Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Classics - The Atom #1

Sometimes you get lucky.

By 1962 I was really getting interested in superhero comics, and at this point I was almost exclusively buying DC's heroes - especially The Flash and Green Lantern.

I didn't see any of The Atom's earlier appearances as a try-out in Showcase, but by good fortune, I picked up this comic - the first issue of his own title.

I was immediately hooked. Written by Gardner Fox, the story was based in science fiction, giving the scientist Ray Palmer an interesting power - he can control his size and weight, so he can shrink to any size, become light or heavy and was clever enough to use his powers in creative ways to fight the bad guys.

His opponent is Jason Woodrue, a creature from another dimension who can change and control plant life - and threatens to use his creations to conquer the world. A cut above the usual villains, Woodrue never achieved much fame until Alan Moore brought the character back in a pivotal role when Moore reinvented Swamp Thing.

But I digress. The thing that really sold this issue was the artwork by the incredible Gil Kane (whose work I loved on Green Lantern's comic) and inker Murphy Anderson, about whom I gush all the time in this space. (Interestingly, the creative team received credits on the splash page - unusual in DC's comics at the time.)

With inventive layouts and powerful character designs - not to mention a fantastic superhero costume for the hero - Kane's work was in a class of its own, and made this title a must-buy item. That cover really stuck with me - the idea of getting caught in a Venus Flytrap was vivid and horrifying.

DC was really surging at this point, with top creative teams tackling Hawkman and the Justice League of America - they helped put DC at the top of the sales charts - at least for a while - and they got me hooked me on comics.

Fifty years later and I still haven't recovered!

Grade: A-



Anonymous said...

Being a lad of more tender years, I did not pick up on THE ATOM until #26 and I went gaga for the whole concept and execution! I was sad that the title didn't last as long as some of its contemporaries, but happily collected and enjoyed all the previous issues, which were affordable back in the day. Unfortunately Ray Palmer and Co. were ill- and mis-used and lost much of their luster as the DC Universe stepped on the Mighty Mite with determination. But the original run, with Fox, Kane and Anderson, overseen by Schwartz? A clever combo of science and super fantasy!

Sam Kujava

Chuck said...

Sam, I agree that the Atom has not always been treated well - which is a shame, because as the original series shows, his potential is incredible.