Saturday, August 29, 2015

Atomic Reactions Four!

As the fires of Charlton Comics dwindled, the fate of their properties, in particular the high profile heroes such as Captain Atom and Blue Beetle became uncertain. Prodded by fanboy interest the company published a last-ditch effort in the early 80's called Charlton Bullseye. This second volume of the title featured work by fans using existing Charlton heroes as well as brand new characters. This was primarily a showcase for new up and coming talents, but along the way we got two new action hero stories.

The first was a team-up between Blue Beetle and The Question. You can read it here. The second was by the same artist, a hopeful fan named Dan Reed who gave us the final Captain Atom story published by Charlton Comics in the seventh issue of Charlton Bullseye. Cap is in his old golden togs, eschewing the silver and blue look of later stages of his career. To read a detailed summary check this out.

Soon after Bill Black, the tenacious publisher of AC Comics and Paragon Publications got the rights to the Action Heroes at about the same time that characters were sold to DC as a present of sorts for then DC editor Dick Giordano.

It created an odd situation in which Black had produced  stories with the characters but then lost the legal ability to publish them.

The situation was solved, so to speak, when DC allowed the material already produced to be published, but of course forbid new stuff.  So we get Captain Atom, now in his silver and blue and red alongside the other Action Heroes as part of a team Black and company called "The Sentinels of Justice". This one-shot is a nifty bit of nostalgia, though the story by writer Dan St.John and artist Greg Guler is pretty humdrum.

For the record, AC Comics also published a Blue Beetle story in the regular Americomics which had the two Charlton versions of the character face off. There's a secret of course to this confrontation. To get a closer look at Americomics Special #1 look here.

And that was it. DC took over the character and after the Crisis On Infinite Earths (more on that next month) the Charlton characters (who lived on Earth-4 in the DC multiverse, albeit briefly) were fused into the DCU. Blue Beetle got his own series which lasted a few years then he joined the Justice League.

Captain Atom proved to be the most successful of the batch, with a run of his own title which approached sixty issues. He too joined the Justice League and was even a leader of sorts for different versions of the team. The folks at DC seemed oddly ashamed of Cap's origins and wrote off the Charlton stories as mere fantasies concocted by the military to hide the true nature of Captain Atom who was a much more grim character in the slightly darker DC Universe.

Captain Atom remains a reasonably potent part of the DC Universe, getting his own title from time to time. I don't follow these new adventures, so the details are a mystery to yours truly, but the images in which his classic look still supplies the inspiration sure can be compelling.

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