Comics / DC Comics History

DC Comics History: Darwin Jones (1955 - 1959: Dawn of the Silver Age)


By Deejay Dayton
Mar 27, 2017 - 16:51

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The period 1955 – 1959: Dawn of the Silver Age would be the heyday for Darwin Jones, chief of the Department of Scientific Investigation. He got to appear in a total of eight stories in Strange Adventures during these years, which was more than twice as many as in the previous two periods combined! Darwin Jones never quite made the cover of Strange Adventures, though he came awfully close at one point. And, for the first and only time during his long run in the book, Jones managed to appear in two consecutive issues.

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The first Darwin Jones story from this period appeared in Strange Adventures 66, and featured Gil Kane art. The tale centres on a metal time capsule found buried in ancient Roman ruins. No one is able to open the time capsule, which has an inscription dating it to 251 A.D.  Darwin Jones takes to the media about this, and a locksmith shows up, inserting a key where there is no hole, to open it.  Jones expected as much.  Inside there is simply an odd metal rod. I was very displeased with the conclusion of this story.  Jones had figured out the inscription meant the object was a fake. 

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The locksmith does prove to be from the future, as was the so-called time capsule.  But Jones' proof is that the inscription used Arabic numerals, instead of Roman ones.  That's true, but it also used the phrase A.D., which was not around at that time, and Jones' comment at the end seems to make him completely unaware of this.

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Kane also illustrated the Darwin Jones tale in Strange Adventures 70. The story has two aliens and a deadly device on Earth.  Both aliens claim to be good, insisting the other is the evil one, who brought the bomb. So Darwin Jones has to figure out which is which. 

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I expected this to fall along the path of a "liar and an honest man" puzzle, but instead Jones releases both, and determines from their actions which one is the good one - the one who is hunting for the bomb. The final page is particularly nice. Kane also does the art on Darwin Jones’ next adventure, which deals with an Atlantean robot, in Strange Adventures 76.

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The Darwin Jones story in Strange Adventures 77 makes the cover of the issue, although Jones himself does not. Carmine Infantino illustrates the tale, which deals with a prisoner on death row.  He gets contacted by aliens, who offer him freedom and great powers in exchange for performing a task that will save their world.  Of course, he accepts.  The balloon sequence, pictured on the cover, is how he gets out of his cell, as the gasses in the balloons combine to form an explosive. But once he is out, he finds himself compelled into actions, such as writing out a complex manual for an anti-matter explosion.  This gets found by a snoopy cleaning lady, who turns it over to the government, which is how Darwin Jones gets involved.

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What Jones understands, and the ex-prisoner doesn't, is that he is being manipulated by the aliens into riding a plane carrying the anti-matter weapon directly towards a comet threatening their world.  The guy dies, the alien world is saved, and Jones is fine with it all. Infantino also handles Darwin Jones’ encounters with evil alien snowmen in issue 79, and giant robot seed planters in 84.

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Darwin Jones comes soooo close to making the cover of Strange Adventures 88.  He is in the scene pictured, but just off to the side.  Darn. Infantino is still on the art and spins this twisty tale, which begins with a talking gorilla at a zoo.  They take the gorilla for testing, and it gloatingly announces that other gorillas are plotting to conquer the world from their secret city. It even passes a lie detector test. Jones doubts the lie detector, and so has one of the scientists hooked up to it.  Jones asks if the scientist is an alien, and he gets so offended he walks out.  This confirms Darwin Jones' suspicions. 

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He noticed the man throwing his voice, making it seem like the gorilla was talking, and made the massive jump to figuring out the scientist was really an alien.  Both he and the gorilla were basically coaxing on the US to drop an atomic bomb on the gorillas. So they send off a plane with a dud bomb, which gets stolen by the aliens.  This really had been the alien plan on how to steal a nuke.  Make it look like talking gorillas were plotting to conquer the Earth.  They just plain old deserved to have that plan fail.

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The final Darwin Jones story from this period appears in Strange Adventures 93, and begins as a person on land abruptly announces that he is drowning. It turns out that an alien is telepathically communicating through the man.  He has come to Earth to warn everyone about an approaching cosmic cloud, which could prove deadly. 

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Darwin Jones is then responsible to not only neutralize the cloud, but also find and rescue the alien. Of course, he succeeds at both tasks, and both in the nick of time.  Not a bad story, but kind of thin, even with the two interconnected plots. It's a full five years before Darwin Jones returns to these pages.

Darwin Jones returns in the next period, 1960 – 1964: the Silver Age.

Darwin Jones: Strange Adventures 66, 70, 76, 77, 79, 84, 88, 93 (March 56, July 56, Jan 57, Feb 57, April 57, Sept 57, Jan 58, June 58)

Next up – Tales of the Arrow Maker!


Last Updated: May 15, 2017 - 12:13

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