broadcast that lists their achievements.  Rick Purvis prevented Earth from being hurled into a no-time continuum; Karel Sorensen saved the Earth from wandering off into space as an icy orb; Homer Glint rescued Earth from a planet-shattering explosion.  Even after hearing the criteria, though, the trio still doesn't understand what they've done.  Karel even mentions she's not been on Earth for a year.  Homer suggests perhaps they did something to save their home world without realizing it and asks his partners to recount what they've been up to in the recent past.

Rick starts with his successful win in the Procyon Solar Sailboat Race.  He then muses that something odd did happen during the race, which involves racing from one planet to another by sunlight "pushing" against the specially treated metal sails of the boats.  Rick's metallic sail received some damage from a meteorite, so he quickly landed on the nearby desert moon Akka, where he discovered a metallic object he could collect and melt to repair his sail.  Once on the surface, though, he found himself fired upon by aliens in an armored sand sled.  Unarmed, he hotfoots it toward cover.  He then recalls a story Karel had told him about an unusual shooting match she'd participated in when she couldn't fire directly at the target and had to instead strike a sphere that would carom into another and finally into the target.  Following that principle, Purvis pulls out one of his tools, a large sledge hammer and uses it to strike a vertical boulder in a line of similar rocks, causing a domino effect and finally striking the alien craft, putting them out of commission.  He then made his repairs and went on to win the race, giving credit to Karel for the idea that saved him.  After relating his tale, a voice breaks in on the communication device informing Rick that the metal object he used to fix his metal sail was in fact a secret weapon of Riffian aliens that was designed to hurl the Earth into a no-time continuum by a clever manipulation of the magnetic flux.  By destroying the object, he saved the Earth. 

Karel then tells her story.  She'd been on a small Spican planet, practicing her marksmanship when she spotted some large, floating teardrop like objects.  She decided they'd make excellent targets, but when firing upon one it immediately released blinding incandescent light.  She quickly rigged up a pair of smoked glasses to compensate and continued her shooting practice.  While reloading she is suddenly blown to the ground by a Blastibubble from a weapon-wielding Shenn alien.  She ran for safety, wondering why she was being fired upon when she recalled something Homer had taught her.  The intergalactic hunter had divulged that the way to capture a Canopian Agracat is to make a brilliant light, temporarily blinding it.  Following that principle, Karel immediately fired again upon the teardrops, effectively blinding the aliens while she, protected by her smoked glasses, escaped to her spacecraft, jetting away to safety.  Another Star Rover benefited from the wisdom of another and the communication device again crackles to life with another explanation:  "Attention Karel Sorensen!  Those inverted teardrops would have drawn Earth out of orbit around the sun and sent it wandering through space covered with ice, destroying all life!  An invention of our enemy, the Shenn, the teardrops were beamed in on the cosmic radiation of our planet.  By destroying them, you saved Earth from a terrible fate, Karel!"

It's now Homer's turn.  He describes his efforts to find a Tigerog Egg in its radioactive nest so that he could present it to a zoo.  While on a hunting trip to a Rigelian planet, he discovered just that.  It was a perfect specimen, hidden near a highly volcanic area of the planet's surface.  Glint then discovers he's not alone as Kartivians begin to pursue him.  He tried to run back to his ship, but the shortest route was blocked by the dangerous volcanic cones and lava.  In the clinch, he recollects a story of how Purvis had won the interplanetary Olympics with his track and field tricks.  Duplicating the techniques, Homer successfully navigates through the deadly smoke rings and then snaps off a pole of solidified lava to pole vault over the molten lava in his path.  To preserve the precious egg and nest, he gently tosses them ahead, and then catches it when he vaults to the other side, thus successfully escaping with his treasure intact.  One more message from the squawk box reveals that the radioactive nest concealed a timing device beneath it and was powering the device.  By removing the nest, Homer prevented a cobalt tensorometer, placed by a Kartvian enemy from exploding, saving the Earth from being shattered.

A few days later the three friends receive their recognition medals, but each passes their honor to the one who inspired them in each heroic deed.  The story then closes on that happy note. The Star Rovers' Mystery in Space exploits continued for two more issues, numbers 83 and 86 (+ page 5 original art); their final Silver Age appearances are published in Strange Adventures #159, December 1963 and #163 April 1964.

Someday maybe I'll figure out how in the world Gardner Fox did it.  It seems like he was a one man script factory, covering multiple titles at once and still maintaining a fairly complex continuity.  The man was surely a genius.  These stories attest to his ability with the science fiction genre and while Adam Strange and the Star Rovers are pure science fiction, it could reasonably be argued that the majority of the superhero titles were no less a part of science fiction as well.  I kind of wonder, though, if Gardner was borrowing from himself on "The Deadly Shadows of Adam Strange!," since he introduced Hawkman and we readers to the Shadow Thief in The Brave and the Bold #36 about a year and a half earlier.  I'll share that one with you in this space in the near future.

Rating time.  I'm a long-time fan of sci-fi, so these stories appealed to me from that angle alone, not to mention the imaginative settings and the triumph of the human mind, sans any special powers, over his weird, alien environment.  Incidentally, this was my first exposure to the Star Rovers and while a bit fluffier than Adam Strange, they were an interesting team.  The art was splendid as well and I just enjoyed the time spent, so it's a solid 8 for two good stories from one of the master creative teams of the Silver Age.

More efforts are in the pipeline here at the Silver Lantern.  You won't want to miss them and I'd hate to miss your thoughts on any of them, too, so c'mon back in about two weeks for the next installment and feel free to take advantage of my e-mail for your comments:  professor_the@hotmail.com.

Thanks, as always, for joining us and…

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2006 by B.D.S.

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