The recent HBO Max announcements have sold the streaming service to many of us already. However, while most of the excitement surrounds shows like House of the Dragon and Green Lantern, DC’s Strange Adventures could be the dark horse that really surprises viewers.
Produced by Greg Berlanti, Strange Adventures will be an anthology series that takes place in a world where superpowers exist. Each episode will tell a different cautionary tale, and the show promises to introduce us to multiple characters from across the DC canon.
Strange Adventures is based on the venerable anthology comics series of the same name. The original run, which produced 244 issues between 1950 and 1973, mainly focused on science fiction stories that didn’t always involve caped crusaders. By 1950, readers were tired of superhero stories and hungry for new genres, and Strange Adventures was introduced to satisfy that appetite.
The early stories revolve around alien invaders (including ones who ride invisible dinosaurs), space adventurers, robot overlords, gorilla scientists, giant hands, post-apocalyptic knights, and other wild concepts. Some of them wouldn’t seem out of place in a schlocky B-movie, but the series is often humorous and intentionally ridiculous. That said, other stories are scary, surreal, and thought-provoking; there’s a lot of variety in those pages.
While Strange Adventures comics explore the cosmos and the crazier side of DC’s imagination, the series also spends a lot of time on Earth, often exploring characters in domesticated settings who find themselves in weird, sci-fi situations. For example, “Dream Journey Through Space” follows a computer engineer who, via his dreams, gets transported to a planet where machines control humans. It’s a cautionary tale about technology gone awry, which is a common theme in the comics.
The Strange Adventures are comparable to The Twilight Zone in some ways, especially when it comes to depicting strange situations that reveal some moral insight for the characters and the reader. At their core, the comics are critical of humanity’s awfulness, which is why they often explore people’s willingness to invade other countries, pursue greed, and mistreat the environment (“The Return of the Conqueror” story even predicted holes in the ozone layer, and now that’s a reality). All of those themes still resonate in the real world today and will likely find their way into the upcoming show.
By the time the 1960s rolled around, Strange Adventures began to embrace more supernatural and fantastical elements. Perhaps the most notable product of this creative decision was the introduction of Deadman, a spectral character with the ability to possess human beings. By throwing these new ingredients into the mix, Strange Adventures expanded in a way that felt organic, while retaining the same themes and characteristics that defined the series throughout the 1950s.
Strange Adventures should also be celebrated for introducing some underrated C-list characters into the DC lore, some of whom are wonderfully weird. Those are the characters who should get most of the spotlight in the show. Take Animal Man, for instance, a hero whose superpower is mimicking the ability of nearby animals. He’s never enjoyed the same popularity as Batman and Superman, but he’s persevered through the years. In the right creative hands, a story about this oddball could be special.
One hero we can potentially expect to see is Adam Strange, a former archaeologist who was summoned to the planet Rann to protect it from dastardly threats. The character has found his own comic series’ hard to come by for the most part during his 61-year tenure, but he’s been a great servant to DC and deserves some fame. If he’s in the series as the rumors suggest, we can expect some episodes to lean into the comics’ cosmological elements.
This show is exciting for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it allows the creators to dig into the DC vaults and give several old, forgotten, and underrepresented characters a new lease on life. DC’s library contains thousands of characters that aren’t being used in film, television, and even in the comics. Strange Adventures is a perfect opportunity to dust them off and make the most of this rich mythological universe.
Furthermore, Strange Adventures as an anthology series will allow the creators to tell a variety of stories — from the earthbound to the intergalactic and everything in-between — and tap into different genres. Animal Man will scratch the superhero itch, whereas Deadman represents the spookier side of DC’s oeuvre. Then there will be those regular old humans who find themselves in outlandish predicaments involving strange extraterrestrial artifacts and whatnot.
If Strange Adventures does what it should do, it will be a refreshing change of pace for DC properties on the screen — and one that will showcase the breadth of the universe as opposed to focusing solely on superheroes. And with 85 years worth of lore to mine from, the show’s creators won’t find inspiration hard to come by.