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Adam Strange, Mystery in Space (revisited)—“My sweetheart lives a trillion miles away”

Story: Gardner Fox

Art: Carmine Infantino

DC Comics, 1961-1962

THE WAY WE LEARNED to swim underwater with aqua-lungs and fins in the 1940s made it obvious humans would soon have personal rocket packs to fly in the skies with the same fishy fluency. The first good part about Adam Strange and his alien girlfriend Alanna from the planet Rann in early 1960s MYSTERY IN SPACE adventures is the way they fly everywhere with ease, no traffic. Sure sweetheart, give me a jet‑pack, a ray-gun, and a skin-tight suit with a matching helmet, and I’ll save your planet with my cool courage, and broad knowledge of science and technology; and with you always by my side.

The thrill comes leaving everyone else on the ground like motley specks.

I found these bite-size adventures in a nice hardbound binge book, Volume 2 of the ADAM STRANGE ARCHIVES, published in 2006, with stories from 1961-62. Prolific writer Gardner Fox, who invented and embellished many of our favorite heroes from this era, distils the soldiering American psyche, trained in the expansion westward fighting Indians, then rebels in the Philippines and other colonial outposts ever since, on to world wars, and scouring Communists from caves with special forces, all here in recent memory, scoring victories and defeats like a sport. The villains facing Adam Strange and his mate are wondrously diverse, but usually after the same thing, domination, which usually means removing Adam Strange from being in the way. Nice to see Alanna save him a few times.

Artist Carmine Infantino produces perfect moving figures, mostly smiling, even the villains, who appear to really enjoy being bad. The challenges and dangers are inventive, such as making shadows come to life, not bent toward world-shaking, infernal explosions so common today.

Maybe I’m nostalgic for that period when comics cost 12 cents, about the same as a gallon of gasoline, and for a while life was pretty easy. Oh yeah, I was a kid. Still, a certain innocence and good cheer is embedded in these stories, not just due to the comics code, as if the artist and writer chuckling, agreed to make their world challenging but happy: happy shooting at you, happy wanting to destroy you, happy deflecting all evil, and finally happy with an evening meal, a night out, and a kiss, until the zeta‑beam wears off and Adam evaporates from Rann to reappear trillions of miles away on Earth.

Come to this oasis when you’re tired of the tattooed dark magic of the current American era, so hating the establishment, reveling with demons always outside the box, too cool for 9-5, enrapturing the night. Adam Strange and Alanna, flying side by side, remind us the box is what made life good in the first place, at a dime a pop.