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Who’s Who: Adam Strange

Adam Strange is the fourth entry in the Who’s Who of DC Comics.

Friends, we are shining the spotlight today on Adam Strange, the fourth entry in the fondly remembered Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe encyclopedic series. Not to belittle the other entries featured in our series of Who’s Who articles so far, but my initial feelings when I realized we would be tackling this science fiction hero is to state that we finally have our first entry in that 1985 compendium that isn’t a B-list character. Having said that though, while I truly love the character of Adam Strange, I will have to admit that he was probably seen as a second-stringer in the DC Universe by both fans as well as his creators. But that was what made the Who’s Who series so great – for 26 issues – Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, and Robert Greenberger made sure that many such characters were honored with an entry. As a way to celebrate those artists and writers who had helped forge the legacy of DC Comics fifty years earlier at the time Who’s Who was published. And as would be proven in Adam Strange’s first appearance, he certainly lived up to his moniker of ‘The Man of Two Worlds’.

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Adam Strange was created by Julius ‘Julie’ Schwartz and Murphy Anderson, first appearing in Showcase #17 in a story entitled “Secret of the Eternal City” from back in 1958. Schwartz was a legendary editor – with some notable personal issues I am sad to say – who helped to usher in the Silver Age version of the Flash and Green Lantern. In addition he helped both Dennis “Denny” O’Neil and Neal Adams make their mark with none other than Batman. Anderson had a long history with DC Comics and was a very well regarded inker, it turns out he had first crack at the cover of Showcase #17, but Schwartz rejected it, instead getting the equally legendary Gil Kane to step in and provide the artwork that graced the comic itself. However Schwartz did like the costume design that Anderson came up with and it’s more or less stayed the same since 1958.

Interestingly enough the creation of Adam Strange came about due to a mandate by editorial director Irwin Donenfield, as he felt that DC Comics needed some new heroes, science-fiction ones at that. So he presented a choice to both Schwartz and fellow editor Jack Schiff, one of the men would help create a sci-fi hero set in present day and the other would tackle a character that hailed from the far future. Schiff had first choice and chose to go with the future hero, co-creating Rick Starr aka Space Ranger, along with writers Edward Hamilton, Gardner Fox, and artist Bob Brown.

Schwartz, after giving the task of writing the Adam Strange stories to Fox for Showcase #17 through #19, then gave the penciling job to Mike Sekowsky. It was perhaps a surprise to all involved when Adam Strange wound up capturing the interest of the readers, so much so that he began a long run in the series entitled Mystery in Space (47 issues straight). The art chores for that comic book series went to none other than Carmine Infantino, with inking handled by Murphy Anderson. As a matter of fact the two also provided the illustration used for Strange’s entry in the Who’s Who.

IMAGE COURTESY OF THE ROCKFORD JAY COLLECTION.

As stated in the entry for the first volume of the Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe:

Alter Ego: Adam Strange
Occupation: Archaeologist
Marital Status: Married
Known Relatives: Alanna (Wife), Sardath (father-in-law)
Group Affiliation: None
Base of Operations: Ranagar, City on Rann, third planet of Alpha Centauri
First Appearance: SHOWCASE #17
Height: 6′ Weight: 175lbs.
Eyes: Blue Hair: Blond

We are introduced to Adam Strange in “Secret of the Eternal City” moments after the archaeologist has discovered the lost Inca city of Caramanga – deep in the jungles of Peru. Exploring the ancient city, Adam manages to find the buried treasure of the last Emperor of the Incas – Atahualpa. Seconds later though his joy at discovering such a find is soured when some understandably angry Incas decide to halt any attempt at his sharing the news… by hurling spears and firing arrows at him. Adam begins running and dodging the projectiles, stopping momentarily at the edge of a cliff before deciding to take his chances by leaping across the chasm. Which is fortuitous as at the height of his frantic jump for safety from the Incas he is struck by what we will later learn is a Zeta-Beam.

I’m beginning to wonder if George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Lawrence Kasdan didn’t read Showcase # 17!

Strange finds himself whisked from the jungles of Peru to the jungles of Rann, with his life still in peril as a dinosaur-like beast chases him. Suddenly a futuristic flying vehicle appears and manages to capture the beast with a giant net in the nick of time. It is then that Adam comes face to face with his first citizen from the city of Ranagar, Alanna, the daughter of the brilliant scientist known as Sardath. Strange senses that Alanna means him no harm even though he can’t actually understand her language, and finds himself being flown back to the city, where thanks to a device called the Menticizer he instantly learns their language. After spending a little time answering questions from Sardath – Adam learns that the Zeta-Beam was originally intended as a means of communication between Rann and the Earth.

After explaining to Strange the reason for his arrival on Rann, Alanna is more than happy to give Adam a tour of some the cities and features of the planet. While in an open market the duo are shocked to see the arrival of three space craft, it turns out that Rann has no spaceships of its own, and quickly the vessels begin to launch an attack. They turn out to be an alien invading race known as the Eternals, because they gained eternal life from a metal called Vitatron, collected from a meteor that crashed on their home planet in the past. Unfortunately overuse throughout the centuries has depleted the precious ore, they have arrived on Rann because their sensors are picking up a deposit of the metal somewhere on the planet. Alanna informs Strange that she has a theory that the desired metal is located in the city of Samakand, a mysterious place that appears for a brief period of time every 25 years.

The young Woman is quite correct and the scientists of Samakand reveal they do have a block of Vitatron in their possession. They too have used it to prolong their own life but in the hopes that one day upon their return to Rann they will find conflict and war completely eliminated. With the threat of the Eternals as they arrive at Samakand to claim the Vitatron, the scientist decide to aid Alanna and Strange by lending them an experimental vessel that can travel into the fourth dimension. Strange leads the Eternals on a chase into the fourth dimension, both Adam and Alanna abandon the vessel, landing safely thanks to personal jet packs. Leaving the aggressive alien race trapped in the fourth dimension courtesy of the tech of the scientists of Samakand.

Perhaps Adam Strange would be celebrated as a hero of Rann upon his return with Alanna, but it’s then that the Zeta-Beam wears off and he is transported back to the jungles of Peru. As “Secret of the Eternal City” comes to an end, we can take some small comfort in the knowledge that Strange was at least given the location of the next Zeta-Beam strike. Knowing that soon Adam will be able to see Alanna and Sardath once again and experience a new intergalactic adventure on the planet Rann!

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