Showcase Presents Strange Adventures volume 2


By John Broome, Otto Binder, Gardner Fox, Edmond Hamilton, France E. Herron, Dave Wood, Ed Jurist, Joe Millard, Carmine Infantino, Gil Kane, Sid Greene, Jerry Grandenetti, Howard Sherman, Frank Giacoia, Manny Stallman & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-3846-9

Do you know what I miss? Compilations of classics anthological genre adventures.

Marvel finally wised up and recently began releasing gloriously evocative collections of their pre-superhero horror, sci fi and even war yarns but since DC stopped producing their cheap and cheerful compendia of similar material, something fabulous has been missing from our lives. Now with so many kinds of eBooks editions, it’s a crying shame that these whimsical, moody early fantasy romps are unavailable to readers of all ages and vintage. Let’s see why with this splendid and still enticing monochrome paperback tome

As the 1940s closed, masked mystery-men dwindled in popularity and the American comicbook industry found new heroes. Classic pulp fiction genre titles flourished; anthologies dedicated to crime, war, westerns, humour and horror were augmented by newer fads like funny animal, romance and most especially science fiction. In 1950, National Periodicals/DC finally escaped that last genre’s glorious thud-&-blunder/ray guns/bikini babes in giant fishbowl helmets magazine roots (as perfectly epitomised in the uniquely wonderful Golden Age icon Planet Comics) with Julius Schwartz’s introduction of Strange Adventures.

Packed with short adventures from jobbing SF writers and a plethora of new heroes such as Chris KL99, Captain Comet, Atomic Knights and others, the magnificent monthly compendium (supplemented a year later with sister-title Mystery in Space) introduced wide-eyed youngsters to a fantastical yet intrinsically rationalist universe and all its possible/probable wonders …

On a thematic note: a general but by no means concrete rule of thumb was that Strange Adventures generally took place on Earth or were at least Earth-adjacent whilst as the name suggests Mystery in Space offered readers the run of the rest of the universe…

Reprinting Strange Adventures #74-93 (November 1956 to June 1958), this second compelling collection features stories from the dawn of the Silver Age, offering fantastic fantasy plots and spectacular scenarios as an industry-wide resurgence of confidence and creativity gathered momentum and superheroes began to successfully reappear.

These stellar sagas would continually inform and shape DC’s slowly growing heroic adventure revival, whilst proving over and again that Weird Science and cosmic disaster were no match for the infallibility of human intellect and ingenuity. During this period many of the plots, gimmicks, MacGuffins, cover designs and even interior art were recycled for the more technologically-based, emergent costumed champions creeping back into public favour…

This mind-blowing, physics-challenging monochrome colossus opens with four classic vignettes, beginning with a terse thriller by John Broome & Carmine Infantino wherein a writer gains the power to see beyond the normal range and is the only human who can combat ‘The Invisible Invader from Dimension X!’, after which ‘The Metal Spy from Space!’ (Gardner Fox, Sid Greene & John Giunta) is similarly exposed and defeated by fictive pulp fictioneer “Edmond Hamilford”…

Fox, Greene & Bernard Sachs then reveal the vested interest of an investigator who obsessively seeks out ‘Earth’s Secret Visitors!’ before Edmond Hamilton, Gil Kane & Joe Giella detail how a notoriously hapless DIY dabbler finds himself in possession of the ‘Build-it-Yourself Spaceship!’

During this period editors were baffled by but still exploited a bizarre truism: every issue of any title which featured gorillas on the cover always showed increased sales. Little wonder then that so many DC comics had hairy headliners…

Strange Adventures #75 led with ‘Secret of the Man-Ape!’ by Otto Binder, Infantino & Giella, wherein a scientist intent on evolving apes into men accidentally acquires a test subject who just happens to be the vanguard of an invading alien anthropoid army, whilst ‘The 2nd Deluge of Earth!’ (Ed Jurist, Greene & Giella) sees a blind scientist save the world from Martians intent on taking over our water-rich world…

A meddlesome technologist happily makes amends and saves an imperilled alien civilisation after curiously poking his nose into the ‘Mystery of the Box from Space!’ (Binder, Kane & Sachs) before ‘This is Timearama!’ (Hamilton, Greene & Sachs) wittily and scathingly relates what happens when an honest researcher trusts businessmen with the secrets of his televisual time probe…

In issue #76 Broome, Infantino & Sachs explored the mission of a galactic saviour handicapped by fate as he strives to save humanity in ‘The Tallest Man on Earth!’, after which ‘The Flying Saucers that Saved the World!’ (Binder, Greene & Giella) reveals how a professional UFO debunker uses all he’s learned about hoaxes to counter an actual invasion by sinister subterraneans.

Although a short story anthology title, over the run of years Strange Adventures featured a number of memorable returning characters and concepts such as Star Hawkins or Space Museum. Darwin Jones of the Department of Scientific Investigation debuted in the very first issue, solving fringe or outright weird science dilemmas for the Federal Government.

A genius-level scientific detective, he made thirteen appearances over as many years and here resurfaces to foil the insidious schemes of ‘The Robot from Atlantis!’ (Binder, Kane & Giella), which feigns benevolent friendship whilst actually trying to eradicate mankind. The issue then concludes with the struggle of a geologist to get rid of ‘The Hungry Meteorite!’ (Dave Wood, Greene & Sachs) which threatens to absorb all the metal on Earth…

Another Darwin Jones thriller – by Broome, Infantino & Sachs – opened issue #77 when a Death Row convict is given superhuman intellectual abilities by desperate trans-dimension beings facing extinction. However, “Lobo” Torrence is prepared to let two worlds die to save himself, forcing the Science Detective to gamble everything on a last-ditch plan…

Hamilton, Greene & Giella then detail how ‘The Incredible Eyes of Arthur Gail!’ – damaged by a chemical accident and unable to detect non-organic materials – uncover a cruel criminal plot; Binder, Kane & Sachs expose the tragic secret of ‘The Paul Revere of Time!’ whose anonymous warnings prevent colossal loss of life and ‘The Mental Star-Rover!’ (Binder, Greene & Giella) reveals an uncanny connection between an Earth author and a piratical alien marauder…

Broome, Greene & Sachs opened Strange Adventures #78 with a spirited mash-up of Arthurian legend and The Prisoner of Zenda as mechanic Bruce Walker pinch-hits for an alien emperor in ‘The Secret of the Tom-Thumb Spacemen!’ after which Fox, Kane & Giella chillingly explore how existence depends on meteors when aliens attempt to steal ‘The Life Battery!’ which sustains our bio-sphere…

Binder & Infantino pose a classic quandary of ingenuity and survival after a prospector is stranded on a primitive island with a dead alien and a matter-transmuting device he believes is ‘The Magic Horn of Space!’ Immediately following, a test pilot is abducted into another dimension to become a guinea pig for inhuman predators as ‘The Prisoner of Space X!’ (France E. Herron, Greene & Sachs).

Issue #79 offered chilly seasonal fare with ‘Invaders from the Ice World!’ by Fox, Infantino & Sachs. When energy beings from Pluto possess snowmen in advance of an invasion it takes all of Darwin Jones’ deductive abilities to fathom their only weakness, after which ‘Around the Universe in 1 Billion Years!’ (Herron, Greene & Giella) follows a band of explorers who return to Terra after an eternity in space to discover a new race has supplanted them.

‘A Switch in Time!’ (Fox, Kane & Giella) then examines the fate of a conman who thinks himself the lucky recipient of the greatest deal in history before Hamilton, Jerry Grandenetti & Giella expose the incredible secret of ‘The Living Automobile!’ which kidnaps its driver…

Binder handled most of the writing in #80, beginning with a smart take on intellectual property as the Kane & Giella illustrated ‘Mind Robbers of Venus!’ depicts alien crooks stashing their loot in the brain of electronics engineer Ian Caldwell before Greene & Giella take over for ‘The Worlds That Switched Places!’ wherein an astronaut makes a terrible mistake that almost dooms two different dimensions.

Fox & Infantino demonstrated the duplicitous saga of Plutonian Jul Van and ‘The Anti-Invasion Machine!’ which almost destroyed Earth before Binder returns with artist Howard Sherman to seal the fate of an avaricious inventor who believes himself ‘The Man who Cheated Time!’

Strange Adventures #81 featured a subatomic would-be tyrant kidnapping convict brothers to be his tools in an ambitious plot, but the deranged alien has no idea of the ‘Secret of the Shrinking Twins!’ (Broome, Infantino & Sachs) and consequently pays a heavy price, after which Binder, Greene & Giella pit an Earth naturalist against a potential world conqueror in ‘The Spaceman of 1,000 Disguises!’

‘The Friendly Enemies of Space!’ (Herron, Kane & Sachs) details a series of natural disasters which ruin Earth’s first contact with benevolent extra-solar life before Fox, Grandenetti & Frank Giacoia examined the fallout of a lost artefact from a higher dimension when ‘The Magic Box from Nowhere!’ drops into the hands of ordinary, greedy humans…

In #82, Herron, Infantino & Sachs’s bellicose and awesome ‘Giants of the Cosmic Ray!’ meet their match in a humble earth scientist, whilst a gobsmacked youth is astounded to discover his adoptive parents were aliens when he becomes ‘The Man Who Inherited Mars!’ (Binder, Greene & Giella)…

A lack of communication would have led to disaster had science fiction writer Owen Bently not deduced the incredible ‘Secret of the Silent Spaceman!’ (Binder, Giacoia & Giella) after which a researcher saves Earth from invaders by turning their technology against them on ‘The Day Science Went Wild!’ (Binder, Greene & Giella).

Strange Adventures #83 sees a simple college Professor revealed as an amnesiac chrononaut who has to rediscover and complete his ‘Assignment in Eternity!’ before time runs out (Binder, Greene & Giella again), whilst actor Mark Gordon finds himself hunting fans-turned-spree criminals as the ‘Private Eye of Venus!’ (Fox & Infantino) when his hit TV show inadvertently becomes the sensation of the telepathic inhabitants of our sister planet…

Herron, Greene & Giella detail a misunderstanding which reduces gigantic Good Samaritan ‘The Volcanic Man!’ to the status of an invading monster after which an accident leads to brain injury for an ordinary mortal. As crafted by Herron, Kane & Sachs, his wounds are repaired by passing aliens, but the victim develops uncanny precognitive abilities in ‘The Future Mind of Roger Davis!’

Ray Jenkins is a wealthy man who brings unearned fame and prestige in SA #84, but the glory-hound meets his fate when he encounters the ‘Prisoners of the Atom Universe!’ (Broome, Infantino & Sachs) whilst a harried scientist prevents ‘The Radioactive Invasion of Earth!’ (Fox, Greene & Sachs) when he realises Martians also can’t abide his kids’ Rock ‘n’ Roll music…

Darwin Jones returns to solve the ‘Riddle of the Walking Robots!’ (Herron, Infantino & Giella) which ceaselessly roam Earth sowing alien seeds, after which schoolboy Tommy Ward’s “Electronic Brain” kit becomes ‘The Toy that Saved the World!’ (Binder, Greene & Giella)… once he stops scrupulously following the instructions…

John Broome scripted the first half of issue #85, leading with artists Greene & Sachs’ ‘The Amazing Human Race!’, wherein a scientist uncovers a plot by Praying Mantises to conquer humanity before a colour-blind student finds affirmation when his disability saves an alien civilisation from destruction in ‘The Colorless World of Peter Brandt!’ (Infantino & Giella).

Binder closed the issue with a brace of tales: ‘The Riddle of Spaceman X!’ (Greene & Giella) with human scientists trying to deduce the form of an alien from examining his “abandoned” ship whilst ‘Thieves of Thought!’ (Infantino & Sy Barry) follows a speleologist who unearths a city of robots telepathically appropriating human inventions for the purposes of conquest…

In SA #86, ‘The Dog That Saved the Earth!’ (Broome, Infantino & Sachs) discloses how alien energy transforms an ordinary mutt into a telepathic genius in time to prevent a cosmic catastrophe after which Binder, Infantino & Giella reveal how an ordinary chemist ends an ‘Interplanetary Space-Feud!’ threatening to devastate the world.

Gardner Fox then finished off the issue with two intriguing enigmas. Spelunker Bill Jackson stumbles onto an alien ship and discovers only he can stop ‘The One-Hour Invasion of Earth!’ (art by Giacoia), whilst Greene & Giella reveal how schoolboy John Haldane is saved by a mysterious stranger in payment for a similar service performed two decades hence during ‘The Weather War of 1977!’

Strange Adventures #87 begins with Herron, Infantino & Giella’s ingenious ‘New Faces for Old!’, wherein the ultimate plastic surgery craze is nothing but a crafty scheme by aliens to ferret out freedom fighters hiding amidst teeming humanity whilst ‘Mystery Language from Space!’ (Fox, Greene & Sachs) shows how a warning of planetary doom is nearly wasted as nobody can read the messages…

Fox, Infantino & Giella then detail how a freshly graduated Air Force pilot is abruptly seconded to the red planet to combat the ‘Meteor Menace of Mars!’ before Binder, Greene & Giella describe how an ingenious writer is tapped by aliens in dire distress to be ‘The Interplanetary Problem-Solver!’

Simian allure informed issue #88 as Herron, Infantino & Giella depicted Darwin Jones thwarting ‘The Gorilla War against Earth!’ and uncovering another alien invasion scheme whilst ‘The Warning Out of Time!’ (Binder, Greene & Sachs) reveals how a lost Da Vinci masterpiece conceals prophetic warnings of future disasters.

A mysterious and diligent ‘Bodyguard from Space!’ (Fox, Infantino & Sachs) attaches himself to cameraman Jim Carson because the human’s brain contains knowledge to save a dying civilisation, after which Binder, Greene & Giella pose a classic survival conundrum as Earth scientists struggled to discern ‘The Secret of the Sleeping Spaceman!’

When Saturnians raided our world in issue #89, one scientist advises neither capitulation nor resistance but instead suggests offering ‘Earth for Sale’ (Herron, Infantino & Sachs) to save humanity, after which a professor vanishes from view to find himself a ‘Prisoner of the Rainbow!’ (Binder, Greene & Giella).

A pilot on a mercy mission takes an accidental ‘Detour in Time!’ and saves future humanity in a chiller by Fox, Grandenetti & Giella before Binder, Greene & Giella’s ‘Mystery of the Unknown Invention!’ sees a nosy neighbour’s prying accidentally saving a world… but not his own…

Issue #90 opens with ‘The Day I Became a Martian!’ (Binder, Infantino & Sachs), revealing how prospective invaders periodically transform a sci fi writer to see if Earth can sustain them after which Fox, Greene & Giunta recount how a bookshop owner endures regular clandestine visits from an extraterrestrial seeking ‘The 100,000 Year Old Weapon!’

Binder also scripted the final brace of astounding yarns as an ‘Amazing Gift from Space!’ (illustrated by Infantino & Sachs) sees human suspicion nearly spurn an incredible opportunity and doom two civilisations, whilst the Greene & Giella limned ‘Mystery of Meteor Crater!’ offers a thrilling battle between Jovian invaders and ordinary Earthmen for the most powerful element in creation…

In #91 ‘The Midget Earthman of Jupiter!’ (Broome, Greene & Sachs) portrays how an Olympic decathlete assists Brobdingnagian aliens in a struggle for democratic freedom whilst Binder, Greene & Giunta’s ‘Warning to Earth!’ features an oceanographer afflicted with a mental block attempting to circumvent his psychic gag and alert the surface-world to impending undersea invasion…

Fox, Manny Stallman & Giella then detail a shipwrecked extraterrestrial swindler’s scheme to trick Earth into building his ride home after discovering ‘The Amazing Tree of Knowledge!’, before ‘Prisoner of the Space Satellite!’ (Binder, Infantino & Sachs) reveals how an isolated astronomer solves a mathematical mystery and saves the last survivor of Atlantis from death in space…

SA #92 offered a more literal tale from Joe Millard, Infantino & Sachs as ‘The Amazing Ray of Knowledge!’ boosts the intellect of children just as a sidereal phenomenon threatens to destroy the solar system. Sadly, the effect was only temporary and when the kids revert to normal their solution is beyond the ken of their parents…

When an alien impostor dies in an accident the authorities uncover a plot to end humanity. ‘Earth – Planetary Bomb!’ by Fox & Giunta sees Jeff Morgan impersonate his own doppelganger to infiltrate the doom-ring and save the world, after which Fox, Stallman & Giella reveal how a magazine artist encounters ‘Models from Saturn’ and becomes embroiled in an interplanetary revolution.

‘The Ice-Age Message!’ by Binder & Greene then sees a TV weatherman deliver a forecast of meteorological Armageddon after clashing with aliens seeking to steal Earth’s carbon dioxide…

Strange Adventures #93 wraps up the nostalgic future-watching, beginning with extra-length thriller ‘Heart of the Solar System!’ (Millard, Infantino & Giella) wherein a space-traffic patrolman strives to protect the artificial organ which regulates the laws of physics in our sector of space from stellar marauders, after which Fox, Stallman & Sachs expose temporal meddlers whose experiments drop the first volume of a cosmic dictionary in the lap of a contemporary quiz show contestant.

Sadly as ‘The Wizard of A!’, Joe Bentley’s brief moment of fame almost eradicates the time continuum…

The final tale in this titanic tome is one last Darwin Jones romp as Fox & Giunta’s ‘Space Rescue by Proxy!’ describes the Science Sleuth’s dealings with a telepathic alien sent to warn Earth of impending doom. Tragically, the saviour himself falls into deadly danger and has to be rescued by Jones’ ingenuity…

Couched in the grand tradition of legendary pulp sci-fi editor John Campbell, with human ingenuity and decency generally solving the assorted crises of cosmic interaction, these yarns and sagas are a timeless highpoint of all-ages comics entertainment.

If you dream in steel and plastic and are still wondering why you don’t yet own a personal jet-pack or live on food-pills, this volume might go some way to assuaging that unquenchable fire for the stars…
© 1956, 1957, 1958, 2013 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.…