Monday, November 10, 2014

Case Study No. 1664: Adam Blake/Captain Comet

Librarians in Comic Books... Captain Comet!
He was a mystery to himself! Why-- young Adam Blake wanted to know-- was he so different from other people? How did it happen that there was no one else like him in the whole wide world? Where did he really come from? Who was he? All these questions which might have unsettled an ordinary mind-- only served to whet the brain and steel the mettle of the extraordinary youth who, without knowing it, was fated to fulfill a grand and awe-inspiring destiny on Earth-- as Captain Comet-- First Man of the Future! Read now the starling story of...
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Captain Comet (Adam Blake) is a fictional DC Comics superhero created by DC Comics Editor Julius Schwartz, writer John Broome, and artist Carmine Infantino.

Once a minor character in the DC Comics canon, he occupies an almost unique position in DC Comics history as a superhero who was created between the two great superhero comics periods--the Golden Age and the Silver Age. His early stories fall into a no-man's land, sometimes referred to as 'The Atomic Age' because of the recurrent science-fiction themes of most comics of the period, when very few superheroes comics were published and less than a dozen short-lived, superhero characters were introduced.

Along with Marvel Comics' Namor the Sub-Mariner and Toro (sidekick of the original Human Torch), he is among the first mutant metahuman superheroes (meaning he was born with his powers), predating X-Men by 12 years. He is one of the few DC Comics characters not to have had their earlier history significantly changed by various DC Comics major continuity changing events over the years such as 'Crisis on Infinite Earths' and 'Zero Hour'.

Publication history
The character of Captain Comet first appeared in a 10-page tale, 'The Origin Of Captain Comet' , in the flagship science-fiction title 'Strange Adventures' #9 (June 1951) published by National Comics (now known as DC Comics). He was created by 'Strange Adventures' Editor Julius Schwartz, John Broome, and artist Carmine Infantino, and the story was written by John Broome (under the alias Edgar Ray Merritt), drawn by Carmine Infantino and inked by Bernard Sachs. The character was based on the pulp fiction character Captain Future. His first appearance was actually a two-part story, continued in 'The Air Bandits From Space' in 'Strange Adventures' #10 (July 1951). From issue #12 (September 1951) Murphy Anderson took over as artist, and he drew all Captain Comet's further appearances in 'Strange Adventures' until #46 (July 1954); Sy Barry and Gil Kane drew the last two stories. John Broome wrote every issue.

Captain Comet appeared in 38 issues of 'Strange Adventures', (missing only issues #45, #47, and #48); the series ending in 'Strange Adventures' #49 (October, 1954). From the beginning, Captain Comet appeared on most of the covers, mainly drawn by Murphy Anderson or Gil Kane. Stories ranged in length from six to ten pages, dropping from ten pages in 1951 to eight pages in 1952 and finally six pages from May 1953. He next appeared in 1976, when writer Gerry Conway and co-writer David Anthony Kraft reintroduced him as a supporting character in 'Secret Society of Super Villains' starting with 'No Man Shall Call Me Master' ('Secret Society of Super Villains' #2, July/August 1976). He appeared in most issues of that title, together with associated 'Secret Society of Super Villains Special' #1 (October 1977), until it was canceled with issue #15 (June/July 1978). During this run he also appeared in 'Super-Team Family Giant' #13 (September 1977), a story directly linked to the 'Secret Society of Super Villains' series, and as lead character for the first time since 1954 in an extended story, 'Danger: Dinosaurs at Large!' in (DC Special #27, April/May 1977) by Gerry Conway and artist Arvell Jones. 'Secret Society of Super Villains' was canceled as part of 'The DC Implosion'. Ironically Captain Comet was a popular character at the time - he had recently come second in a poll for potential Justice League membership, and writer Bob Rozakis had recently presented DC Comics with a proposal for Captain Comet's first own-title series.

After the cancellation of 'Secret Society of Super Villains', Captain Comet entered another hiatus, his appearances limited to guest spots in other DC titles during the 1980s. Four of these were cameo appearances - 'Crisis on Infinite Earths' #5 (August 1985), #10 (January 1986) and #12 (March 1986), and 'All-Star Squadron' #53 (January 1986). Two were team-ups with Superman - 'DC Comics Presents' #22 (June 1980) and #91 (March 1986); the fourth was a retelling of his origin by Roy Thomas in 'Secret Origins Annual' vol 2 #1 (1987). He also appeared in the non-canonical series 'DC Challenge' (1986).

He then became a supporting character in the 'L.E.G.I.O.N.' series from issue #16 (June 1990). Captain Comet was actually a late replacement for fellow 1950s space traveler Adam Strange who was due to become a regular character, as otherwise it would have clashed with the Adam Strange Prestige Format limited series published around the same time. He was then part of the R.E.B.E.L.S. series which continued from L.E.G.I.O.N. That series was canceled with 'R.E.B.E.L.S.96' #17 (March 1996), and had a solo story in 'Showcase '96' #10 (November 1996), after which another hiatus followed.

Since 2005, under the writer Jim Starlin Captain Comet has had his highest profile in DC Comics publications since the 1950s, featuring in the Rann-Thanagar War miniseries (2005), starring in the 8-issue miniseries 'Mystery in Space (vol 2) (2006), and co-starring in 'Rann-Thanagar Holy War' (2008) and 'Strange Adventures' (vol 3)(2009), as well as appearing briefly in the '52' (2006) and 'Final Crisis' (2008) events. Most recently he has become a regular character in the ongoing new R.E.B.E.L.S. series (2009).

Powers and abilities
Captain Comet is supposedly the pinnacle of human evolution. His mutant mental functions not only give him genius level I.Q. but endow him with a photographic memory, telepathy, enabling him to read or control people's minds (including alien races) and communicate his thoughts mentally. He has telekinetic powers, which enable him to use his thoughts to move, lift, and alter matter without physical contact, mentally lift himself to fly at high-speed, create barriers of psychic force to deflect physical attack, and fire bursts of psionic energy that strike with concussive impact or energy, sometimes in the form of lightning or fire blasts. His telekinetic shield can simultaneously protect him from the vacuum of space and surround himself with a breathable environment.

Captain Comet's brain also contains evolved sensory centers enabling him to clairvoyantly 'see' events outside of his range of sight. His evolved physiology originally made him superhumanly strong and durable, on par with Superman. After his resurrection, however, his physical power was significantly diminished, although his mental abilities have been enhanced; he now exhibits stronger psionic powers, and a teleporting ability that can also encompass others, but normally requires an hour to recharge after every 'jump'.

Fictional character biography
Captain Comet, the 'first man of the future', is a mutant metahuman 'born a hundred thousand years before his time' , in 1931 to a farming couple from the American Mid-West.[8] His 'metagene' was triggered by a comet passing overhead at birth.

Adam Blake discovered his unique abilities as he grew up - at the age of four he instantly found a ring his mother had lost ( 'I just knew it was there' ), and by eight years old demonstrated photographic memory by reading a whole encyclopedia at speed and retaining the information. Other skills manifested almost instantly, he could play musical instruments without tuition and was secretly expert at sports to Olympic record level. During senior school he saved a schoolmate from falling to her death by mental force, but despite his powers he felt isolated from other humans by his difference to them. After leaving school he became a librarian at Midwest City, where he sought the help of a renowned physicist, Professor Emery Zackro, who tested him and discovered Adam was a mutant - postulating he was the reverse of an evolutionary throwback, 'an accidental specimen of future man'. His Captain Comet persona began when Adam used his powers to intervene when criminals attempted to steal an advanced scientific device invented by Professor Zackro. Immediately after this, Blake and the Professor agreed Blake should become a superhero on a full-time basis, and he made his first appearance in public as Captain Comet combatting giant terraforming robot tops belonging to an alien race looking for a world to colonize. During this task, Adam built a working version of a prototype spaceship Professor Zackro had designed, which would become his personal spaceship, 'The Cometeer', and took up a costume, spacesuit and stun gun also invented by the Professor.

Over the next three years he saved Earth from multiple alien invasions and explored space in The Cometeer, saving other civilizations and meeting beautiful alien damsels in distress in the process. During this period he largely used intelligence and his mind-reading skills to help solve problems and situations, seldom resorting to physical solutions. Among his more weird adventures, Captain Comet battled mad Greek Gods from space, fought dinosaurs and alien creatures, and came up against a compulsory 1950s comics evil super-powered ape several times. Sometime after 1954 he disappeared into space in 'The Cometeer' on another expedition of discovery, but this time he was not to return for over 20 years.



In a number of respects, Captain Comet was a character ahead of his time. A costumed super-hero, his debut in Strange Adventure 9 (June 1951) occurred about 5 years before the so-called Silver Age of super-hero comics was ushered in by the appearance of the second version of the Flash in Showcase 4 (Sept.-Oct. 1956). By the time super-heroes were popular once again, Captain Comet's career had already drawn to a close, ending in Strange Adventures 49 (October 1954) - although the character was revived in the 1970s and has been a sporadic presence in DC Comics publications ever since.

Captain Comet was also very much ahead of his time in the way he got his powers: he was mutant. As even the most casual comics fan is probably aware, Marvel Comics' X-Men books have captured a significant share of the super-hero marketplace for nearly two decades now. The X-Men and the members of their myriad spin-off companion teams are . . .mutants! And the original X-men didn't even show up until 1963 - a good dozen years after Captain Comet had blazed a trail for them.

Finally, Captain Comet was most literally a man ahead of his time in that his mutant powers were that he had the abilities of a human being from 100,000 years in the future. This meant that he had not only a variety of physical skills and attributes sorely lacking in mundane homo sapiens, but, most importantly, he had a super-mind so advanced that it wouldn't be standard issue for the bulk of humanity for another 100,000 years. How did he put these great mental powers to work? As it happens, when he wasn't wearing a reddish spaceman's costume to fight crime or stave off alien invasions, he was working in a library. More specifically, he was a reference librarian in an academic library. What better use for a super-mind? And what better way to show that at least some comics writers found librarianship a noble occupation for a heroic character?

On balance, Captain Comet certainly offers a very positive image for librarians in comics, but this conclusion comes with a couple of caveats. Captain Comet - or, more accurately, Adam Blake, his true identity - was referred to as an "information clerk" rather than a reference librarian. Although there is no definitive way to gauge his educational background, there seems to be no hard evidence to show that Mr. Blake went to library school. Perhaps more importantly in the context of this article, there was no evidence in any of the Captain Comet stories read by the author to indicate that his writers were aware that this would have been the appropriate career path for someone with his position in a library to have taken.

Those few times Adam Blake is actually shown working at his day job, he's embodying another cliche (albeit an arguably more positive one than the repressed, spinster female librarian): the "answer man" who can provide the correct response to any query without resorting to doing any research. Ask him a question and he'll rattle off the answer without leaving his seat or consulting a reference source of any kind. But then again, he does have a super-mind.

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