Monday, December 28, 2015

The First Time I Saw Captain Atom

Charlton Comics' Space Adventures 36, published in October 1960.  They used typewriters in place of letterers.
The first time I saw Captain Atom, I was at my grandparents’ home in bed with one of those diseases that 6 year-olds used to get, and my Aunt Shirley bought me a handful of comics to read, including Space Adventures 36, because the cover featured one of those costumed heroes she knew I loved.
Okay, the McCarthyesque Cold War plots were already hackneyed by 1960. Charlton Comics was clearly a step below DC, even to 6-year-old, except in one respect — that artist I couldn’t yet name but could always recognize. 
Those angular, rather contorted figures, that sparkling radioactive con trail left by the hero in flight, the bizarrely beautiful yellow lamé costume, the curving mask that seemed have been designed, as someone later said, using a protractor. And then there was that long-examined, curiously symbolic cover featuring a bisected someone who was half Air Force officer, half superhero. 
It was an artistic device created by Steve Ditko that he would use again on the second and much more famous superhero he would co-create, over at what would be called Marvel Comics.

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