Balladeer’s Blog marks the shortest day of the year with the shortest-lived comic book company ever!
It’s Atlas-Seaboard, to distinguish this publisher from Marvel Comics, which went by Atlas Comics in the 1950s. There IS a Marvel connection, however, in that Martin Goodman, Stan Lee’s old colleague, launched Atlas Comics through Seaboard Periodicals for
one brief shining moment several months in 1975.
Calling themselves “The NEW House of Ideas” clearly threw down the gauntlet at Marvel Comics’ feet. As it turned out, however, even Alan Thicke was a bigger danger to Johnny Carson than Atlas was to Marvel.
Secret Identity: Ed Tyler, Astronaut
Origin: Astronaut Ed Tyler was part of a three-man crew on the orbiting space station Threshold I. A leak in the main portion of the station forces the trio of astronauts to abandon their mission early and they evacuate in a shuttlecraft.
Complications cause the vessel to crash-land in the Arctic ice with Ed Tyler as the sole survivor. Tyler found himself in the hands of an alien race called the Deiei, who have been observing humanity from their underground Arctic base for untold millennia. The Deiei guided humanity’s evolution to make us more in their image.
The haughty aliens had recently decided Earth people are a failed experiment. They planned to preserve Ed Tyler for study to see what might have gone wrong but intended to wipe out all other human life on the planet and start from scratch. Tyler escaped custody, donned one of the high-tech battle suits of the Deiei and flew off, determined to thwart the Deiei’s genocidal plans
First Appearance: Phoenix #1 (January, 1975). His final appearance came in October of that same year.
Powers: The Deiei space suit worn by Phoenix enabled him to fly at thousands of miles per hour, to shoot atomic energy blasts from his gloves and to withstand high levels of energy and large projectiles virtually unharmed. The suit also granted him a modicum of greater than human strength.
The media named this hero Phoenix when they saw him emerge from the smoldering ruins of part of Reykjavik, where he drove off the first assault by Deiei spaceships.
Comment: After fighting the Deiei for awhile Phoenix encountered another alien race called the Protectors of the Universe. Magus, the leader of the race, disagreed with the Deiei’s desire to wipe out humanity and granted Phoenix an opportunity to prove the people of Earth deserving of a second chance.
Phoenix’s adventures combined elements of the Silver and Bronze Age Green Lantern with Adam Warlock’s “philosophy for pre-teens” approach during his Counter-Earth period. Personally I found Ed Tyler’s gloomy “Humanity is so awful maybe we don’t deserve to be saved” musings to be ridiculous. Compared to the genocidal and callous Deiei, the human race seems like the definite lesser of two evils.
All that aside, Phoenix had a certain charm. In fact he was one of the few Atlas characters popular enough to be given a second chance with 2010’s attempted re-launch of the title.
Secret Identity: Jay Hunter, teenager
Origin: When aspiring criminal Jay Hunter ticked off Max Raven, the crimelord he answered to, that gangster put out a hit on him. The attempt on Jay’s life took place at the lab of his scientist father Simon, who was working on a super-soldier formula.
Both men were mortally wounded, but Jay’s father – knowing there was enough formula to save one, but not both of them – gave it to his son to save his life. Jay pulled through, discovered he now had amazing super-powers and took to wearing a costume to fight crime. He called himself Destructor and was determined to atone for his criminal past.
First Appearance: The Destructor #1 (February, 1975). His final appearance came in August of that same year.
Powers: Destructor possessed a healing factor that was at Wolverine’s level at least, a degree of super-human strength, paranormal agility and enhanced senses. Later exposure to radiation granted him the ability to shoot energy blasts from his hands.
Comment: Teenager Jay Hunter’s reformation, fueled by the death of a beloved older male family member, is reminiscent of Spider-Man’s origin but with a much uglier past to try to atone for.
Destructor’s Rogues Gallery of Foes may have been the best at 1975’s Atlas Comics.
He battled villains like Lash, Death-Grip, Slaymaster, the Huntress, Big Mike Brand, Doctor Shroud and Lobo. He also battled two criminal organizations: the Combine and the Syndicate.
Secret Identity: Prince Roland
Origin: In the Post-Apocalyptic future, perverted science and outright sorcery hold sway. The world is filled with warring kingdoms that are separated by dangerous wastelands.
As an infant, the man who would become Ironjaw was left to die by the usurper who murdered his father – a King. Tar-Lok the Robber found the baby and raised him in his community of outcasts and criminals. Now named Roland, the young man became a talented Minstrel and one day stole the woman of a Bandit Chief named Dektor.
Dektor and his men captured Roland and – to prevent him from ever singing again – sliced off the man’s lower jaw. Carlotta, the woman being fought over, enlisted the aid of Soran the Sorceress and an ironworker called the Forger.
Soran’s spells saved Roland’s life, then she and the Forger grafted an iron jaw to the man’s face to replace his lost one. No longer able to sing, the newly-christened Ironjaw became a brigand, outlaw and mercenary warrior.
First Appearance: Ironjaw #1 (January, 1975). His final appearance came in July of that same year.
Powers: Ironjaw had the chiseled physique and savage fighting ability of a barbarian. He was adept with swords and battle-axes and possessed a dark ruthlessness. His iron jaw gave him a proverbial Pit Bull’s death-grip which he could use to tear out an opponent’s throat or chomp off their hands or other body parts.
Comment: The 1970s saw a slew of post-apocalypse comic books AND sword & sorcery titles inspired by the Marvel Comics adaptation of Robert E Howard’s Conan. Martin Goodman and company apparently felt that combining the two genres would prove to be a success.
As could be expected, Ironjaw eventually learned of his royal heritage, nearly had sex unknowingly with his long-lost sister and killed his father’s usurper. Growing bored with ruling a kingdom, Ironjaw abandoned his throne and returned to his wandering life of adventure and endless battle.
Ironjaw resurfaced as a guest star in the brief 2011 revival of Atlas’ Wulf the Barbarian (see right).
Secret Identity: Doctor Lancaster Hill, physician
Origin: While doing humanitarian work in Zambia, the brilliant young Dr Lancaster Hill’s work with tiger DNA enables him to inject himself with a formula which endows him with super-powers.
When the MD returns to New York City his sister is robbed and murdered by criminals, prompting him to don a costume and seek revenge. Calling himself Tiger-Man, he resolves to continue fighting crime.
First Appearance: Thrilling Adventure Stories #1 (February, 1975). His final appearance came in September of that same year.
Powers: Tiger-Man’s musculature mutated so that he had all the strength of a human-sized tiger. He also possessed that creature’s speed and enhanced senses, including night-vision.
This hero’s gloves and boots came complete with razor-sharp claws which enabled him to slash opponents in battle AND to climb up all but the sheerest of surfaces.
Comment: Tiger-Man could have had an impressive run anywhere else but Atlas. Dr Hill’s concerns about the way the tiger DNA sometimes threatened to overwhelm his human characteristics meant that this superhero might have shared Wolverine’s erratic, unpredictable nature at times.
At any rate, one of the supervillains that Tiger-Man fought was the Blue Jaguar, an obvious pastiche of Marvel’s Black Panther.
Secret Identity: Moro Frost
Origin: The exact nature of this intriguing hero was not revealed during his unfortunately brief run. Moro Frost, despite his perpetually young and fit appearance, was possibly hundreds of years old, if not older.
Always using the nom de guerre Scorpion, he had served as a do-gooder during many Heroic Ages, always adapting his motif to the time period. In the 1930s he was a Shadow/ Avenger/ Green Hornet -type Pulp Hero. In the 1970s he wore a full costume (with weaponry) and served as a flat-out superhero.
In the American West he was a gun-slinging Lone Ranger type. In assorted bygone eras he wielded a sword and other contemporary weapons in his battle against the forces of evil. If his series had lasted, readers might have gotten to see this fascinating character as a hero in various far future or post-apocalyptic settings, or maybe as a James Bond-style secret agent in the 1950s.
Needless to say, I’d have loved to see the Scorpion in World War One action as a Flying Ace clashing with mad scientists, aliens and monsters like the Pulp Hero G-8 And His Battle Aces.
First Appearance: The Scorpion #1 (February, 1975). His final appearance came in July of that same year.
Powers: The Scorpion’s powers and weaponry varied with the time period. In the 1930s he wielded multiple handguns at once and drove a custom-outfitted car.
In the 1970s he wore a costume which let him shoot scorpion “stinger rays” as well as shoot coiled twine which enabled him to swing around the city like Spider-Man or Daredevil.
Comment: This hero was created by Howard Chaykin, who, after Atlas went out of business, basically recreated the character as Dominic Fortune at Marvel Comics. (Similar to the way Atlas’ Demon-Hunter showed up later as Devil-Slayer in Marvel’s book The Defenders.)
I find it interesting to ponder if the Scorpion would have turned out to be quasi-immortal like Bloodstone or instead a time-traveler like the Rook.
THE GRIM GHOST
Secret Identity: Matthew Dunsinane, Highwayman
Origin: In 1740s America, Matthew Dunsinane was the masked Highway Robber known only as the Grim Ghost. He successfully preyed upon the Carriage Trade for years. In 1743 the Grim Ghost robbed Lord and Lady Braddock in their coach.
Lady Sarah Braddock, beautiful but evil, pretended to be interested in a tumble with the daring outlaw who had committed the robbery. Our red-blooded hero fell into her trap, was unmasked, tried and hanged.
In Hell, Satan informed the Grim Ghost that in the 20th Century he was facing a rebellious demon called Brimstone, who wanted to overthrow him and rule Hell in his place. That diabolical figure was endowing various evil-doers with powers to survive their ordained deaths, depriving Satan of their souls, thus weakening him in power and prestige.
Satan offered to release the Grim Ghost from Hell periodically to subdue those renegade evil-doers and send them to Hell for damnation. God would not interfere since Brimstone was defying Fate. Satan endowed the Grim Ghost with powers of his own to battle Brimstone’s legions on Earth.
First Appearance: The Grim Ghost #1 (January, 1975). His final appearance came in July of that same year.
Powers: The Grim Ghost was given a flying, coal-black horse by Satan as well as ghostly powers of intangibility plus a brace of supernatural pistols. Those pistols fired shots that could burn and blast their way through solid objects plus dispatch Brimstone’s minions to their rightful place in Hell.
Comment: The Grim Ghost came long before Spawn and long before Marvel’s Ghost Rider was ret-conned into a similar reaper of evil souls. Coincidentally enough, one of the villains he fought in 1975 was called Hellblazer. The Grim Ghost was one of the few Atlas heroes revived briefly in 2010 and 2011.
Secret Identity: John Targitt, FBI Agent
Origin: The flamboyant FBI Special Agent named John Targitt was devastated when his wife and daughter were blown up by a bomb intended for the head of the fictional Manetti Mafia Family. Targitt became a public liability when he repeatedly crossed the line to avenge his family’s deaths on the Mob.
Supposedly fired by the FBI for his reckless one-man crusade, John Targitt was instead recruited as Man-Stalker, a Top Secret Operative wearing a high-tech costume.
First Appearance: Targitt #1 (March, 1975). His final appearance came in July of that same year.
Powers: The high-tech battle suit worn by Man-Stalker made him bullet-proof plus enhanced his strength to greater than normal levels. The suit’s sturdiness and enhanced strength enabled this hero to wield custom hand-guns that boasted far more firepower than conventional weapons of their size.
Comment: John Targitt, Man-Stalker is often viewed as the poster child for Atlas Comics’ frantic tendency to change premises and tone at the drop of a hat. The character started out as a kind of Dirty Harry/ Punisher figure in his First Issue, before the superhero shenanigans started in his second appearance.
Doctor Death, a supervillain mutated by experimental gasses, was Man-Stalker’s most interesting foe.
WULF THE BARBARIAN
Secret Identity: None
Origin: On an unnamed planet many times larger than Earth, 10 year-old Prince Wulf was accompanying his parents Lord Wulfgar and Queen Lenore and the Royal Hunting Party. The Trolls of Drakenroost – working for the sorcerer Mordek – ambushed them and killed Prince Wulf’s parents.
Stavro Dar Kovin, a retainer for the King & Queen, got the young Wulf to safety. For the next 10 years Stavro and Wulf juggled and begged for a living, but away from prying eyes, Stavro trained the prince every day in the arts of war.
When Wulf was 20, three of the Trolls of Drakenroost at last found Stavro and killed him. Wulf in turn slew the trio, including the one that killed his mother. That Troll was wielding the sword of Wulf’s father, which he then armed himself with and set out to complete his vengeance.
First Appearance: Wulf the Barbarian #1 (February, 1975.) His final appearance came in September of that same year.
Powers: Wulf was at the peak of human condition, was a master with a sword and had the coordination and nimbleness of an acrobat and juggler. (Wulf the Juggler!) He wore a shirt of chainmail for protection and in one adventure gained an enchanted jewel called the Golden Star. Wulf learned that Mordek the Sorceror feared the object but its exact nature was not revealed before the series was canceled.
A sultry blonde female warrior named Rymstrydle the Blader joined up with Wulf in his 2nd Issue.
Comment: Though Atlas Comics material of the 1970s stated Wulf lived on a far-off planet many times the size of Earth, the short-lived 2011 revival of the series ret-conned that. In the new run readers were told Wulf lived on Earth long ago.
The hero began time-traveling and showed up in the modern day where he met another old Atlas Comics figure … Sam Lomax of the NYPD. (?) Ironjaw also turned up eventually as the tale began to parallel parts of The Dark Tower novels.
Though Wulf was called a Barbarian, presumably to ride Conan’s coattails, the names and mis en scene in his 1975 adventures were more like Tolkien than Robert E Howard.
Secret Identity: Wu Teh, Television News Anchorman
Origin: In post-World War Two Japan an elderly man was carrying his infant grandsons – twins – out of the troubled nation. On Mount Fuji an undetonated experimental bomb at last went off, and its strange radiation bathed the old man plus his grandsons.
The radiation gave the elderly man renewed strength, enabling him to reach China and reunite with his brother at a remote monastery in the Himalayan Mountains. At that monastery the twins grow to adulthood steeped in the Martial Arts culture of the monks.
Exposure to the radiation as infants had made the twins more than human in some vague, undefined way, and they became the two greatest Kung Fu fighters in the monastery. Envy and resentment toward Wu Teh – the good twin – prompted the evil twin – Ling – to try to kill him.
The spear intended for Wu Teh killed the twins’ grandfather instead. Ling, called the Cobra, fled to the outside world with the evil, tattooed madman Doctor Nhu. Wu Teh, called the Dragon, followed them to prevent the monastery’s secret technology, magic and martial arts from being used against the world by Ling and Dr Nhu.
First Appearance: Hands of the Dragon #1 (June, 1975). This was also his final appearance.
Powers: Wu Teh’s mutated physiology made him above any normal man in terms of physical condition. This coupled with his secret martial arts training made the Dragon capable of battling multiple armed opponents at once as well as smashing through doors and certain walls.
The Dragon also wore a Life Medallion, through which he could channel some of his life-energy to heal himself or others from otherwise fatal wounds.
Comment: “Everybody was Kung Fu FIGHT-iiiiiing” in the 1970s and Marvel had success with Shang Chi, Master of Kung Fu, Iron Fist, Mantis, the Sons of the Tiger, the Daughters of the Dragon, the White Tiger and – to a lesser degree – Tagak. The Dragon was Atlas’ failed attempt to jump on that bandwagon.
Adding to the tension between the Dragon and his archenemy the Cobra was the fact that Wu Teh possessed the Life Medallion he had won in a martial arts tournament at the monastery. Plus, Ling had the old villain trope of a scarred face that he was angry about.
Secret Identity: Lena Devlin, Ivy League college student and later Occult Journalist.
Origin: Devilina and her mother, the angel Sephora left Heaven in disgrace shortly after her brother Lucifer when the latter’s rebellion against God was defeated.
Traveling to the present day (1970s) Devilina and her mother lived in a New England mansion directly over a secret entrance to Hell.
Lucifer once invited his sister Devilina to become a co-ruler of Hell with him but Devilina preferred to pursue a life as a human college student.
Her brother claimed to accept her decision but years later engineered the death of the man Devilina loved.
From that point on, she waged war against Lucifer to avenge her lost love.
First Appearance: Devilina #1 (January, 1975). Her final appearance came in May of that same year.
Powers: Devilina possessed more than human strength but its upper limits were never established before her series was canceled. She also wielded a Hellfire Sword, commanded magical forces and was immune to most supernatural attacks, as shown when she battled the evil witch Corrupta.
Devilina was presumably immortal but this too was never definitively established. Nor was her Mother’s exact place in the Christian Pantheon ever nailed down.
Comment: Just as Marvel had Son of Satan and Satana, the Devil’s Daughter, Atlas had Devilina. She was the star feature in her eponymous black & white horror magazine with the other stories in each issue always being centered around female horror and fantasy figures.
The original title for the magazine was going to be Tales of the Sorceress. If Atlas Comics had lasted a potential Devilina crossover epic with The Grim Ghost would likely have been pretty interesting.
I imagine Devilina would have sided with Brimstone against her brother Lucifer with the Grim Ghost caught in the middle.
Secret Identity: Count Eugene Lycosa
Origin: Back in the Middle Ages, Count Lycosa’s ancestor led the family’s realm against the Spider-Priestess, a beautiful but vile woman who created and controlled humanoid tarantulas. After slaying all the arachnid-men the Count and his forces burned the priestess at the stake, but as she died she cursed the Count and all his male descendants to suffer the Curse of the Tarantula.
That curse would cause periodic nocturnal transformations into humanoid tarantula form. Only by feeding on other human beings could the cursed men return to their human form at sunrise.
Count Eugene Lycosa, the 11th Lycosa male to suffer the Curse of the Tarantula, lived in 1970s New York. He focused on satisfying his hunger by devouring “deserving” evildoers, but sometimes he was so crazed with starvation he reluctantly preyed on whoever was at hand.
First Appearance: Weird Suspense #1 (February, 1975). His final appearance came in July of that same year.
Powers: There’s only one way to say it: In Tarantula form Count Lycosa had “the proportionate strength of a spider.” He could also climb up walls and across ceilings, secrete toxic poison and spin webs the size of circus-nets.
Comment: I think Tarantula might have been a more popular character if he had been drawn less goofy-looking.
And given the fact that Atlas Comics had only one female star I would have made the heroic monster a woman to give their fictional universe some variety.
FOR MY ARTICLE ON THE MAIN LIST OF CENTAUR COMICS SUPERHEROES CLICK HERE
FOR MY ARTICLE ON THE MEMBERS OF INFINITE HORIZON CLICK HERE
FOR THE AUSTRALIAN SUPERHERO PANTHEON CLICK HERE
FOR MORE SUPERHEROES CLICK HERE: Superheroes
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