Published by Super Comics Inc.; no date given on cover or in indicia, but published in 1964 according to the Grand Comic-Book Database; featuring "The Origin of Atlas!" On the cover drawn by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito, the mythological giant Atlas appears, amidst clouds and thunderbolts, to transform a lab-coated scientist (who looks a lot like Doc Magnus of the Andru-Esposito drawn METAL MEN) into a superhero in an abbreviated costume consisting of blue muscle shirt with high collar, red trunks, gloves and boots, and an emblem of a clenched fist inside a red sunburst. "I have chosen YOU, Jim Randall, to be the HUMAN ATLAS! You will posess powers of SUPER-strength! Use it with care, wisdom, and for the good of society!" The cover blurb promises, "This story is guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat! And of course you'll want to read about the SECRETS OF SUPER-STRENGTH by ATLAS!"
Review by Bill Henley
This is one of the odder items in my collection, and it poses a conundrum; is it on-topic or off-topic for the Silver Age List? On the one hand, this comic book was definitely *published* during the Silver Age. Even without a cover/indicia date, the 12 cent cover price is enough to indicate that. On the other hand, the stories within clearly date from an earlier era, Golden Age or the interregnum between GA and SA. On a third hand, what little reference info I've seen on this issue, including the GCD, indicates that the stories were intended for a comic to be titled ATLAS COMICS, from an unidentified publisher (no relation to the 1950's Atlas Comics incarnation of Marvel) that never actually was published. So unlike most of the output of the Super Comics and related IW Comics fly-by-night publishers (which somewhere obtained a big batch of original art from various publishers and put out comic books using the art with little or no concern for copyrights) these stories are not actually reprints. So does this count as Silver Age or not? I'll let you decide, but anyway hopefully the review of this oddity will be of interest.
Looking up DARING ADVENTURES in the GCD, I find that there were not actually 18 issues published, there were 9, from 10 through 18, so this one is the last. Earlier issues featured actual reprints of various characters such as Green Lama, Hooded Menace and Phantom Lady.
The lead story features the promised debut of "Atlas-- Man of Might!" (The GCD credits the art to George Tuska, but has no idea who the writer is, nor do I.) The blue-clad figure of Atlas beams out at the reader from the splash page, with the caption, "There are stranger things in life than fiction ever dreamed of-- and the strangest is the story of how a great strength dedicated to the conquest of evil is born! Here's a new hero-- a HUMAN hero-- whose astonishing exploits will leave you breathless!" But when we first meet his alter ego Jim Randall he is a fellow who makes Clark Kent look like a he-man. Randall is a humble bookkeeper (actually looking rather like Clark Kent, only scrawnier) who is warned by his boss, "Keep your eyes on your books, Randall-- not th at new stenographer!" However, when he makes a stammering overture to "Miss Thompson", she responds encouragingly, "You can call me Linda, Jim! After all, we do work in the same office! And if you're going to ask to walk me home, come on!" The budding relationship runs into a rough patch right away, however, as Jim and Linda enter the 'rough neighborhood" she lives in and find Andy, Linda's kid brother, getting beaten up by some local thugs. "Do something!", Linda urges, but hapless Jim's response is, "You mean you w-want me to STOP them? But--" While Jim dithers, another man, one Duke Cazzini, steps in and stops the fight, but then walks away with Linda, and punches Jim in the face when he tries to object. "I can respect a MAN-- but never a weak-kneed, sniveling MOUSE!", are Linda's parting words to Jim. "I guess I deserved that! I'll go now!"
That night, JIm Randall's sleep is troubled by thoughts of his humiliation-- "WHAT A ROTTEN EXCUSE FOR A MAN I AM!"-- but when he does finally doze off it is to dream of a white-haired but mighty-muscled figure who introduces himself as "ATLAS-- GREEK GOD OF STRENGTH! (Technically, I think, Atlas was a Titan in Greek mythology, not a god, and while he was certainly strong-- he was the guy who held the Earth on his shoulders-- I don't think he was specifically identified as the "god of strength.") COME INTO MORTAL REALMS WITH A MESSAGE! For you-- and all Earthlings bound by chains of weakness and fear! Remember that health and strength are man's natural birthright--THAT YOU CAN BUILD YOUR BODY IN THE IMAGE OF MINE! To you I impart the SECRET OF STRENGTH!" Jim Randall wakes up bathed in sweat and deeply shaken; "I guess it was a dream-- but so LIFELIKE! And I can still remember those strange secret exercises Atlas gave me! Maybe I'm crazy-- but I'm going out to Uncle Hank's ranch-- AND TRY 'EM OUT!" When he arrives at the ranch and declares his intention to make a man of himself, he gets little respect even from his uncle; "Son-- THAT'S A TALL ORDER!" But it's an order he is able to fill, thanks to Atlas's "secret exercises", as he runs, swims, and does calisthenics and his frame fills out with muscles. Uncle Hank and his ranch hands are duly impressed, and as Jim prepares to take his leave, his uncle puts the final touch on the change by taking Jim's Clark Kent like glasses off his face-- "You don't need 'em anyway!" (Hmmm... I've never heard that calisthenics and physical conditioning were a cure for myopia. Did Atlas also offer Jim secret eye exercises beyond the knowledge of conventional opthalmology?)
When our hero arrives back in town and greets Linda at her door, she is likewise impressed-- "No! It can't be-- but it is-- JIM RANDALL!"-- but she has problems of her own. Her kid brother has fallen in with the same gang that was harassing him earlier, and the scuzzy Duke Cassini is leading the gang as well as "annoying me (Linda) constantly!" Jim now has confidence in his ability to deal with Duke personally, but Linda is concerned about the gunmen in his gang. Jim has to admit that "I'm strong now-- but I'm only one man!" But when he returns home he has another vision of Atlas the Titan, who assures him, '"I have given you giant strength, mortal-- you are no lonter as other men! USE YOUR POWERS IN MY NAME-- AND GO FORTH TO WAR ON EVIL!" And so Jim Randall decides to dress in a costume and represent himself as an avatar of Atlas; "Those rats will fear one man, all right-- when that man symbolizes the might of the giant who supported the world!" The costume he creates consists of blue shirt with clenched-fist emblem, leopard-skin trunks, yellow collar, and big "A" on the belt. It doesn't exactly match the version drawn by Andru and Esposito on the cover. (For that matter, Jim Randall's hair inside the comic is black rather than brown, Atlas the god is red-haired on the cover and white-haired in the story, and Jim Randall is never a scientist in a lab in the inside story. Evidently A and E didn't read the story very closely before drawing a cover for it.)
Meanwhile, Duke Cazzini has shown up back at Linda's apartment, and when she refuses his romantic advances he tries to blackmail her with a photograph purporting to show kid brother Andy participating in a robbery. When Jim Randall now known as Atlas shows up on the scene, Duke sneers "Wot's this-- a masquerade? I'll teach YOU to butt in, wise guy!" and pulls a gun, but Atlas moves fast, punching Duke in the face and knocking the gun from his hand as it fires. Sending Duke crashing through a door, Atlas warns the gangster away from "Miss Thompson" and her brother, but he is defiant; "Okay, strong man! BUT MY TIME'S COMIN'!" Witnessing Atlas' manhandling of Duke, young Andy is impressed-- "HOLY GEE!"-- but nonetheless unwilling to reveal the truth about the robbery in which he was implicated; "They're my pals, see-- real tough guys-- and I'm not rattin' on 'em!"
Concluding that he must learn Duke Cazzini's plans in order to break up his gang and save Andy from the "wrong path", Atlas seeks a way to get into the gang leader's locked office. "Doesn't seem to be any way to get in unobserved, unless I use this pole IN THE POLE VAULT ENTRY!" He vaults onto some electrical wires and then does a tightrope walk using the pole as a balance beam, until he reaches the window outside Duke's top-floor office. (Carrying out such athletic feats, while wearing a colorful costume, doesn't exactly seem like a way to remain "unobserved", unless the neighborhood is completely deserted.) Spying on Duke's meeting with his gang, Atlas hears him plan to have "the kids" wreck a train as a decoy while the adult gang stages the "main job" elsewhere. With no time to lose to foil the plan, Atlas leaps into a car driven by one of the meek, mild sorts he used to be, and commandeers it; "Sorry to have to rush this way-- I'm not sure of the time of the party I'm going to, and I don't want to be late!" (Hmmm.... Atlas may be crusading for law and order, but considering he's just followed up an attempted breaking and entering with a carjacking, he's not exactly the most law-abiding of sorts himself, even if his intentions are good.) Arriving at the scene where Duke's junior gangsters have just toppled a big boulder onto the railroad track in the path of an oncoming train, Atlas single-handedly succeeds in tossing the boulder out of the way and saving the train, then halts the juvenile delinquents as they try to flee. He tries a bit of reform-- "You know, kids, there's nothing sissy about following the straight and narrow path! You've seen MY demonstration!"-- but the lead delinquent sneers that it will be "suicide" if Atlas goes up against the "real tough guys" in Cazzini's main mob. And to prove it, the kid tells Atlas that the mob is about to rob an armored truck caravan carrying a gold shipment; "I'll take you to where it's comin' off-- YOU WON'T LIVE TO TALK!"
Taking over the moving van the kid gangsters were driving, and learning that the plan is for Duke Cazzini to attack the armored cars from a plane armed with machine guns, Atlas tries to halt the armored convoy by blocking it with the van, but the armored car drivers conclude he is the one trying a holdup and crash the armored cars through the van. Jumping from the van, Atlas grabs onto the rearmost armored car and then jumps from roof to roof to ride on the lead car as it heads toward Duke Cazzini's airborne ambush. Duke, however, is delighted to spot Atlas' colorfully clad figure atop the lead car; "Wotta chance for a double play-- I'll kill HIM and stop those cars so the gang can get at'em!" For a moment it looks like even the strength of Atlas will do no good against a diving airplane and chattering machine guns (maybe Jim Randall should have held out for the powers of the other five Shazam gods as well). But then, "SWELLING BICEPS MEET AN AWFUL CHALLENGE!" as the plane buzzes the van and Atlas actually tears one of its wings off with his bare hands. The plane crashes, making pilot Duke "a goner", and Atlas makes short work of the rest of Duke's gang on the ground. The Cazzini gang's junior auxiliary has to admit Atlas took out the Duke just like he promised, but the kids ask if they are going to be arrested too. "No, you were just tools in the hands of a criminal! You've learned your lesson! I'll let you go if you go in for straight, clean living...and give me the lowdown on that frame Duke tried to plant on Andy!" (I guess the seal of approval of a Greek god trumps the authority of mere mortal cops and prosecutors to make such decisions.) The lowdown is that Andy didn't know about the planned holdup and didn't partcipate until one of the gang pressed a gun into his hand and snapped a photo. Later, as the former delinquents are happily playing baseball, Linda starts to laud Atlas for his achievements, but "Don't give ME the credit! Chalk it up to STRENGTH-- the kind of strength that anyone can achieve through clean living, proper training-- AND USE FOR RIGHT AND JUSTICE!" "There's a new, thrilling ATLAS story in our next issue! Don't miss it!"
But wait...there's still "The Secrets of Super-Strength by Atlas!" Hmmm.... do I dare to reveal such portentous secrets that might be used for evil? Yeah, I guess so...we're all members of the Silver Age List here, steeped in the heroic lore and high ideals of the SA. The first (and only) secret is an exercise involving trying to raise and lower one arm while using the other arm to hold it back. This exercise of conflicting muscles is "the best exercise for building big, bulging biceps!", we are told, and, "SEE ATLAS COMICS NEXT MONTH FOR ANOTHER GREAT SECRET OF SUPER-STRENGTH!" (Alas, not only did ATLAS COMICS not show up on the stands that next month, but even *this* issue never made it, at least under that title.)
There are three other stories in this comic (DARING #18) which appear to all be part of the original "Atlas Comics" package. None of them feature Atlas or any other costumed hero, but all are sports stories following the theme of strength and virtue through physical development. "Gentleman Jack" is the story of a one-time rich kid whose family has fallen on hard times. He is at a loss as to how to recoup his fortunes-- or show his girl Margie a good time-- until he watches a prizefight and then ends a chance encounter with a bully in the street with a powerful sock to the jaw. The attention of a fight manager is attracted, and now "Gentleman Jack" has the chance to get rich again by his own muscle power and skill. His first fight is a grudge match with Roundhouse Malloy, who just happens to be the same guy he slugged in the street-- and in the official fight, training and experience tell, as Malloy leaves Jack beaten and bruised. Jack begs trainer Canvasback Schultz for the training he needs to turn natural talent into real fighting skill, and the initially reluctant Canvasback agrees to run Jack through a crash course in the "sweet science" of boxing. Ultimately, a return bout with Malloy is arranged, but "Roundhouse" isn't taking any chances-- he arranges for a thug to knock out Jack with a blackjack and hold him prisoner. When he doesn't show up for the big fight, he'll be banned from boxing and Malloy will walk off with the girl, Margie. Jack is havig none of that, and proves he has fighting skill even outside of the ring (and with non Marquis of Queensberry tactics) as, even though bound, he knocks out the thug with a kick and then frees himself with shards of broken glass. Rushing to the arena, Jack arrives just as the referee is about to call off the bout. He's still woozy from the blackjack blow, though, and a second defeat at Malloy's hands looms until a voice from the stands, "JACK! IT'S ME-- MARGIE! HOLD HIM OFF--KEEP PUNCHING!" rouses him to new effort and he knocks out Malloy. Jack vows to go on fighting and seek the world championship. "CAN GENTLEMAN JACK MAKE THE GRADE? FOLLOW HIS FIGHTING CAREER IN ATLAS COMICS!" But since no further issues were published, I guess we'll never know if Jack ended his career as a champion or a flash in the pan.
"Rush Ripley" is the story of a young high school graduate who has made up his mind to attend Clinton University, much to the chagrin of his wheelchair-bound father. The elder Ripley is a Clinton alumnus, believe it or not-- but he has no fond memories of his old alma mater, since he was framed for throwing a football game and expelled from school, and the youthful reverse has blighted his whole life. But young Rush only redoubles his determination, not only to make good at Clinton U. himself but to solve the old mystery of his father's downfall. Arriving on campus, Rush quickly makes a friend-- Lorraine, a pretty girl who arranges for him to get a part time job-- and an enemy, Tracy Adams, who is the son of Lee Adams, the football star who supposedly exposed the Andrew Ripley's corruption. Hearing Adams sneer at his dad, Rush punches Tracy only to be rocked by a stronger punch himself. "Guess I should have remembered I'm a student, not an athlete! I was never much with my fists!" Nonetheless, he goes out for the football team, only to be told he's too light and vulnerable to play with the big boys. Rush is persistent, however, and under the tutelage of a sympathetic trainer, Stubby Marks, he gains weight and strength as well as skill, but the coach still won't play him on the varsity. Until a crucial game when a string of Clinton U.s backfield men are taken out by injuries, forcing the coach to put Rush in the game, where of course he becomes the hero with a winning touchdown-- even despite the attempt of Tracy Adams to deliberately trip him. But after the game, trainer Stubby receives an anxious phone call from elder football hero Lee Adams. Stubby warns Adams that he'd better keeping coming through with blackmail money, or young Rush will "learn a few things about you from me!" "What is it that Stubby Marks can tell Rush Ripley? Watch for the next issue of ATLAS COMICS!" But once again, that next issue never showed up (though it's fairly easy to guess what Stubby had to tell Rush).
Finally, we have a story titled "Sultan of Swat!" about a baseball player with the name of George Herman Ruth, nicknamed "Babe".... another story of a would-be sports star...but yet again, since there was no next "Atlas Comics", we never find out whether the oddly-named "Babe" ever made it big....what's that? You say Babe Ruth, unlike Gentleman Jack and Rush Ripley (and Atlas) was actually real, and he did end up doing tolerably well in the baseball biz? Never mind.
If anyone else has any inside info about "Atlas Comics", who produced it, and when (I can't pin it down any closer than late 40's or early 50's) and why it never saw print until "Super Comics" dredged it up in 1964, I'd like to know. (The following thought does occur to me: how long ago did strongman Charles Atlas start advetristing his physical training course in comic books? I wonder if some publisher got the idea of capitalizing on all those ads by creating an actual comic book about an unauthorized but thinly disguised "Atlas" who becomes a hero through physical training? And if the real Charles Atlas got wind of it and quashed the comic with legal threats before it saw print?