Review by Win Wiacek
British comics had a strange and extended love affair with what can only be described as “unconventional” (for which feel free to substitute “creepy”) heroes. So many of the stars and potential role models of 1960s and 1970s serials were just plain “off” (see recommendations).
One of the most revered British stars of yore has finally begun to be collected in archival editions, and perfectly encapsulates our odd relationship with heroism, villainy and particularly the murky grey area bridging them.
Tragic immortal chronal-castaway Adam Eterno began life as a 16th century apprentice to alchemist Erasmus Hemlock. When his master perfects an immortality serum, headstrong impatient Adam samples the potion against the sage’s command, precipitating the ancient’s death and a fiery conflagration. The alchemist’s last act is to curse his disobedient student to live forever and “wander the world through the labyrinths of time”. His only surcease would come from a mortal blow struck by a weapon of solid gold.
The curse is truly effective and as centuries pass, Adam becomes a recluse: his unchanging nature driving him away from superstitious mortals and denying him over and over again simple contact with humanity. He fought in all of Britain’s wars, but combat comradeship always ended when a seemingly fatal blow or wound left him unharmed. Everything changed as the second part of the alchemist’s curse came true in 1970 when the traumatised, barely sane 421-year-old tramp staggered into a bullion robbery and was shot by the thieves. Realising their victim is invulnerable, the bandits attempt to use him in a raid on the Bank of England, but when that fails, Adam slowly starts to regain his wits – just in time to be struck by the fully-gold-plated limousine of a speeding millionaire. The impact would be fatal for any other being, but for Adam Eterno it is the beginning of redemption as the shock hurls him into the time stream to land over and again in different eras.
Adam was initially devised by Thunder assistant editor Chris Lowder and editor Jack Legrand, with top flight artist Tom Kerr initially designing and visualising the frankly spooky antihero and drawing the first episode. The feature was scripted by equally adept and astoundingly prolific old hand Tom Tully who writes everything in A Hero For All Time. Primary artist Colin Page offers an introductory reminiscence, but there are also pages from Kerr and Francisco Solano López.
Tully’s formula has Adam jumping through time after each pair of four page episodes. He first jumps back to a pirate ship in 1770, then materialises in Texas a century later, before becoming the costumed Flying Footpad in foggy late Victorian London. Adam is seemingly drawn to terror and injustice with each event linked to some sort of potential gold-related armageddon. With the format established, the adventures become longer.
A Hero For All Time gathers Adam’s earliest exploits plus text stories from later annuals with two-tone illustrations from national treasure Eric Bradbury, then Ted Kearon and Solano López. Delivered in stark, moody monochome, these tales are a thrilling and rewarding romp to delight readers who like their protagonists dark and conflicted and their history in bite-sized bursts.