Following her desire to learn about some of the DC characters she never read with regularity, Joanna has decided to dabble in the stories of Adam Strange.
A reader asked me if I had any of his stories and at first I said no. On a whim, I decided to do a little research so I dove into my stacks, specifically the area marked "Miscellaneous." To my surprise, I found Mystery in Space #87 from November 1963. It isn’t that I didn't know I had the book. When one of my ex-comic book dealers tried to get some cash for a little weekend partying, he called me up and offered me this book. Well, he didn't actually tell me what book he had, just that he had a great buy. When I got there, I was quite disappointed because I never read Mystery in Space and had no interest in parting with funds for a book I didn’t read."But it's the third tryout of Hawkman!" he said."And yet I don't care. Call me if you get a good Wonder Woman or early JLA."He didn't give up. He kept lowering the price, while extolling the high grade of my copy (I say "my copy" because he kept calling it that). I'm not sure why I ever said yes, but I did. Unfortunately, I did so without getting a close look at the "high grade." Yeah, I got ripped off pretty bad because he’d always been pretty square with me prior to that. How badly was I ripped off? I’d pretty much taken a better look at the cover and from that alone knew I’d been taken. And yet, I didn't know until I started writing this article that the cover was unattached. That shows you how thoroughly I got reamed. Not that I gave him a lot of money, just that I shouldn't have given him any money. CGC wasn’t around back then to protect people like me.
The good news is that I will finally get some value out of this comic book. My thanks go out to that Adam Strange-loving reader, because I never read the story in this oh-so-high-grade-"good minus"-on-its-best-day comic. You know what? It was pretty dang good! The fact that he has an egg shaped head (I cannot resist that bald genius egghead that DC so adored) got me on his side right away. But the fact that he is blowing off his girlfriend on the splash page while sporting that bizarrely aberrant skull shape, thereby proving that — What does that prove? That smart guys are creeps? There is a text box on the splash page that says, "Never before, however, has Adam turned away from the girl he loves! Never has he scorned her as a mere woman — ugly and repulsive to his sight! There was nothing about Alanna that was of the least concern for — The Super-Brain of Adam Strange!"Let me get this straight. He loves Alanna. And now that he's super smart, he finds her "ugly and repulsive." How did her looks change when his brain grew? If he had scorned her because she wasn't smart enough for him it would be borne out by what just happened, but no, he is rejecting her because he suddenly finds her ugly and repulsive. I have to admit, I am not yet in love with the character of Adam Strange. So far I find him ugly and repulsive. But that's just me. Let's read the story, shall we?Like the adventure serials of old, there is a nod to the preceding issue. In that storyline, he had apparently been having dreams of being on Rann. Adam (whose head is normal, unless that helmet crest covers a weird birth defect) was worried that every time he makes an appearance it seemed to trigger a menace, "… Almost as if I were a jinx!" Alanna dismisses the thought, but mentions that her father, Sardath, has invented a new device to control the amount of time he could visit her planet. This is apparently a big problem."It's a null-Zeta beam that suspends the fading out of the Zeta-beam radiation in your body." [As someone who knows very little about Adam Strange, it’s a bit confusing, but I do seem to remember that he rides some crazy thing and gets transported or something. Close enough for me; I shall simply soldier on and hope the beams sort themselves out.]
Adam is excited because it means he will be able to stay for a full year on the planet Rann. They go to visit her father, a bespectacled, bald scientist in tights and a lab coat who has the "null-Zeta" device in his living room along with a large pink plant, an extremely uncomfortable-looking sofa, and a picture window with a great view. Alanna says, "Isn't it wonderful? This way you'll be able to spend most of your time on Rann… with only periodic, short visits to Earth!" After agreeing with Alanna, Adam says one of my favorite lines, "I've checked your dad's calculations and the experiment seems safe enough! So let's get on with it!" There is a big pile of wonderfulness in that quote. One, he's double-checking his girlfriend's dad's homework. He doesn't trust him. But, wait! This time dad's numbers check out. Oh happy day! Once he has checked the numbers, Adam doesn't want to wait another minute. It's funny how two smart scientist guys didn’t seem to find the flaw in that calculation.Flaw, you say?Oh, yeah. Of course something has to go wrong. Yet first, something is going to go right. Right, then creepy, then wrong — really wrong. You do not want to miss how creepy and wrong things get. Why? A quick reminder: Big. Head.Sardath gives Adam a dose of the null-Zeta-beam machine while thinking, "I would've liked to test this out on some ‘guinea pig first’ [sic] — but the only Zeta-beamed life-form on Rann is Adam himself!" [Gee, Dad, you might've mentioned these misgivings out loud. Was there some sort of immediacy we weren't told about? Why the rush? Couldn't you have Zeta-beamed an actual guinea pig to earth and back so that you would have a "guinea pig"? Too much logic can destroy a good story. I will now pretend that it is perfectly normal to do risky scientific procedures in a hurry on the planet Rann.]As Alanna rushes into Adam's arms, her dad announces that there is no trace of the original Zeta-beam radiation and no "ill-effects." That's wonderful. No ill-effects. And this continues "day after day." Everything is normal, the two young lovers spend their time together and then just as Dad decides to give Adam a little radiation checkup, something bizarre begins to happen. There is no indication why it is suddenly happening when days have passed with no reaction, but happen it does. [I will add “weird and inexplicable reactions to scientific experiments happen on Rann” to my list.]"… Your head is bigger — and getting bigger! Oh, this is terrible! Do something, Father!"
Adam is delighted because he has "… increased mental alertness! It's as if my mind has grown sharper!" And eggier. As we watch Adam's head shoot for the sky, elongating before our very eyes, he says, "Ohhh! Now I'm beginning to understand what happened! Sardath’s null-Zeta radiation affected the evolutionary factors of my body. My brain is evolving swiftly — to that of a future-man!"Because there is a direct correlation between intelligence, the egg shape of a person's head and sudden brain-induced baldness, Adam becomes pompously smart and his nice blonde hair falls off his giant head before our very eyes. He calls himself future-man and also "Homo Superior." [No jokes, boys. He really does think he’s superior.]While you’re digesting the pure wonder that is this story, remember that you must return next month on your computer machine to get part two of this incredibly cerebral story. It’s one of the best big head stories you're going to read about in at least 30 days. You don't want to miss Adam acting strange.If you'd like to learn more, including a detailed bio and more information about Joanna's books, please visit her website.
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