At the end of his run at DC back in the 70's, Jack Kirby was attempting to fulfill the terms of his contract and get out from under what had become a rather disappointing time in his career. He'd come to DC with such promise and vigor and had his dreams of a multiple formats and sweeping epics killed by short-sighted editorial controls. So it's very surprising that something as vigorous as Atlas really came from his hand at this time. Atlas appeared exactly one time, in this debut issue of First Issue Special and then was heard from no more...for a very long time.
Frankly I've always wondered if John Mileus and the folks who made Conan the Barbarian movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger had seen this comic as Atlas and his epic world always put me in mind of that classic flick, which came several years later. You have a young man with enormous powers who sees his family and entire tribe killed or stolen in front of his young eyes by a villain with a dominant snake motif. The boy grows up to be a dynamo in and out of the gladiatorial arena and eventually confronts the villain who destroyed his family and his home. That's all the story we have from Kirby, but it sure sounds familiar doesn't it.
James Robinson got hold of the Atlas idea many years later and made the mighty figure an opponent for Superman of all people. I have to confess being tempted by these comics at the time, but my dread of modern comics in general forestalled me, and I'm glad now that I waited to pick up the trade collection of that four-issue storyline. I have to say it's a lackluster outing. Atlas is stolen from his own mystical land and transported to the modern DCU to become a magical force against the Man of Steel. Who does this and why is obscure in this four-issue run that focuses on the battle between Atlas and Kal-El and as it turns out Krypto the Superdog too. It must've been murder to wait for these issues to dribble out as this is what amounts one long battle sequence stretched over four installments, which in real comics time was nearly a quarter of a year. I read the whole thing in about fifteen minutes total. This is why I've given up on modern comics many years ago.
But it was nice to at least see Kirby's Atlas up and kicking, even if they've taken the somber giant and transformed him into a somewhat befuddled and bitter monster of a man. I'd only recommend these issues to Kirby purists, who like me want every gram of the King's work they can afford. Otherwise it's a curiosity you likely can let go of.
Above is a wonderful bit of Kirby art featuring Atlas. Below is the house ad made from it.
And here is the TJKC cover from it.
But while Atlas fell into minor oblivion, 1st Issue Special lingered on a bit longer in 1975 and 1976.