A Tribute to the of

It's sort of interesting, on occasion, to do a little research into the titles that made up the Silver Age.  For instance, the Strange Adventures series has a pretty long history and took a few twists and turns over the years. 

It began back in 1950 and was originally a collection of pure science fiction stories.  It had a formidable 52 pages in those early days, as well, so it often carried up to six distinct stories within its covers.

The first regular feature was Captain Comet.  He graced several covers.  I also noticed that a lot of covers had gorillas on them, too.  In September of 1965 we first encountered the character that would become sort of a bit-player in the DC Universe, Animal Man.  That was in issue #180, which I have access to and will review in this space in the future.    I noted that the next issue, #181 carried a cover story called the "Man of Two Worlds."  I've seen that term used a couple of times since then, to refer to both Adam Strange and our favorite editor, Julius Schwartz as the title to his autobiography.

Leaping ahead to October of 1967 we see the debut of Deadman or review #71, if you prefer.  Deadman kept the feature slot until the March/April issue from 1969 when #217 slightly altered the title to Adam Strange Adventures.  Adam held on for awhile, largely through reprints until issue #244 in September/October of 1973 when the series came to an end.  Two decades plus.  That's quite a run.

As you may have guessed, I've chosen an issue of Strange Adventures to spotlight for this review.  Specifically it's #140 from May of 1962.  It contains 3 separate stories (and wonderful house ads promoting The Flash #128 & Mystery In Space #75 + JLA 11 & Green Lantern #13 and lastly, Showcase #38), but the one I chose, indeed the reason I bought it in the first place, is the second tale, titled "The Strange Adventure that really happened!"  It was written by Gardner Fox, edited by Julius Schwartz and drawn by Sid Greene and features…Gardner Fox, Julius Schwartz and Sid Greene, along with a couple of other appearances.  The first image below the title is a bespectacled Gardner Fox (resplendent in bow-tie) introducing himself and the story.  Take it away, Gardner!

"My name is Gardner Fox.  I'm a writer for National Periodical Publications, publishers of Strange Adventures.  Recently I wrote a story about an invasion of Earth from outer space.  In my story, I figured out a way to defeat the aliens, but then-- when my story came to life and the alien invaders appeared—I couldn't remember how I defeated them!"

Below the introduction is the rest of the splash page where Julie Schwartz is gesturing toward the window.  We see a decidedly alien-looking craft that looks just vaguely like a Klingon Bird of Prey firing a menacing beam toward the ground.  Julie says, "Fox—you just wrote a story about those alien invaders—and you described how Earth found a way to stop them from conquering us!  What was your solution?"  Gardner, sitting at the desk can only reply, "I—I can't remember!"

Gardner continues to narrate his story, relating that he walked into his editor's office that fateful April morning with a new science-fiction story in his briefcase.  Julie admonishes him to hurry as a busy morning is in store and Sid Greene will be popping in any minute to interrupt them.  Fox replies that his story came out fine and won't need much editing.  Schwartz then looks through the pages and asks if this is some sort of April fool's joke as they're all blank.  An incredulous Fox looks at the pages and insists he was proofreading them just last night.  Julie says that surely he can remember what he wrote, but…he cannot.  Schwartz retorts that it must have been a real exciting story and then reminds him that he always keeps a carbon copy (Sheesh!  Remember those?) of everything he writes, so why doesn't he just call his wife, Lynda to get it for him.  We soon see Lynda Fox in her husband's study (and I notice Sid Greene had the good sense to draw her from the back rather than try to do her face justice and risk a woman's scorn; good work!) and she tells "Gar" that the yellow sheets are all blank, too.

Now Gardner is really perplexed and comments that it's almost as if the story has been erased from his mind.  Then, production department staffer Ed Eisenberg walks into Julie's office to report that the radio in the production room says the Earth is being invaded by an alien spaceship.  Schwartz says it's another April fool's gag, this time from "the quiet one," referring to Eisenberg.  The three men then look out Julie's window to see the ship and Fox exclaims that the ship they spot is precisely the way he'd described it in his story.

In the next moment, Sid Greene walks in, asking if his story is ready.  Julie says to never mind that and just listen to the radio as the special announcements continue:  "People of Earth!  We come from the planet Arleon of the star-sun Spica—to demand your surrender!  We have no wish to destroy you in a devastating attack—so we suggest that instead of our attacking you—you attack us!  We will destroy your mightiest weapon so you will understand you cannot possibly harm us!"  This jogs Gardner's memory again and he says that it's precisely the same dialogue he wrote in his story and that he'd come up with Spica and Arleon, but he still can't recall what happens next.  Greene, with furrowed brow and thought bubble asks the rhetorical question of why he became a science-fiction artist.  Schwartz then turns to Fox and reminds him that in the story he wrote for the Flash #123 ("Flash of Two Worlds!") that he said he'd originally written the Jay Garrick Flash stories because he was mentally tuned into his world.  Julie then speculates that perhaps that's what has happened here.  He was somehow tuned into the invaders from Arleon and learned their plan but thought it was merely a creative inspiration.

Meanwhile, the armed forces have not been sitting on their hands and we see a nuke being fired from McGuire Air Force Base toward the alien craft.  Back at the 8th floor of the Golden Skyscraper building, Gardner and Julie watch as the missile approaches the alien craft.  Fox again says that it's part of his story, but he can't remember ahead.  He then watches as a beam fired from the craft obliterates the missile, once again in accordance with his story.  "Again the aliens spoke to us!  Again they used words I had already written…"  They demand surrender in 10 hour's time and Fox asks how they could have learned everything he wrote, right down to the 10-hour deadline.

Well, to answer that question, we shift scenes again, as Fox continues to narrate and says that later he learned that as he was about to begin writing his story, the aliens were concealed behind the moon, plotting their strategy.  As it turns out, the crafty creatures have no fuel to power their weapons, so they must trick the people of Earth into firing first to provide the necessary power to activate their weapons.  It seems the beings from the Spica system can travel through space on stellar energy, but cannot use that same source to activate their weapons.  For that they require cobalt, which is plentiful on Earth and they intend to procure after the surrender of Earth's inhabitants.  We continue to learn of their plot as they discuss it among themselves:  "When the Earth people fire at us, the energy from their weapon will be absorbed by our inhali-scope!  The inhali-scope will instantly transmit this energy to our weapon—and we'll blast the Earth missile!"  The inhali-scope was lowered to the surface of the Earth, which is the only place where it could operate, via a gravity beam and surrounded with a radiant electro-magnetic field to conceal it.  As their plans continued, the aliens went through all earth weapons via a tape recorder.  While researching, their surveillance somehow stumbled across Gardner busily typing away in his study while puffing on his pipe.  They are also able to discern that he's committed their entire plan to paper.  It cannot be revealed, even as a fictional account, but they can't destroy it with their non-functional weapons.  Lacking that option, they turn instead to their Erasi-chine, powered by the same stellar energy that brought them to this point, to wipe all knowledge of the "story" from Fox's mind after he's finished the writing and gone to bed.  They also clean the pages and carbons of the recounting as well.

Back in Julie's office, the editor is trying desperately to help Gardner recall his story, demanding to know in particular how he'd engineered Earth's victory over the invaders, as all their stories end.  Fox still cannot retrieve the data from his mind, though.  Just to put more pressure on, Schwartz announces he's calling Washington so the authorities can hear about the plan once poor Gardner finally remembers it.

About 3 hours later, in response to Julie's call, three Pentagon officials arrive at his office and our favorite editor begins to brief General Frederick Herron about the situation while our beleaguered writer continues to strain to recall.  Julie then suggests that he get Fox back to his den where he usually writes so that the association of familiar surroundings might jog something loose.  The military men agree and offer to stay behind to monitor the situation and stay in touch via telephone.

An hour later we see Gardner and Julie in his Yonkers abode.  Fox is pounding away on his trusty typewriter, trying to get back to that place in the creative process, but so far the tactic isn't yielding any fruit.  "I've typed the whole story right up to date!  I'm stuck now!  I can't remember how I worked it out!  There's no way…"  Unwilling to admit defeat, Julie counters with "We can't give up!  Listen—what do you do when you're stuck for a good solution to a problem?"  Gardner then gets up and begins to pace the room and says he usually talks the story out loud, sometimes even talking to his Mynah bird, Yakky, who jabbers back words and phrases to him.  Immediately both men are struck with inspiration as they look at the suspended birdcage.  Julie tells Gardner to talk out his story and perhaps Yakky will repeat a key word or phrase to activate his memory.  Fox immediately does so, but to no apparent avail as the bird merely repeats back bits of phrases that don't shed any light.  Just then the phone rings.  Schwartz answers it and says, "Who?  Oh, Fred Herron!  No, General—nothing yet!"  Yakky then responds with "Red herring—red herring—"  An overjoyed Gardner then exclaims that "red herring" was the vital clue.  He now remembers everything.  Those key words that came from the bird mistaking Fred Herron for red herring provided the necessary trigger.  "The aliens have fooled us with a red herring—something to distract us from the real facts!  Their weapon has no fuel!  It can't shoot unless we shoot at it!  The real danger is the inhali-scope, hidden in Carson Woods!

A mere 30 minutes later, a bazooka squad located and destroyed the inhali-scope, which in turn caused the departure of the alien spacecraft.  A relieved Gardner says that he'd better get back to finishing off his story now that he remembers how it ended.  Julie, however, says that the story is no longer of any use to him.  "Within hours every paper on Earth will have printed what happened!  Since our Strange Adventures won't be on the stands for three more months—everybody and his uncle will have read it by that time!  Get busy and write me another story—fast!  You'll have to be satisfied with having saved Earth in real life—as you saved it so often on paper!"

Gardner Fox, however, doesn't seem to be very satisfied as he begins the long trudge back to his den to try and beat his deadline.

I'm not completely certain, but I do strongly suspect this is the first time that Gardner Fox and company were written into a comic story (characters bearing a strong resemblance to Gar and Julie, but using dfferent names, appear in "The Menace of the Shrinking Bomb!", published in Strange Adventures #113 dated February, 1960).   I have, of course, had the great pleasure of reviewing later issues where it was done again, specifically in Flash #179 where the Scarlet Speedster met up with Julie and Detective Comics #347 when we saw and heard from Gardner Fox as he shared how he developed the Batman story contained therein.  This one, of course, was a little different as no heroes showed up and our valiant staff did the heavy lifting by saving the Earth (and New York City in particular) from the marauding aliens.  Was this a little filler story or inspiration?  Who can say for certain, but I thought it was a short, but very fun 8 pages and once again I truly enjoyed a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the life of a comic production team from my favorite era.  To me, these guys really were heroes and I'll always be grateful for the grand adventures I've enjoyed through their skilled storytelling.  It was an amusing little romp and I give it a 7 on the rating scale.

Make it a point to join us next time, faithful readers, as we mark six, yes, six years of reviews right here in our little corner of cyberspace.  That occurs in about two weeks, as always and in the interim, I hope you'll drop me a line with any observations, questions or feedback at professor_the@hotmail.com.

Until next time…

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2006 by B.D.S.

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