Tagged: Adam Strange

Mike Gold: Time, Space, and Adam Strange

It was, for its time, the coolest comic book on the racks. Lucky for me, having just turned eight years old I was at the perfect age to best enjoy it.

In fact, I already was lusting for the comic by the time it hit my local drug store. The house ad promoting the issue had been running in several of the DC comics for a few weeks, and it intrigued the hell out of me. Back in those days when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, new comic book heroes were very few and very far between, even though 1958 was something of a boom year. DC had a title called Showcase that offered new concepts a try out – usually three issues. Yes, it was joined by The Brave and the Bold, but not until the summer of 1959. Showcase begat the Challengers of the Unknown, Lois Lane, the Metal Men, and the silver age Flash, Green Lantern and The Atom… among others.

Whereas it isn’t hard to get an eight-year old all excited, this comic book had a pedigree that few others approached. It was created by, if you’ll forgive the word, legends. Julius Schwartz was the editor and the ringleader, and he reached for his A team. Gardner Fox, arguably the most accomplished comics writer in American history, did the scripting and he co-plotted it with fellow comics writer and science fiction icon Edmond Hamilton, along with the aforementioned Julie Schwartz. The cover artist was Gil Kane, and the story artist was Mike Sekowsky.

The series was called Adam Strange. It featured a run-of-the-mill Earthling who found himself transported by Zeta Beam to the planet Rann where he fell in love with the chief scientist’s daughter while flying around, usually with her, vanquishing alien invasions and monsters and such. When the Zeta Beam wore off Adam faded back to Earth, usually right after he saved the day but right before he could kiss his lover. That drove him bugfuck, and back on Earth he figured out where and when that Zeta Beam would strike next… usually just in time to save Rann once again.

What made Adam Strange work – in 1958 – was the costume. It was classic science fiction spaceman. Jet-pack, helmet, ray gun, and all red with white accents. It was designed by still another legend, Murphy Anderson. Murphy had been drawing science fiction heroes since 1944. In fact, he drew the newspaper adventures of one of the very first such heroes, Buck Rogers, and Buck’s influence on Adam’s costume was quite evident – and very welcome.

The whole thing started as a contest. DC executive vice president Irwin Donenfeld thought what the world needed was a new s-f hero and he challenged editors Julius Schwartz and Jack Schiff. Jack’s Space Ranger was published in Showcase #15 and #16; Adam Strange lived in the next three issues.

As it turned out, neither character won – yet neither character lost, either. Adam Strange became the lead feature in Mystery In Space, drawn by the near-mythic Carmine Infantino and always occupying the cover, while Space Ranger lived in Tales of the Unexpected. For the record: Space Ranger also was created by Gardner Fox and Edmond Hamilton, but the two were as different as night and day. The main difference: Space Ranger was rather typical, and Adam Strange was exciting.

Both series lasted until the mid-60s. By that time, the United States and Russia had sent a passel of humans (and a few dogs) into outer space, and the reality of what you could see on the home screen was vastly more compelling than 1950s science fiction heroes.

Of course, in comic books nothing ever goes away, and here Adam got the best of the Ranger. Adam Strange remains a vital force in the DC Universe to this day, and now Adam Strange is going to enjoy something of a starring role in the latest DC teevee show, Krypton. Mindy Newell reported on this Monday, although she revealed only a fraction of our deeply existentialist conversation.

I’m glad to see Adam is still around, but I’m reminded of DC publisher Jenette Kahn’s reaction to the character back in 1977 when Jack C. Harris and I discussed a run in the revived Showcase. She took home a couple bound volumes from the library, read them over the weekend, came back and pronounced it “dated.”

Yup. It was. And that was the point. But DC needed to develop its astrophysical borders, so Jack pretty much kept the story, which also featured Hawkman and Hawkwoman. We renamed the series Hawkman, and it did okay.

Amusingly, Hawkwoman (or Hawkgirl) will be joining Adam Strange in the new Krypton series. This will not be the same woman from the current DC/CW teevee shows as these shows (except Supergirl) inhabit a parallel universe in which Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman do not exist.

As of yet.

Television has learned a lot from comic books.


Mindy Newell: July 18, 2017

When the father of quantum mechanics, Erwin Schrodinger – he of Schrödinger’s Cat fame – told a Dublin audience in 1952 that “…his Nobel equations seemed to describe several different histories, these were ‘not alternatives, but all really happen simultaneously,’ it was the first time that the multiverse was addressed as a scientific theory and not just science fiction.

So Editor Mike texted me on Saturday to let me know that Adam Strange – I don’t mean an actor, I mean the DC character–is going to be a regular on the new Krypton series on SyFy sometime in 2018, if everything stays on track – and how often does that happen?

For those not in the know, and that’s all of you, because I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it here, Adam Strange was my first “comics crush” back in the day, and I continue to love him. And I don’t mean any modern interpretation of him, but the original science fiction personage created by Julius Schwartz, with a costume design by Murphy Anderson, and who first appeared in Showcase #17, cover-dated November 1958. (I was five years old.)

I texted him back:

“Adam Strange has nothing to do with Krypton.”

Mike: “Well, he does now. This series, which lives in a universe separate from the comics, the movies, and maybe even the other teevee [sic] serieses [sic], is set in both the deep past (on the planet Krypton, no longer extant) and in the present day. But let us remember that Superman does not exist on the teevee [sic] Earth where Flash, Green Arrow, and the Legends live.”

Me: “Part of the multiverse.”

Mike: “Sure. Aren’t we all?”

And then, I wrote this back to him:

“Maybe that’s what death is. I mean the ‘near death’ experiences that people talk about…that white light…some kind of “wormhole” event horizon connecting us to the next life in the next universe, the one that is ‘second star to the right and straight on to morning’…And that’s why people have reincarnation experiences and/or déjà vu…They are glimpses of the multiverse.”

Quantum leaping.

•     •     •     •     •

Not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. So don’t be afraid… Matthew 10:29, 31

Driving down to Cherry Hill with Alixandra to see my mom last Sunday – somewhere in my heart I knew this would be the last time – we hit traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike. Not enough to slow down completely, but the speedometer was reading 45 or 50 mph. All of a sudden, a sparrow landed on the passenger side-view mirror. It just sat there for a few seconds, maybe five, looking at us through the window. And then it flew away.

As in an M. Knight Shaymalan movie, there are signs everywhere.

My favorite line in Ben-Hur:

“The world is more than we know.”

•     •     •     •     •

mom-and-dad-300x234-1084743mom-and-dad-1-300x378-3224083Today, as I write this, is Sunday, July 23, 2017.

It has been six days.

Four since the funeral.

Yet somehow it feels like forever.

And at the same time like it didn’t happen at all.

I guess that is as good as any definition of grief.


Martha Thomases: The Superhero Lesson

Everything I need to know, I learned from superhero comics. Not just how to infer the meaning of words I don’t know from context (seeing bullets bounce off Superman while someone said he was “invulnerable”), but also how to be a citizen.

The superheroes I loved were, in large part, immigrants and refugees. Superman and Supergirl (refugees from Krypton), Wonder Woman (immigrant, at least in her initial stories), Martian Manhunter (immigrant, or maybe kidnapped slave), Adam Strange (immigrant to Rann), lots and lots of X-Men and Legion of Super-Hero members.

Immigrants and refugees were characters I admired. When I got old enough to study history, I learned that real-life immigrants and refugees were among the most admirable people ever to live in this country. I also learned that not everyone shared my perspective.

There is a long history of demonizing immigrants here. Over the centuries, people have whipped up hysteria over Italians, Irish, Greeks, Chinese, Jews from anywhere, Catholics from anywhere, even Native Americans – who aren’t even immigrants. We fear those who are different from us, and it prevents us from seeing what we have in common.

Many of the people who created my favorite characters were themselves immigrants or the children of immigrants, people who grew up in neighborhoods filled with people who identified themselves as hyphen-Americans. It’s not a surprise that these men (for the most part) created heroes who were outsiders.

Now our so-called “president” wants to restrict immigrants’ access to the American dream, to shut out refugees who face persecution and, sometimes, death if they return to their country of origin. This isn’t only immoral and un-American. It’s also bad for business.

And it’s bad for those of us who love to read, which I assume includes you, Constant Reader, if you’ve made it this far. Immigrants and refugees write some of our most important (and delightful!) books. We need more people with talent in this country whether they are LGBTQ or non-white or non-Christian or foreign-born or whatever.

And, by the way, my family has been in this country longer than our so-called “president’s” family, so if we’re sending anybody back somewhere, he has to go before I do.

Another thing I learned from comics is that change starts with me. No matter how super-powered a character might be, nothing would happen until he or she got involved. I’m delighted to say that comic book creators and cartoonists are putting this plot into our reality and standing up for immigrants and refugees, and those who protect them. According to this, several cartoonists are sending original artwork to people who donate to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Think about doing so, too, even if you don’t get any artwork. You might just get an artist.