Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
What happens when I write this column while exhausted? I skip the formalities, and I talk about science heroes with jetpacks, that’s what. (Hit me with your archive– fire awayyyyy)
222. Adam Strange
I’m going to play around with the format tonight and open up with a mild rant, mostly because I am tired and my allergies are going nuts and my eyes are on fire and about to shoot out of my skull like meteors of doom or whatnot. Don’t worry, I’ll eventually get to a point. Anyway, the new Flash Gordon TV show debuted tonight on Sci-Fi (yes, the one that has DC’s Flash insignia in the logo for some bizarre reason– somebody’s getting sued), and I managed to watch about three minutes before completely giving up. There’s a well-coiffed and caucasian Ming the Merciless (honestly, how could you betray Ming’s concept like that? He’s Fu Manchu in space! It’s brilliant! Bah) and a dude who looks like Sloth from the Goonies. Most of this show could have been filmed in my backyard. It doesn’t look fun. You know what’s fun? Retro-futurism. That’s how it should be done.
Adam Strange has everything I want out of a crazy sci-fi adventure series. First appearing in a story by Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky in Showcase #17 (1958), Adam Strange was an archaeologist who accidentally gets teleported a trillion miles away to Rann, a weird future world of weird science and mad technology. It was John Carter of Mars by way of Buck Rogers and DC’s Silver Age, and it was good. Adam fell in love with a Rannian beauty named Alanna, but he’d always have to defeat some bizarre alien menace before he got to spend some time with her, and by then, the effects of the Zeta-Beam wore off and he ended up back on Earth, waiting for the next space laser to come by so he could hitchhike back to his hot space momma. He ended up with his own series in Mystery in Space for a while, and Sekowsky, and was replaced by Carmine Infantino. Mr. Strange had great luck when it came to who was drawing him.
Finned helmet, jetpack, raygun– yep, he was the ultimate ’50s science fiction adventure hero. Indiana Jones gets to fight Nazis and discover mystical treasures, but Adam Strange gets to be the hero of a mysterious and faraway planet where a fantastical new monster or gadget is showing up every day. Imagination lurked just around the corner with each issue.
Adam Strange has gotten a new jumpstart in popularity recently. It started with the Andy Diggle/Pasqual Ferry mini-series “Planet Heist” that segued into the Rann/Thanagar War and then into 52, where Adam had a starring role and got to hang out with Animal Man, Starfire, and Lobo. Yeah, okay, so he lost his eyes, but they grew him new ones, so it’s cool. He’s also due to appear in Countdown to Adventure.
You know, I’d love to see a new Adam Strange ongoing, one that isn’t a tie-in to some crossover, where Adam can fight robots, space pirates, cloud monsters, and globe-headed elves, and make sweet, sweet space-love to his alien wife. There’s just so much lovely potential stored up in the concept that’s yearning to be realized. An imaginative or insane writer could cook up a fantastic series with this material. I’d buy it.
For more on comics’ favorite science hero, read a Brief History of Adam Strange, courtesy of Sequart. It delves into the sordid publishing history of our fin-headed friend. And if you’re just itching to read juicy tales of jetpacks and lasers and all that good stuff, pick up the Adam Strange Showcase volume, or perhaps the Archive editions, if you’re one of our wealthier readers.
Holy crap, I can see again! Reasons to Love Comics– saving Bill’s vision since 2007. Oh, and if the Flash Gordon show was actually good, someone should tell me so I can give it a second chance.
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