When I first started collecting DC comics in 1972, I wanted it all. I wanted to collect everything that DC published. Unfortunately, my weekly allowance couldn’t accommodate that ambition. However, because I really enjoyed DC’s line of superheroes–particularly all the members of the Justice League of America (Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Hawkman, The Atom, and Aquaman)–I stuck with their superhero books.
A few months into collecting I began to realize how much I enjoyed the comics edited by Julius Schwartz over those edited by Murray Boltinoff–not that I was about to drop Boltinoff’s Superboy, The Brave and the Bold, and World’s Finest Comics. I simply decided I’d look for more Schwartz-edited titles.
I knew Schwartz edited Strange Adventures; I’d bought a couple issues of that sci-fi reprint book around the time I first started collecting comics. However, like many other low-selling titles, it was pretty much impossible to come across Strange Adventures on a consistent basis at Thrifty’s, the local newsstand, or Pantry Market. The last issue of Strange Adventures I came across on the comics spinner rack was #237. For all I knew the series had simply been canceled.
Well, as the years have gone by and I’ve devoted a lot of time to exploring DC’s publishing history–especially the 1970s–I’ve learned there’s a lot more to the history of a particular series than its beginning, middle, and end. Sometimes, even the comeback gets axed! Then transformed!
First let me give you a brief history of Strange Adventures. Of the 244 issues of the series that DC published from 1950 to 1973, Schwartz edited all but 53 of them. He began editing the series with the first issue (cover dated August/September 1950) and stopped editing it nearly 14 years later with issue #163 (April 1964). The next 53 issues (#164-216) were worked on by other editors for five years until Schwartz returned with issue #217 (March/April 1969).
He brought the title back to its science fiction roots?albeit by reprinting the science fiction stories he had originally edited in the 1950s in Strange Adventures, Mystery in Space, and Showcase Comics (though they had new cover images illustrated by such superstars as Neal Adams, Joe Kuburt, and Michael Wm. Kaluta). All of those final 28 issues edited by Schwartz featured an Adam Strange adventure. With the exception of the two stories from Showcase #17 that were reprinted in Strange Adventures #217 and 218, all of the stories were originally published in Mystery in Space during the late 1950s and early 1960s.
It was those reprint issues that I would sporadically come across–with the final one that I found being #237. However, there were actually seven more issues that DC published. Strange Adventures #245 was scheduled for release during the third week of September 1973, but the title was abruptly canceled after the release of #244 (October-November 1973).
Yet, five years later, with science fiction’s popularity on the rise again due to the success of Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, a revived, all-new Strange Adventures was prepared as a Dollar Comic and slotted for publication at the onset of “The DC Explosion”–an eight-page increase of new back-up stories in all of DC’s standard-sized comics that was to boost the page count from 17 to 25 pages and the cover price from 35 to 50 cents.
This highly touted expansion (they ran house ads for it in all their comics for several months leading up to the “Explosion”) kicked into gear in June 1978. In addition to all of the current titles getting eight-page back-up stories of new material, there were also several new titles that were poised to premier–and Strange Adventures was even listed in an in-house subscription ad.
However, the bitterly cold winter of ’78, compounded with other non-weather-related factors, took a huge bite out of comic book sales. Thus, Warner Brothers, DC’s parent company, reacted by instigating what has become known as “The DC Implosion”–canceling a third of DC’s line and converting the surviving books to only 17 pages of new material for 40 cents. Along with the other new titles that had been poised to premiere, the resurrection of Strange Adventures never saw the light of day.
Still, the success of Superman the Movie in late 1978 meant science fiction was still thriving in popular culture, so Strange Adventures was once again being considered–though the title caused concern at DC. Some at the company saw “Strange Adventures” as too non-science fiction in description while others felt it was too nostalgic.
With a deadline fast approaching, and time of the essence, Time Warp was agreed upon. Debuting in July of 1979 (with an October-November cover date), this intriguing, House of Mystery-in-space anthology Dollar Comic that promised “Doomsday Tales and Other Things” lasted only five issues–which was long enough to publish a breathtaking-yet-disturbing cover by Kaluta for issue #5.
Yet, DC didn’t completely close the door on a resurgence of science fiction in comics. A resurrected Mystery in Space–a reduced-in-size Time Warp for all intents and purposes (with, finally, a much more appropriate title), was re-launched in 1980 for seven issues before it too was canceled. A strange publishing adventure, indeed!
Since then, DC has had little interest in publishing science fiction save for the short-lived DC Science Fiction Graphic Novel series that Schwartz edited from 1985 to 1987 (a total of seven graphic novels by such noted science fiction authors as Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, Robert Silverberg, Harlan Ellison, and Larry Niven). It’s unfortunate that with science fiction being so popular in television and movies for the past 20 years that DC hasn’t been able to sustain a science fiction series.