Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Atlas Comics, Phoenix #1.

Atlas Comics, Phoenix #1 If those who learn nothing from the failures of history are doomed to repeat them, it seems those who learn nothing from its triumphs are likewise doomed.

All of which brings us back to Atlas Comics and, here, to the Phoenix who's the opposite of the company that spawned him, having started off effectively dead before coming back to life with great power, as opposed to Atlas Comics who started with great power and then promptly dropped dead.

If the long-standing allegation's true and Atlas' heroes were all knock-offs of previous characters then I suppose the Phoenix is Iron Man with a dash of Captain Marvel thrown in. Astronaut Ed Tyler crashes in the Arctic Circle where he's rescued by a bunch of aliens who want to kill him and then destroy the Earth, which sort of makes you wonder why they bothered to rescue him.

Needless to say our hero won't stand for that, steals one of their suits - that fits him like a glove despite being designed for creatures two foot taller than him - steals some of their atomic transistors, to give him super-powers and, in the process of saving a weirdly Americanised Reykjavik from them, destroys both them and their base in a humongous nuclear explosion the likes of which the world has never seen before.

Atlas Comics, Phoenix #1
Sadly, being destroyed in a humongous nuclear explosion the likes of which the world has never seen before seems to have done neither the aliens nor their base any harm at all and, only two pages later, they're plotting their next round of attacks on our hero before their planned destruction of Earth.

Why they don't just destroy the Earth and cut out the, "Getting revenge on the Phoenix," bit is anyone's guess but one can only assume that having superior intellect doesn't actually equate to being all that bright.

You can't get away from the fact that writer Jeff Rovin seems to be making his dialogue and captions up as he goes along, as the motives and personalities of the aliens change from panel to panel and page to page. One moment they're there only to observe, the next they're there to destroy the Earth. One moment, they're concerned about Ed Tyler's welfare and whether they have the right to leave an intelligent being to die, the next they're declaring that human beings are mere animals to be wiped out at will. One moment an alien's threatening to kill Tyler if he doesn't do what he's told. The next Tyler's thanking him for all he's done for him. One moment an alien's called Daelin, the next he's called Nerei.

Atlas Comics, Phoenix #1, aliens
Despite all this, I have a soft spot for the Phoenix. I mean, it was never actually any good and, with issue#4, went completely down the toilet as Atlas tried to turn him into a more conventional hero but, as he was when first created, he had some sort of potential.

If you want to understand the genius of Stan Lee it's laid stark here for all to see because 1960s' Marvel would've seen him destroy the aliens, or have them flee saying, "With protectors like this, there is no way we can ever conquer this world. We must leave and never return," leaving Phoenix to get on with the task of returning to New York to develop a supporting cast and fight quirky super-villains in need of a punch up the bracket.

Atlas Comics, Phoenix #1, escape
Instead, we got a series of stories based around his battles with the same alien race and a total lack of supporting cast, meaning he could never develop as a character rather than just being a man in a funny suit.

In this issue, Tyler has a wife - who we see - but decides he can't have anything to do with her in case the aliens use her against him. So, immediately, the twin concepts of novelty and a supporting cast are thrown out the window, meaning, despite setting out to replicate publisher Martin Goodman's success with Marvel, Atlas actually managed to do exactly the opposite of what Marvel had done in the Silver Age and fell flat on their face as a result.

PS. I have to love the idea of the super-advanced aliens' technology being powered by transistors. In this high-tech age, it now seems ludicrously quaint but, in my opinion, when it comes to comics, quaint is good.

Atlas Comics, Phoenix #1, Reykjavik

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