Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Classics - Strange Adventures #144

In the early 1960s, DC (or National Comics to those purists out there) had an amazing amount of diversity in its comics lineup.

It had superheroes, westerns, dinosaurs, war stories, romance comics, humor, fantasy, science fiction and a few others I'm probably forgetting.

And let me tell you - it was great!

As a kid, I wasn't really concerned about buying superhero comics - I just bought comics that were good. So I'd pick up Sea Devils or Sgt. Rock or Challengers of the Unknown or Metal Men or Batman - whatever looked good.

One of my favorites was a pseudo-science fiction series that was relatively short-lived - not to mention difficult to track down, because in 1962, the distribution of comics like Strange Adventures was spotty at best.

Every three months or so, issues would include the adventures of the Atomic Knights. Set in the far-distant future of 1991, it told the story of a small community of humans trying to survive in the wake of a nuclear war that destroyed virtually all plant and animal life. (The disaster happened on October 9, 1986.)

So how did they deal with the radiation? They wore suits of medieval-style armor that were (somehow) radiation-proof. How did they get around with no horses or cars? They road giant dalmatians.

It was all great fun. Of course, the series had a secret weapon - artist Murphy Anderson, one of the best in the business. He used creative layouts, dynamic character designs and a wonderful, classic illustrative style that made him one of the best in the business.

The adventures written by John Broome were clever and exciting, avoiding the usual depressing setting in post-apocalyptic tales. This story actually reveals a long-hidden secret - the cause of the atomic war that devastated the world. The knights track down a hidden race threatening to take over what's left of the world.

The knights had a short run - only 16 adventures in the '60s, with a few other appearances since (they've been adapted into a modern day unit since then), but they were prime stories - some of the best from the '60s.

They may seem a bit silly looking back from today - almost 27 years after the nuclear disaster that might have been - but they're strong, uplifting tales of heroism that were inspiring and entertaining.

Would that today's comics had room for stories like this!

Grade: A


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