Comics / DC Comics History

DC Comics History: Adam Strange

By Deejay Dayton
Apr 29, 2017 - 9:37


Hero of two worlds, Adam Strange, made his debut during the period 1955 – 1959: Dawn of the Silver Age. Moving from Showcase into Mystery in Space, it took a bit of time to nail down the look of the series, which seems very loosely inspired by John Carter of Mars, at least as far as the teleportation element.


Adam Strange debuted in Showcase 17, but the series does not bear his name.  Rather, it is called Adventures on Other Worlds.  Looking at the first story, by Gardner Fox, Mike Sekowsky and Frank Giacoia, it may indeed have been conceived as more of an anthology series. There is no logo at all on this tale, and if it was taken out and placed into House of Mystery, Strange Adventures or Tales of the Unexpected it would read as a decent one-shot story. Adam Strange is introduced as an archaeologist on a dig in South America.  Fleeing from some angry natives, he gets struck by a beam of light from the sky, and finds himself on an alien world.


A woman is there to help him and bring him to the city.  She gives him a headband which teaches him their language, and he learns that he is in Ranagar, on Rann, a world orbiting Alpha Centauri.  The woman who rescued him, Alanna, is the daughter of Sardath, the creator of the Zeta-Beam.  The beam was intended as a means of communication, so he says, and mutated on its way through space.  We learn that Rann underwent a massive nuclear war, and that civilization on the planet has declined drastically since then.


Alanna gives Adam a tour of Rann, and they come across the Brigadoon-like city of Samarkand, which only phases into reality on rare occasions.  Aliens attack, wanting a rare element from Samarkand, and Adam goes into action to stop them. Although in the end, he basically just allows them to do what they wanted.  The element is only stable inside the phasing realm of Samarkand, so the aliens wind up trapped.  As the story ends, Adam phases back to Earth as the beam wears off. The Zeta-Beam is highly reminiscent of the teleportation that John Carter of Mars uses in the novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs.


Adam is also featured in the second story in the issue. Despite now having a cool costume, there is still no Adam Strange logo on the tale. It's very much a sequel to the first story, mentioning it a couple of times.  Adam figures out where the next Zeta-Beam will strike, and is there to be teleported, but winds up captured immediately, sent to the Rainbow Tower of Doom, and then teleported to the planet Anthorann. There, he is fortunate to come across Sardath and Alanna, in a crashed space ship. 


He even finds s nifty new space suit to wear.  Sardath had learned how to build the spaceship from the people of Samarkand before they vanished, and went in search of a lost colony, stumbling into an alien attack. The story is very simple, but includes a couple of great visuals, the Rainbow Tower stuff, and the pendulum the aliens use to try to cut the dome of Ranagar.  Once again Adam winds up being sent back to Earth at the end of the story, already a format for the tales.


Showcase 18 features two more Adam Strange tales, but remains under the Adventures on Other Worlds logo. Bernard Sachs does the inks on the first tale.  Adam catches the Zeta-Beam to Rann, but winds up in a place he has never seen before. Turns out that he kind of still is on Rann, but it takes a while for Adam to learn this.  He is brought before an alien council as an intruder, and shrunken as a punishment. But it turns out that the rest of the Rannians are there as well. 


The Vrenn invade worlds, shrink their populations and leave them to die.  Adam decodes their inscriptions, and figures out how to reverse the shrink ray. It happens just in time, the Vrenn have a deadly new ray machine to kill the Rannians.  Adam uses the shrink ray on the Vrenn, leaving them in the trap they had put so many others into.


The second tale involves another Rannian city warring on Ranagar. Adam Strange dolls have become the rave in Ranagar since Adam's last adventure.  This is helpful, as Adam is able to disguise himself as a doll to infiltrate the rival city. There he uncovers a plan to turn the dolls into bombs and blow up Ranagar. 


Adam scuppers those plans, but clearly the whole bomb thing killed the sales of the doll, as we never see them again.


Adam Strange finally gets a logo on the cover of Showcase 19. Both stories in this issue put Adam into an odd, short sleeved version of his costume.


Adam's interception of the Zeta-Beam is done entertainingly, as he claims to be able to do the famous rope trick disappearance, knowing that the Zeta-beam will hit that spot in the air. When he arrives on Rann, instead of being able to hang out with Alanna, Adam has to deal with a challenge from an alien shape changer.  He must find the being within three tries, or the creature will put all of Rann into suspended animation.


It's really an impossible task, although Adam goes about it cleverly, and finds the shape changer by heading to an arid region, with very animals, and then using psychology to trick him into revealing himself.


The final Adam Strange Showcase story has, for once, no apparent threat the moment Adam Strange arrives on Rann. Instead, Alanna takes Adam on a tour of the friendly city states, where they present him with a number of valuable gifts.  But Adam notices that these gifts are all fakes. The gifts were altered by a strange entity, which basically looks like a giant molecule. 


He wants the secret of teleportation, and sends a magnetic meteor to Rann which grabs Adam, and Alanna, bringing them to him. While Adam diverts the molecule thing, Alanna gets to save the day for a change, taking control of the meteor to send the villain and his world far into space. But as always, just when the trouble ends, the Zeta-Beam wears off, and Adam is returned to Earth.


Adam Strange begins his regular ongoing series in Mystery in Space 53, a couple of months after his Showcase run ended. This story begins with Adam on Earth, making sure that he is in the right spot when the Zeta-Beam hits.  In this instance, a couple of kids are in the location he needs to be in, so he bribes them to leave by paying for them to get ice cream. Arriving on Rann, and getting into his costume, he finds Alanna in control of a giant robot. 


This one, and others like it, were given to the people of Rann by aliens, in exchange for some of the planet's resources.  When the robots go out of control, and start to rebel, suspicion lands on the aliens.  Adam discovers that the aliens are not behind this, but Vor Kan, the Rannian in charge of maintaining the robots, who hoped to use them to take over the planet.


Adam Strange gets in trouble with the law on Rann in Mystery in Space 54. As soon as Adam arrives on Rann he finds himself arrested, and put on trial for stealing Rannian weapons.  He gets abducted during the trial, and in his absence is found guilty.  Because they think he fled, orders go out to shoot him on sight. But Adam was kidnapped by stone men from underground. 


They stole the weapons, and framed Adam, as they feel he was the only one who could possibly stop their invasion of the surface world.  And, you know, they were right.  Cause that is what he does, even though he has to fight against the Rannian forces as well, with only Alanna at his side.  Thankfully, after their defeat, the stone men admit to being the thieves, so all is well by the end of the tale.


The story in Mystery in Space 55 opens as Adam waits for the Zeta-Beam to hit him, but it simply never arrives. He waits for a few days, and then catches the next beam, arriving on Rann only to find it being terrorized by a monster, which Alanna has named the Zaradak.  It came from a wandering planet, which wound up intercepting the beam from a few days earlier. While Adam is dealing with the creature, another planet begins to attack Rann. 


The Zaradak can absorb energy, so Adam plans to use the beast to absorb the energy from the alien bomb, but the Zeta-charge wears off and the beast gets returned to its world.  Adam has to fly out and destroy the enemy bomb himself.

Adam Strange continues in the next period, 1960 – 1964: the Silver Age.

Adam Strange: Showcase 17 – 19 (Nov/Dec 58 – March/April 59)

Mystery in Space 53 – 56 (Aug – Dec 59)

Next up – Gunner and Sarge!

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Last Updated: Jun 26, 2018 - 9:28

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