A Tribute to the of

It's crossover time again and no, I'm not talking about crossing over to the "other side", but the phenomena of a guest-starring hero in another hero's magazine.  In this particular instance, we have none other than Hawkman joining The Atom in his own magazine (issue #7 from June/July of 1963) where the duo tackles "The Case of the Cosmic Camera!"  The story is provided by Gardner Fox with art, cover and interior, courtesy of Gil Kane and Murphy Anderson, Julius Schwartz is the editor. With that much talent in the bullpen, we should be in for a treat.

The splash page is nearly a duplicate of the cover, but with a sort of split screen effect.  Hawkman is shown wielding his mace near the flying saucer while the Atom is decking an alien about his size who vaguely resembles The Great Gazoo from the Flintstones.  Okay, I did say vaguely.  Let's turn the page and see what's in store.           

We're reminded almost immediately of the era by the opening scene in the "Watcher Room" of the Ivy Town Station of the American District Telegram Company.  An editorial note informs us that this organization acts as a nationwide auxiliary to the police, FBI, etc.  Anyway, it's a series of tape readouts sort of like you used to see in the New York Stock Exchange, but rather than feeding constant stock quotes, these carry alerts to robberies being committed.  One of the machines indicates a robbery taking place and word is quickly sent to the local police precinct.  The thieves, meanwhile (resplendent in fedoras and neckties) are headed for the roof of the 10-story building and are about to make their "trick getaway."  As the police arrive and make their way to the roof, thinking they have their quarry cornered, they are shocked to discover that the perps have disappeared.  There was no helicopter and the nearest building was 60 feet away.  The baffled police chief turns to his friend, scientist Ray Palmer (otherwise known to you and I as The Atom) to see if he has any ideas.  As a matter of fact, Palmer does have an idea.  He mentions that he and his girlfriend, Jean Loring, are planning a bird-watching expedition as its migration season.  Ray had created a net-trap to assist them in capturing and banding the birds to track their migratory patterns and the net is rigged with helium balloons.  The scientist suggests that the thieves could have followed the lead of an old European fad called "balloon jumping," where men would fill balloons with gas and then leap over houses.  All they needed were the balloons and a small gas cylinder.           

A quick switch of scenery finds Palmer, sans lab coat, with Ms. Loring at the edge of a large meadow outside Ivy Town.  Ray has set up a Doppler radar unit to test the speed of the birds while Jean looks on with binoculars.  She begins to comment that there's something strange about the birds when the ground heaves, sending them and the equipment tumbling.  Palmer comments that it feels like an earthquake and speculates that it's a number 12 on the Mercali scale.  Our friendly editor explains that, "According to the modified Mercali intensity scale, (so named in 1931 by American seismologists Harry Wood and Frank Neumann after Italian priest and geologist, Giuseppe Mercalli [1850-1914]) earthquakes range from 1— shaking not felt except by a few, to 12—total destruction!"  Just as abruptly as it began, the quake ends, which is also curious due to its force.  Another development further intrigues the couple when they spot a Black Turnstone Plover, which ordinarily travels north along the Pacific coast, not the Atlantic Flyway, where Ray and Jean are observing.  Palmer elaborates further:  "The migration of birds southward to feed during the winter and north to breed in spring and summer is still one of the unsolved mysteries of nature!  According to one theory, some birds use the sun as a "pointer," altering direction when the sun changes course!  Another theory holds that night traveling birds navigate by the starts, incredible as it seems.  If fog or rain obscures the stars, the birds become confused.  There are four well defined flyways the birds use—these four flyways are as follows; (1) The Pacific Flyway; (2) The Central Flyway; (3) The Mississippi Flyway; (4) The Atlantic Flyway." (A handy map of the United States is provided and each flyway is marked.  The Pacific Flyway, as you may imagine, originates down near the Baja Peninsula in the Pacific Ocean; The Central Flyway runs up through Southeast Texas; the Mississippi Flyway, naturally comes up through Mississippi and The Atlantic Flyway comes up through the Florida Peninsula.)  The next out of place species spotted is an Arctic Tern, which continues to raise questions in the minds of Ray Palmer and Jean Loring.

We now move many miles from the Atlantic Flyway to Hawk Valley beyond Midway City where the Winged Wonder, Hawkman, is having a discussion with a bird identified as a Redpoll.  He asks why the bird is so far off course and it responds that it doesn't know.  It tells Hawkman that the instincts that instruct them to fly north also caused them to abandon their normal routes.  Hawkman speculates that the only logical explanation is some form of radiation.  He soon takes flight, wondering just how to approach the problem since, unfortunately, his Thanagarian space craft, along with his wife, Shayera, have gone to Thanagar to report, leaving him without the ship's formidable instruments.  He settles for his small but well-equipped laboratory at his living quarters and pulls out some special contact lenses that he can use to detect radiation.  Our editor tells us he first used these in Brave and the Bold #44, "Earth's Impossible Day!"

Hawkman soon discovers the radiation bands, emanating from the eastern part of the country.  Oddly enough, they are of a particularly rare type and could only come from a Cosmitron in the star museum of his home world of Thanagar.  It is the only such known device in existence.  We're given a short history of the device, which was discovered by Thanagar archaeologists on an ancient planet.  It looks for all the world like an old Brownie camera.  Other than the mild radiation it gives off, they cannot figure out what the purpose of the device could be.  Hawkman is soon on the intergalactic communication device to his wife and partner, Shayera.  He asks her to check and see if the Cosmitron has been stolen and then flies off to do some further investigation.

Meanwhile, back in Ivy Town, the Atom has offered his services to the police department as they continue to battle the strange robberies.  A call soon comes in and the Mighty Mite accompanies them to the crime scene where, just as he'd predicted in his alter-ego identity, the crooks are ascending via balloon power.  A bright light is trained on the crooks, but they fire a few rounds to smash it so they can melt into the darkness.  The Atom then produces a spear gun he has borrowed from the scuba shop and asks the police chief to fire him toward the criminals. 

Chapter 2 begins with the World's Smallest Super-Hero riding the spear in a trajectory that takes him over the balloons.  The scene is a beach front and the Atom is able to spot their reflection in the water despite the darkness.  Soon he's on top of a balloon, drawing a pin from his belt like a sword.  He begins to systematically burst the balloons with it.  He sends two of the hoods toward the water while the third abandons his ride to land in a waiting boat.  The Tiny Titan has a new problem now, though.  The wind has picked up and it's taking him out to sea.  Before he can ponder matters, however, a hand grabs hold of him and to his surprise and delight, it is Hawkman.  He recognizes his fellow hero from the newspaper and quickly explains what has happened.  He suggests that they can't follow the escaping felon, but Hawkman says that thanks to his special contact lenses, he can follow the wake of the boat because the temperature of the water in the wake is greater than that of the water around it.  Time for yet another handy editorial explanation:  "By utilizing this same principle, the United States Navy has developed a new submarine tracking device carried by airplanes!"  It isn't long before the duo successfully tracks the boat and then dive in for the attack.  The Atom disengages from Hawkman and cracks into the jaw of the thief while Hawkman follows suit with the captain of the vessel.  Hawkman tells his fellow crime fighter that they make a good team, but he has another mission to complete, so he departs.  Soon the Winged Wonder is successful in his quest.  He's found the Cosmitron, but it seems to be giving off stronger radiation than when it was on Thanagar, as if it's received a recent charge.  Before he can scoop it out of the field, though, he hears a strange hum and sees a miniature space ship with equally miniature men, just about the size of the Atom, emerging from it.  They warn him to stay away and then begin to swarm over the Thanagarian, using gravity controls on their harnesses to drag him downward, eventually collapsing his wings so that he endures a crash landing.  Hawkman fades into unconsciousness for about an hour.  When he comes to, both the Cosmitron and the aliens are gone.  Hawkman decides to re-join the Atom in Ivy Town and reports on what has transpired.

Shift now to the diminutive spacecraft where the yellow-skinned beings are conferring.  They discuss the fact that the Cosmic Camera had been placed where it was to absorb the energy of the earthquake they'd discovered on their seismidictor.  The apparatus also takes a sort of three dimensional "picture" of the Earth, which they are busily using to create a miniature globe of the planet in their ship.  It is a cosmic energy twin of the Earth and much like a Voodoo doll, anything that happens to this model will also happen to the Earth.  Soon the next phase of their plan takes place.  They locate the United Nations building and send a telepathic demand to the assembly:  "Attention Earth beings!  We are the original rulers of the Earth and we have returned to take over your planet!  You must vote immediately to surrender to us—or perish!  If you surrender—send up a green flare!  If you refuse, send a red one!  We warn you, should you refuse to yield—terrible disasters shall strike the planet!"  Uncharacteristically, the U.N. members manage a swift and united decision and send a red flare aloft.  With that, the alien commander takes a knife and begins to make a careful slice across the United States, closing out Chapter 2.

Chapter 3 begins with Hawkman and the Atom surveying the phenomena from the air.  A chasm 10 yards wide now exists.  While they ponder this new development, we are whisked back in time a million years to the distant past of the Earth to see how and what these strange beings are all about.

It seems the civilization of the people of Thale dwelled upon the Earth and the leading scientist had developed the Cosmitron, which absorbs the energy of earthquakes when placed on the ground and then becomes charged with the power to destroy anything the camera photographs.  Using this sinister device, the Thalen's traveled through space and conquered worlds with it.  Soon they ruled a galactic empire, but natural disasters on Earth destroyed their home cities and without the earthquakes to restore the Cosmitron's power, it became weaker until a revolt was staged and the planetary refuge of the Thalen's was destroyed.  The Thalen's were then imprisoned for hundreds of thousands of years until some of their descendents escaped and tracked the missing Cosmitron to Thanagar.  They then moved it to the Earth to have its power restored by an earthquake so they could take up where their ancestors left off.

Back on Earth, Hawkman has devised a plan.  He just so happens to have a working model of his Thanagarian spacecraft that the Atom can shrink himself into and pilot up to the spaceship from Thale.  The Mighty Mite does so and carefully lands the craft on the surface of the ship.  He then shrinks himself further until he can literally slip between the atoms of the craft to slip inside.  He stays dust mite size to search for the Cosmitron.  (One would think it would be worth the risk to be a little bigger and cover ground more quickly, but hey…)  He is successful and drops the Cosmic Camera through an ejection tube of the ship where it lands in the hands of Hawkman.  This is fortunate, because our writer tells us that unbeknownst to the hero from Thanagar, the miniature globe of the Earth is inside the camera.  If he'd failed to catch it, it would have shattered, thus causing the Earth to be destroyed.

The Atom has now successfully piloted the model ship back to the Earth and set the controls for an automatic landing while he joins his ally to fight off the Thalen's, who have discovered their loss and have come back to the Earth.  The Atom guards the Cosmitron while Hawkman uses one of his favorite weapons, an ancient mace, to attack the spacecraft.  As the Thalen's deploy from their ship, the Atom uses his weight control to slam into them with the force of his full size.  Next he shrinks out of sight, confusing his enemies before shooting back up to his 6-inch fighting height.  Hawkman is busily bashing the spacecraft with the mace and soon the double-teaming pays off as all the Thalen's are captured.  The defeated creatures then explain the nature of the Cosmitron to Hawkman and Atom.  The Atom uses a needle and thread and his shrinking ability to restore the gaping "wound" in the model Earth so that the corresponding chasm will be repaired simultaneously on the real Earth.  He then uses a Thalen ray gun to destroy the mechanism in the Cosmitron, rendering it useless.  The Thalen's are then turned over to the U.N.

The final panels of the story show Ray and Jean again on a bird-watching expedition when they run into Carter Hall and his wife.  The two couples become acquainted and enjoy the day together, neither suspecting that the other is the civilian identity of the allies Hawkman and the Atom.

According to my Overstreet Guide, this issue is significant for a couple of reasons.  It is the first team-up of Hawkman and the Atom and it is also the first appearance of Hawkman outside his Brave and the Bold showings.  Obviously this was a winning team-up and down the road both would become members in good standing of an even bigger team in the Justice League of America. (See JLA issues #14 & #31.)

This issue had a couple of things going for it in addition to the above.  There was an imaginative science fiction angle with the people of Thale who seemed at first to be aliens but really were original earth creatures and the tremendous capabilities of the Cosmitron.  You can almost always count on the stories from Gardner Fox to educate you along the way as well.  His knowledge is evidenced in the numerous editors' notes to include the Mercali earthquake scale, the migration flyways and the Navy tracking device.  Throw in the realistic artwork of Gil Kane and Murphy Anderson, perennial favorites of mine, and you've got a pretty impressive package that I'll rate a 9 on my 10-point scale.

Thanks for joining us for another trip into the Silver Age of DC comics.  You are invited to return in about two weeks for another peek back at this pinnacle of creative output.  Also, feel free to express yourself to us via e-mail at professor_the@hotmail.com.  Your feedback and questions are always welcome.

Long live the Silver Age!

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