A Tribute to the of

It's been a long time since I looked at an adventure of the Atom.  I suppose he's sort of easy to *ahem* overlook, but The World's Smallest Super-Hero has always been an enjoyable read and I think Gil Kane's artwork on the title was solid.  I would guess that sales must have been the ultimate determinant, as was typical, but our Mighty Mite had a relatively short run in his own series following his Showcase debut.  Only 38 issues bear the name between 1962 and 1968, making the Atom a brief but enjoyable member of the Silver Age.

I picked up an affordable copy of issue #15 (October/November 1964) at a comic show a while back and thought I'd share it with you here. Cover art was done courtesy of Gil Kane with Murphy Anderson inks while interiors were by Gil along with Sid Greene.  Julius Schwartz was the editor and the great Gardner Fox wrote both stories beginning with "Illusions for Sale!"

The tale begins with Ray (The Atom) Palmer and his girlfriend Jean Loring visiting a friend in Pleasant Valley.  Professor Ed Thayer wrote a note to his old classmate and they went to check things out.  As it happens, Ray is suffering from the same illusions Thayer described, seeing the condition of his house, for example, as being a shambles when in reality it was spic and span.  Apparently Ed was suffering the same condition and asked for a visit from his fellow scientist.  

When they rap at the door, they're greeted by an assistant who offers them refreshments.  Ray then notes that his glass is cracked.  At that mention the "assistant" draws a weapon on the couple, stating that his test of the illusion-maker was now confirmed and he confines Ray and Jean in a basement storage locker, but in separate sections.  Ray takes adavantage of his seclusion and activates his secret control to become the Atom.

Shrinking himself down, he easily slips under the door and follows the sound of voices until he hears his captor conversing with a co-conspirator.  Soon the story spills out as it is revealed that Doctor Thayer is locked up at a mountain cabin, freeing up his lab for use by the other hood to create the Illusiometer.  The goal was to sell the device to a foreign power, but they soon discovered it would only function properly in Pleasant Valley.  

It was then discovered that the Illusiometer was triggered by a lithium lamp in Thayer's lab.  The resulting condition is similar to hypnosis and can literally be beamed at individual targets.  

Loading up the device and the lithium lamp, the pair are set to cut their deal when the Atom springs into action, using a lamp beam to assist his trajectory.  One of Julie's handy editorial notes explains that, "Light possesses a gentle propulsive force."  Using his full body weight, Palmer pile-drives into the thug's shoulder, narrowly missing the malefactor's jaw.  Then it's an elaborate dance using his weight controls to allow him to float above the heating vent, thus avoiding the pistol shots aimed his way.  Another deft weight manipulation and our minuscule hero grabs the crook's tie and slams his chin into a desktop.

Before he can examine the device, however, the Atom is kayoed by a thrown pistol.  As luck would have it, he was in the midst of adjusting his size control and continues to shrink until he's too small for the human eye to detect, closing Part I.

Part II opens with the Tiny Titan free-falling in the subatomic world when he revives and reverses the process.  Hearing a vehicle starting up, he gives chase and manages to grab onto the undercarriage.  

Working his way through the engine compartment, the Atom disconnects some spark plug wires (try finding your plugs on one of today's motors) and when the duo inevitably stops to investigate, leaps onto the open hood, dazing them before doing some more acrobatics to knock them out for the count.

The wrap up page has Ray Palmer releasing Jean Loring and the discovery from the authorities that an entire gang of international free-lance spies has been attempting to steal technology and sell it abroad.  Sounds eerily familiar…

The second 12-page story, matching up with the cover is by the same creative team and titled, "The Super-Safecracker Who Defied the Law!"  

Who but the Atom could hide out in a wall safe filled with valuable jewels, lying in wait for the Hyper-Thief?  As it happens another safecracker is at work this time and Palmer swiftly increases his inch-high stature to his six-inch standard and lands a 180-pound punch on the felon.  He revives for a moment, but before he can take flight, our hero again grabs a necktie (thank goodness for these well-dressed crooks, eh?) and uses it to swing upward to strike a vulnerable chin.

When the police arrive, the Atom announces he's captured the thief, but not the one he anticipated and while he was dealing with the wrong criminal, the Hyper Thief struck, as promised in a letter he'd sent, cleaning out the safe but utterly invisible to the Atom. Julie Schwartz comes through again with another editorial explanatory note: "Hyper-Space is a dimension that curves in such a manner as to eliminate the distance-factor between any two points in normal space." Apparently our Hyper-Thief uses this technique to commit crime.

In fact, he'd already demonstrated his ability to travel through dimensional portals, successfully robbing the bank (after another warning letter) right under the noses of the authorities and Ray Palmer.  Ray's foreign student/assistant listens in fascination to what has been happening and suggests that if the Hyper-Thief tweaks his capabilities, no point in the universe will be out of his reach.  More lab research reveals a possible way to nab the dimensional traveler and the next day the Atom appears to the police, offering that he has the capability to bag the Hyper-Thief, refusing even to hear of where he has promised to strike.  

Returning to his lab, the Atom tells the assistant what his plans are and using a specially built oscilloscope to track the high-frequency beam the Hyper-Thief deploys, he now knows where to go and follows (at ultra-minuscule size) a high-frequency beam generated in his lab to follows the source until he arrives at the laboratory of the Hyper-Thief.  

The villain immediately tries to squash the Atom with a hammer, but thanks to his trusty weight controls he's able to float out of harm's way and land with full force on the thief, knocking him unconscious.  Unfortunately, our hero has accidentally fallen into the path of a magnetic field and is immobilized due to the metallic parts on his control device.  When the thief revives, he advances on the Atom with his weapon, but abruptly the World's Smallest Super-Hero escapes the magnetic field and clips the chin of his assailant.  How, you may ask?  Apparently the baddie's leg was tangled in the power cord and he simply inadvertently unplugged the device.  

Then a twist as the Atom calls the police and explains that the Hyper-Thief is really a fraud, having gimmicked the safes ahead of time with false bottoms, concealing the loot when activated by a high frequency beam.  

Once again in the wrap-up page, Ray Palmer poses a question to his attorney girlfriend about larceny.  Specifically, can the Hyper-Thief be charged with the crime when he never actually took possession of the "stolen" items as he'd not had the chance? Jean's reply (undoubtedly courtesy of trained attorney Gardner Fox):  "Why yes—he doesn't actually have to handle the loot or have it in his hands to be guilty!  There was a "taking" when he removed the loot from where the owner put it!  As soon as the loot fell into the secret compartment which the owner didn't know about—it was legally in the Hyper-Thief's possession." Believe it or not, we're even given a case reference:  Harrison vs. People, 50 N.Y. 518.

I love the fact that it was possible, even easy, to put two complete stories into a book back in the day.  It was sort of noteworthy, too, that the Atom was dealing with common criminals rather than meta-humans or super villains, which is kind of refreshing from time to time.  Batman isn't the only detective on the block, at least back in the days of the Silver Age.  The rating is 6. Good stuff, but nothing monumental here, other than solid writing and art by some of my long-time era favorites.    

The Silver Lantern is the place for the greatest era in DC comics' history and the webmaster and I are doing our level best to bring it to you, through reviews, research and the splendid resources available here at the site. Wander around and see if you don't find something of interest and of course feel free to drop a line any time at: professor_the@hotmail.com.   

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