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Strange Adventures 153
"Danger In Detroit"


Story By: John Broome Art By: Murphy Anderson

The members of the Atomic Knights include: Gardner Grayle, the leader. Bryndon, one of the last remaining Earth scientists. Douglas Herald, school-teacher. Marlene, Herald's sister. Wayne and Hollis Hobard, brothers, ex-soldiers and loyal Atomic Knights.

The self-styled "Organizer" Kadey has nearly all of Detroit under his personal control -- when something occurs to endanger his regime! It is the Atomic Knights, who arrive in the city to visit their friend, Inventor Henderson, who has a very special reason for their invitation -- a reason which has nothing to do with the -- "Danger in Detroit" On the splash page, Organizer Kadey is firing a pair of atomic pistols at Bryndon, who wonders if their armor will withstand the fire, and Gardner, who tells his fellow Knight that they'll know in a moment!

At the Community Hall in Durvale, the dinner is being served by a most unusual waiter... Marlene can't get used to the plant creature known as a Trefoil, which was sent to them by Mr. Henderson. Douglas assures her that Abner Henderson succeeded in breeding a new strain of Bird's-Foot Trefoil... one which lacks the hatred for humanity. He tells his sister that Gardner, Bryndon, and the Hobard Brothers have gone to Detroit -- to meet with Henderson and see more of the Trefoils. He had told Douglas that if what Henderson had told him in their radio conversation was true, their lives would change for the better in this country. Marlene is aware of this, and she misses Gardner -- but also remembers that she, too is an Atomic Knight.

In her room, Marlene weeps, and she knows that it's been six years since the war back in 1986. She wonders if they'll ever be able to live normally again. Gardner believes this -- and not too long from now! He had promised her that he wouldn't be away for long, and that he would come back soon in one piece... In Detroit, Gardner, Bryndon, and the Hobards see that there's no one driving automobiles anymore. The scientist tells Gardner that the city was among the first hit -- but as in other places, life is returning to it. Gardner sees the streetsign for Michigan Avenue, and Wayne confirms it. They walk towards the Henderson Factory Company...

Gardner greets Henderson, who is glad to see all of them. He tells them that the Trefoils are about to finish building Model Number One, and Bryndon turns to watch their progress... One of the Hobards sees that Henderson has gotten the factory running, and his plant-workers are at it like beavers! Outside, Henderson rolls out an automobile, with all impressed by the sight of the running car. He tells them that the Trefoils supplied the fuel... When Gardner asks how they supplied it -- he tells them how the explosive berries of the Trefoils inspired him to make the gas engine run with little explosions! Henderson extracted the explosive essence from the berries -- and it succeeded in making the motor run! With vehicles like these, Detroit will soon be rebuilt -- as well as the entire country!

This is the first car built in the U.S.A since the war, and Henderson had a special reason for the Atomic Knights to come for a visit... He turns and sees Organizer Kadey and some of his Blue Belts, while Gardner and Bryndon don't know what to make of the new visitors. Kadey greets Henderson and congratulates him on the completion of the automobile. Henderson tells Kadey that they're on private property and that he and the Blue Belts aren't welcome! Organizer Kadey smiles and tells him that the new society he's organizing has a respect for private property! He tells Henderson that he shouldn't be opposed to him and his Blue Belts! Kadey assures him that there are no hard feelings, and that he'll take the automobile for his organizational work. Although he and his men could just take the car, Organizer Kadey respects private property, and offers to buy it! Belt Six brings forth the money case... while Gardner doesn't like the looks of this...

10,000 K-Dollars are offered for the automobile, and Henderson is adamant in his refusal. He slaps it away and tells Kadey that he doesn't want any of the hastily printed-up currency, especially since the automobile is not for sale! He has other plans for it! Organizer Kadey orders his Blue Belts to take the auto... As Henderson is knocked to the ground... Kadey orders Belt Four to stuff the money into his pocket so that things are done legally! (Holy Ingersoll, Batman!) As the Organizer prepares to drive the car out, Wayne checks with Gardner, who tells them to get crackin'! The four men go up against the enemies of the old inventor... Gardner knows that either the Blue Belts -- or the Atomic Knights can exist in the country! One or the other -- but not both! One of the Hobards is impressed by the sturdiness of his opponent, who is a bit slow in the reflexes...

Bryndon sees that Organizer Kadey has been knocked out, and the Blue Belts carry their unconscious leader away from the factory -- ! Henderson sees their departure, but worries that the Atomic Knights have made dangerous enemies since Organizer Kadey won't forget! Gardner reminds him that the Atomic Knights have faced many dangers in this post-war world! He asks the inventor that when they leave, will Kadey make trouble for him and the worker-plants? Henderson suddenly remembers the plants... The new Trefoil strain is both good and peaceful -- but he's noticed that the sight of violence upsets them! He seeks to quiet down their trembling... Gardner watches as the inventor communicates with the plants telepathically... assuring them that his friends will not let them be harmed.

The plants return to their work, and Henderson tells the Knights that it's as if they can sense evil! Whenever a Blue Belt comes by, a Trefoil suddenly becomes paralyzed. Gardner asks for more information on Kadey and his Blue Belts. Henderson sees that it was inevitable that the Atomic Knights would tangle with Kadey's Blue Belts! Some believe in Kadey's group, but the inventor believes him to be the greatest menace to the country! Organizer Kadey wants everyone to belong to his group! The Blue Belts, who derive their name from their distinctive belts, are his private security force! Kadey promises law and order -- but prints his own money! (Holy Rozakis, Batman!)

The Organizer forced Jenkins the builder to construct a barracks for his group! Jenkins had to accept the K-Money offered to him by Kadey -- or else! Henderson tells them about a rumor that Kadey had found a pair of atomic pistols -- fully loaded! The threat of him using them makes the people fear Kadey! Upon hearing about the atomic weapons, Bryndon tells Gardner that the Organizer sounds like a real menace -- one which needs to be taken care of! The Knights don their armor, with Gardner telling the inventor that in the hands of Kadey, the atomic weapons would make him a dictator in no time! They must find out if the rumor is true, and if so, they must get those weapons away from him! The other Knights are ready and waiting...

Within the barracks... Organizer Kadey tells his men that the Atomic Knights will pay for interfering in his plans! He intends on hunting them down, but a Blue Belt tells him that the Knights are coming! As they close in on the barracks, a volley of small-arms fire strikes their armor, with Gardner wondering if there will be any sign of the atomic weapons! One of the Knights laughs as the bullets bounce off of their armor, while another is intent on tackling the belt-wearing bullies! At the citadel, the Knights see that the barracks is an impenetrable fortress! Gardner sees that it would take a cannon to break through the wall! He knows that they are just giving Kadey and his group some target practice! They back off -- get back -- to find another way!

Out of range of the enemy gun-fire, Hollis asks Gardner what they'll do... and they see Henderson arrive in his automobile! The inventor couldn't resist to see Kadey get his comeuppance, and Gardner is interested in the new auto! Since the car runs on the explosive essence, he asks Henderson if he has any more of it that they can use. The inventor hands over his spare supply, and Gardner prepares to add a fuse... Shortly, the spare supply with a lit fuse is thrown through the air... Gardner guesses that the jug will blow a hole in the barracks, which they'll be able to march through! The Knights get ready --

BAROOOOM! They duck from flying pieces from the fortress! The assault on the fortress begins... with the Blue Belts too dazed from the explosion to put up much resistance! In the doorway, they see Kadey armed with atomic pistols, confirming the rumors. The energy bolts strike with unbearable force... The Atomic Knights are being hurled back by the strength of the blast --

Their armor is able to take it! The Atomic Knights charge, thanks to the centuries weathered by the armor, which makes them immune to radiation! Gardner lands a punch to Kadey's jaw, and Brydon grabs the guns! He knows that the atomic weapons would be of much importance in this post-atom-war world! Organizer Kadey asks by what right they broke into his headquarters -- attacked him and his men... Gardner tells him that they will be turned over to the people of Detroit Zone, who will decide his fate! The citizens cheer as Kadey and his Blue Belts have been arrested by the Atomic Knights! Now they will be free to elect their own government in the zone! It is the way of democracy!

Once Kadey and his Blue Belts have been confined until their trial, Henderson tells Gardner that one of the plants wishes to "speak" with him... Akno, one of the Trefoil leaders, telepathically thanks Gardner, for they have always feared Kadey! Now that he's been arrested, they feel safe -- and they are grateful -- The leader of the Atomic Knights is touched that all violence has been bred out of the plants... and so, they are meek and need protection! He answers Akno, telepathically assuring the plant that law and order will exist for them, as well as peace and safety... Henderson thanks Gardner for calming his workers, and tells him that before the Knights leave Detroit, there's still one thing... The reason why the inventor asked them to come was to present them with this auto! Hollis is amazed that they are being given the car, but wonders if they can accept --

Henderson tells them that he doesn't know of anyone who are more deserving. He tells them not to worry -- there will soon be more cars -- lots more! In time, America will be back on wheels again -- Gardner knows that this will be in large part to men like Henderson, and the Trefoils.

Hollis is at the wheel, and asks Gardner where to go... Durvale is their destination, and he tells Hollis to step on the gas -- the essence! Their Dalmation steeds are tethered to the rear bumper and follow close behind. Marlene learns that Gardner and the other Knights are coming into town -- driving a new car! She asks her brother if that's possible, and Douglas tells her to come see for herself! As they embrace, Gardner tells her that he can now properly court her -- in the new auto! Marlene assures him that he doesn't have to court her, and that she's his!

1986 was the year of my high school graduation, Chernobyl, and the Challenger Disaster.

Organizer Kadey's military dress is reminscent of that worn by Per Degaton!

In the DC Universe, there's been Atomic Knights, The Shining Knight, and The Silent Knight.

In the Marvel Universe, there's been heroic and villainous Black Knights, as well as the High Evolutionary's Knights of Wundagore. From Galador came Rom, Spaceknight to combat the Dire Wraiths on Earth.

When 1986 came around, it was revealed that Gardner Grayle was in a experiment, and that the Atomic Knights were all a dream!

Nevertheless, he soon found himself donning armor and becoming the hero known as The Atomic Knight.

In the last issue of The Outsiders, The Manhunters have the group waking up in Durvale, with Gardner Grayle and The Atomic Knights greeting them. If I remember correctly, the story was by Mike W. Barr and Erik Larsen, and had Metamorpho "dying" until his reappearance during the Invasion mini-series in 1988.

During the Silver Age Event, Gardner Grayle donned armor as the Shining Knight in the Seven Soldiers of Victory one-shot.

The Trefoils may have been inspired by "Day of The Triffids."

The Atomic Knights emblem is simple, yet effective, and memorable. A knight's helm surrounded by the symbol for atomic energy.

The D.C. universe has many alternate futures: the 30th Century of the Legion of Super-Heroes, O.M.A.C., the Great Disaster, Kamandi, Tommy Tomorrow, Star Hawkins, The Star Rover, Space Cabbie, Ultra The Multi-Alien, Gary Concord... Ultra-Man, Space Ranger, etc.

The Marvel Universe has many alternate futures: the 1990's of Deathlok, the 21st Century of Killraven and his Freemen during the War of The Worlds, Dargo... the futuristic Thor, the Guardians of the Galaxy, etc.

John Broome and Murphy Anderson present a story which shows the appeal of the automobile, and their stories no doubt took readers on many roads of the imagination.

At a convention, Murphy was kind enough to autograph the Atomic Knights' entry in the 1985 Who's Who, and his smile at seeing Gardner Grayle and the group was echoed by mine, too.

Steve Chung
"Review In Detroit"