Saturday, 14 April 2012

Atomic Knights

Atomic Knights John Broome (words) and Murphy Anderson (art)
Strange Adventures #138 DC Comics 1962
Post Third World War apocalyptic devastation! Irradiated invulnerable medieval armour! Giant Dalmatians! Psychic sentient plants! It is DC Comics' Silver Age science fiction series the Atomic Knights.

John Broome (words) Murphy Anderson (art)

In my humble opinion the only challenger to Stan Lee for the title of greatest editor of the Silver Age is the late, great Julius Schwartz.  Julie was instrumental in launching DC Comics' Silver Age and presided over their best titles.  Whilst Mort Weisinger built the Silver Age Superman mythos in his books with a fierce dictatorial style, Julie built the rest of DC's super-hero continuity e. g. Justice League of America, Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Atom, Adam Strange, "new-look" Batman and Earth 2 with all of the Golden Age heroes!  Julie was at DC in the Golden Age and carried on through the Bronze Age too, even taking over some of Mort's Superman books when the great dictator retired.

Julie's first love was science fiction, he had been involved in science fiction fandom and publishing prior to his editorial role at All-American Comics (one of the founding companies of DC) in the 1940s.  He carried this passion with him throughout his tenure and edited monthly science fiction anthology comic titles e. g. Strange Adventures and Mystery in Space.  Atomic Knights first appeared in Strange Adventures #117 (June 1960) in a story written by longtime Green Lantern and Flash scribe John Broome and drawn by Murphy Anderson who also drew Hawkman for Schwartz and became one of Curt Swan's premier inkers.  The "Swanderson" team defined Superman's look for the 1970s.

Following an Atomic War in 1986 our heroes emerged into an apocalyptic 1992.  Gardner Grayle and the Atomic Knights, who wore medieval suits of armour that offered the wearers invulnerability to energy weapons, fought to establish decency and fairness in the developing civilisation rising from the ashes of the nuclear holocaust.  This was a classic cold war premise that would have resonated with the youth of the early sixties accustomed as they were to fallout drills and nuclear standoffs.

Art by Murphy Anderson

The most appealing aspect of the series for me was the use of the giant mutated Dalmations as transportation for the Knights, first seen in Strange Adventures #138 (March 1962).  Although all of the stories are entertaining and are well plotted by Schwartz and Broome with excellent art from Anderson.  The strip appeared every three months in "real time" until #160 (January 1964).  You can read all the stories from this series in DC Comics superb hardback anthology published in 2010.  There is a big budget 3D movie potential in these tales, well I can dream can't I?

Art by Murphy Anderson

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