Saturday, 4 September 2010

Atlas Comics' The Brute #1. Having friends for dinner.

Atlas Comics The Brute #1The good news for all lovers of failed 1970s comic book companies is I’ve recently acquired a whole bunch of Atlas Comics.

The bad news for me is that to review them I’m going to have to read them.

If I’m honest, like the glutton I am I’ve already taken a peek at all of them, and the thing that strikes me is that, even though they’re written and drawn by different people, there seems to be some sort of house style going on. I’m not saying it’s a good house style but it’s there and I’ll no doubt be touching on it as I do the other reviews.

But let’s kick off with the mag that featured probably my favourite cover of any Atlas Comic, The Brute. Lovers of the old movie Trog’ll need no introduction to the concept, as a group of boys find an ape man living in a cave. Being the hero of the book, he then befriends them before setting off to fight crime and defend the weak, picking up a colourful costume and a sidekick along the way.

Well. No. Being an ape man he kills two of them and, as far as I can make out, eats them. It’s certainly a new approach to the concept of the American comic book, the super-hero cannibal.

The local townsfolk, having no liking for such fancy innovation, aren’t going to stand for that sort of behaviour and so, after murdering a reporter, the Brute’s put into captivity whereupon he murders someone else and goes on the run.

This is the only issue of The Brute I ever had as a kid, so I don’t have a clue what happened with future instalments but, on the strength of this, it’s madness. They have a central character who doesn’t think, doesn’t speak, has no motivation, has no super-powers, no gadgets, no gimmicks and murders anything that moves. Spider-Man he ain’t.

Atlas Comics The Brute #1 caged
The Brute tackles his first super-villain.

But then maybe that’s the problem with Atlas characters in general. You don’t get the feeling an awful lot of thought was put into them and just what was going to be done with them after the first issue. The thing’s written by Mike Fleisher who wrote the noticeably blood-thirsty Spectre stories for DC and clearly brought that sensibility with him to Atlas. Sadly, what he didn’t bring was any of that strip’s style, or any interest in human beings. Was this a reflection on the mind-set of Mike Fleisher or was it a reflection on the fact that he seemed to be seen by Atlas Comics as their answer to Stan Lee, writing a bewildering number of titles at once and possibly stretching himself far too thin in the process?

Sadly, as Atlas demonstrated, not everyone can be Stan Lee.

And not every brainless hero can be the Hulk.


Andrew Wahl said...

Hey, Steve. I just reviewed this one on my site a couple months ago. I think I liked it even less than you did; it was one of the few Bronze Age books ever to earn a D+ from me! There are some good Atlas books in the mix, so it shouldn't be all painful!


Steve said...

Hi, Andrew. I knew I'd seen a review of The Brute around somewhere in relatively recent times. I have a feeling I've managed to buy all the bad Atlas books but time will tell.

Actually, although it was a totally misconceived comic, I quite enjoyed The Brute, mostly because I found his tendency to murder everyone he meets unintentionally funny.

Kid A said...

I'm not that well acquainted with Atlas, but I have all 4 issues of The Destructor and it's silly fun like many Marvel titles of the time. And at least he had Steve Ditko to make it all go down easier. I'm not so familiar with Mike Sekowsky's art, but he seemed to have been around for quite awhile by the time this book hit.

Wooly Rupert said...

Did Atlas every explicitly say they were doing superHERO comics? You've got two cannibals, and two guys working for the Devil/Demonic cults. At least if they ever did a crossover, there'd be a reason for the two characters to fight.

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