Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Strange Adventures #237 (July-Aug. 1972)

Strange Adventures is a venerable DC title dating back to 1950, but it was nearing the end of its storied run by this issue. A little over three years earlier, it had been taken over by its original editor Julius Schwartz, and had become primarily a reprint book. DC's move to a larger format had given the book more variety when it was instituted, but this issue marks the return to 32 pages. Issue #244, a little over a year later, would be the last issue of Strange Adventures - at least in this incarnation.

Strange Adventures #237 is adorned with a cover as wildly deceptive as the one to that Marvel monster comic I reviewed last month. It's not entirely a lie- there is a scene like it in the lead story. But, it's part of a movie within the story, though that story is titled "The Skyscraper That Came To Life!" Clearly, everyone involved knew what would hook people into the tale, even if it is just a minor detail.

(Also, please note the dog. That is pretty much how my sister Amy's dog would react in that situation.)

That first story is written by John Broome and illustrated by Sid Greene and Joe Giella. It is a clever little number about aliens, with a nice twist - this despite precious little rampaging skyscraper action in its 6 pages. The art is attractive, but I have noticed that Giella's inks tend to superimpose a certain style on everyone. Not that it's bad, mind you; I just know I can spot Giella's hand pretty easily on any job he did.

Centerpiece of the book, both figuratively and literally, is the Adam Strange feature "Ray-Gun In The Sky!" Adam is a character who has struggled to find his niche for decades since his first series ended, but doggone it, those old stories are pretty nice. Occasionally filled with the ridiculous, like the titular giant gun (complete with handle and trigger!), but agreeable interplanetary fun all the same. There are a couple of bits that feel forced, but that is mostly in service to the ongoing subplot drama of the series. Writing is by Gardner Fox, and the art is provided by Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson at what might be their peak.

We close out with another Fox story, this time with John Giunta art. It is slightly clever, but so short (4 pages) and hinging on something difficult to interpret on a comics page that it's hard to label it as anything other than filler.

I don't know how Marvel's monster reprint books sold, but in retrospect, they sure come across as more geared to their times than DC's attempts to resuscitate the sci-fi genre with this title and From Beyond The Unknown. Marvel's books are garish and lurid, often promising thrills they can't possibly deliver. DC's books, while still fantastic, seem more mannered and restrained. And if we've learned anything in the decades since, it's that manners and restraint were not at a premium in pop culture in the 1970s. Seen through that prism, it's not hard to understand that Marvel overtook DC as the number one comic company in the decade.

Don't get me wrong - I think this book is far more solid as a whole than the random issue of Where Monsters Dwell we discussed last month. But which would I have been more likely to buy on the stands, based on the packaging? Gotta say the Marvel one.

Our ad report includes such worthies as Hot Wheels (something called "RRRumblers"), Daisy Air Gun (remember when guns were advertised in comics? I do!), and a cartoon of Roger Staubach hawking Super Skittle Bowl. Honor House turns up with their plethora of semi-worthless products, including the "Raquel Welch Pillow" for "Only $1.98" :
What man wouldn't enjoy spending a night with Raquel Welch? Well, we can't deliver her, but we can deliver the next best thing - a 12" x 24" inflatable pillow of Raquel made of rugged vinyl to serve as your headrest. Keep her for yourself or show her to your friends. Livens up party when everyone sees and feels this great gag item.
...Ugh, I feel dirty now.

Strange Adventures #237 is a reasonably entertaining comic if you can find it cheap. Consider it recommended. But if you secure your own Raquel Welch inflatable pillow, leave me out of it. Please.

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