Atom #36 (Apr.-May, 1968)

What defines a comic book superhero as a unique character?  Is it a name, or a costume, or a power set?  What about a hero’s “secret identity”?  Does it even matter who’s wearing the costume?

For what it’s worth, I suspect that the majority of people reading this post have a general conception of “Superman” as a single, unique character, albeit one with multiple versions — “pre-Crisis”, “New 52”, “Golden Age”, and so on.  It’s probably the same with Batman, or Wonder Woman — or with Captain America, Iron Man, or the Mighty Thor, for that matter.  Even if these heroes undergo occasional costume modifications or power fluctuations — and even if someone else steps into their heroic role for a time in the service of a storyline — there’s still a sense of a core character underneath it all — an “ur-Superman”, an “ur-Batman”, and so forth. 

But what about a character like Hawkman, who’s generally identifiable as a unique character based on his costume, powers, and even his secret identity (Carter Hall), but who has wildly different origin stories, depending on the version you’re reading about?  Or the Flash, or Green Lantern, who can both be thought of as existing in two distinct versions — the Golden Age original and the Silver Age revival — that share a heroic alias, powers, and even (in GL’s case) accessories, but who have different civilian identities, origins, and costumes?  And whose integrity is further complicated by the existence of different iterations of those two primary versions — the “New 52” Jay Garrick and Alan Scott, for example, or the more-or-less permanent successors/role sharers of Barry Allen and Hal Jordan — Wally West, John Stewart, Kyle Rayner, etc., ad infinitum?

And finally, what about the hero — or should that be heroes — at the center of today’s blog post?  Are we talking about a single character with two primary versions, even though these “versions” have no powers, costumes, origins, or secret identities in common?  Or are we dealing with two separate, unique characters, who — for reasons having to do more with the value of trademarks, rather than any creative impetus — happen to both be called the Atom?

The first Atom made his debut in a 1940 issue of All-American Comics, in a story written by Bill O’Conner and pencilled by Ben Flinton.  (If you just read those names and thought “who?”, I can’t blame you.  As best as I can determine, neither man worked on virtually anything else besides the Atom, and they were gone even from that after 1942 — which makes me wonder if both names were pseudonyms.)

The first caption of the hero’s first story explains his “Atom” moniker — he’s small of stature, and since an atom is the smallest thing there is… well, you get the picture.  Not only is Al Pratt teased by his “friends” at Calvin College, but when he fails to stand up for the young woman he’s sweet on, Mary James, against a mugger, she gives him the ol’ heave-ho.  Luckily for Al, he soon runs into a down-and-out fight trainer named Joe Morgan who tells him, “Why, I bet I could make a li’l Superman out of you in less’n a year!”  Which is pretty much what happens over the next page or two; essentially, the Golden Age Atom’s origin is an expanded Charles Atlas ad (achieving that distinction way, way before Flex Mentallo).  Following his transformation into a muscular dynamo with superb fighting skills, Al manages to rescue Mary from some would-be kidnappers; though, since she’s blindfolded at the time, she (of course) has no idea it’s him.  Al leaves the bad guys trussed up for the police with a calling card that reads “the Atom”, but never appears in costume in the story.

Did O’Conner and Flinton, whoever they were, originally plan to establish the Mighty Atom as a plainclothes adventurer?  We’ll probably never know, since by the following issue, he was in tights:

Al would continue to fight crime through fifty-three more issues of All-American Comics, at which point his feature moved over to Flash Comics.  He became a charter member of comics’ first super-team, the Justice Society of America, in All-Star Comics #3, and went on to participate in virtually every one of their adventures for the remainder of that title’s run.  In 1948 he got something of an upgrade, when his costume was revised and his stories started referring to his “atomic strength” without going into any details about how he’d acquired it.  (Come the 1980s, of course, All-Star Squadron scribe Roy Thomas would be on hand to dutifully fill in the gaps — but more about that later.)  His last solo story appeared in Flash Comics #104 (Feb., 1949), while his final outing with the JSA came a couple of years later, in All-Star Comics #57 (Feb.-Mar., 1951).  And that was that for the Mighty Atom, at least as far as his Golden Age career was concerned.  He’d never been a headliner, but he’d been a solid “B”-lister for close to eleven years.  Not bad for a costumed hero in the 1940s.

The Atom was the last of the Golden Age superhero revamps/reinventions masterminded by DC Comics editor Julius Schwartz in the early Silver Age.  His debut in Showcase #34 (Sep.-Oct., 1961) followed Schwartz’s successful relaunches of the Flash, Green Lantern, and (most recently) Hawkman — all of which, as we’ve already noted, carried over a considerable number of elements from the original versions of the characters (and in Hawkman’s case, actually changed very little apart from the hero’s origin).  In developing  the new Atom, however, Schwartz and his creative collaborators, Gardner Fox (writer) and Gil Kane (artist) utilized very few elements of the original concept — essentially taking nothing from the Al Pratt version save for the name, some aspects of the costume  (two of the colors, plus the atomic symbol from Pratt’s second outfit), and the general notion of smallness.  Those elements were all placed in the service of what was basically a new superhero, one whose modus operandi centered on his ability to change his size.  That’s not to say the idea of a shrinking hero was a new one in 1961 — it definitely wasn’t — just that it had nothing to do with the Al Pratt Atom.

In the same month that the new Atom made his debut in Showcase, Schwartz and Fox introduced the concept of “Earth-Two” in the pages of Flash #123.  This nifty idea allowed for both the Silver Age and Golden Age Flashes — and by extension, the rest of DC’s double-versioned heroes — to co-exist in parallel universes.  A follow-up tale in Flash #129 presented a flashback to the Justice Society’s final case, which included Al Pratt in a couple of panels — and when the JSA made their first full “present time” appearance since 1951 in Flash #137, Al was there as well.  That story was soon followed by the first Justice League – Justice Society team-up in JLA #21 and #22, and, as should come as no surprise, the original Atom showed up for that occasion, too.  He’d return for the third JLA-JSA extravaganza in 1965; and then, just a few months later, he’d inevitably* follow the example of his fellow JSAers Flash and Green Lantern, and make a guest appearance in his Earth-One counterpart’s series, in Atom #29.

But your humble blogger didn’t buy, or read, any of those books when they came out.  As regular readers may recall, I didn’t start buying comics until August, 1965, so I just managed to miss that summer’s JLA-JSA team-up event.  And I didn’t pick up an issue of Atom until #32, so I missed Al Pratt’s guest shot in #29, also.  By the time that Atom #36 came out, I’m pretty sure I was aware that there was an Earth-Two version of the Atom, but I’d never seen him.  Still — even if I hadn’t had a clue about this “second” Atom — and even if I hadn’t started buying Atom more-or-less regularly by this time — I doubt that my ten-year-old self could possibly have passed on buying this issue.  I mean, what self-respecting comic-reading kid in 1968 could lay their peepers on that fabulous Gil Kane cover, and then leave the book in the spinner rack?  Not this one, for sure.

“Duel Between the Dual Atoms” — written by Fox, pencilled by Kane, and inked by Sid Greene — begins, as do many if not most of Fox’s dual-earth tales, on Earth-Two:

You’ll notice from that first panel that Al Pratt is still at Calvin College — though he’s now a professor, rather than a student (thankfully).  Later on in the story, we’ll learn that his field is nuclear physics, which is pretty impressive — especially since (at least so far as my research has been able to turn up) he never showed an interest in any professional field save journalism during his Golden Age career (virtually all of which he seems to have spent as a full-time college student).  But, hey, being a nuclear physics prof obviously gives Al something else in common with the Silver Age Atom, aka Ivy University physics professor Ray Palmer, besides their shared heroic moniker.

Something else worth noting in this panel is the description of Al as an “eligible young bachelor”.  As we’ve already noted, Al was in college when readers originally met him in 1940 — so, even by the most generous calculations, he should be in his mid-forties by the time of this story.  But that may well have counted as “young” for scripter Fox, who was fifty-six years old when this story was published, or for editor Schwartz, who was fifty-three.  It’s instructive, I think, to compare this story to one DC published only a couple of weeks earlier, in Spectre #3, where we saw one of Al Pratt’s Justice Society teammates, Wildcat, trying to cope with the negative physical effects of aging.  Granted, Al might be reasonably expected to be a few years younger than Wildcat, who was already a heavyweight boxing champion in his civilian identity of Ted Grant when he made his 1942 debut — but someone reading Spectre #3 and Atom #36 back-to-back could easily be forgiven for concluding that Ted and Al come from different generations, which is plainly not the case.  As I wrote in my blog post about that issue of Spectre, that story — probably the first to consider the ramifications of Golden Age superheroes getting older — was written by a very young fan-turned-writer, Mike Friedrich, who obviously saw things a little differently than the older DC pros.  It was a theme, however, that DC would eventually have to contend with in a more unified way, as the years and decades piled up, and the JSA heroes remained linked to the World War II era.

Meanwhile, back at our story:  Although Al suspects that his married friends’ description of bachelorette Marion Thayer as pretty, brainy, and rich is just too good to be true, he nevertheless agrees to the blind date:

Augggghhh!  How dare Betty and Jim set up a guy in his forties with a fifty-year-old hag?!

Of course, things aren’t quite as they appear, as Al quickly discovers when he finds that Betty, waiting with Jim out in the car, has also suddenly advanced in age.  At the same time, he hears strange noises coming from somewhere further inside Marion’s house; after changing into the Atom, he finds some guys attempting to blast their way into a wall safe with some weird-looking ray guns:

These crooks are no match for the Atom, of course, and so, after a mere page or two of physical combat  (elegantly choreographed, as always, by penciller Kane)…

After calling the cops, and leaving Marion and Betty in Jim’s care, Al gives the strange device a thorough going over in his lab, but can’t find any connection between it and the women’s sudden aging.  Then, when  he goes to police HQ to hand it over as evidence, he learns that other women in the area have also been affected by the strange aging malady.  At this point, Al conceives of an unconventional strategy for further investigating the mystery:

Um, sure, I guess that’s a plan — although Al should know as well as we readers do that the paralleling of events between Earths One and Two sometimes occurs over a span of years, or even decades (exhibit A being the emergence of a superhero called the Atom in 1940 on one Earth versus 1961 on the other)  — so this could take a while.  Also, taking this strategy to its logical conclusion, it seems that the JLA and JSA members would be doing this kind of thing virtually any time they find themselves in a jam, either individually or collectively — either to see if the other earth’s heroes have already faced and solved the problem, or to warn them that it’s likely going to come up on their world too — but, quite obviously, they don’t.  This idea of “as here, so there” was leaned on quite a bit by Schwartz and his writers for the plots of many of the early dual earths stories, but was more or less abandoned by the early Seventies;  one  wonders if it was for either or both of the reasons just stated, or if it simply came to seem unwieldy as more and more Earths were added to DC’s multiversal mix.

As soon as Al decides to decamp for Earth-One, our story’s scene shifts to that world, where we find the Ray Palmer Atom in the midst of foiling a robbery at the Ivy Town Museum.  But just as Ray overcomes the last of the crooks, something odd happens:

As the bewildered crooks make their separate getaways, Ray lights out as well — although his main concern is how, having suddenly found himself six inches tall and wearing a funny red-and-blue costume, he can possibly manage to keep his date with a fellow Ivy University student, “that new girl on campus — Jean Loring!”  Uh -oh.  Since we regular readers know that Ray is a professor at Ivy U., rather than a student, and that he and Miss Loring are in fact engaged, something is obviously very, very wrong…

Al quickly deduces that Ray’s lost about ten years off his life.  He dutifully helps his fellow Atom to use the size-and-weight controls in the palms of his costume to change back into his civilian identity — but then, before he has a chance to explain anything else to Ray, the “sophomore” is running off to keep his hot date:

Ulp!  As you might expect, Jean doesn’t react very well to her fiancé suddenly behaving as though he hardly knows her.  “Miss Loring”, indeed!  Thankfully, Al is right behind Ray, and he manages to explain the jist of the situation to Jean before she can haul off and slap her intended. Ray, however, is still having none of it:

Al has, of course, just used the same means he utilized to get himself to Earth-One in the first place to transport himself back to Earth-Two, this time with Ray in tow — said means being an “atomic vibrator” (no, not that kind.) small enough to fit in his belt buckle.  Pretty handy!

Whatever the reason for Ray’s lashing out at his friend and ally, one can hardly complain, since it gives Kane another chance to cut loose with a dynamic, nigh-balletic action sequence.

A couple of pages (or rounds) later…

Al ultimately manages to activate the vibrator in his belt-buckle by throwing himself belly-first against some garden flagstones (ouch):

Mid-slugfest, a bizarre plant on this “inter-dimensional world” seizes Ray in its tendrils.  Al helps him escape by activating his size-and-weight controls again; but even back at six feet (and in his civvies), Ray’s still ready to rumble.  This time, however, he’s no match for Earth-Two’s Mighty Mite, who doesn’t appear to pull any punches as he works to put Ray down for the count (leading one to wonder if the creators forgot all about Al’s “atomic” super-strength).

It all culminates with a knockout (pun intended), borders-breaking, full-page panel — still a relatively rare thing to find in a DC comic in the late Sixties (though rather less rare in books illustrated by Gil Kane, who was obviously taking cues from Jack Kirby’s work at Marvel by this time):


(If you read the page reproduced above and thought, “Gee, that name they came up with for young Ray’s club, ‘the Scienceers’ sounds really specific.  I wonder if there ever was such an organization?”, go to the head of the class.  There was indeed, although the real-life club — sometimes described as the first science fiction fan club, although there’s no real consensus on that point — was active back in the Thirties, not the Fifities, and was based in New York City.  Editor Julius Schwartz had been one of the members, so this was a little in-joke for anyone who knew him.)

Yes, run away, unnamed scientist, before you’re crushed beneath the weight of those expository word balloons!

On Earth-Two, our heroes deduce that that world’s parallel radio-telescope has been picking up radiation from a dying star, rather than a new one, which accounts for it producing aging effects, rather than rejuvenating ones.  Unfortunately, it’s also put up a force-field around itself — but Ray figures he can squeeze through, if he makes himself small enough — and if Al hurls him fast enough:

And with the toppling of the second telescope, the crisis is over.  As I’m sure you’ll have noticed, our heroes didn’t have an actual supervillain to fight this time out — rather, they’ve been required to use their brains as well as their powers to successfully resolve a (pseudo-)scientific problem.  It’s a classic DC Silver Age kind of story — the kind of story they don’t write any more (though, to be honest, it was already living on borrowed time back in 1968).  But now that the major plot threats have all been tied up, we can…

Um, wait a sec.  What about those weird red gun-like devices that the crooks were using to break into Marion Thayer’s safe?  Al’s examination verified that they weren’t responsible for the sudden aging effects, but they had to come from somewhere.  Maybe it was just a coincidence that the robbery was going on inside Marion’s house at the same moment that the aging radiation did its thing, but how those ordinary-looking crooks got their hands on such exotic blasters is a mystery the story never bothers to solve.  Sorry, but we’ll have to take points off here for loose ends.

And while we’re on the subject of Marion Thayer…

While Marion and Al may indeed be hitting it off now, as Betty puts it, the relationship apparently won’t last, alas.  Later stories will establish that when Mr. Pratt eventually does get married, it’s to Mary James — yes, the same Mary James that wouldn’t give him the time of day back in 1940.**  Ray and Jean, on the other hand, will get married — although, as readers of my Atom #32 post may recall, that ultimately doesn’t work out too great for either of them.

Ah, well.  Isn’t that the way they say it goes?

Atom #36 was the fourth issue of the Tiny Titan’s series that I bought, and as things turned out, it was also the last — or maybe it wasn’t.  Please allow me to explain…

The next issue, #37, marked the departure from the series of both Gardner Fox and Gil Kane — the two creators who together had crafted every single Atom adventure since his first appearance way back in Showcase #34.  If that event didn’t represent quite as seismic a change as the departure of artist Carmine Infantino from Flash a few months previously had, it was nevertheless highly significant, and emblematic of the major changes that were happening at DC (and that would continue to happen, at an accelerating rate) as the decade of the Sixties, and the Silver Age of Comics, both wound down.

The following issue, #38, written by Frank Robbins and drawn by Mike Sekowsky, was the last to be published… sort of.  As sales were declining on Hawkman as well as on Atom, DC attempted to keep the two Justice Leaguers commercially viable by combining their two titles into one.  Atom & Hawkman would alternate between book-length team-up adventures starring both heroes and solo tales appearing in a “split book” format.

The first issue was released as issue #39, continuing the numbering of Atom.  I bought it off the stands, and I’m pretty sure I enjoyed it… but I never bought another issue after it, for whatever reason, and apparently, neither did enough other readers to keep the title going.  Despite the involvement of such talents as Fox (who returned to script another couple of Atom tales), Murphy Anderson (who illustrated #39’s joint Atom-Hawkman adventure), and Joe Kubert (who contributed some dynamite covers, as well as pencils for solo Hawkman stories), the book folded just six issues later, with  #45

So, you could say that my last issue of Atom was #36 — or you could say it was #39.  But either way, by August, 1968, I was done; and less than a year later, so was Atom.


That didn’t mark the end of the Atom’s (or should that be “Atoms'”?) comic book career, of course.  And since I’ve already covered the later publishing history of Ray Palmer in my post on issue #32, I’d like to use this space to discuss the latter day exploits of our pal Al Pratt — a hero who, like many another Golden Ager, has built up a much more complicated continuity since his Sixties revival than he ever had to deal with in his purported prime.

As will come as no suprise, over the next decade Al continued to pop up occasionally in the annual JLA-JSA team-ups.  He also showed up a couple of times in the new Justice Society of America series that ran first in a revived All-Star Comics, and then in Adventure Comics, in the late Seventies (though not as a regular, active member of the team), and made a few appearances in other DC books as well  Then came the Eighties, and All-Star Squadron and Infinity, Inc. — two titles written by longtime JSA fan and continuity maven Roy Thomas — which added details to Al’s past and expanded his present-day legacy, respectively.  Readers learned that the origins of both Al’s late-arriving “atomic strength” and his new costume had their roots in our hero’s heretofore unknown encounter with a “new” Golden Age character, Cyclotron, in the Forties — meanwhile in the Eighties, Cyclotron’s grandson, Al Rothstein — who was also Al Pratt’s godson — became the superhero Nuklon (later changing his heroic sobriquet to Atom Smasher) and joined the “Young JSA” outfit, Infinity, Inc.

In the next decade, things got even more complicated, as Al and Mary Pratt were revealed to have had a son themselves who, unbeknownst to them, was raised under the name Grant Emerson; Grant eventually became the superhero Damage.  And even later, in the Aughts, it seemed for awhile that the new hero bearing the Manhunter name, Kate Spencer, was Al’s granddaughter — though that last one turned out not to be true (long story).

Well before most of that went down, however, in 1986 DC published Crisis on Infinite Earths, which did away with the publisher’s multiverse and folded all of its heroes and history into a single timeline.  In the new continuity, Al Pratt and the rest of his Justice Society comrades were predecessors of the Justice League heroes, rather than parallel-earth counterparts.  And by 1986, with their back-stories tied more tightly to the World War II era than ever before (thanks to Roy Thomas and All-Star Squadron), they were also unequivocally senior citizens.  DC actually tried shunting them off to the comic-book equivalent of an old folks’ home for awhile, by trapping them in a timeless limbo where they’d battle forever to stave off the Norse mythological end of the world, aka Ragnarok.  Thankfully, they thought better of that idea after a few years, and the JSA returned to active service in Justice Society of America (1992 series) #1 (August, 1992).  This unfortunately short-lived series (it was cancelled after only ten issues) gave us perhaps the most satisfying post-Golden Age rendition of Al Pratt we’ll ever see — a short, balding, mustachioed, pugnacious badass:

Courtesy of writer Len Strazewski and artist Mike Parobeck, Nineties-era Al even opted for a new costume that hearkened back to his original duds from the Forties (full face mask, bare arms, etc.) — de-emphasizing the “nuclear power” stuff in favor of a, well, pugnacious badass look.  (And, as the blogger “Dougie” pointed out on Materioptikon a while back, also giving him a slight resemblance to another short-statured badass, namely Marvel Comics’ Wolverine.)

Come 1994, however, DC decided to toss the JSA on the trash heap again, this time in the “Zero Hour” crossover event, in which the villain Extant essentially destroyed the team by removing the “chronal energies” artificially keeping the veteran heroes much more youthfully vigorous than a bunch of seventysomethings by right ought to be.  As a result, Atom, Dr. Mid-Nite, and Hourman all succumbed to old age, and died (though Hourman later got better).  And that was pretty much all she wrote for our man Al Pratt — at least, the version that had been around  since 1940.  In later years, writers such as James Robinson, David S. Goyer, and Geoff Johns slowly but surely brought the Justice Society back, beginning in solo titles like Starman and Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E., and culminating in a new JSA title that debuted in 1999 — but Al Pratt did not make a return to the land of the living.  (Unless, that is, you count flashbacks, ghostly dream appearances, and even a turn as an undead, zombiefied “Black Lantern” in Blackest Night as “returning” — which I don’t.)

Of course, in 2011, DC upended everything that they’d established as “post-Crisis” continuity with the “New 52”, which would eventually give us a new, contemporary, young version of the Justice Society, functioning on a brand-new Earth-Two (or Earth 2, to use the name of the comic series starring the characters)  Unsurprisingly, Al Pratt was among the JSAers revived, and revised, for this series.  This version of Al was a U.S. Army sergeant, whose powers as Atom included growing to giant size; unfortunately for him, he was, like his namesake in the previous continuity, destined to die in action (Earth 2: World’s End #13 [February, 2015]) — though without having enjoyed nearly so long a heroic career, alas.

You’d probably expect that to be the end of Al Pratt’s career(s), at least for now, but that’s not quite true.  In 2014, writer Grant Morrison slipped yet another iteration into a chapter of his multi-part Multversity project. The Multiversity: The Society of Super-Heroes: Conquerors of the Counter-World , set on Earth-20, featured a pulp-flavored, retro-themed take on a group of superheroes, one of whom was the Mighty Atom, aka Al Pratt — an eighteen-year-old who’s really strong and wears a blue full-face mask to fight crime.  If this version didn’t quite bring us all the way back around to All-American Comics #19, full circle, it nevertheless came pretty damn close.

Most recently, having given their fictional continuity its hardest reboot ever with 2011’s “New 52”, DC backtracked a bit in 2016, with “Rebirth” — an initiative intended to restore at least some of the history that the publisher had jettisoned with the previous effort.  Since the publication of the DC Universe: Rebirth special , there have been hints and teases that the “classic” Justice Society of America is still out there somewhere, and will return — though as of this writing, that promise has yet to materialize.  Even if the JSA do return, of course, that doesn’t mean we’ll see Al Pratt back in action — he’s been dead since 1994, after all — but hey, stranger things have happened.  In any case, even if it’s just his memory that’s eventually restored to continuity, and not the Tiny Titan himself, that event will surely be welcomed by his fans.

I began this post with a big question — what defines a comic book superhero as a character? — and if you’ve read this far, you may be expecting me to close by offering an answer.  I hope I won’t disappoint you too much by an admitting I don’t have  one — or, at least, I don’t have “the” answer.  That’s partly because the question itself is, in some ways, less than precise — what is a “character”, anyway?  And also because it’s subjective.  Regardless of what Merriam-Webster or say, your idea of what the word “character” means is going to be at least somewhat different from mine.

For my part, a character is always going to mean more than a name.  DC Comics owns a trademark associated with the word “Sandman”, which it maintains legal ownership of by publishing comics with that word in the title from time to time.  However, that doesn’t mean that Wesley Dodds is by any stretch the same character as Dream of the Endless***.  There may be some sense in which “Sandman” exists as a single intellectual property for DC, but IP doesn’t mean the same thing as “character”  — at least not as I define the latter word.  There’s at least one additional DC character that bears the Sandman name (the Joe Simon-Jack Kirby version of the Seventies) that, to my mind, is an entirely different character than either Dodds or Dream.  In the future, there may well be another.  Perhaps more than one.  Who knows?

It also seems obvious to me that Marvel Comics has two distinctly different characters that share not only the name, but also the powers, and even the same costume (more-or-less) of Spider-Man.  Both Peter Parker and Miles Morales are, for me, too fully realized as individuals for me to think of them as just different iterations of the same base “character” — even though Miles would obviously not exist if Peter hadn’t been there first.  It might be helpful to think in terms of “original character” versus “derivative character” in situations like this; but as I said earlier, these are subjective matters we’re discussing.  I fully accept the right of your mileage to vary from mine.

I could go on with other examples, of course, but I think I’ll stop here, for now.  I’ll just close by saying that I think it’s prudent, in discussions like this one, to remind ourselves that the words we use to describe things are not the actual things themselves.  Language is an imperfect tool for communication and cognition at the best of times, even if it’s the best we have.  On the other hand, the words we use — especially in regards to abstract “things”, such as “character” — can and do affect how we behave in relation to those things — e.g, whether or not we choose to sample the first issue of a new comic, based on our opinion of its “authenticity” as an interpretation of an existing character.  Keeping an open mind — and remembering how subjective all of this is — may help us avoid missing out on something new that we’d really enjoy, if we’d just give it a chance.

It’s something to think about, anyway.



*I say “inevitably”, in spite of the fact that one of Schwartz and co.’s Golden Age revamps, Hawkman, never did get around to teaming up with his Earth-Two analogue in his titular series.  I’m inclined to chalk that up to Schwartz thinking it might be too confusing for readers to have two Winged Warriors both named Carter Hall in the same story.  Of course, it’s possible it would have eventually happened anyway, if the Hawkman book had just managed to hold on a bit longer.

**Technically, it’s actually a little more complicated than that, as JSA #72 (June, 2005) indicates that Al and Mary got hitched in 1952, way in advance of Al’s 1968 blind date with Marion.  But that’s “post-Crisis” continuity, so who knows how things actually played out on Earth-Two, before that world went away in 1986.  And today, of course, neither the Earth-Two nor the post-Crisis continuity is canon, so it’s kind of a moot point.  (At least I don’t think either one is canon at the moment.  What day is it again?)

***Though Morpheus-as-Dream and Daniel-as-Dream may be the same character.  But maybe they’re not.  Hmmm…


  1. Don Goodrum · February 4, 2018

    You know as “on the nose” as comics were back in the days of Al Pratt and his origin as The Atom, it’s a wonder his name wasn’t Adam Pratt or Al Adams. Adam=Atom, get it? I guess we just got lucky. I do enjoy looking at that early Gil Kane artwork from when he was in his prime. Kane’s work didn’t suffer as he got older, as some artists’ have, but the stuff he did back in the sixties and seventies was so vibrant and had such life, it’s hard to beat it. And I realize you’re writing about the Al Pratt/Earth 2 version of the character here, but my favorite Atom was the Sword of the Atom series, where Ray Palmer’s size belt got broken while he was in South American (I think) and he got stuck in his diminutive size and discovered a fantasy world, where he immediately became both super-hero and rampaging barbarian at the same time. Plus, it brought Gil Kane back to the character and that’s never a bad thing. Nice work.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Pat Conolly · January 5, 2020

    Ben Flinton was the real name of the original Atom artist.
    Fandom dot com says “ill O’Connor co-created the Golden Age Atom with Ben Flinton. Both men joined the service in 1942 and never returned to comics. ” Couldn’t find anything else about him other than his DC comics credits.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Justice League of America #91 (August, 1971) | Attack of the 50 Year Old Comic Books
  4. sockamagee · October 4

    The Scienceers reference isn’t the only “in joke” here. The befuddled scientist whose radio telescope was put out of commission by the two Atoms is a dead ringer for Julie Schwartz. Schwartz’s writers and artists were always finding ways to insert him into stories.


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