Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Atom #8

I have mentioned the Dr Light series in passing as one of the two really extended tales that DC had during the 1960s; the other one was Zatanna's search for her father.

Dr Light had originally fought the entire Justice League of America and nearly won in JLA #12. Following that, he decided to set his sights a little lower and take on the individual members one at a time. As it happens, his first target was the Atom, who had not even been a member of the JLA at the time of Dr Light's initial assault on that team.

Dr Light starts by escaping from jail. See, they left a light bulb in his cell, and using that he's able to draw a door on the cell wall, and open to to escape into another dimension. Fortunately, Ray Palmer happens to be at the prison with his girlfriend Jean, who's just gotten a prisoner named William Wilson released (this is explained in the second story in this issue). Ray examines the light bulb and is able to duplicate the Lord of Luminescence's trick and enter the other dimension as the Atom. But:

There follows a brief battle, but Dr Light seems to have planned well, and thus it's not long before the Atom finds himself in the predicament shown on the cover. Dr Light explains:

He has ensured that the Atom will not be able to shrink his way out of the bulb by dripping solder on his controls. But the Atom melts the solder with the filament in the bulb:

He soon subdues Dr Light, ending the story for now.

Comments: Even though the story is only 15 pages long, it seems padded. I did like how the Atom got out of the death trap, but the powers of Dr Light seemed a tad too much like magic and not enough like science.

In the second story, a guard is accused of attempting to steal a miniature painting (the Queen of Swords by Bonifacio Bembo) from the Ivy Town Art Gallery, when the painting is discovered in his lunch bucket. He is found guilty, the first client of Jean Loring's to go to prison. But later at the grand opening, when the miniature is on display with two more of Bembo's painting, a gas seeps out from the case holding the Queen of Diamonds, rendering all the patrons unconscious. Fortunately, the Atom is himself hiding in a case holding the King of Clubs, so he's not affected by the gas. However, when he attacks the thief who appears he gets a shocking surprise:

However, the Atom has succeeded in deducing the villain's identity:

The story ends with a long, and unnecessary explanation:

Comments: Solid basic story although as noted the explanation is unnecessary and convoluted.

Incidentally, did you notice the pillbox hat Jean Loring sports in this issue? That was a style popularized by Jacqueline Kennedy; this issue came out about five months before JFK's assassination. Gil Kane was obviously paying attention to women's fashion.


Aaron said...

I read the Atom Showcase a while ago and noticed more than any other superhero girlfriend Jean seemed to be sort of Jackie style.

Anonymous said...

This is one of the few stories in which the Atom fought a costumed villain. Whereas the Flash had an entire "rogues gallery" of costumed adversaries, the Atom's foes generally wore jackets and ties, even when they used "super-scientific" gizmos to commit their crimes. (Chronos was an obvious exception.) I wonder if this was a deliberate decision on the part of Julius Schwartz -- something that would give THE ATOM a different "flavor" from THE FLASH and other Schwartz-edited titles.

Costumed villains did begin to appear late in THE ATOM's run, but they were generally pretty lame (e.g. the Bug-Eyed Bandit). Again, I wonder if Schwartz was deliberately changing the title's direction in an effort to increase sales by copying the more successful formula of THE FLASH.


Pat said...

Yes, I have noticed that too, Anonymous. Another thing is how often these non-costumed villains appeared on the covers.

Amanda H. said...

Jean kind of looks like Dr. Girlfriend from the "Venture Brothers"

Anonymous said...

Concerning the non-costumed villains in the early Atom stories, it probably meant less work for the artist who wouldn't have to devise a brand new costume with each issue.