I thought it’d be interesting to follow the Adam Strange concept over the years by focusing on one or two stories in each decade of his existence.  Principally, I want to examine what makes him ‘tick’ as a character – what can we get from an Adam Strange story that we couldn’t quite get elsewhere?

 

Followers of my JLA thread may have noticed that it has paused at the end of issue #19, which was the 2nd of four consecutive fill-in issues by Mark Waid.  The first two of these – comprising the tale of Julian September - was a very original self-contained little tale.  Waid’s second two-parter, however, was much more ‘Waidian’.  It concerned longtime DC slawart Adam Strange, and made much use of the continuity of that character.  In fact, for good or ill, it was all about continuity. 

 

I decided that I couldn’t really comment on the Adam Strange issues of JLA without having some kind of grounding on how the character has been presented over the years.  I could see that such a study would be easier with Strange than with most of his early Silver Age stablemates.  He has been used sparingly since his run in Mystery in Space ended with issue 102 in 1965, and his essential character hasn’t changed much since his first appearance.

 

Thanks everyone who answered my initial queries regarding the best stories to read.  Due to reprinting gaps I wasn’t able to get my hands on all that I’d have liked to, but I think I have enough to represent each decade.  Some of these stories I am really looking forward to rereading - particularly an appearance by a certain muck-encrusted Earth Elemental.  Many I'll be reading for the first time.  Hopefully we'll make it all the way to Planet Heist, set excitingly in the 21st Century.  How futuristic is that?

  

 

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As already mentioned, 'The Magic-Maker of Rann' is of interest because it was written by Gardner Fox, and was published after Fox left DC in 1968 as one of a group of longtime creators due to a dispute over health insurance and benefits.

 

This 'picture story' was published in 1970. I'd love to know the circumstances of its publication.
 It's unlikely that it was adapted from a story DC had already obtained from Fox before he left.  It is a finished prose pulp story after all. That makes it likely that Fox wrote it for DC after he left and he was concentrating on publishing prose.   I'd like to know how this story came about.

At the moment, I'm presuming that this is DC's last published story scripted by Fox, which if true is another point that makes this Fox ‘swansong’ noteworthy.

 

From what I’ve read, the break between the ‘old guard’ creators and DC must have happened between the preparation of Doom Patrol #120 and #121 in mid-1968, as Drake only did the script for the last one as a favour to the artist (and maybe the editor) and then Drake didn’t appear as a creator depicted within the pages of the comic itself.  Beyond that, I don’t know too much about the split.  I presume it was more a case of the creators refusing to work for DC anymore rather than being ‘fired’?

 

The appearance of a Fox-written story two years later makes me wonder about the finer details of that rift with the creators, and how there came to be one more story by Fox.

 

Of course, I’m not as au fait with the Silver Age as many folks around here, so would love any extra information anyone can supply.  In particular I’d like to know if this is in fact the last Gardner Fox penned story for DC, and not just his last Adam Strange tale.

Now that you got me thinking about Adam Strange.....

  • How many Zeta-beams were shot at Earth? Seemingly one a month but really that's a lot of Zeta-beams!
  • How did they compensate for the fact that the Earth was in orbit and the solar system was moving and the galaxy was rotating, etc?
  • Did anyone else get hit by a Zeta-beam?
  • What was the original purpose of the Zeta-beam?
  • Since Adam knew Superman, Green Lantern and Hawkman, why didn't he ask one of them to take him to Rann permanently?
  • Did Alanna ever visit Earth in the Silver Age?
  • Did Adam use different ray-guns or just the one?
  • Besides the gun and the jetpack, did he bring any Rannian tech back to Earth?

 

  • How many Zeta-beams were shot at Earth? Seemingly one a month but really that's a lot of Zeta-beams!

After the end of the first story, Adam is told that the next beam will strike Earth in 62 days and so many hours, minutes and seconds, and told where, exactly.  He seems to have been given a log of where and when each one would strike going forward from that.  The Adam Strange stories are each very tight and focused, and there isn't a lot of room in the spine of the story for details like this, but its clear that Fox had it all worked out, based on throwaway remarks here and there.

 

Just as later stories of Doctor Who make play with his time-travelling beyond just getting him to the where and when of the story he's about to take part in, so too does the Zeta Beam switch from being just the starting point of Adam's next adventure on Rann to becoming integral to the outworking of the story.  I think that's a reason why Adam's solution to 'The Planet that Came to a Standstill" (the JLA crossover) surprised me when I read it recently.  Adam is a lateral thinker and went back and re-examined the terms of the puzzle, and realised that the Zeta Beam was more than just the trigger of his involvement in the events.

 

Once Adam starts using the Zeta Beam in the solutions to his dilemmas, they seem to start happening closer together.  A few times he leaves Rann in the grip of some intergalactic despot and patiently waits until his next Zeta Beam on Earth, but when he gets back to Rann, nothing much has changed.  Issue 79, the first half of which I loooked at above, is one example of this kind of story.

 

As I say, Fox keeps the science in the background, but the fact that Alpha Centuari is the closest solar system to Earth may explain a lot.  It is only 4 light years away, which means that Sardath didn't have to start his experimental beaming to Earth hundreds of years ago, and perhaps the beam wouldn't focus properly if the target was further away than Earth, and use up too much energy!  It explains elegantly why Sardath chose Earth to practice his new technology on.

 

  • How did they compensate for the fact that the Earth was in orbit and the solar system was moving and the galaxy was rotating, etc?

It's a sign of the times, but in the 60's people hadn't grasped that computers would be used for boring repetitive tasks that involved reams of calculations.  Of course, Sardath must have been using computers that calculated how to hit Earth via a complex modeling of our tiny segment of the Milky Way.  Computerisation also explains how the beams kept on coming without Sardath having to remember to do it every few weeks!

 

  •  Did anyone else get hit by a Zeta-beam?

This opens up a whole other avenue of thinking about Adam's adventures.  The simple answer is 'not in my Showcase section of the Silver Age', but it does beg the question of why out of all the humans on Earth, Adam Strange was the one who got zapped by the ray and then deliberately intercepted it from that point on.  It turned out that he was the perfect candidate and Rann needed him so badly EACH TIME he arrives.

 

It's almost as if there was a higher power watching over Rann who set things up for its saviour to keep arriving just when he was needed.  Which in turn reminds me that the DCU of the Silver Age was an intensely secular universe.  God only starts getting a look in during the 70's with mystic heroes tapping into the Godhead, and overt crucifixion imagery popping up everywhere.  (The hippies seem to have identified with long-haired peacenik Jesus.)

 

  • What was the original purpose of the Zeta-beam?

I'll have to look up the stories again.  It's a good question, and it's possible later stories might turn on what exactly Sardath was up to.

 

Again I have to marvel at the econmy of Fox's plotting.  Why and how the beam worked and what it was for became very secondary issues when Rann was being threatened yet again.

 

  •  Since Adam knew Superman, Green Lantern and Hawkman, why didn't he ask one of them to take him to Rann permanently?

 

This is probably the favourite smart-Alec question about the Adam Strange mythos.  On the one hand it illustrates the problems when you have a great concept that explores important human themes and you try to integrate that story into all the other stories in the DCU which serve different themes and storytelling styles.  If Adam can just hitch a lift to Rann and stay there indefinitely as he feels like, Adam Strange ceases to be about our conflicted selves, the tensions between dreams and reality and our eSTRANGEment from our own lives.  That's essentially why he doesn't just tap a passing superhero for a lift.

 

(Of course I could give the above answer to many of the questions in your list Philip, but that is being a tad facetious when it's fun to approach them with in-universe answers.)

 

On the other hand, Fox has thought of this.  Strange doesn't meet the JLA until the Alley award-winning issue 75, and at the end of that, Kanjar Ro's yellow beam interferes with Adam's physiology to the extent that he can't stay long on Rann each time or he will DIE!  Thus he can only spend short trips on Rann, and using the Zeta Beam ensures that he will fade back to Earth in a short enough time.  Using the Zeta Beam also ensures that Adam flies back to Earth, and arrives in the condition he left, no matter how tight a pickle the 'monster of the month' has him in - even when they manage to exile him to another dimension or somesuch!  This has turned out to be a very useful quality, and an ace up Adam's sleeve when the chips are down.

 

  •  Did Alanna ever visit Earth in the Silver Age?

Not in my Showcase volume, but Adam Strange is led to believe she has arrived at one point...

 

  • Did Adam use different ray-guns or just the one?

I think just the one, although it has many different settings, from what I can tell, preceding Star Trek's phasers in that respect.

 

Adam uses a replica of his gun made from coral at one point, to defeat a particularly difficult foe.  Lateral thinking again...

 

  • Besides the gun and the jetpack, did he bring any Rannian tech back to Earth?

Not in the stories I've read.  Again, someone using alien tech to get on in this world is not the stuff of Adam Strange stories. 

 

In-universe, it seems like Adam is intensely protective of his unique access to the sci-fi paradise world of Rann.  He doesn't want anyone else finding out about it.  In much the same way as none of us would want the whole world and his wife to know about our own internal dream-world.  Rann is a good thing that Adam wants to keep to himself.  His loneliness, habit of working alone and lack of social network all support this view of Adam's motivation.  To this end, he doesn't want anyone on Earth figuring out any more about Rann than he can possibly help, and lugging alien tech around and using it on Earth would only draw attention to his jealously guarded secrets.

 

 

I wonder if it was inferred that Adam was struck by the first Zeta-beam and that made him the focal point of the "experiment". But that's just the cynic in me.

Of course, it would explain why the Ranagarians needed him so much. They just didn't have the nerve, energy or disposition to fight their own battles, or at least win them. They were the eternal Victims, galactic prey without their protector!

They just didn't have the nerve, energy or disposition to fight their own battles, or at least win them.

 

A pretty impotent crowd, in other words.

 

But more on that anon...

Adam Strange - Pulp Fiction (Cont)

 

My final post on the little curio that is "The Magic Maker of Rann' concerns both the text-form story's roots in pulp fiction of the Twenties/Thirties and Adam's own pulp fiction forefathers.

 

First the 'picture-story' format used:  At first glance this looks like a throwback to the style of the old pulp publications.  A lot of text interspersed with pictures illustrating the events of the story.  On a closer look however, there is a much more interesting relationship between the words and the pictures. 

 

Instead of there just being two or more columns of text with pictures added, each page is divided into areas with a block of text and the picture relating to that section of the story.  It is a little like the Prince Valiant format in how each picture has its own block of accompanying text, but the arrangement of words and pictures is in some ways more sophisticated than the strict Prince Valiant grid format.  The text is laid out differently according to the design of each picture, and the elements in the pictures are part of the design of the whole page.  Notice how the rainbow forms a frame in some of the pages I’ve selected above, and notice how sometimes the page is divided laterally or horizontally depending on the layout of the pictures.  See how the text is spread out through the large picture of the dragon’s attack.

 

Because the layout of the text is so integrated with the pictures, I would imagine Murphy Anderson was responsible for all of the design/layout work here.  It’s a combination of prose and pictures that we don’t see very often and it works well here.  I enjoyed the change in format.  It felt like the writer was able to speak more directly to the reader and the illustrator/compositer was using different artisitic 'muscles' than a comics artist normally would.  It’s another reason amongst many that make this little ‘Picture Story’ worth commenting on. 

 

 

(I know even less about the Pulp publications of the Thirties than I do about the Silver Age, so I’d welcome any corrections of my assumptions here by wiser heads than mine.)

 

Staying on the topic of the pulps, I thought it would be good to talk about Adam’s forebears.  It’s obvious that Adam is from a particular tradition in sci-fi adventure.  He’s the normal Earth guy thrown into a futuristic alien setting, who puts the world to rights through two-fisted action and clever strategies.

 

Jet-packs and laser guns are de rigour for these heroes.  The most famous are Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers.  Indeed, Luke Blanchard posted a link to a pre-superhero comic cover elsewhere that seems to show a direct connection between Buck Rogers and Adam Strange.  Perhaps Adam Strange is more like Buck Rogers, who became a lawman and peacekeeper in the future rather than a rebel ‘freedom fighter’ like Flash Gordon.  Adam Strange isn’t quite a policeman, or a soldier, but in his role as chief trouble-shooter for Rannagar, he is more on the side of the official government than Flash Gordon was.  However, like Flash Gordon, Strange is often pitted against would-be planetary despots.

 

Looking at some of the covers to the early Adam Strange appearances, I was struck by their pulpy feel.  Some, like the Gil Kane cover to MiS #55, are even painted.  It’s clear that they are in the same tradition as the pulps, rather than being strictly superhero comics. 

 

I think Fifties pop culture replicated some elements of Twenties pop culture in that both were eras after a major world war, where America had come out as a superpower both times.  The depictions of futuristic worlds in both eras were optimistic and forward-looking.  Thus they both have the iconic jet-packs, and laser guns and no problem so difficult it can’t be fixed by a good-hearted tough guy with some courage and a few smarts.

 

The Forties, where the Second World War forced everyone to confront just how awful humankind could be, is a kind of dark interregnum between the two bright eras.  Although superhero comics of the time provided simple-minded heroics as a kind of answer to the problems the world was dealing with, these heroes didn’t really look to the future or other worlds in an optimistic way as the pop culture sci-fi heroes of the Thirties and then the Fifties did.

 

From what I understand of the basic Flash Gordon story from movies and cartoon serials, there is one big difference between Flash Gordon and Adam Strange.  Flash Gordon tackles Ming the Merciless essentially by putting together an alliance of very different peoples, who are divided and at each others’ throats at first.  (Perhaps Buck Rogers too, involves a galactic confederation of different races?)  I think this is the great genius of the Flash Gordon story.  It tells how people of very different races and cultures can unite to fight against tyranny and for their universal good.  Star Wars appropriated this element of the Flash Gordon stories very well.  The Rebels were a ragtag coalition of different races which opposed a single monolithic, largely homogenous Imperial power.  The prequels underlined this by showing how the Storm Troopers were all identical clones.

 

Perhaps in the Twenties, the USA was starting to realise that the variety of different cultures which had come together was a strength.  The First World War would have shown them that they had to fight together and not dwell on their differences.  America’s prosperity and rise as a superpower after WWI would have encouraged this way of looking at the world.  That many of the peoples that made up the USA had come from oppressive regimes in Europe and elsewhere fed into the theme in Flash Gordon of how justice and strength could be gained through a ‘unity of different tribes’.

 

By the Fifties however, just to judge by Adam Strange, something has changed.  Although Rann is an alien world 25 trillion miles away, the world Adam fights to defend is a very homogenous, suburban, WASP-ish one.  Adam even refers to them as humans.  When an entity that doesn’t look and sound like the Rannians turns up, you can bet it’s to enslave them all!  Difference means trouble!  This is a much more suspicious and even frightened worldview than that in Flash Gordon, and one that I personally find a lot less positive and admirable!  Of course the Fifties were the decade of paranoia and Reds under the Bed and all that, so it’s natural that pop cultural products like comics would reflect that.

 

Adam Strange was by no means the last in the line of jetpack-wearing, laser-gun totting, two-fisted space heroes in American pop culture, and we will look at some of Adam’s ‘children’ in due course. 

 

Hmmm, I realised after I posted the above that Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon weren't quite fully-fledged pulp stars.  Buck Rogers first appeared in 1928 and was a comic strip within a year, and Flash Gordon started as a comic in 1934 to compete directly with Buck Rogers' popularity.

 

I found some fun stuff when I looked them up though.  The space-opera form that both of these properties did so much to popularise is thought to have begun with Skylark of Space by E E Doc Smith, which coincidently enough began its serialisation in the August 1928 issue of Amazing Stories.  This happened to also contain the first appearance of the character who would become Buck Rogers.  That elements of the Adam Strange mythos can be traced back to both is of note, but check out the famous cover to the issue in question:

 

 A bit Adam Strange, no?  Gardner Fox was still a teenager when this legendary issue first hit the stands...

 

The cover image is from the Skylark from Space rather than the Buck Rogers proto-story, but it's worth noting that the jetpack is more typical of Buck Rogers than Flash Gordon.  Comparing Flash and Buck, it's clear they have much in common, and much that Adam Strange drew from.  Like Adam both their stories turn on displacement - one in time and the other in space -  which we've seen is a key element of Adam's story that gives it such thematic power.

 

By the way, Philip, I checked the first appearance of Adam Strange to see if it said why Sardath was messing about with Zeta Beams.  In  it Sardath explains that he had begun trying to contact Earth via a Zeta Beam four years previously, with a Zeta ray that would flare up when it reached Earth to draw attention to it.  The Zeta Ray passed through certain radiation on the way which caused the Zeta Beam to have teleportational properties. 

 

That's what Sardath and Alanna SAY at any rate!

How does one communicate with a Zeta-beam, anyhow? I mean, how did Sardath expect to get a reply?

Well, I'm sure that's where the semi-regular repeated zaps come in.  He wanted to get Earth scientists' attention with the flares and then for the scientists to realise there was a pattern in their reoccurance and to home in on where the beams were coming from - (They would quickly realise they came from the Southern Hemisphere and Alpha Centuari, the closest system to Earth would be the first candidate they'd check.)

 

Of course, if they initiated a conversation, there would be 4-year gaps between replies.  As funky as the Zeta Beam is, it doesn't travel any faster than the light beams or radio waves that real scientists would have been able to broadcast in the 70s.

 

It's the most basic form of space communication, but Rann, despite the jetpacks and flying cars, is at a relatively low level of technology when Adam arrives first.  The level rises quite quickly, initially as a result of the knowledge passed on by ill-fated peacenik scientists of Samarkand. 

 

In no time Rann is sufficiently 'advanced' as to threaten war on civilisations thousands of light years away and be involved in the destruction of whole planets!  That's progress!  Yay!

 

Although Rann's civilisation seems to be advanced and on the verge of scientific breakthroughs when Adam arrives (reflecting the US's optimism about a high-tech future at that point,) the possibility that militarism and scientific overreach will all end badly is also hovering over the stories.  Rann was only climbing out of a dark age following a global civilisation-ending war in the Showcase issues, and then the stories are full of would-be tyrants using technology to dominate everyone.  The Magic-maker of Rann is possibly the first story where the threat is directly initiated by a well-meaning scientist, showing how Fox's thinking had evolved somewhat beyond the simplistic stance in the early stories that all the dangers come from outside Ranagar or from rogue elements within it.

 

The Fox stories showcase 50's/60's optimism and faith in the future and also contain its flipside.

Sardath does say that the Zeta-beams (a whole mess of them) were sent to Earth to get the scientists' attention. Yet they directed the beams to remote areas on the Southern Hemisphere where they would hardly be studied, let alone documented. And the beams could have been misconstrued, not as an invitation, but as an attack.

Purely a fanboy question but didn't Superman have monitors at the Fortress for this sort of thing?

"Hmm. Another weird energy beam struck the Australian outback. Well that's really out of my way and it doesn't seem to do anything so no harm, no foul. Now to give Jimmy this alien fruit..."

The first beam to strike Adam couldn't have been in a more remote place.  Adam was the first white guy to visit!

 

Notwithstanding that 4 light years is only 'across the road' in cosmic terms, 25 trillion miles is still a long way, and I wouldn't fault Sardath for not being able to pick an exact spot and hit it repeatedly.  He is able to say where and when on the Southern Hemisphere each beam will hit, but that's not the same as aiming it there.

 

I still think it's great that the Alpha Centuari connection meant that the Earthbound parts of the stories are always set outside the whitebread suburbs of the Flash and Green Lantern comics.  America can be very isolationist, so it was good for the kids.  It also adds variety to the 'Adam waiting around to get hit by the beam/Adam looking to the stars after an adventure' sections.

 

By the way, doing a bit of research on Adam Strange, I discovered that I actually have Mystery in Space #90, in colour, in my copy of 'Greatest Team-ups Stories ever told'.  It's a long adventure where Adam teams up with Hawkman.  Fox's penultimate tale in the original run, it's a key story, as its the first one where Rann or Earth are bounced around the universe like billiard balls on a table.  We are about to look at a 70's story that, not for the last time, revisits this idea.  Also Adam and Alanna's relationship takes a step forward, and one of your questions above is addressed.

 

It was indeed really fine to look at in colour.  I looked through my collection to see if I had any more Adam Strange goodies hidden away, and realised that I have a lot of Silver Age stories reprinted in those 100 page spectaculars that DC brought out around 1998-2001.  One of them has the Adam Strange/JLA team-up.  DC is very proud of that one!  The colouring looks wonderful, and I was annoyed I hadn't read it in colour when I was reading through my Showcase volume.  I think I read the whole Showcase from cover to cover before I realised that the sky is green on Rann!

 

I also discovered that I actually have a few of the Earth 1/ Earth 2 Team-ups that I was asking questions about on other threads.  I have a lot of notable comics in my collection that I've never read!  Silver Age stories are an acquired taste and I hadn't really acquired it 10-15 years ago.  (I'm kinda burnt out on them for now, to tell the truth!)

Adam Strange in the Seventies  Part 2 – What colour is the sky in your world?

 

DC Comics Presents #3 - The Riddle of Little Earth Lost

(November 1978)

 

I understand Adam Strange was in better adventures than this one during the Seventies, but this team-up with Superman is the only one I could get my hands on.  In its defence, it may be a good representation of the kind of comics that C-list characters got to co-star in during the Seventies.  By the time this was published, Adam Strange had been in guest-star limbo for 13 years.

 

First the plot:  Coming back from one of his many poorly documented space missions, Superman discovers that Earth has been replaced by Rann.  Once on Rann he meets Alanna and Sardath and helps prevent everyone from dying of a mist that was kept dormant by Rann’s 3 suns.  We find out that Earth was swapped with Rann during Sardath’s experiments on the effects of Zeta Beams on Adam. 

 

During the experiment also, Adam was suddenly transported to Earth, where he saves Lois Lane and the people of Metropolis from an out of control algae at S.T.A.R. Labs. 

 

Superman is able to trace the problem to the laboratory of Kaskor, a villain who’d last appeared in Mystery in Space #68.  During that adventure, Adam had ended Kaskor’s brief tenure as Dictator-for-Life of Rann.  Naturally Kaskor now wants to destroy Rann, and the Earth with it as necessary collateral damage.  By running a Zeta Beam amplifier on Earth - in a crater in Australia, (natch!) – Kaskor will ensure that the Earth stays orbiting Rann when Rann reappears in the exact same spot, destroying both planets. 

 

Both heroes catch up with Kaskor, and deal with him and then his doomsday plan in short order.  Actually Adam’s solution is very complicated and I had to read it 3 times to figure out what they were doing.  See what you think:

 

 

It involved wormholes, which Superman was using at this time to travel the long distances of outer space.  As far as I could gather there was one just handy for their purposes, unless Superman was able to create them?

 

The solution involved Superman pushing the Earth into the wormhole too before Rann pops up, which is something I haven’t seen too often.

 

First of all the good stuff:  It was fun to see Adam interacting with my favourite Kryptonian.  I enjoyed the art by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, no doubt largely because it was very much in the style of my own personal Golden Age, which kicked off in 1978.  It wasn’t that I was loving superhero comics at the age of 7, but living on the edge of civilisation as I was, 1978 comics took a few years to get to me.   

 

For example, one of the earliest Superman stories that I owned and reread multiple times was the reprint of DC Comics Presents #1 & 2 in the UK Superman Annual cover-dated 1982, but published in Autumn 1981.  These two issues, which of course just preceded this Adam Strange appearance, were also drawn by Garcia Lopez and featured a race through time between the Flash and Superman.  The chance to read this two-parter again after 30 years was one of the reasons I justified paying almost $40 for a Showcase containing one rather lukewarm Adam Strange story.

 

While I’m on the topic of that fondly remembered annual, I’ve just found out that it was Dave Gibbons who adapted the cover of DC Comics Presents #1 for it.  You can see his original artwork here.

 

Reading DC Comics Presents issues 1-2 again, it has some good ideas, but the revelations about the nature of time and the origins of life on Earth in it were too major for such a throwaway story.  I’m sure both revelations were instantly mopeed and studiously ignored ever since. 

 

I’ve only read a handful of late-Seventies DC comics, but there does seem to be something insipid and anaemic about them and the first three issues of DCCP are no exception.  There seems to be nothing from DC at this time to compare with Claremont and Byrne’s great collaborations at Marvel, or Marvel’s popular licenced properties like Micronauts or Star Wars, or it’s then-still-running mid-Seventies non-superhero series like Howard the Duck, Tomb of Dracula or Deadly Hands of Kung Fu.  So perhaps some of this issue’s lukewarmth is down to the company as a whole...?

 

The positives and negatives of DC Comics Presents #3 are somewhat intertwined.  For example, Adam is only a guest star, who had only appeared in a half dozen stories between 1970 and 1978.  The good thing about this is that Adam wasn’t in any one writer’s hands long enough for them to make any big changes to his status quo.  At least superficially, this is the same Adam that we left rocketing towards Alanna at the end of Magic-Makers of Rann.  

 

The big difference is that due to whatever happened in the interim, Adam believes that he will die if he ever returns to Earth, and the Zeta Beam now transports him to other areas of Rann from where he will return to Ranagar when the beam wears off.  Fox’s stories had a great tension between Adam’s humdrum life on Earth and his dream-life on Rann that he was only able to experience intermittently.  The new conditions dump that tension and don’t really replace it with anything as artistically satisfying.  Adam is exiled from his home planet, but as this story makes clear, there is nothing there that he is interested in. 

 

I enjoyed seeing Garcia Lopez’ art here.  Partly because it’s the same artist as in that once-treasured 1982 Superman Annual, and partly because Garcia Lopez style is very typical of much of the comic art of my own Golden Age.  It’s a style that hovers between Neal Adams and George Perez.  Like much post-Adams art, it uses framing tricks and exaggerated emotions to draw the reader in.  However, even though Garcia Lopez’ style is involving, it isn’t suited to the cool cerebral Adam Strange. 

 

Again and again we see him over-reacting to dangers, and the visual tricks used are much more like that brief episode in Mystery in Space #79 I highlight above, which showed Adam Strange uncharacteristically losing his cool.  That was effective because it was such an exception and Adam had reason to be so emotionally stretched.  Here, however, Adam is shown over-reacting to things at every turn.  The framing and layouts make it look like Adam is rushing from event to event rather than staying above the rush as he was characterised by Fox. 

 

 

It's great that the style above, particular the averlapping framing, is exciting and engaging, but this style shoudl just be one of many tools at the artist's disposal.  My argumant is that this Adams-lite style isn't suitable for a story starring the cerebral and unflappable Adam Strange.  It was suitable for Neal Adams Green Arrow/Green Lantern tales because both characters were pretty highly strung at that point in their careers.  It was effective there, but that doesn't mean it has to be used in every subsequent superhero story.  An awful lot of superhero comics suffer from this inane 'one-size-fits-all' mentality when it comes to art.

 

The writer too, seems to have a poor grasp of what made Adam such a special hero.  A small matter is how Adam takes delight in saving Earth people the way he has saved Rannians many times.  He swaggers around enjoying the adulation, and even gives an interview to a certain lady journalist.  The Adam we’ve known up to now has almost obsessively covered up his double life whenever he could and taken pains to prevent Earth people from knowing anything about Rann. 

 

A more unforgiveable slip by Adam happens in the final chapter of the story.  Just when Superman and Adam apprehend the villain, and prevent him leaving Earth so that he will have to tell them how to stop its destruction, Adam jumps in and socks Kaskor on the jaw, knocking him out!  It’s the complete antithesis of how Fox’s Adam Strange would have acted in that situation.

 

 

No doubt Michelinie put it in there to give Adam something to do once Superman had neutralised Kaskor, and then it ensures Adam has to talk Superman through the solution.  Adam’s unique personality is bent out of shape just to service Michelinie’s story. 

 

So sadly, even though there are various elements here such as Rann, Alanna, and the jetpack that fans would associate with an Adam Strange story, Adam Strange as we have known him isn’t present!  Further the elements that make an Adam Strange story truly unique and special – the pull he feels between his ‘real life’ and his dream destination, the bittersweet quality of his relationship with Alanna – aren’t present at all.  This is emphasised in the closing frames. 

 

 

Fox managed to give us many Adam Strange stories that all worked within the framework he devised.  New writers change that framework, and quickly lose whatever it is that makes Adam Adam, and he becomes just another of the interchangeable heroes of the DCU.

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