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Strange Adventures [comic]

Entry updated 21 July 2023. Tagged: Comics, Publication.

US Comic (first run 1950-1973). DC Comics. Issues #1-2 bimonthly; issues #3-211 monthly; issues #212-244 bimonthly. Editor Julius Schwartz. Writers included Otto Binder, John Broome, Gardner F Fox, Sid Gerson, and Edmond Hamilton. Artists included Neal Adams, Murphy Anderson, Sid Greene, Gil Kane, and Carmino Infantino. The comic settled into a format of having each issue contain two original sf stories and one featuring a continuing character.

Arguably the most significant and successful comic entirely devoted to sf, Strange Adventures debuted with an adaptation of Robert A Heinlein's film Destination Moon (1950), but it would come to specialize in amazing adventures occurring on Earth, in contrast to the companion magazine with the same creative team focused on outer space, Mystery in Space. Although early issues introduced two forgettable heroes – Chris KL-99, a human child raised by Aliens who becomes a space adventurer, and Darwin Jones, a "science detective" working for the US Government – the first significant character featured in the comic was Captain Comet, one of the few Superheroes introduced in the early 1950s, who gained amazing powers because of a Comet that appeared in the sky when he was born; he regularly appeared from 1951 to 1954 and has periodically resurfaced in the DC universe. Later recurring features were The Atomic Knights, who battled threats wearing protective medieval armour on a future Earth devastated by a nuclear war (see Post-Holocaust; World War Three); Space Museum, in which a future father takes his son to the titular facility and tells the story behind a displayed artefact; and Star Hawkins, the light-hearted adventures of a spacefaring detective (see Crime and Punishment) with a Robot companion gendered as female. When another series about three spacefaring adventurers, Star Rovers, was exiled from Mystery in Space, it briefly found a home in Strange Adventures. Faceless humanoid aliens from Saturn (see Outer Planets) were never officially a series but appeared in three stories.

However, unlike other anthology comics of the time that were gradually dominated by superheroes, Strange Adventures rarely displayed its continuing characters on its covers, instead foregrounding imaginative original stories with extravagant themes recalling the excesses of the 1930s Pulp sf that Schwartz and Fox had grown up with. Because of DC's discovery that an early cover featuring a gorilla had sold unusually well, subsequent stories regularly featured intelligent gorillas with fantastic abilities (see Apes as Humans). Other recurring story lines predictably included grotesquely transformed people or aliens invading Earth (see Invasion), though aliens sometimes were presented sympathetically; for example, in Sid Gerson's and Carmine Infantino's "Do Not Open Till Doomsday" (1953), the appearance of strange objects on Earth sparks fears of an alien invasion, but they are instead revealed as "birthday presents" from friendly neighbours celebrating the fact that Earth is now four billion years old.

Unfortunately, in 1964 editor Schwartz was reassigned to preside over the Batman comics, and the comic was placed under the control of Jack Schiff, who jettisoned all of its recurring characters and proved incapable of providing the sorts of memorable stories that had characterized the comic. After introducing the character Animal Man, who can emulate the abilities of numerous animals and who has been fitfully revived with minimal success, the comic began to focus on supernatural adventures, including the characters Immortal Man, an ancient man granted Immortality by Magic, and, Deadman, a deceased spirit who can inhabit the bodies of living people. It returned to sf with reprinted adventures of the Atomic Knights and Adam Strange, a character from Mystery in Space, before expiring in 1973. Since then, the title has been occasionally revived, with varying degrees of respect for its original spirit. [GW]

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