Justice League of America #138 (1977)

Justice League of America #138 (January, 1977)
“Adam Strange–Puppet of Time!”
Writer – Cary Bates
Art – Dick Dillin & Frank McLaughlin
Editor – Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.30

I’ve been in Arizona a long time… and I still can’t get used to school starting in early August.  Today my school teacher wife reported back to active duty… and it still seems wrong.  I mean, it’s the first day of school, and it’s 108-degrees outside… yeesh.

In my head, kids are still off until the day after Labor Day in September.  That’s where I got my negative association with Jerry Lewis… something I was hoping to pass down to my kids.

Oh well, let’s talk some pre-Crisis League.

We open with Alanna Strange recording herself speaking into a microphone about… guilt.  She claims that it’s her fault that five members of the Justice League have been doomed.  This leads us into a flashback scene wherein Mrs. Strange visited the JLA Satellite with some dire news.  It turns out the Zeta Beam that sends her husband Adam to and from Rann has been a bit on the wonky side of late.

Now, instead of the Zeta Beam simply sending Adam back and forth from Rann, it’s sending him throughout space… and time!  She shares a story Adam had told about seeing the Flash and his wife Iris hanging out in the year 2971, like they do.  He goes on to explain that during his last Zeta Beam trip he learned that the real menace to the Earth is… him!

Batman and Flash take this information (delivered by a tri-fold projection of Alanna Strange… which seems like a really inconvenient way to say “3D hologram”, but whattayagonnado?).  They send out a distress signal, which is answered by Superman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman.  In learning the threat (and following a Superman-scan of time), they… decide to head into the 73rd Century… just like that (imagine me snapping my finger here).  It’s crazy how in the span of ONE panel, we’ve got the League hopping through time.

Upon arrival, they find themselves staring down a large red great ball ‘o fire.  Flash and Wonder Woman immediately set about taking care of it… while Batman and Aquaman decide to “sit this one out” (Aquaman’s words).  Superman, however, gets nailed with a blast of green energy… which causes him to pull Diana and Barry off the job.  Turns out the fireball isn’t a danger… it’s simply a 73rd Century street sweeper!

Suddenly, Adam Strange flies in… I guess he didn’t get the memo about the street sweeper, because he’s firin’ his blaster at the ball o’ fire… whiiiiiich, somehow supercharges it and turns it into “real” fire, causing quite the incendiary mess.  What follows is a tremendously weird scene in which Wonder Woman and Flash team up to make a super-speed fan… with Diana holding the Lasso of Truth in her mouth while spinning in circles.  Just crazy!  Adam then confronts the League and blasts Superman… which, c’mon… that don’t even tickle!

Wellll… it might not tickle, but it’s effective!  The blast actually sends him flying back, almost clobbering his teammates.  In the distraction, Adam flees… and the League is visited by Green Lantern (of the 73rd Century).  He’s the fella who zapped Superman with the green energy earlier… which filled him in on several of the secrets of this far-flung future.  Here, he tells the League about Adam Strange… the most destructive menace on Earth!

Ya see, things aren’t exactly as they seem in the 73rd Century.  Things that look terribly dangerous and threatening to 20th/21st Century eyes, are actually helpful and/or necessary to survival.  Like the fireball being a street cleaner, for example.  Also, their air purifiers look like tornadoes… very dark and sinister-looking tornadoes.  When Adam Strange arrived, he immediately tried to calm the winds… ya know, thinking he’s performing a heroic feat!  Well, this Green Lantern took exception to that, for obvious reasons… and attempted to explain the situation, by zapping him with green energy.  Before he could set things straight, Strange was pulled back by the Zeta Beam.  When he returned, they had “Round Two”… in which Green Lantern found that his energy blasts were now redirect-able via Adam’s ray-gun!

As the League and Lantern try to plan their next move, Superman suggests perhaps the Lantern consult his ring (which, you’d assume he’d have already done… but no!).  The ring proclaims that Adam Strange, from all his Zeta Beam jumping, has residual zeta-particles in his body, which both amped up his power levels… and warped his mind (that’s always the way)!  He now sees anyone who stands in his way as a menace… and unfortunately, he’s now packing a ray-gun with “infinite” power.

Suddenly, they see Adam heading to his next… I dunno, “gig”?  It’s a skyscraper that is spewing water all over the place threatening to flood the city below… or, so it would seem.  Green Lantern explains that it’s actually a special liquid that is routinely sprayed to keep the molten rock under the city from exploding.  So, yet another terrifying sight with necessary benefits.  Adam starts… shooting the liquid with his ray-gun to instantly evaporate it.  The League heads into action… well, all but Batman who would rather they maybe… ya know, make a plan of action.

Over the next several pages, Adam Strange systematically takes out each member of the League… and Batman falls into a fissure in the Earth caused by the special liquid being evaporated.

Finally, Batman is able to pull himself out… and it’s down to he and Adam Strange.  Batman has a pretty decent plan here… he’s been observing the fight(s) up to this point, and something that stood out.  He attracts Strange’s fire, and dodges each blast… and each one appears weaker than the last (they are slimmer, for instance).  By the time Strange is finally able to land a shot (grazing Batman’s shoulder) it is too weak to do much damage.

Then, after all that build-up… Adam tosses his ray-gun aside, and apologizes for the damage he’s done.  Wait, what?  Just like that?  He helps Batman to his feet, and then the League delivers him back to present-day Rann.  We close out with Alanna still recording her audio-missive into the microphone.  Adam comes up behind her with an odd look on his face and lays his hand on her shoulder.  Once again, she claims to have doomed the Justice League!  Looks like we ain’t outta the woods yet!

Well… that ending was kind of abrupt, wasn’t it?  I mean, Adam’s gun runs out of juice… and it’s all over?  I get that he was affected by the Zeta-residue, but still… just so sudden.  Everything built up to… literally the last page where things just flip.

Now, I don’t know a whole lot about Adam Strange… he never seemed all that interesting to me.  In the relatively recent Justice League United, he (and Alanna) played a pretty big role, and still… didn’t do all that much for me.  I really dig his design, and Dick Dillin (and Neal Adams on the cover) does a great job making him look super cool.

The 73rd Century is a pretty weird place, ain’t it?  I mean, they certainly have history books, right?  You gotta imagine they would maybe not make their beneficial dealies look positively terrifying.  First, I mean… a fireball as a street sweeper?  Not only is that incredibly silly… you’d have to figure that sucker would be “branded”.  There’d be a LexCorp7000 sticker on that bad-boy before it went out on it’s first sweep.

The air-purifying tornado… eh, I think it could’ve been designed to look less like a natural disaster… but, whattayagonnado?  Maybe in the 73rd Century they have their packages delivered via flaming meteorite slamming into their front yards.  Nothing to be alarmed by… that’s just that thing I ordered online!  73rd Century Earthquakes are just part of amusement parks, and tidal waves are the way cranberries are harvested.  Totally normal stuff here, folks!

Silliness aside, these bits did facilitate the conflict.  We’ve got Adam acting heroically… to a fault, where he sees anyone who steps in his way as a threat.  Fair enough.  The future Green Lantern was a neat touch, as he provided the necessary exposition… and saved us from the League learning (likely through contrived means) that everything isn’t as it seems.

My only real quibble here is the abrupt ending.

However, the epilogue was really neat… haunting even.  I’m not sure if Adam Strange was supposed to be looking… strange here, but his face was pretty sinister.  The fact that he was saved, and yet the League still faces peril is an interesting enough wrinkle to make me want to come back for more.

I’m finding that Dick Dillin is kinda sneaking up on me… such a fantastic artist, who has been off my radar for so long.  He draws such great faces, for the women in particular.  Just really great stuff.

Overall, this is a weird and fun little tale that I’d say is worth your time.  Unfortunately it doesn’t appear to have been collected nor been made available digitally as of this writing.  If you can get a hold of it for a decent price, I’d say it’d be a great addition to your longbox.

Letters Page (and more!):

Interesting Ads:


One thought on “Justice League of America #138 (1977)

  • Matthew O'Hara

    Interesting to note that this story was written to explain why Adam Strange was in the background on the cover of Flash #210 (from six years earlier). Of course, the real reason was that artist Murphy Anderson just felt like sneaking him in.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *