Thursday, 15 April 2010

Tiger-Man #1. Atlas, poor comics, I knew them well.

Atlas Comics, Tiger-Man #1, Tiger-Man cover
Tiger-Man #1. Somehow I'm not feeling awe.
Back in the summer of 1975, something odd happened on the streets of Blackpool. The shops suddenly filled up with comics that said "Atlas" on the front of them. Who Atlas were and where they'd sprung from, I had no idea and'd have to wait years to find out. But it was obvious they knew how to distribute comics; the first three issues of their mighty tomes seemed to be everywhere. Oddly, there seemed to be no sign of issue four of any of those comics but, as the sad geeky geeko that I was, I quickly snapped up every copy I could.

Years later, I was shocked to discover those comics had had nothing but opprobrium heaped on them from all sources.

Could it be true? Could these mags I remembered so fondly - with titles like The Tarantula, Iron-Jaw and Devilina - really deserve all this contempt?

Sadly, I had to wait until the wonders of the Internet allowed me to rebuild my collection to find out.

Even more sadly, that contempt really was deserved. Every single Atlas Comic I've re-acquired over the last few years has been awful (although The Phoenix had potential even if it was never tapped). And here, as further evidence, we have Tiger-Man.

I'd love to say Tiger-Man #1 is a triumph that proves the critics to be fools but it's simply dreadful. A doctor in Africa injects himself with tiger serum, in order to... ...well, in order to inject himself with tiger serum, and promptly gains the powers of a tiger. Why his origin's set in Africa and not Asia if he gains the powers of a tiger is anybody's guess but, regardless, he returns to New York where his sister's promptly murdered.

Atlas Comics, Tiger-Man #1, costume
Tiger-Man, a hero so awesome his feet can't
be contained by a mere comic book panel.
Hold on a minute, aren't his arms and legs
blue in the rest of the story?
Happily, before he left Africa, the local chieftain gave him a super-hero costume as a going-away present, which the good doctor puts on. It's fair enough; after all, who of us hasn't thought of giving our local GP a super-hero costume as a going-away present? Unhappily, it's the most embarrassing costume any super-hero was ever lumbered with.

Ignoring the fact he now looks a complete plonker, Tiger-Man tracks down the killers and kills them. So, basically, it's a new kind of hero - a murderer.

All this might not matter if our hero had anything that even vaguely resembles a personality but he's such a complete and total block of wood that you half-expect Handy Andy to start sawing him in half at any point. It says it all about writer Gabriel Levy's lack of interest in character development that we're nine pages into a twenty page story before we even get to find out the hero's first name.

The story doesn't seem to be credited but, according to the Grand Comics Database, it's drawn by Ernie Colon, and it sort of looks quite nice but Colon seems to have lost all grasp of how to draw a super-hero comic as he produces a whole string of stiff poses for our hero. And the whole thing's not helped by the fact that, for some reason, the lettering seems to have been done with a typewriter. According to the Grand Comics Database, it's done by Leroy Lettering. I like to think Leroy Lettering is the world's most celebrated Rastafarian calligrapher and possibly a performance poet on the side but, sadly, I suspect Leroy Lettering is some sort of process rather than a man.

But Atlas Comics, so many talented and experienced people involved. How did it all go so disastrously wrong?

7 comments:

Wooly Rupert said...

HA! I felt the exact same way when I saw that cover the first time. Phenomenally underwhelming. Tigers in Africa....

Steve W. said...

Poor old Tiger-Man.

Matt Celis said...

Bad compared to what? Certainly they compare favorably to anything Marvel or DC were publishing at the time. They also paid the hired hands a lot better by all accounts. It's a shame Martin Goodman interfered at issue 3 across the board and didn't let the potential be realized.

Steve T said...

Loved them then. Love them still. Something wrong with you. :)

Steve W. said...

As long as they're still giving someone pleasure, I'm happy, Steve.

Matt Celis said...

Also your headline misquotes, there is no "well" at the end of the line, it's "Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio."

Steve W. said...

You are indeed, correct, Matt.

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