This is the third of 10 articles that we’ll be posting to celebrate DC comics in all their weird and wonderful entertainment! At #8, we have a cult classic character, with a wild ride of a story to accompany him…
“Strange Adventures” had a few iterations over its 200+ issue run, morphing from sci-fi anthology to supernatural fantasy and even dabbling in fourth wall breaking meta comedy. Right around one of these transitional periods, “Strange Adventures” #205 would be published, and the world was introduced to the fascinating and incongruent character of Deadman.
When consuming a piece of media, you can typically tell what idea sparked the whole concept; most of the time, it’s either the character or the story. With Deadman, I’m certain that it was the title character. I can easily envision Arnold Drake and Carmine Infantino visualizing a ghostly hero with a deathly white visage and crimson red bodysuit and working backwards from there to assemble a completed story. You see, Boston Brand was just your normal everyday circus aerialist, who dressed up in white makeup and a red bodysuit and performed under the name “Deadman” (because the only reason people came to see the show was to see if this show would be Boston’s last), who was murdered while performing and thus took on his stage appearance in death. Now, due to a gift given to him from Rama Kushna, he can possess the living. Simple!
In laying out all this silliness, I must convey that I find Boston to be a compelling character. In death, his sole motivation is to solve his own murder – but through the process of inhabiting other people’s lives, he finds himself solving their various problems instead. Boston was a kind, if abrasive, person while living, so to watch him perform selfless acts of good after suffering such a huge injustice makes him surprisingly appealing, even through his brooding episodes.
The quality of the artwork and writing is the real cinch to the whole experience. The choice to move forward with such a unique character comes to life as you watch him mourn his own death and creates striking contrast whenever he possesses a normal human being. The writing often feels naturalistic, and knows when to pursue drama, comedy, or straight-up absurdity. “Strange Adventures” #205 holds up very well today, and I’d recommend giving it a read.
Written by Kai Newquist, Comics Research Associate