For the fourth entry in the fondly remembered Who’s Who’s: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe the spotlight is on Adam Strange. My first reaction when I noticed this was to say that we finally have our first entry in Robert Greenberger, Len Wein, and Marv Wolfman’s 1985 compendium that isn’t a B-list character. However in all honesty, while I truly love the character of Adam Strange – he was probably seen as a second-stringer in the DC Univere by fans as well as the creators. But that really was the joy of the Who’s Who series – for 26 issues – Wein, Wolfman, and Greenberger made sure that many characters were honored with an entry, to celebrate those artists and writers who had helped forge the legacy of DC Comics fifty years earlier at the time of the Who’s Who series’ publication. While Marvel Comics had a few cosmic heroes in their early years – off the top of my head I would say Fantastic Four fits that bill – Adam Strange certainly lived up to his moniker of ‘The Man of Two Worlds’.
Adam Strange was created by Julius ‘Julie’ Schwartz and Murphy Anderson and first appeared in Showcase #17 in a story entitled Secret of the Eternal City from back in 1958. Schwartz was a legendary editor – with sadly some notable personal issues it would seem – 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 Batman – I actually just talked about O’Neil in The Shadow episode of the Pop Culture Retrorama podcast. 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 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 – 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 in present day and the other would tackle a character that hailed from the future. Schiff had first shot and chose to go with the future hero – co-created with writers Edward Hamilton and Gardner Fox with artist Bob Brown they came up with the character of Rick Starr aka Space Ranger. Schwartz, after giving the task of writing the character for Showcase #17 through #19 to Gardner Fox – then gave the penciling job to Mike Sekowsky. Although after Adam Strange proved popular and began a long run in Mystery in Space (47 issues straight!) the art chores went to none other than Carmine Infantino – with inking by Murphy Anderson – in fact they both provided the artwork used for the character in his Who’s Who entry!
As stated in Adam Strange’s 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 makes a bolt for it – running and dodging the projectiles – stopping momentarily at the edge of a cliff before deciding to take his chances by leaping across a chasm. Which is fortuitous as at the height of his frantic jump for safety from the Incans he is struck by what we will later learn is a Zeta-Beam.
Adam 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 – capturing the beast with a giant net. After landing, 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, he is 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 – these vessels begin to launch an attack. They turn out to be an alien invading race known as the Eternals – because of a meteor that landed on their home planet in the past. This metal known as Vitatron granted the alien race eternal life – hence the name – but overuse throughout the centuries has depleted the precious ore. Which is why the Eternals have arrived to wage and threaten the citizens of Rann – because their sensors show the metal exists somewhere on the planet. Alanna has a theory that the the desired metal is located in the city of Samakand, a mysterious place that only appears every 25 years.
The young Woman is totally correct and the scientists of Samakand admit they have a block of Vitatron in their possession. They too have used it to prolong their own life – in the hopes that one of the times they return to Rann they will find conflict and war eliminated. Which with the Eternals arrival at Samakand for the metal, the scientists agree to help Adam Strange and Alanna – lending them an exploration vessel that was designed to travel into the fourth dimension. And after using this ship to confront and then lead the Eternals on a chase – Strange and Alanna both use jet packs to land safely – with the aggressive alien race finding themselves trapped in the fourth dimension by the tech of the scientists of Samakand.
Perhaps Adam Strange would be celebrated as a hero of Rann – 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 comfort in that at least Strange was 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!
Adam Strange would eventually become the hero of Rann as well as finding love with Alanna. Throughout the years he would cross paths with the Justice League of America and even attempt to find a peaceful solution when Rann found itself the makeshift home of the Thanagarians and a war erupted. It was Adam along with Green Lantern Corps members Kyle Rayner and Kilowog with the aid of Hawkman and Hawkwoman who were able to put an end to the conflict.