Captain Atom was created in 1959 by Joe Gill and Steve Ditko with possible input by editor Pat Masulli. That debut story in Space Adventures #33 is a stunner really, compact and full of high-tech drama as an Air Force officer Captain Adam is locked into an armed rocket headed for Earth's orbit. The warhead explodes killing the officer, but then he returns to life, weirdly charged with radioactive might which allows him to fly and which makes him indestructible. He quickly dons a distinctive metal suit (at first colored blue than later gold) to save his colleagues from radiation poisoning. Re-named Captain Atom by President Eisenhower himself, he immediately serves his nation by fending off a rogue missile which poses a threat to the nation.
After this debut, Captain Atom balances between sci-fi and fantasy, offering stories with a hint of Cold War edge and at the same time flights of fancy about young boys riding space birds in their dreams. He battles alien threats, staving off an invasion or two and himself traveling to Venus to confront some very lovely space ladies. Captain Atom's powers fluctuate somewhat as the series progresses, with his top speed between 22, 000 miles per hour and the speed of light. He has complete control over his atomic structure and can pass through steel walls. His most visually arresting power is how he ignites part of his mass to generate thrust.
Two men in addition to President Eisenhower know Atom's secrets. Sgt. Gunner Goslin and General Eining. These two are important cast members in the earliest stories, but fade out of the stories as they roll along. Captain Atom reports to the President throughout the initial run, first Eisenhower, then a non-descript fill-in fellow and finally Kennedy.
Steve Ditko is the artist on most of the stories, but Rocke Mastroserio does pinch-hit on several. There is a distinct drop-off in quality when others than Gill and Ditko do the work, the series loses its distinctiveness, becoming a rather bland superhero outing. The series offered up a single Captain Atom story per issue, then two and finally three before it was cancelled after nine issues of Space Adventures.
But that was not the end. More next week when Captain Atom returns.
Here are the covers for Space Adventures featuring Captain Atom. To read each individual issue in its entirety just check out the links beneath each juicy cover.