by Michael Hutchison
TO: Waid, Robinson, Vaughan, DeZago, and all other well-meaning
Okay, folks, we're going to have to get our stories straight. I appreciate all of your efforts at restoring and redeeming the character of Adam Strange, who was so thoroughly screwed over in an ill-conceived attempt to be "dark," befitting the style of the comic book market of the time.
But perhaps due to everyone's unfamiliarity with a character whose adventures occurred mostly in the '60s and '70s, there seems to be a lot of confusion and misinformation about the character's central premise: the Zeta Beam to Planet Rann. I'd like to refresh everyone on the basic concepts.
AND I RANN I RANN SO FAR AWAY-AY-AY.
(Or not so far, really.)
Rann is a planet orbiting Alpha Centauri, the closest star to our solar system.
Let me repeat that: Rann is in the closest star system to Earth.
I want to remind everyone of this because "Green Lantern: Circle of Fire" tried to blur this fact by repeatedly stating that the only way to get to Rann is by Zeta Beam because "Rann is 25 trillion miles away."
25 trillion miles sounds horrifically vast. It's mind-blowing. Indeed, within Mystery In Space's own mythology, referring to Rann as 25 trillion miles from Earth gives it a classic pulp feel, plus it astounds the common person unfamiliar with astronomy.
But it's really just a spooky way of saying "4 light years".
See, the thing that bugs me is that 4 light years is nothing to a Green Lantern. And in "Circle of Fire: Green Lantern / Adam Strange," Adam insists that the only way to Rann is by Zeta Beam. You heard me right: he's telling a cosmos-spanning Green Lantern that the only way to Rann is to ride a Zeta Beam.
And what kills me what absolutely kills me is that at the end of the adventure, Adam Strange and Green Lightning get summoned by Kyle Rayner to Oa (or, the remains of Oa) and they then proceed to travel through space from Rann to Oa!
To add insult to injury, they think nothing of flying through space to Oa, a planet that was so far removed from Earth that Hal Jordan could only reach it by sending his energy duplicate or by taking a long trip through warp portals! (I refer you to Green Lantern #s 197-198.) So a planet four light years from us is so distant as to require a Zeta Beam ride, but then Oa of all places is just a hop skip and a jump?
RANN: DEEP DOWN SOUTH
Rann orbits Alpha Centauri, a star only visible from the Southern Hemisphere. Adam Strange can only be struck by a Zeta Beam, or returned to Earth, from points below the Earth's equator.
HOW A ZETA BEAM WORKS
The Zeta Beam was originally described to Adam Strange as a simple communications beam to Earth that passed through a strange cloud in space and was transformed into a teleportation beam. This explanation was later exposed as horse hockey. In actuality, Rann was on an interplanetary fishing expedition in hopes of finding a fertile Earth male, as Rann's irradiated men were infertile. The truth was finally revealed to Adam Strange years later, who was resentful for a time. Adam, Alanna and Sardath have apparently mended those wounds, and it is clear that whatever the motives, all of them were acting in good faith and the emotions all of them feel are genuine.
Regardless of its intentions, here is how the Zeta Beam works.
The beam is fired from a source to a destination. In the standard case, it is fired from Ranagar city towards Earth.
The Zeta Beam travels at the speed of light and arrives at the destination once it has crossed the distance; in this case, 3.9 Earth years later.
The target coordinates on Earth are computed down to the meter and the arrival time is figured out to within a minute. The traveler (Adam, usually) must be at the spot at that time and place.
The Zeta Beam strikes for the barest moment.
The traveler is instantly transported to Rann. Whilst light-speed is required for the Zeta Beam to travel, the teleportation is immediate. There is little to no conscious time spent in the transition.
The traveler arrives at a spot outside Ranagar city.
The traveler is imbued with Zeta radiation which keeps him anchored to his new destination. The amount of Zeta radiation is affected by any number of factors, and thus the time spent at the new destination varies.
Once the radiation wears off, the traveler returns to his origin point. There is little if any information as to what happens on return to origin point.
WHY CAN'T ADAM FLY TO RANN?
The eternal question: if Adam Strange is trying to reach one of the most nearby planets around, and he knows all these big superheroes who have spaceships or can fly to distant star systems in minutes, why can't he just get someone to give him a ride there permanently?
In the early Silver Age stories, Adam actually did manage to find a ship to Rann where he lived for a while. Then, in a story guest-starring the JLA, Adam Strange was poisoned by some alien technology that altered his biological structure in such a way that he could not live on Rann for more than a year. Thus, Adam returned to his old habits of catching the nearest Zeta Beam.
By the time of the (shudder) "Adam Strange" mini-series, this situation seems to have been forgotten. Sardath had developed a Mega-Zeta Beam that would imbue Adam with a permanent relocation to Rann. For our purposes, we can presume that Sardath had also configured this beam to overcome the biological problem.
When Mark Waid revived Adam Strange in a JLA two-parter, he had the Mega-Zeta energy sucked out of Adam. At the end, we see poor lonely Adam Strange looking off into the night sky at Rann. The only problem is that this was a Justice League story, with several options for getting to Rann if he'd only ask the JLA for help. This was not addressed.
We could hazard a guess that Adam has been restored to the old chestnut of being stranded on Earth because he can't survive on Rann for more than a year. This could be the case, but it is an unattractive one. It's a simple matter of premise. "Needing to travel by Zeta Beam because distant planet Rann is unreachable by other means" is mysterious, while "-- because Adam Strange is so misfortunate that he is the only Earthling who cannot survive on Rann if he gets there by spaceship" just reeks of contrivance.
This is a problem that has plagued the Adam Strange series ever since DC's sci-fi and superhero characters were put in the same universe. In concept, Adam Strange works better as a solo series in a realistic universe where no one on Earth has the means to travel 4 light years. (It's another reason I think Adam Strange would make a fantastic movie.)
Hopefully, someone might come up with a better explanation, although I don't know what that would be. If there is ever a reboot of the whole DC universe, I'd suggest that Adam be given his own universe.
WHAT IF SOMEONE IS OCCUPYING ADAM'S SPACE WHEN HE RETURNS?
No clue. However, Alan Moore explored a similar situationin a recent issue of Top Ten, and it ain't pretty.
IF ADAM WAS FALLING THROUGH THE AIR OR UNDER WATER WHEN HE WAS HIT BY THE BEAM, WHAT HAPPENS WHEN HE RETURNS?
Somehow Adam is returned to a flat surface. I can't explain why.
WHY DOESN'T THE ZETA BEAM TAKE ALL THE SURROUNDINGS WHEN IT HITS ADAM?
You mean, if he's standing on a boulder why isn't the boulder also transported to Rann?
Logically, the rocks and sand and water and whatever else around Adam should be transported to Rann as well. That wouldn't really matter, since they'd just return to their old position when the energy wore off.
But, to my knowledge, Adam has never had this stuff arriving with him before.
DOESN'T ADAM SPREAD A BUNCH OF FOREIGN GERMS FROM ONE PLANET TO ANOTHER?
That's either an extraordinarily nit-picky point to make about a fantasy comic or a great idea for a story.
HOW DOES SARDATH SUCCESSFULLY HIT EARTH ALL THE TIME AND GIVE ADAM STRANGE THE COORDINATES DOWN TO THE SQUARE FOOT?
With great difficulty.
GIVEN THAT BOTH PLANETS ARE ROTATING, AND BOTH PLANETS ARE ORBITING THEIR RESPECTIVE SUNS, AND BOTH STAR SYSTEMS ARE MOVING IN RELATION TO ONE ANOTHER, AND THE WHOLE UNIVERSE IS MOVING AND EXPANDING CONSTANTLY
Yes, yes, yes! It's impossible! Is that what you're wanting to hear? It's impossible! Trying to point the Zeta Beam to exactly where the planet four light years away will be four years from now having the precision to tell Adam exactly where this beam will hit on his planet, and exactly when oh, forget it!
I know we like to think that scientists can do anything but we have the best minds on Earth at N.A.S.A. and we can't get a little robot landing on the nearest planet to ours. It takes 40 tries to launch a space shuttle before one gets off.
Sardath must have a heck of a targeting system. But still I suspect that he must send them off constantly, every few seconds, with a tiny fraction that pays off.
The truly far-fetched bit is this: When Adam teleports, he's arriving on Rann despite the fact that Rann is nowhere near the coordinates in space that the beam originated from four years prior, and when it wears off he returns to the exact same spot on Earth he left from, even though Earth has moved forward in its orbit and spun many times since he departed.
If Adam Strange had first been hit by the Zeta Beam and arrived in the vacuum of space that would have been much more reasonable.
WHAT WOULD HAPPEN TO ADAM IF AN ALTOGETHER SEPARATE ZETA BEAM STRUCK THE EXACT SAME COORDINATES ON EARTH AT THE EXACT SAME INSTANT THAT ADAM STRANGE WAS BEING PICKED UP BY HIS REGULAR ZETA BEAM TO RANN?
By all logic, Adam would be either ripped apart or one beam would supercede the other.
If you're Gardner Fox, then Adam would be divided into two identical copies, one good, one evil, with costumes that are color-reversed.
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This piece is © 2000 by Michael Hutchison.
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