Space Ranger rockets into action. Artist: Bob Brown.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1958
Creators: Edmond Hamilton, Gardner Fox (writers) and Bob Brown (artist)
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In a 1957 editorial conference, DC Comics decided to try out a couple of sci-fi heroes — Adam Strange and Space Ranger. Of the two, the …

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… latter, with his secret identity, sidekick and inevitable female companion, was a more typical denizen of the DC Universe. Like The Black Pirate (which ran in 1940s Sensation Comics), Johnny Thunder (from '50s All Star Western) and The Silent Knight (late '50s Brave & Bold), he was basically a superhero set in a different time period.

Editor Jack Schiff took charge of the character, and handed him over to writers Edmond Hamilton and Gardner Fox for development. Bob Brown illustrated their script. Hamilton and Fox didn't stay with the series (most episodes were written by Arnold Drake, Bob Haney and others), but Brown remained for the duration of its run.

Space Ranger debuted in the 15th issue (July-Aug, 1958) of Showcase, where DC tested new concepts before committing to full-fledged series. Successful characters that had already started there included The Flash and Challengers of the Unknown. Showcase was also where Superman's girlfriend, Lois Lane, had first appeared under her own cover logo. Returns on the Space Ranger issues (he also appeared in #16) weren't quite as encouraging as those of some earlier Showcase occupants, but were deemed strong enough to warrant giving him a slot in an ongoing fantasy comic, the hitherto series-less Tales of the Unexpected. He became that title's cover feature with its 40th issue (August, 1959).

In everyday life, Space Ranger was Rick Starr, son of the wealthy Thaddeus Starr, owner of a vast and amorphous business called Allied Solar Enterprises. He concealed his identity with a transparent blue helmet which seems to have distorted his features enough to prevent recognition, while somehow not interfering with his ability to see. He maintained a secret headquarters, managed by his alien friend, Cryll, inside a remote asteroid. Cryll, who could transform himself into any animal (like The Doom Patrol's Beast Boy, but with the added advantage of being able to use alien fauna with exotic abilities), was a valuable ally — and what's more, in his natural state, he was cute enough to take the place of a kid sidekick. Rick's secretary, Myra Mason, provided the bland but necessary love interest.

So it went until several DC editors swapped titles, and Space Ranger was transferred to Mystery in Space (replacing Hawkman, who moved out into his own comic). His last appearance in Unexpected was #82 (May, 1964), and his first in MIS was in that title's June issue. There, he continued as before, tho instead of having the covers all to himself, he alternated with the other guy who had come out of that 1957 editorial conference, Adam Strange. In Mystery in Space #s 94 and 98, he teamed up with one of Adam's heroic descendants, who also happened to be named Adam Strange.

Space Ranger's final episode appeared in Mystery in Space #103 (July, 1965) — the issue that introduced Ultra the Multi-Alien, the bizarre superhero that displaced both of the title's features.

Space Ranger has not been forgotten — not quite, anyway, tho he's come about as close to it as a DC character ever does. Since the demise of his series, he's turned up as a guest star once or twice, and that's about it. In his time, he was strong enough to hold down a regular series for a half-dozen or so years, but modern DC editors and writers apparently don't take much interest in him.


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Text ©2001-08 Donald D. Markstein. Art © DC Comics.