Sunday, October 28, 2012

Ghost Of The Atom!


The Ghost is one of those visually interesting Steve Ditko villains you crave to see more of. In his debut in Captain Atom #82 (featuring a great cover by Ditko and Rocke Mastroserio), Alec Rois was a charming scientist who develops a mechanism for teleportation and in classic comic book logic uses it to commit crimes. In his debut he battles Captain Atom and Nightshade as he attempts to rob of all places Fort Knox. The two heroes battle The Ghost not realizing his true identity as their friend the affable Alec Rois.


In his next appearance in Captain Atom #86, we discover that The Ghost apparently resembles "The Faceless One", the object of a cult of other-dimensional women called "The Sunarians". This works to both the advantage and disadvantage of Alec Rois who is again defeated by Captain Atom and the lovely Nightshade.


In what was to be originally Captain Atom #89 (or perhaps #90), the story of The Ghost and his role as The Faceless One of the Sunurian cult was to be more thoroughly developed, but the Captain Atom series was alas cancelled.

Al Milgrom

That tale though was eventually rescued and presented in two parts in the first two issues of The Charlton Bullseye. They have been presented at this very blog before and you can check them out. Here is Part One and here is Part Two.


This evocative image of The Ghost malevolently hovering over a defeated Captain Atom is a fairly dramatic image by a young John Byrne.

Gil Kane

His inspiration for the image is pretty easy to detect, one of  the many homages Byrne would go on to create in his fecund career.



The Ghost does seem to have survived and a version of him does show up at DC, but I know very little about the character. I can tell from his few cover appearances by Pat Broderick, that the striking design by Steve Ditko was largely abandoned for a much less dramatic look. It's a shame, because The Ghost is a fantastic looking villain in his simple and elegant original duds.


On a final note, I've always thought that Iron Man's villain also named "The Ghost" owed more than a tiny bit to Steve Ditko's original villain. The fact that Bob Layton, Charlton fan and CPL Gang leader was his creator only makes me more convinced. The high-tech baddie was a good match for Shellhead, wherever he came from.

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7 comments:

  1. Good lord--is that Spider-Vision vs. Captain Marvel on The Charlton Bullseye cover? :)

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    1. Al Milgrom's renditions of the classic characters is a tad off model. The Captain Marvel-Captain Atom similarity is something I've remarked on many times before. It's clear that Starlin and later Milgrom were evoking the classic Ditko hero when they revamped Mar-Vell.

      But now that you mention it, The Ghost on that cover does look like a variant of the Vision with Spidey-eyes. Hmmm.

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  2. I'm pretty proud of myself for thinking the Byrne cover reminded me of the cover with Beast standing over Ironman before scrolling down. I don't always make those connections.

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    1. Practice makes perfect! It indicates by and large that we spend too much time looking at comic book covers.

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  3. The Byrne cover somehow appears to be simultaneously a reference to that Kane Amazing Adventures cover and the cover of Captain Marvel #34 by Jim Starlin. In place of the Ghost, it was the introduction of Nitro in Starlin's farewell issue on the book. (In his next appearance, Nitro went on to star in a Hostess Twinkies ad...)

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    1. I'm inclined to agree with you. The 1972 Kane cover clearly inspired the 1974 Captain Marvel cover, but the ongoing swipe-homage exhange between the two cosmic characters makes me think on reflection that Byrne was remembering Starlin's own homage to Kane's earlier effort.

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