Star-Crossed Lover: A Tribute To Adam Strange
In the late 1950s, science fiction was a big deal, so it made sense when DC editorial director Irwin Donenfeld asked two of his editors, Jack Schiff and Julius Schwartz, to each create a new sci-fi hero: one from the present and one from the future.
Schiff chose the future hero and created Space Ranger, who was a fun Silver Age concept, but ultimately not that big a deal. But Schwartz, along with artist Murphy Anderson and writer Gardner Fox, created Adam Strange, an interstellar hero who endures to this day.
Adam Strange made his debut on September 18, 1958, in the pages of Showcase #17. Although Anderson had designed his costume, Mike Sekowsky actually drew those early stories. Schwartz co-plotted with Fox, drawing on his background as a science student and sci-fi fan to give the stories an originality, and perhaps even a plausibility that most spacebound comics of the time lacked.
After three issues of Showcase, Strange was given a permanent feature in Mystery in Space, where Fox was joined by Carmine Infantino on art.
Adam Strange wasn't an astronaut (at least not on purpose); he was an archeologist. He had traveled from his US home to Peru for that purpose when he suddenly found himself teleported to the planet Rann in the Alpha Centauri system. The first person her met there was a woman named Alanna, the daughter of the scientist whose experimental Zeta beam had accidentally transported him from Earth.
Inevitably, Strange and Alanna fell in love, but their romance was complicated by the fact that Strange was forced to periodically return to Earth when the Zeta beam wore off, and could only come back by finding the predetermined location and time when the next one would appear.
Adam Strange became the hero of Rann, defending it from alien invaders and other threats using Rann's more advanced technology. But the heart of the stories, the thing that makes Adam Strange endure, is the literally star-crossed romance between him and Alanna. He has to (at least sometimes) live as a normal man on present-day Earth, despite knowing that his true love is light-years away. And he has to be a hero, defending Rann from all comers, not just because that means defending Alanna, but because it's being that hero that ensures he'll be welcomed back again and again.
The other thing that causes Strange to endure is that being set in the present, rather than the future like most sci-fi heroes, enables his stories to crossover with the rest of the DC Universe. Beginning with Mystery in Space #75, in which the Justice League of America visited Rann, Strange has long been an ally of the community of DC heroes in general and the JLA in particular. He's had an especially strong connection with Hawkman, whose home planet of Thanagar turns out to be a neighbor of Rann, with inevitable political tensions and at one point outright war.
Since his Silver Age heyday, Adam Strange hasn't always been on the scene, but he's never gone for long, which is more than you can say for most 1950s science fiction heroes. He and his adopted planet and the love story that binds them have reemerged in every era of the DC Universe. The tone of the stories and the design of his costume might be altered to fit the time, but there's always a place for DC's first spaceman. He's only ever a Zeta beam away.