Saturday, August 15, 2015

Atomic Reactions Two!

Early draft version of Archives cover.
In 1965 Charlton thought it might be a great idea to test the superhero waters again since they were always keen to keep an eye on trends. They had been publishing Blue Beetle for over a year and both Thunderbolt and Judomaster were on the verge of debuting. To see what interest there was in their arguably most successful superhero to that point, they scraped up the vintage Captain Atom stories from Space Adventures by Steve Ditko and Joe Gill and presented them in three issues of Strange Suspense Stories - issues seventy-five through seventy-seven.

The experiment must've proven successful because with the seventy-eighth issue the title was changed to "Captain Atom" and new stories were crafted by the old team of Gill, Ditko with former Captain Atom fill-in artist Rocke Mastroserio finishing the pencils with his distinctive look.

In the then popular mode, Cap was given some new supporting characters to round out the now twenty-page stories. In the first new story about aliens from the "Blue Planet" seeking to undermine the space program in order to take over Earth, we meet Professor Arnold Jupe and his lovely daughter Leah. She becomes enamored with Captain Adam of the United States Air Force, who is of course the secret identity of Captain Atom himself. In these stories oddly his commanding officer does not know who he is so he's constantly having to balance saving the world with avoiding being charged with desertion. You'd think the higher ups would've planned it better.

After battling the Blue Aliens, Cap meets his first full-blown supervillain, the colorful Dr. Spectro who uses colored lights to effect the mood of people. After his own personality is altered due to too much exposure to his own rays Spectro goes rogue and Captain Atom has to put him down. Then it's back into space where Captain Atom must confront a deadly planetoid which is headed for Earth. It turns out to be hollow and full of people who are under the control of the dictator Drako. Cap of course saves the Earth and turns the tables on Drako.

In none of these stories do we see Leah Jupe or her father, so either they were never meant to continue or the writers thought better of giving Cap a permanent love interest. 

Then Dr.Spectro returns, albeit in an array of colors as he struggles to reform his body after getting himself reconstituted as five tiny versions of his old look. The versions have different personalities and not all of them have the same motivations -- this one is a hoot.

Finally we see the classic Captain Atom join up with secret agent Nightshade and they go into secret battle against the spy and thief The Ghost. This is a hi-octane adventure and shows a hint of the way forward for the burgeoning Charlton "Action Hero" line. For one thing Dave Kaler takes over the scripting chores from Gill, though Kaler is on record as saying Ditko was doing practically everything himself. Ditko was deeply involved with Gill also, perhaps employing the Marvel method he'd used with Stan Lee at Marvel.

But big changes are in store for Captain Atom and we'll look at those next week.

To read these dandy comic length Captain Atom adventures check out the individual links below each cover.

To read this issue go here

To read this issue go here

To read this issue go here

To read this issue go here

To read this issue go here
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