Tuesday, July 1, 2014
Atomic Days And Knights!
I've at long last read The Great Disaster, the rather stupendous Showcase volume from DC which attempts to gather together the sundry tales which relate the retro-continuity saga of how the Earth fell victim to a rather surprising atomic war in October of 1986 and how human society dealt with that.
The book is divided into discrete sections. The first titled "Pre-Disaster Warnings" contains stories from the back of Weird War Tales concerning the "Emperor of Weehauken" by Sheldon Mayer and Alfredo Alcala, a man who travels from the future to our present day, and a Superman yarn which lays out the potential future as hinted at in pages of Kamandi by Jack Kirby.
The next section called "The Day After Doomsday" offers up over a dozen tiny vignettes from the back pages of Weird War Tales, The Unexpected, and The House of Mystery which give glimpses of life after society has crumbled. There's a distinct Twilight Zone tone to these brief yarns by Len Wein, Steve Skeates and others. My favorite is a trilogy of stories about the last man and woman on Earth named "Adam and Gertrude", with delightful artwork by Jack Sparling.
The third section is titled "Tales of the Atomic Knights" and reaches back to the masterfully crafted vintage stories from Strange Adventures by John Broome and Murphy Anderson. To my knowledge, all the Atomic Knight stories are here and that alone is worth the price of admission to this book. You'll believe that an profoundly avereage man dressed in an atomically-altered Medieval suit of armor can ride a gigantic mutated Dalamation across a surprisingly benign atomic wasteland -- you really will.
The next section titled "The Gods Return" begins with Jack Kirby's Atlas one-shot and then offers up all twelve issues (not just ten despite the solicitation details) of Hercules Unbound. The first six issues by Gerry Conway, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Wally Wood are lush and vibrant, then the series takes a turn as writer David Michelinie and later Cary Bates finish up the saga with artwork by Walt Simonson under sundry inkers, his own to great effect in the last two issue. It is with these stories that the Atomic Knights return to DC lore, though in ways very surprising.
The penultimate section is titled "More Tales of the Post-Apocalyptic World" and offers up a quartet of stories from the back pages of Kamandi written by Gerry Conway, Paul Levitz, and David Anthony Kraft with artwork by Pablo Marcos and Mike Nasser.
The volume closes out with "Alternate Endings", a post-Crisis view of the Atomic Knights from the pages of DC Comics Presents when Superman uncovers the "real secret" of the Gardner Grayle. How this one fits into the overall storyline is anyone's guess these days, but it's a snazzy story on its own.
All in all this is a utterly fabulous book, a truly sprawling collection of disparate stories by some talented writers and artists from the Silver and Bronze Ages of DC. The story of "The Great Disaster" is not all here, there's more revealed in the pages of Kamandi and OMAC and elsewhere, but the thread is here for those who wish to find out more about one of DC's most clever conceits.