Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Strange Adventures Of Deadman

Circus aerialist Boston Brand of Hills Circus was shot down while performing his act, without a net, resulting in his plummeting to his death.

Oddly, that's where the strange adventures of Deadman began, with Strange Adventures #205 (October, 1967) by Arnold Drake, Carmine Infantino and George Roussos (collected in a few places, including 2002's The Deadman Collection with cover by Neal Adams).

Deadman #1 

The shot that brought down Boston Brand happened in Strange Adventures #205, and the story of "Who Has Been Lying In My Grave?", with an introduction to the cast of the circus including co-owner, Lorna Hill, strongman Tiny and mystic fortune teller Vashnu, as Boston prepares for his act.  While in the air, Boston is shot....and his story begins as Hindu spirit, Rama Kushna, lets his astral form wander the Earth, at least until the Deadman can find his killer.  Boston finds he has the power to inhabit the bodies of the living, and with the unwitting help of Tiny, takes down some criminals who were plaguing the circus.

With Strange Adventures #206 (November, 1967), with a cover by Mike Sekowsky and George Roussos, and story of "An Eye For An Eye", by writer Arnold Drake, inker George Roussos and new penciller, Neal Adams (who would do the rest of Deadman's art for the series), the story shifts outside of the circus, but Deadman still checks on Lorna, who is having money problems due to all the people leaving the circus, and deals with Lorna's brother, Jeff Carling, who had taken out an insurance policy on Boston Brand (though Boston does find out Jeff is not his killer.....).

These two stories were reprinted in Deadman #1 (May, 1985) under a new Neal Adams cover, along with a story from House of Mystery #178 (January-February, 1969) by Neal AdamsNicola Cuti also interviews Arnold Drake about the creation of Deadman, which he attributes to deadlines!  

Deadman #2

Boston's saga continues into Strange Adventures #207 (December, 1967), with Neal Adams' first cover of the series (Neal will do all of the other covers as well, but this was one of his best), with "What Makes A Corpse Cry?" by plotter Carmine Infantino, scripter Jack Miller and art by Neal Adams, with Boston tracking down thug Rocky Manzel and his gang, whom he had had a run-in before.  Along with getting Rocky arrested, Boston helps singer Liz Martin and her boyfriend, bartender Paul (whom Boston inhabits), but only eliminates another suspect from his consideration.

Strange Adventures #208 (January, 1968) finds Boston asking the question "How Many Times Can A Guy Die?" in a story plotted by Carmine Infantino, scripted by Jack Miller and drawn by Neal Adams.    Boston remembers fellow acrobat, the Eagle, who Boston had had a nearly fatal disagreement with while at the circus.  Returning to Hill's Brothers Circus, Boston finds Lorna has hired the Eagle, and that the Eagle has intentions with Lorna.  Boston again possesses Tiny, starting a fight with the acrobat, to see if the Eagle was his killer.

These two stories found their way into Deadman #2 (June, 1985), under a new Neal Adams cover, along with a reprint of half of "Second Choice" from House of Secrets #85 (April-May, 1970), written by Gerry Conway, pencilled by Gil Kane, and inked by Neal Adams.

Deadman #3

Strange Adventures #209 (February, 1968) continues the story of "How Many Times Can A Guy Die?", plotted by Carmine Infantino, scripted by Jack Miller and drawn by Neal Adams, with Boston possessing circus hand, Pete, to spook the Eagle, giving him a note that he knows about his crime, which the Eagle takes to Vashnu, who recognizes the handwriting as Boston Brand's!  Deadman trails the Eagle in Pete's body, catching him in some thievery, which gets the Eagle to try to kill Pete....but Boston keeps him alive until the police arrive, arresting the Eagle (but also revealing the Eagle was committing another crime when Boston was shot).

Boston plays a game of "Hide And Seek" with his killer, a man with a hook, which he finds out from Detective Michael Riley (who was assigned Boston's murder case) in Strange Adventures #210 (March, 1968) by Jack Miller and Neal Adams.  Problem is, Riley is fired for beating a suspect (which was a frame, instigated by the Hook, who uses the alias "Roy Martin", a play on the creator, Roy Huggins and executive producer, Quinn Martin, of "The Fugitive", a popular series of the time, focusing on a main character hunting for his wife's killer...who also only had one arm).  Possessing Riley, Boston finds Peter Bones, who has the evidence to clear Riley.  The Hook kills Bones, and flees to Mexico, with Boston in pursuit.

These two stories are reprinted in Deadman #3 (July, 1985), along with the second half of "Second Choice" from House of Secrets #85 (April-May, 1970).

Deadman #4

Boston looks to find "How Close To Me My Killer?" in Strange Adventures #211 (April, 1968) by Jack Miller and Neal Adams, as Boston arrives in Mexico, and finds his twin brother, Cleveland Brand, working for an organization smuggling people across the border illegally, even thinking Cleveland might have been behind his murder.  When ordered to kill the people being smuggled across the border, Cleveland refuses, and, with Deadman's help, Boston stops the smugglers and reunites Cleveland with his daughter, Lita Brand.

Cleveland hears "The Fatal Call Of Vengeance" in Strange Adventures #212 (May-June, 1968), written and drawn by Neal Adams, as he travels to Hill's Brothers Circus to take Boston's place in the Deadman act (and find his brother's killer).  Cleveland is nearly killed by a lion, which makes the lion tamer, Kleigman, the main suspect...who even looks like the Hook (though that is because he was hired by the Hook to throw people off his trail).  The Hook kills Kleigman with his sniper rifle, as well as injuring Tiny, with Boston arriving too late to stop him.

These two stories are reprinted in Deadman #4 (August, 1985), along with the "Above And Beyond The Call Of Duty" story Witching Hour #8 (April-May, 1970) by co-writer Sergio Aragones and writer/artist Neal Adams.

Deadman #5

Tiny is hearing "The Call From Beyond" in Strange Adventures #213 (July-August, 1968) by writer/artist Neal Adams, as the strongman is dying after being shot by the Hook.  Surgeon Dr. Shasti is trying to save Tiny's life, but feels Tiny doesn't want to live.  Boston enters Tiny's body to help him survive the surgery, whose recovery seems magical to the doctor.  The doctor looks to the hospital board to get a grant for psychic research, even enlisting Madam Pegeen (a psychic) for help, but she is exposed as a fraud, with help from Deadman possessing the doctor's son, Sammy. 

Deadman follows "The Track Of The Hook" into Brave and the Bold #79 (August-September, 1968, written by Bob Haney and drawn by Neal Adams), hoping that the Gotham Guardian can help him find the Hook.  In the city, Boston finds Batman pursuing Whitey Marsh, also killed by a man with a hook.  Boston takes possession of Batman's body, ending up being taken to the Batcave by Bruce Wayne's butler, Alfred Pennyworth, learning Batman's identity and secret hideout.  Deadman leaves Batman a recorded message about his own plight, and Batman commits to trying to find the Hook, finding instead Max Chill, brother of Joe Chill (who killed Batman's parents), using a false hook to throw suspicion off himself, and finds the leader of a crime syndicate in Gotham as well, taking him down with Deadman's help.  Boston leaves Gotham to continue his pursuit of his killer.

Baxter paper Deadman #5 (September, 1985) reprints these two stories, with no extras, as the stories are now large enough to fill an issue without extras, other than some of the best of the letter pages from Strange Adventures during Deadman's run. 

Deadman #6

Boston Brand finds it isn't easy "To Haunt A Killer" in Strange Adventures #214 (September-October, 1968) by writer Robert Kanigher and artist Neal Adams.  Deadman is out of leads, and possesses circus goer Phil, enjoying a night on the town with Phil's fiancee, Ruth, but guilt at taking over this man's life gets Boston to leave Phil's body....then Boston discovers Phil is a hitman, as he kills Fred Ames!  Deadman follows Phil to his boss, then repossesses Phil to break off his engagement to Ruth, but also saves Phil's life, making Phil look like a hero.  Deadman possesses the father of Fred to get Phil to confess, but Phil is killed by an assassin disguised as a cop while in police custody, giving Deadman a new lead.
Deadman has "A New Lease On Death" in Strange Adventures #215 (November-December, 1968), written and drawn by Neal Adams, where Boston follows the assassin (named Willie Smith) to Hong Kong, where Willie is given a new kill the Hook!  Smith brings the Hook in front of the Society of Assassins, who employ both killers.  Their leader, the Sensei, has the Hook killed because he feels the Hook failed in his assignment (to kill Boston), thinking Cleveland to be Boston.  Deadman tried to stop the Sensei, first by possessing Willie Smith, but failed, then being unable to possess the Sensei.  Rama Kushna then appears, but the Deadman is still not happy, even though his killer is dead.

Deadman #6 (October, 1985) reprints these stories, along with an interview by Dick Giordano, who was editing the Strange Adventures' Deadman series at the time.

Deadman #7 

Deadman's last strange adventure is in Strange Adventures #216 (January-February, 1969) with Boston confused and questioning his existence in "But I Still Exist" by Neal Adams.  Leaving the lair of the League of Assassins, Vashnu appears to Boston, with a scroll that mentions the land of Nanda Parbat (a mythical hidden kingdom in the mountains of Tibet).  The Sensei sends Willie Smith to that land to destroy it, with Boston going along to save it.  Taking over the body of the pilot of the plane that Smith is using, Boston fights with Smith, who parachutes out of the plane and Deadman follows him in his astral least until he arrives in Nanda Parbat, where the Deadman becomes solid!  While there, Boston meets swordsman Taj Ze, who is the guardian of Nanda Parbat, and Lotus, a woman who lives in the hidden land.  While in Nanda Parbat, Boston goes to the temple of Rama Kushna, confronting the goddess, who explains to Boston that he could live here as a man, or leave, becoming a spirit again to right wrongs in the world, helping to find balance.  Boston leaves Nanda Parbat as a refreshed spirit, but Willie Smith takes Lotus with him (and out of the mystical influence of Nanda Parbat, Lotus reverts to the evil persona she had before she came to this peaceful land).

The strange adventure of the Deadman concludes in Brave and the Bold #86 (October-November, 1969), where Batman learns that "You Can't Hide From A Deadman!", in a story written by Bob Haney and drawn by Neal Adams.  Batman is winding down his night in Gotham, when he is attacked by Robin, then Commissioner Gordon, then random citizens of Gotham....allowing Batman to deduce that Deadman is trying to kill him.  Confronting Deadman confuses him, and Batman learns that Willie Smith shot Boston while he was leaving Nanda Parbat with a poison dart, leaving Deadman vulnerable to suggestion, where Smith convinced him to go kill the Batman.  Batman goes to Hill's Brothers Circus, meeting Cleveland (who has taken up the Deadman act), and is possessed by Boston!  Vashnu appears, telling Boston that he must return to Nanda Parbat, which he does while possessing Cleveland, with Batman's help.  When they arrive at Nanda Parbat, Boston becomes alive again, leaving Cleveland's body (but begins dying from the poison Willie Smith shot into him).  Batman and Cleveland confront Willie Smith, getting the antidote to save Boston, and chasing the Sensei from Nanda Parbat.

These two tales are reprinted in Deadman #7 (November, 1985), bringing the Baxter reprints of Deadman's strange adventures to a close.  But all these stories, and the Neal Adams' written and drawn Deadman back-ups from Aquaman #50 to #52 from 1970 (and the Challengers of the Unknown #74 from June-July, 1970) appear in the Deadman Collection mentioned in the beginning of this article, as well as in the second of a series of 5 tradepaperbacks collecting most of Deadman's 1960s, 1970s and 1980s appearances from Brave and the Bold, Phantom Stranger, World's Finest Comics, DC Super-Stars, Adventure Comics, DC Comic Presents and more...showing that death can be a starting point for a character in DC Comics. 

1 comment:

  1. Excellent summation! It's been a while since I read these stories but I have great memories of them.