Last month we began the delicious story found in Mystery in Space #87 from November 1963, “The Super-Brain of Adam Strange!” The story begins with a bunch of scientific-sounding mumbo-jumbo about Zeta beams and null-Zeta beams — what's next?
Basically, Alanna's father found a way for Adam Strange to remain on the planet Rann. This is very good news for Alanna and Adam and their interplanetary love. But the bad news is that Adam has suddenly grown a gigantic bald head that contains a gigantic super-smart brain. Enough recapping; let’s get back to the good stuff:
Adam the future-man says, "Sardath, you'll build a computer machine according to my instructions!" A "computer machine"? This book was written in 1963. The "computer machines" pictured take up most of the room. I read once that there were predictions that as computers progressed they would get larger and larger until soon they would take up entire skyscrapers. They didn't realize they'd end up in our pockets. I do like the phrase "computer machine," though. I
may have to casually throw it into a conversation and note how many people ask me if I’m from the planet Rann.
Alanna spends the next several hours crying nonstop while her father builds the computer machine, considering it a "great scientific opportunity." Yes, Dad, ignore your weeping daughter and keep fiddling with those futuristic vacuum tubes and punch cards. Isn't the future amazing? Because of Super-Adam (a.k.a. Future-man, a.k.a. Homo Superior) and his amazing computer machine skills "… our civilization will leap ahead 100,000 years!" 100,000 years in the future and the computer he invents resembles a Univac.
"Close to despair …" Alanna is only close to despair? She has been crying nonstop since Adam lost his hair and gained a second story. I would say she has pretty much met despair, taken it for a ride and it’s now a tiny speck on the horizon behind her. Nonetheless, she is considered only "close to despair." She runs off to get away from the computer machine and the two bald scientists. Yes, her father is also bald because, if we have learned anything from comic books, to be intelligent you can't have any hair taking nourishment away from the brain — or something like that.
She finds herself on the balcony and sees some "distant light-patterns in the sky." She doesn't know what they are, so we can assume this is not something native to Rann. She does, however, have the presence of mind to do some foreshadowing as she says (and it doesn't appear she's speaking to anyone), "What can they be? With Adam no longer Adam — I hope they're not dangerous!" Hmm … A person wondering if something is dangerous in a comic book. Certainly that means there can't possibly be any danger, right?
The next panel shows the light things are sending lightning bolts down on the city, although they aren't actually lightning bolts; they're "radiations." The trouble may be happening in another city, but it is certainly alarming. The radiations are hitting the people and making them glow. "Where did this terrible menace come from?" I have a guess. I'm assuming these irradiated people didn't read the beginning of the story where Adam Strange wonders if he is a jinx. I'm putting my money on yes, he's a jinx.
After we see the radiations hitting the people, we get a wonderful panel. Since all that is happening is that the people are glowing, how do you make these radiations into a terrible menace? How about taking away something that is essential to the survival of every human being? A radiated man, in the midst of the horror, reaches for a piece of fruit on a tree. Perhaps glowing makes a body hungry. The piece of fruit turns to powder when he touches it. A woman standing nearby and carrying a baby is crying. "How can we eat — if the food disappears when you grasp it?" This panel is just so utterly delightful. Here they are in the middle of beams of radiation coming out of the sky from strange weird looking light objects and they want a snack. And yet the insanity of this panel is offset by the fact that it shows in one very clear instance why this menace is so terrible. Dying of starvation — including that innocent baby — is a nasty way to go.
We returned to the laboratory and see Alanna bursting into the room where Mr. Big Brain "… has begun feeding his super-thoughts down on tape …" Oh good, I'd hate to see him using some sort of futuristic digital medium. 100,000 years into the future we're heading back toward eight-tracks. Groovy.
The next obstacle the author has to overcome is how to make Adam sound super smart. "I can sense the rhythm of the spheres — the way in which planets were formed — the body chemistry needed to make man immortal!" I can dig it, man. Far out. You are, like, so right about spheres, man. Totally.
Alanna ignores Adam’s secret of the universe / LSD trip and begs her father to return him to normal because terrible things are happening in Kamorak. (That's the city where the light beams were irradiating people and ruining all their fruit.) Adam hears her plea and naturally ignores it. These pesky mortals don't realize how powerful Homo Superior truly is. "With my mental powers I know how to destroy this menace! It won't be much bother …"
"You're so — so swelled-headed! My Adam was never like that!" You tell him, Alanna! I bet that swelled-head pun really hurt. In fact, it may have hurt too much because the verbal beatdown he lays on Alanna in the next few panels leaves her lying on the floor sobbing uncontrollably. For a woman who has spent the day weeping, the worst is yet to come.
Alanna acknowledges that the man in front of her is no longer Adam Strange, the man she loved. Although he has "more important things to do with [his] great powers," Adam makes a machine (that looks like a weird Christmas wreath or a spiky fan) that will save all the irradiated people and their fruit.
Alanna isn't wild about his inflated ego and says, "Adam — you must come back to your senses" — at which he turns on her.
"For the last time — go away and stop bothering me! This weapon will save you and your people — what more do you want?"
"Adam — darling! I beg of you — if our love means anything to you — give up this —"
"Stand aside! I have no love for you — you mean nothing to me! Moreover, I have decided never to return to my former self again!"
As Adam leaves, Alanna is reduced to a sobbing mess. "I'm ugly in his eyes! I could see it in his face! ::sob!:: Just as ugly as a caveman might be in my eyes! ::sob!:: I want my Adam back!"
Interesting how this ended up playing out when contrasted to the splash page. Adam didn't actually say to her that she was ugly, as the splash page intimated. She merely saw it in his face. That actually makes more sense. Having a super brain should not make a man spontaneously unable to appreciate feminine beauty.
[I just realized she has a holster at her waist. Why is she armed? Is she a cop? Or is she an interplanetary adventurer like her boyfriend? There is so much I do not know about this series. I see he has a holster as well. And a jet pack. I always wanted a jet pack when I was young and comic books made it seem like that was pretty much in our future. Instead, we got tiny computers and no jet packs. The jury is out on whether that was a good trade-off.]
I suppose you'll just have to come back here next month in order to see both the furious beatdown and the thrilling conclusion. Honestly, I'm hoping you’re more psyched about the thrilling conclusion than the furious beatdown. You know how nasty those men with giant egg-shaped domes can be. It's so hard to find a good rug, hats look stupid on you and those monochrome e-cards that are always showing up on Facebook just made a card that says, "Your giant head no longer fits the pillow, so see ya, sucker!"
What was I talking about? Oh, yeah — thrilling conclusion! Next month!
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This is a guest article. The thoughts and opinions in this piece are those of their author and are not necessarily the thoughts of the Certified Collectibles Group.
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