A Tribute to the of

Todd Klein has been doing an exhaustive and interesting series of highlighting Gaspar Saladino’s lettering efforts over the years. He’s currently doing it alphabetically and it’s been fun and educational to see all the great Gaspar accomplished over the many years of his career.

Among other titles, Gaspar worked on the Atom and since we’ve not given the Mighty Mite much love lately, it seems like an opportune time to highlight one of his adventures. I’ve chosen one that Todd featured on his blog at kleinletters.com, issue #14 with an August/September 1964 publication date (on-sale date of June 4, 1964) with editing by Julie Schwartz, cover art by Gil Kane and Murphy Anderson and lettering by Gaspar. Interior credits include a Gardner Fox script, Gil Kane pencils with Sid Green inks and once again, Saladino lettering. Let’s take a peek at the “Revolt of the Atom’s Uniform!” By the way, part of the appeal to me on the cover art is that good ol’ empty uniform bit that Carmine Infantino often showed us on covers of the Flash. After all, other than the obvious coloring, the Atom and the Flash basically share the same uniform sans the ear pieces or “wings” on the Flash’s cowl that don’t appear on the Atom’s.

The splash page reminds us that the uniform of the Atom is created from “…the fibers of a white dwarf star!” Now, somehow, the uniform has become animated and is attacking the 6-inch Ray Palmer and that unless Ray can defeat it, he is destined to stay at that stature permanently.

We then join the exhausted nuclear physicist, coming home after a long day of work when he realizes he’s shrinking. Palmer is baffled as he soon appears in the familiar blue and red uniform of the Atom, invisible when it’s not at its diminutive size, as he’s not touched the size and weight controls of the uniform.

Then, inexplicably, the suit starts taking its wearer for a ride, swinging, unbidden, like in a roundhouse punch. It continues, taking Ray for a run to the door and going through the mail slot and then jumping up to catch a wind current and reducing his weight, allowing him to fly above Ivy Town and then to the geology wing of the Ivy University Museum. Palmer has ceased fighting the suit, hoping to learn what’s going on.

Once inside, our 6-inch hero sees some crooks breaking in to steal some of the minerals on display, though it is apparent from their dialogue that they’re on assignment and question the value of the objects. Meanwhile, the Atom has sprung into action, using a nearby ceiling display of the solar system to launch himself and his 180-pound punch to drop one of the crooks, then shrinking down to the size of a dot for his next maneuver. He continues to systematically level the gang with his ability to float through the air and then adjust his controls to hammer them with full-sized punches and clever use of nearby objects until all are unconscious. He then calls the authorities to have them hauled away.

Afterward, the uniform begins to take over once again and our hero finds himself picking up another mineral sample and flying away with it, closing Part I.

Part II shows a splash page with him airborne with the stone, which he’s deduced is a fragment of white dwarf star. Soon he’s coming in for a landing in the country in the precise location where he’d carried the white dwarf matter that he made into the uniform. A handy dandy Julie Schwartz editorial note refers the readers to Showcase #34 and the “Birth of the Atom!”

Having placed the fragment, the uniform takes him on another journey, this time to the home of Battling Bob Barnett, former middleweight boxing champ. Once inside, he’s led to another piece of white dwarf star matter that’s serving as a paper-weight. Geez, this stuff is everywhere in Ivy Town. Soon Barnett himself shows up, having heard a noise. The Atom explains what’s happening and solicits the pug’s help in regaining control of himself. Well, to a hammer, every problem looks like a nail, so Battling Bob proposes striking the Atom and then removing the offending garment. The suit, however, isn’t cooperating and puts the Tiny Titan through some evasive maneuvering.

It's something of a strange scene as Ray Palmer encourages the fighter to knock him out while the uniform fights him, finally succeeding in putting the former champ down for the count. The Atom is then compelled to take the paper-weight to the same spot as the other white dwarf star fragment. Then, it’s a scavenger hunt for other pieces, which Ray divines must all be from the same chunk that must have shattered when it hit terra firma.

After the task is complete, the uniform itself does a removal dance from Palmer’s body, leaving him in his business suit and wondering what’s next as he’s still at his 6 inch stature, but with no size and weight controls at his disposal. He tries to regain control of the suit, but it won’t be budged and then, a jarring tremor.

In the next fantastic moment, Ray sees a large piece of the mineral rising from beneath the ground and acting as if it’s alive. It then addresses him! “Yes, Ray Palmer—you are right! I am the white dwarf’s core—its master, so to speak. Once I was a star—like your solar system sun! I was aware that I existed but I possessed no “intelligence” …

The monologue continues until the piece fell to Earth, being buried deeply in the ground, while one small piece was retrieved by scientist Ray Palmer. The larger subterranean piece evolved into an intelligence from the earth’s air and soil and other chemicals and reactions. It then decided to gather its pieces to gain its full powers, leading to the manipulation of the Atom’s uniform to aid in the quest. Now the mineral begins to pulse and glow and Ray Palmer takes to his heels, closing Part II.

Part III features another splash page recreating the last panel, with Ray Palmer running away from the glowing mineral, his Atom uniform draped over one of the nearby fragments. He heads for Ivy University, trying to conceal himself and maintain his secret identity while grappling with this problem.

Dodging a bird, a cat and the students and faculty along the way and taking advantage of the fact that he still has his full-sized, 180-pound strength, our hero eventually makes it to his laboratory and gathers some needed materials. He soon returns with his sackful of items and is setting up a magnifying glass when the sentient white dwarf star fragment tells him that he will fail as it is going to use his own uniform against him.

Struggling mightily against a seemingly unbeatable foe that cannot tire or be injured, Ray manages to tie it to a nearby tree root and then brings his objects into play, which include a flashlight fitted with an infra-red filter. He beams it through the magnifying glass as his thoughts reveal the plan: “I first activated the fibers of the white dwarf star by hitting them with ultra-violet rays through a reducing lens! Now…I’ll de-activate the uniform with the opposite treatment! Infra-Red rays –shining through a magnifying glass!

It takes some time, but the uniform ultimately sags into the inert garment it was designed to be and then it’s time for Palmer to take on the sinister stone. Not fooling around, and apparently having quite the storehouse of supplies in his lab, Ray produces a stick of dynamite with an extra long fuse and lights it after placing it under the protesting rock.

Diving for cover with his uniform in his grasp, the triumphant scientist watches his handiwork as the fragment is demolished into a pile of tiny pebbles that can no longer be of any threat. He then reactivates the uniform, returns to his normal stature and gets back to his door, where it all started, even more exhausted than before, but triumphant over an unexpected enemy in his own superhero suit.

As usual, the vivid and active imagination of writer Gardner Fox is a satisfying read. I enjoyed this unusual story and Gil Kane’s artwork is a typical treat. Furthermore, thanks to the insights of Todd Klein, I can appreciate the work of Gaspar Saladino even more. I give this story an 8 on the 10-point scale and pronounce it a satisfying Silver Age read for your consideration.

Do come back the first of February for our latest journey into DC’s Silver Age. The webmaster and I are proud to be your guides into this wonderful era of comic book creation and solicit your comments, questions and feedback. All you have to do is crank out an email and send it to: professor_the@hotmail.com.

See you in February and…

Long live the Silver Age!

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