23
Aug 03

Stupid Am Best

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 570 views

A lot of old comic fans are very keen on the intelligence and comparative realism of modern superhero comic books, but I miss the heroic stupidity of the old days. The Atom, DC’s superhero with shrinking powers, is a terrific example.

His origin is my all-time favourite. Physicist Ray Palmer saw a shooting star, and wandered off to see if anything landed. He immediately recognised what it was: “I don’t know the odds against one white dwarf hitting another out in space but it could happen – and when it did this piece drifted until it landed in this field.” White dwarf stars are super-dense, so it was a bit of a struggle carrying this fist-sized rock back to the lab, but when he did he wove a costume out of its fibres (yes, fibres), and that obviously enabled him to shrink.

The cover of the first issue of The Atom is another gem of titanic stupidity. The villain is Jason Woodrue, who has control over plants. He is looming over the tiny Atom, who is caught in a venus fly-trap, trying to hold back the closing jaws. Woodrue (good name, I always thought) is saying “If my venus fly-trap can defeat the mighty Atom, nothing can stop me taking over the world!” Hold on there Jason: how is your plant going to worry anyone who doesn’t have the power of shrinking? Can’t the Atom win this struggle by turning off his power? Is any plant really going to terrify Superman or Wonder Woman?

I miss those days.

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