The PopCult Bookshelf
This is the second volume of SHOWCASE PRESENTS: STRANGE ADVENTURES, and like its predecessor, it’s a treasure trove of late-1950s Science Fiction short comics, edited by Julie Schwartz and written and drawn by some of the top creators of the time.
Writers include veterans of the pulp sci-fi scene who became legends in the comic book world: Gardner Fox (Justice League of America, Batman); John Broome (The Flash, Green Lantern); Otto Binder (the original Captain Marvel, Superman); Edmond Hamilton (Legion of Superheroes). Artwork is provided by Schwartz’s stable of regulars, artists like Carmine Infantino (The Flash); Gil Kane (Green Lantern), Sid Greene, Jerry Grandenetti, and many others.
This phone-book-sized collection contains over 500 pages of top-notch, cheesy science fiction. It covers issues 74 to 93 of Strange Adventures, with stories originally printed from 1956 to 1958. These are all post-comics code stories, so there’s no gore or purposefully disturbing stories. Sometimes, however, writers working under Schwartz’s edict to “Be Original” came up with stuff that’s more than a little disturbing, but only in a really fun way.
The cover of this volume features delightful snowmen with old top hats, carrot noses, and two eyes made out of coal…that shoot death beams because they’re actually alien invaders. That’s from the story “Invaders from The Ice World!” Other stories involve telepathic poker games, amnesiac time travelers, and a guy foiling an alien invasion with a small can of black paint.
Actually, the vast majority of the stories in this collection are about foiling alien invasions in some clever manner. The stories are charming, innocent and intelligent, and it’s a blast to have so many cool science fiction tales collected in one book. There are almost eighty short stories in this volume, most of them only six pages long, making this an ideal book for reading in spurts.
Some of these stories are grounded in good science, but one, “The Life Battery,” written by Gardner Fox, is a real howler about how the Earth is protected from deadly meteor strikes by “Meteor Metal” that was deposited by previous meteor strikes. This becomes an issue when aliens try to steal our protective meteors. They are foiled in a manner so ridiculous that it can’t help but put a smile on your face. It’s the kind of science that Climate Change deniers use.
This is a seriously fun collection, and along with the first volume, a terrific sampling of DC’s science fiction comics of the late 1950s. Highly recommended if you enjoy “The Twilight Zone” and cheesy 1950s science fiction–because “Strange Adventures” sort of combines them into one thing.