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Grant Morrison and Rian Hughes’ ‘Dare’ Does Space Hero Satire Better than ‘Strange Adventures’

While I was reading Strange Adventures #1, or Tom King, Mitch Gerads, and Evan Shaner’s latest comic on King’s military service and his regrets and feelings about working for the CIA as well as how much he loves his wife starring a DC Comics B-list character, I had the sneaking suspicion I’d read a better version of this comic. That comic was Dare: The Controversial Memoir of Dan Dare by Grant Morrison and Rian Hughes that was serialized in the UK comics magazines Revolver and Crisis in 1990-1991 before being reprinted by both FantagraphicsMonster Comics imprint and Image Comics.

Before going into the whole anything Tom King/Scott Snyder/Geoff Johns has done, a British Invasion writer like Alan Moore or Grant Morrison has done better (And decades before.), I’ll look at the surface similarities between Strange Adventures and Dare. Created in 1958 and 1950 respectively, Adam Strange and Dan Dare have the same Space Age DNA and were influenced by previous sci-fi action heroes, Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. In his early stories, Adam Strange was accidentally transported from an archaeology dig to the planet Rann where he protected the planet from invaders and fell in love with their princess, Alanna. Dan Dare’s stories were set in the “future” of the 1990s, and he was a pilot in the Interplanet Space Fleet, who explored other planets and protected Earth from the invasions of the villainous Treen.

Strange Adventures #1

Strange Adventures and Dare show both Adam Strange and Dan Dare as way past their prime with Dare having a little more satirical bite. The framing narrative of Strange Adventures is Adam Strange going on a book tour where he gets asked questions some friendly, some antagonistic about his actions in Rann, and this ramps up when one of his critics is found with a laser blast in his head. In Dare, Dan Dare is disabled, living off a military pension, and struggling writing his memoirs when Gloria Monday (A stand-in for Margaret Thatcher.) asks him to be the symbol of her re-election campaign even as he begins to find out that her government may have been responsible for the death of his old ally, Dr. Jocelyn Peabody.

Strange Adventures and Dare use the Pykkt Empire (Created for the series) and the Treen respectively as stand-in’s for the “other”. Strange Adventures seems to be using the Pykkt as a commentary on American interventionism in the Middle East (Which is where Tom King served.) with Shaner staging the Adam Strange flashbacks on a desert planet with him fighting a solider with a head and face covering. Dare uses the Treen as a general metaphor for the rebirth of British imperialism, but especially the Falklands War with Hughes’ clever parodies of the Sun‘s violent, xenophobic headlines and the connection between that war and Gloria Monday, er, Margaret Thatcher’s reelection in 1983.

Dan Dare

I will throw up a quick disclaimer that Dare is a completed work while Strange Adventures has eleven more issues to tell its story. However, Dare is the stronger work of satire while King seems to be too close to the material he’s writing about to go from his personal experience to something more universal other than a fairly banal “Who is telling the truth?” Grant Morrison and Rian Hughes introducing Dan Dare as a pathetic figure drinking and popping painkillers in front of his fireplace looking more like Morrissey than a “boy’s own comic” hero, who can’t even write his memoirs properly. This desperation and need for money is why he basically sells his soul to the devil and lets Monday use his image for her reelection campaign in the midst of strikes and food shortages that were the reality in the U.K. when Thatcher was prime minister and have not gone away even with fancy things like interplanetary space travel.

In all aspects, Dare is an excellent work of social commentary that uses the iconic British comic strip character to skewer imperialism, racism, and Tory/Conservative policies that have persisted to 2020 with the government of Boris Johnson in the U.K. and Donald Trump in the United States. Towards the end of the second issue, Morrison and Hughes have Dare’s old batman (A military officer’s personal servant aka hooray for class tension.) , Digby with which he has a strained relationship, confront him for killing Treen children in his last space battle. Instead of making Dare contrite or remorseful, he is portrayed as defensive while still having the good point that Digby watched him gun down the Treen children when they revolted after being treated by both their own leader, Mekon, and Earth as a slave labor force. Dare’s disability, his addictions, and money issues make him a sympathetic figure, but Morrison and Hughes aren’t afraid to call him out on his actions and make a character created to inspire young boys to serve God and the British Empire look weak and morally compromised.

On the other hand, Strange Adventures #1 seems less concerned with broader social commentary and more about Tom King using yet another DC character to deal with how he personally feels about being in the CIA, albeit, with better visuals and less line-wide impact than Heroes in Crisis. The dialogue that Strange uses is telling as he implores Batman to “show them I’m innocent” in a dark-draped panel drawn by Mitch Gerads. Unlike Dare, which casts a skeptical eye on British pop iconography, and by extension, politics and foreign policy, Strange Adventures is about vindication.

Adam Strange has to be the exposition spouting hero drawn in a clean pulp style by Evan Shaner, and this tension between him and Mr. Terrific’s investigation looks like the driving force behind the series. He has to be the hero and have the big redeeming moment while Dare is impotent, can barely walk, and his imagery is used to uphold a government that is okay with turning “undesirable” humans into food called Manna in cahoots with the Treen leader, Mekon, that Dare fought so many years ago. For now, King seems content with self-involvement via superheroes instead of looking at larger systems of control like Grant Morrison and Rian Hughes did in Dare.

Dare ends with a bomb that Dare set in his old spaceship, Anastasia, going off and wiping out London, including Mekon, who was there celebrating Gloria Monday’s election as well as the protagonist himself before cutting to a blank drawing board in almost a similar manner to the way the ending of Animal Man showed Grant Morrison meeting his creation. It’s a stark, six panel reminder that Dan Dare’s creator, Frank Hampson, signed away the rights to his creation just like Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster did with Superman under predatory, work for hire contract.

Dare may have been a cheerful, heroic figure, but his creator, Hampson, did not reap a financial reward commensurate with his fame. Morrison and Hughes are using an iconic British character to basically flip off the comics establishment a couple years before the founding of Image Comics in a kind of metafiction and create a revolutionary story. It is highly unlikely that King, Gerads, and Shaner will do that to DC Comics/Warner Bros/A T and T, and at its best, Strange Adventures will be an attempt at pastiche and a dark deconstruction of a Silver Age space hero.

And the fact that Grant Morrison and Rian Hughes use an iconic figure in British pop culture instead of a character that rarely has his own title to tell their story of heroism being used to serve the predatory establishment instead of fighting for truth, justice, and all that stuff makes Dare a stronger story than Strange Adventures. This is despite the comic not being as well-known as Grant Morrison’s other work during that time period, including Zenith, Arkham Asylum, Animal Man, and Doom Patrol. And along with being a compelling work of satire, Dare has some wonderful flourishes like Rian Hughes’ brutalist approach to future architecture and world-building with a character remarking that Art Deco didn’t leave much room for places to live and shop and a cheeky sense of deadpan humor. (See any photoshoot scene featuring Dan Dare.)

If you’re looking for a story where so-called paragons of heroism are powerless to shake the bonds of systems of control, then Grant Morrison and Rian Hughes’ Dare is a comic worth reading. Instead of gazing at its own navel (Albeit in a visually interesting way by Mitch Gerads and Evan Shaner) like Strange Adventures, Dare offers up a portrait of a society crumbling due to conservative social policies and choosing power over decency through the lens of a spaceman’s salad days.

Tom King and Mitch Gerads Team Up for Strange Adventures

Due out in 2020, DC Comics has announced Strange Adventures which features Adam Strange by Tom King, Mitch Gerads, and Doc Shaner.

This is the latest project by King and Gerads whose Mister Miracle dominated the Eisner Awards at San Diego Comic-Con.

It’s unknown the exact length or form of the project but King and Gerads have been releasing award-winning 12-issue maxi-series so it’d make little sense to change up that magic formula.

DC Showcase Delivers New Animated Shorts Starting with Sgt. Rock

Warner Bros. Animation and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, in partnership with DC, are in production on five new DC Showcase animated shorts for release in 2019-2020.

Inspired by characters and stories from DC’s robust portfolio, the all-new series of shorts will be included on upcoming DC Universe Movies releases, with exception of an innovative Batman: Death in the Family long-form animated short, which will anchor a compilation set for distribution in late 2020.

Each of the five shorts – entitled Sgt. Rock, Adam Strange, Death, The Phantom Stranger, and Batman: Death in the Family – opens with a new, live-action branding sequence that features a few Easter Eggs specially added for observant fans.

DC Showcase Sgt. Rock

Sgt. Rock is executive produced and directed by Bruce Timm (Batman: The Animated Series) from a script by award-winning comics writers Louise Simonson, Walter Simonson and Tim Sheridan (Reign of the Supermen). The original tale finds battle-weary Sgt. Rock thinking he has seen everything that World War II can dish out. But he is in for the surprise of his life when he is assigned to lead a company consisting of legendary monsters into battle against an unstoppable platoon of Nazi zombies. Karl Urban (Star Trek & Lord of the Rings film franchises) provides the voice of Sgt. Rock. Also voicing characters in Sgt. Rock are Keith Ferguson, William Salyers, and Audrey Wasilewski.

Adam Strange is produced and directed by Butch Lukic (Batman Unlimited franchise), who also conceived the original story – which is written by J.M. DeMatteis (Constantine: City of Demons). On a rugged asteroid mining colony, few of the toiling workers are aware that their town drunk was ever anything but an interplanetary derelict. But when the miners open a fissure into the home of a horde of deadly alien insects, his true identity is exposed. He is space adventurer Adam Strange, whose heroic backstory is played out in flashbacks as he struggles to save the very people who have scorned him for so long. Charlie Weber (How To Get Away with Murder) provides the voice of Adam Strange, alongside with Roger R. Cross, Kimberly Brooks, Ray Chase, and Fred Tatasciore.

Inspired by Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman,” Death is produced and directed by Sam Liu (Justice League vs. The Fatal Five) and written by J.M. DeMatteis (Batman: Bad Blood). In the story, Vincent, an artist with unresolved inner demons, meets a mysterious girl who helps him come to terms with his creative legacy … and eventual death. Leonardo Nam (Westworld) provides the voice of Vincent, and Jamie Chung (The Gifted, Big Hero 6) is the voice of Death. The cast includes Darin De Paul, Keith Szarabajka, and Kari Wahlgren.

The Phantom Stranger has Bruce Timm (Batman: The Killing Joke) at the helm as executive producer and director, and the short is written by Ernie Altbacker (Teen Titans: The Judas Contract). Set in the 1970s, the short follows young adult Jess as she joins her friends at a party in a dilapidated mansion hosted by the mysterious Seth. When odd things begin to happen to Jess and her friends, the Phantom Stranger intervenes to save her from a dreary fate. Peter Serafinowicz (The Tick) gives voice to The Phantom Stranger, and Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville, Impastor) provides the voice of Seth. The Phantom Stranger also features the voices of Natalie Lander, Grey Griffin, and Roger Craig Smith.

More information regarding Batman: Death In The Family will be available in 2020.

All five new DC Showcase shorts credits include Jim Krieg as co-producer, Amy McKenna as producer, and Sam Register as executive producer.

Initially launched in 2010, DC Showcase was originally comprised of four animated shorts produced by Bruce Timm and directed by Joaquim Dos Santos: The Spectre (released on 2/23/2010), Jonah Hex (7/27/2010), Green Arrow (9/28/2010) and Superman/Shazam: The Return of Black Adam (11/9/2010). An additional short, Catwoman (10/18/2011), was attached the following year to the release of Batman: Year One, and was directed by Lauren Montgomery and executive produced by Bruce Timm. Screenwriters on the initial quintet were Steve Niles (The Spectre), Joe Lansdale (Jonah Hex), Greg Weisman (Green Arrow), Michael Jelenic (Superman/Shazam: The Return of Black Adam) and Paul Dini (Catwoman).

Actors featured on the first five shorts were Malcolm McDowell, James Garner (in his final performance), Jerry O’Connell, Linda Hamilton, Gary Cole, Alyssa Milano, Thomas Jane, Michael Rooker, Eliza Dushku, Neal McDonough, Ariel Winter, Danica McKeller, George Newbern, Michelle Trachtenberg and Arnold Vosloo, as well as Jon Polito, Rob Paulsen, Jeff Bennett, Steve Blum, Grey Delisle, John DiMaggio, Josh Keaton, Zach Callison, Jason Marsden, Liliana Mumy, Tara Strong, Cree Summer and Kevin Michael Richardson.

Review: Justice League United #11

jlu011Justice League United was always a strange enough idea.  Instead of being the Justice League of America, it set the team in Canada and gave them an odd collection of team members, some of whom made some sense, and other who seemed to come out of left field.  It was aided in its odd collection by adding in other new characters, in this case specifically Equinox, the superpowered Cree girl that was drawn into the missions due to her proximity to danger.  Those who had been read the series and expecting some change after the Infinitus Saga would have been right, just it is not clear if they might have expected this much change.

Adam Strange is still here, although he has seemingly become a part of the Zeta Beam.  So too are Alanna Strange, Stargirl, Animal Man and Equinox, although the other members seem to be gone, at least for the time being.  Collected instead is one of the strangest groupings of characters to ever bear the name of Justice League – the demon Etrigan, Mera the mermaid, Swamp Thing and Poison Ivy.  They have been grouped together by the remaining team members to battle an unknown threat originating from the waters of Lake Erie, a strange enough location for a superhero team to be focused on but as it stands, evidently a very important one.  The team coalesces under these strange circumstances, but things right away don’t go for them how they were expecting as they are forced to deal with a much larger threat than what they had anticipated.

This series is off most people’s radar but the question remains of whether it should be.  The creative team is evidently not afraid to take chances, especially with the odd selection of members for this otherwise iconic team.  Of course there are likely very few people that would read an ongoing title with this collection of heroes, but the mix here is exactly what is needed for this story arc, or so it would seem as the team is assembled together.  As was proven as well with Justice League Dark, those looking for their fix of Justice League need not only look to the main titles but also to the other Justice League titles on the market, because as with the case here, they will sometimes find a gem.

Story: Jeff Parker  Art: Travel Foreman
Story: 8.4 Art: 8.4  Overall: 8.4  Recommendation: Read

Wizkids’ 2015 Convention Exclusives include Spider-Ham, Loki, Adam Strange, Animal Man and more!

Wizkids has announced their Marvel and DC Comics Heroclix 2015 Convention Exclusive figures.

As prize figures, the Marvel figures that will be released include Spider-Ham (as Spider-Man), Loki, Agent of Asgard, and a new Ghost Rider.

Group1They will also be selling two new Marvel Heroclix exclusives on top of the three figures above which are just prizes. The two figures include the Supreme Intelligence, and a new Doctor Strange. The Supreme Intelligence will cost $50 and Strange will be $15.

group21DC Heroclix players aren’t left out of the awesomeness. For their three prize figures, they’ll see an Adam Strange, The Weird, and Animal Man figures.

group51For their two convention exclusives that’ll be on sale, DC fans are getting a Brainiac Skull Ship and Felix Faust.

group3 group4

Brainiac will cost $70 and Faust will cost $15.

The figures will first be offered at the Wizkids U.S. Nationals Event in Maryland this April.

Also, Wizkids has released a new ATA for the Squadron Supreme that will allow you to use these figures as a team. Since they’re Primes, you should only be able to use one per force, This ATA helps you get around that.