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ISSUE NO. 878
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Secret Origins of Adam Strange
Part 1 of 6: "Earth's First Spaceman"



Who is Adam Strange?
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And why does he call himself "Earth's First Spaceman"?

To answer to these questions, we'll need to travel 25 million miles in space, and sixty years back in time. Reader, are you ready? OK, I hope you mean it, because here we GO.

Blast off from EARTH-- Destination: RANN-- 25 trillion miles away!

The secret origin of Adam Strange begins in 1957 -- not on a spaceship, but in a DC Comics editorial meeting called by one of the company's top guns, Editorial Director Irwin Donenfeld (pictured right).

DC had long been quick to jump on any trend and turn it into a comic book, and at this time the USA vs. Russia space race was in full swing. The most glorious hero was the astronaut, and the hottest genre was science fiction. DC's science-fiction anthology titles, Mystery In Space, and Strange Adventures (house ad pictured below) were floundering, and desperately in need of a popular new headliner.

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So, Donenfeld called a meeting with two of his editors, Jack Schiff and Julius Schwartz (both pictured below). He asked each man to create a brand new sci-fi superhero. Donenfeld's only stipulation was that one hero must come from the present, and the other must come from the future.
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BELOW: "Policeman" France Ed Herron and "crook" Jack Schiff posed for this photo cover of Gangbusters #10 (June-July 1949).
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Donenfeld's only stipulation was that one new hero must come from the present, and the other must come from the future. Schiff was given his choice, and he chose the future. Shortly thereafter, Schiff came up with Space Ranger -- an intergalactic cop who lives far in the future.
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VIDEO CLIP: DC Silver Age Editor Julie Schwartz comments on how he changed everything but Green Lantern's oath. (30 seconds).

Julius Schwartz was happy that he'd get to create the "present" sci-fi hero, because he felt comic readers would bemore inclined to identify with a character who lived in the present, where they themselves lived.

Schwartz' "present" sci-fi superhero creation was an earth man who would repeatedly travel to a distant planet by using a teleportation ray which he dubbed a "zeta beam." Schwartz named his character Adam, after the Biblical first man, because his Adam would be the first Earthman on this distant planet, which was named Rann.

The surname "Strange" was probably intended to add a "spacey" and exotic touch to the hero's name. And since it was 1957, Steve Ditko and Marvel had not yet introduced their Dr. Strange character. DC had a book titled "Strange Adventures," but because that was an anthology, the word "strange" as a personal surname was up for grabs. Julie Schwartz grabbed it.

And so, a name was born: Adam Strange.

Schwartz got Gardner Fox to write the series. On his 11th birthday, Fox had been given The Warlord of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and later said the book "opened up a complete new world for me."

Fox, a Brooklyn native had been a praacticing lawyer before he began writing comics for Vin Sullivan, editor of several top DC books. Few creators have influenced the industry as much as Fox, who wrote Batman's origin, Flash of Two Worlds, and countless other history-making stories, including the award-winning Adam Strange tale, "The Planet That Came To A Standstill."

BELOW: Gardner Fox appeared in a story in Strange Adventures #140, splash page pictured below...

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To draw his new character, Julie Schwartz chose longtime JLA artist Mike Sekowsky, who had previously created countless universes full of alien worlds during his epic JLA run.

As we saw in a previous issue (DBB #881), the origin of Adam Strange is basically a reworking of Edgar Rice Burroughs' story of John Carter, a man who gets transported to Mars via some undefined teleportation-like means.

Here's Adam's first house ad...
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On Mars, John Carter becomes a sci-fi hero who champions noble causes (including the cause of bedding an outrageously beautiful princess). The parallels with our man Adam are obvious.

XReally, the only difference is that John Carter never had a red uniform. Adam Strange debuted came in Showcase #17 (Nov. 1958), under a logo that looked very much like it was the title of a new ongoing series, "Adventures on Other Worlds."

It didn't even say "starring Adam Strange." The name of Earth's new first spaceman wasn't anywhere to be found on the cover, drawn by Gil Kane.

The book's cover had originally been given to Murphy Anderson, but Julie Schwartz didn't like what Anderson did, so he rejected it and got Gil Kane to do a new cover, which wound up being the published version (seen in the ad above).

The only thing Gil Kane kept from Anderson's original cover was the design of Adam Strange's uniform, which didn't appear in the book's lead story, called "The Planet and the Pendulum" (after Poe's short story "The Pit and the Pendulum!") on the cover, and "Secret of the Eternal City," inside the book.

Adam's modelng his cool uniform on the cover, even though he doesn't don it in his debut story... he's too busy acclimating himself to a new planet, and new life, and a new love interest.


ADAM STRANGE makes his debut --in Showcase #17.
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Years before Indiana Jones made his debut in "Raiders," Adam Strange began his first story as an archeologist/ adventurer unearthing a lost treasure trove of gold in Peru...
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Adam leaps across the chasm... but in mid-leap. he is zapped by "a brilliant flre of light" that will later be named the Zeta Beam, not after Catherine Zeta-Jones aka Mrs. Michael Douglas, but after"zeta," the final letter of the Greek alphabet. Then, a moment of incredible cold and darkness...
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VROOOOM! Adam is instantly transported 25 trillion miles, to the distant plant Rann. There, he mets the beautiful Alanna and her scientist father, Saradath, who explains to "Earth's First Spaceman" exactly what has happened to him...
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Makes perfect sense, right? A communication beam was somehow transformed into an incredibly powerful teleportation ray. Whatever. It happens.

Later in the story, Adam comes across the ramains of a wrecked spaceship. Within the ship, he finds a mostly red spacesuit that looks like some kind of military uniform. Where this suit came from has NEVER been explained, except to say that it was probably designed by Murphy Anderson.
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Adam Strange next appeared in Showcase #18, doing pretty much the same thing he had done in his first appearance -- leaping a chasm to meet a Zeta Beam! 4... 3... 2... 1...
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At the end of this story, Adam leads the Rann to defeat the evil menace of the week, then, as it always does, the Zeta radiation wears off, and Adam returns to earth.
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Schwartz gave his new space character three issues to find his place among the company's stars. All three had covers by Gil Kane, and interior art by Mike Sekowsky. Truth be told, Adam Strange's first few stories really weren't all that good.

But still, they sold well enough to win Earth's First Spaceman the lead spot in a existing DC title, "Mystery in Space," beginning with #53, a position which the character maintained for a very respectable 54 issues.
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BELOW: Jerry Ordway recreates Adam's debut pose...
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The first Adam Strange story to run in "Mystery in Space" had the same writers as the trial stories (plots by Schwartz and Gardner Fox, with scripts by Fox), but visually, the character and his universe looked entirely different than they had in their first three outings, by artist Mike Sekowsky.
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Following established precedent, when the menace was defeated, the Seta Beam wore off on cue, and Adam was whisked 25 trillion miles back to earth, where he immediately began waiting for the NEXT beam to strike.
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Following the discontinuation of the Adam Strange stories, reprints were presented in Strange Adventures #217 through 244 (except for #222, which instead has a new story with Strange, written by Denny O'Neil, while #226 has a new Strange text story, by Fox, with illustrations by Anderson).

With issue #87, Hawkman moved into Mystery in Space, sharing Adam Strange’s status as prime feature and cover star.

DC shook up its editorial positions not long after, in 1964, and as a result, Hawkman was granted his own title and moved out of Mystery in Space. His slot was given to Space Ranger, uniting the two sci-fi characters created in that 1957 editorial conference.

As of #92, Jack Schiff replaced Schwartz as editor of Mystery in Space and Lee Elias became the artist for Adam Strange, altering Adam’s costume somewhat. Adam Strange and Space Ranger continued in the title through #102.

With Mystery in Space #103, house ad seen below, both were ousted in favor of a colorful patchwork character called Ultra the Multi-Alien (see DBB #172). His tenure didn’t last long, however, as Mystery in Space was cancelled with issue #110 (cover-dated September 1966).

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For the next several issues of Dial B for BLOG, we'll be looking at Adam's career, culminating in the first-ever revelation of his real, true secret origin! And I'm not talking about the excrable retcon version where Adam is brought to Rann as a stud to repopulate their dying species -- I'm talking about his REAL secret origin. Something never before disclosed in any media.

If this statement surprises you, then thank you for reading Dial B for BLOG for the first time! I say that because regular readers know that this type of history-making big reveal is my specialty. MISS IT NOT!
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Adam Strange - Part 2 of 6
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