DC Comics History: Space Museum (1960 - 1964: the Silver Age)
By Deejay Dayton
June 17, 2017 - 15:35
Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino’s Space Museum series would continue to appear on a rotating basis in Strange Adventures through the period 1960 – 1964: the Silver Age, closing its doors right towards the end. Though the series was very formulaic, with young Tommy Parker learning the dramatic stories behind seemingly insignificant exhibits, the best tales from the run dealt with the Parker family themselves.
In Strange Adventures 115 Tommy's father picks the object to be discussed. In this case, a stuffed magpie. The story deals with deadly gem creatures. Because they look like precious stones, they get brought to the Space Museum. But the sentient gems are able to control minds, and force people into all manner of destructive acts.
The hero of the story, who had been controlled by the gems, releases a magpie into the museum, knowing its proclivity for stealing sparkly things. Sure enough, the bird grabs the gems, and drops them into water, which "drowns" and kills them. The bird became an honoured hero, and Tommy, whose birthday it is, was named for the magpie.
In issue 124 Tommy Parker enquires about an exhibit that consists of a strand of hair, but when his father begins to explain, Tommy looks really pissed off. The story deals with a daredevil pilot, nicknamed the Wrecker, who winds up serving under a female admiral as they battle against an army from Procyon, who are attacking colonists from Earth.
The Wrecker winds up using a strand of the admiral's hair as a sight for his gun, enabling him to take out the big weapon of the Procyons. None of that is particularly different than other Space Museum stories, but the ending reveals that the Wrecker and the admiral fell in love, married, and are Tommy's parents.
Tommy is surprised when his mother accompanies him and his father to the Space Museum, in Strange Adventures 142. I guess she isn't really a museum person. And then Tommy is blown away when he sees a picture of himself being unveiled as the most recent exhibit. Instead of his father telling the story, in this issue it's one of the museum staff explaining the reasons for Tommy's inclusion. The story notes that it is Tommy's fifteenth birthday, and the story behind the exhibit takes place when Tommy was three years old, as the aliens that his parents defeated in the story where we learned about how they met, return to seek vengeance.
The alien attacked on the pair got foiled simply due to the young Tommy moving the spaceship while his parents were outside getting paralyzed by flowers. Tommy was so young at the time, he doesn't even recall the events that took place. And honestly, I don't think they merited his inclusion in the museum.
The Space Museum story in Strange Adventures 145 tries something new. Tommy brings a couple of alien boys along with him as his father brings him to the Space Museum for their monthly visit. But as they approach the museum it vanishes, replaced with a space ship. Aliens emerge with a strange device, that renders Tommy's father, and all adults, motionless. The aliens have come to Earth to steal the energy-mass of the planet, which will leave it a hollow shell, incapable of supporting life.
Tommy figures out how to stop the aliens, and turn off their machine. So this gets Tommy and his buddies, who help with his plan, a plaque in the museum. This runs contrary to what is said in the story in which his picture was made into an exhibit, that it takes thirteen years to evaluate the importance of an event, before the Space Museum will include it. I guess when the museum itself become part of the story, it's a different situation.
In issue 148 Tommy questions his mother about her days as an ensign, long before she became an admiral. The mother tries to defer the story, telling Tommy that his father can relate the tale on their usual trip to the Space Museum, but Tommy wants to hear the story NOW! She was sent on a spy mission against the LLore, because she was the ablest pilot in the fleet. And indeed, she certainly shows exceptional skills.
She has to land to refuel, but the minerals she uses have the property of evolving her to the point where she becomes a brain, and then a being of pure energy. This wears off, but not before she has defeated the LLore, who are unable to find her in her energy state. Tommy is a bit upset that her mother did not pause at the climax to let Tommy try to guess the resolution, as his father does.
The Space Museum story in Strange Adventures 157 is kind of a crossover with the Adam Strange series in Mystery in Space. Tommy and his father head to the Space Museum, but at night. There is an exhibit the father wants to show the boy, but it can only be seen by moonlight. The sky is cloudy, and as they wait for a break in the overcast sky, the father relates the story behind the seemingly empty case. The tale involves Alan Strange, a descendant of Adam Strange, and like his forerunner, an archaeologist.
He is on a planet, examining the ruins of a dead civilization, when he encounters an odd woman, Llalla. She is a Chronovar, from a different dimension, people who travel through time as if it were a solid place. They can only interact with our dimension when reflected by moonlight. Her people are threatened by a vibration set off by an explosion, and Alan Strange saves them by setting off a counter-acting vibration. Alan also captures the bad guys who threatened her people with the first blast. As the father finishes his tale, the clouds part, and Llalla herself appears in the case, reflected by the moonlight.
The Space Museum series comes to an end in Strange Adventures 161, even though the final panel announces that there will be more stories. As always, Tommy Parker's father brings him to the museum for their monthly visit, and explains the significance of an exhibit, in this case half a weapon. The other half of the weapon resides in a different Space Museum, on a dead world. A space-splorer, who seeks out new worlds, is the hero of the tale. He finds a Space Museum on the dead planet, and winds up dealing with the aliens who wiped those people out.
The weapon is one he retrieved from the museum there, which generates a force field. The hero tries to make peace with the aliens, but they refuse, and attack with deadly ray beams. The force field weapon reflects their beams back on them, killing them all.
The Space Museum would be seen again as a location in the Booster Gold comic, and there would be one final Space Museum story, in the pages of Secret Origins in the 90s.
Space Museum: Strange Adventures 115, 118, 121, 124, 127, 130, 133, 136, 139, 142, 145, 148, 151, 154, 157, 161 (Apr 60, July 60, Oct 60, Jan 61, Apr 61, July 61, Oct 61, Jan 62, Apr 62, July 62, Oct 62, Jan 63, Apr 63, July 63, Oct 63, Feb 64)
Next up – Rip Hunter, Time Master!
DC Comics History: Space Museum (1960 - 1964: the Silver Age)
DC Comics History: Space Museum