Sword of the Atom


By Jan Strnad & Gil Kane, with Pat Broderick & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1553-8 (TPB)

Wonderfully reminiscent of his superlative Blackmark paperback venture (collected in Blackmark: the 30th Anniversary Edition), supreme artistic stylist Gil Kane was a man inspired in this retooling of Silver-Age B-List hero The Atom. In a radical re-think co-authored by Jan Strnad, here the urbane scientific adventurer is removed from his comfort zone of cosy costumed crime-busting to become the sword-wielding champion of a barbaric lost kingdom.

Starting off with a 4-issue miniseries from 1983 and followed by three giant-sized annual Specials, the swashbuckling saga revitalized a once great character who had fallen on very lean times and set him up for his eventual return to the big leagues (I apologise for the puns – lowest form of wit, I know, but extremely hard to resist!).

Following the break-up of his marriage to ambitious lawyer Jean Loring, size-changing physicist Ray Palmer departs on a research trip to Brazil to ponder on his unsatisfactory life. Unfortunately, he falls foul of drug-runners who down his plane… To the world at large he appears dead, but in reality, the disheartened adventurer has stumbled upon an alien civilisation, populated by golden humanoids no more than six inches tall.

Lost for uncounted decades in the verdant vastness of the Amazon on a planet of giants, these alien outcasts and fugitives have built a city around the ruins of their crashed ship: a vessel powered by White Dwarf matter. Regrettably, since another batch of the incredible star-stuff powers and constitutes the Atom’s size-shifting outfit, the mighty mite finds himself trapped at the same diminutive height and must rely on his physical prowess, raw courage and flashing blade to survive…

In the epic manner of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars, Palmer rescues and woos exotic Princess Laethwen and saves the hidden city of Morlaidh from a usurping dictator in a classic romp of action-packed derring-do. It’s a fabulous dose of ultimate escapism, perfectly executed by Kane and scripter Jan Strnad, with the subsequent sequels continuing the stunning transformation.

Without giving too much away, the first of these sees a disgruntled and displaced Palmer returned to our world, longing for the simplicity of Morlaidh and the love of Laethwen; the second finds Jean doing her own size-shifting (probably when she learned the skills she used in equally-iconoclastic miniseries Identity Crisis, fans!) as the Tiny Titan is forced to choose between his old life and his current one. The saga concludes with Kane replaced by Pat Broderick & Dennis Janke for an overly wordy tale of despots, plague and monstrous afflictions devastating the hidden jungle kingdom which only the Atom can combat.

Despite it’s rather tame finale Sword of the Atom is a superbly dynamic, vital burst of graphic excitement that clearly shows what can be done with seemingly tired and moribund characters when creators are bold enough and given sufficient editorial support. It’s also a hugely enjoyable read that will make your heart race and your pulse pound – just like comics are supposed to.
© 1983, 1984, 1985, 1988, 2007 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Showcase Presents The Atom volume 2


By Gardner Fox, Frank Robbins, Gil Kane, Mike Sekowsky & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1848-5 (TPB)

There’s a glorious wealth of classic comics superhero material available for fans these days, but whether in archival volumes or digital editions, an inexplicable amount of classy material still languishes all unappreciated in limbo. One of the most cutting of omissions is the subject of today’s re-review: a veteran champion with an immaculate pedigree, a TV presence and sublime creative teams, who won’t win any new fans unless and until he gets his own revived archival editions. Until then, however…

Super-Editor Julius Schwartz famously ushered in the Silver Age of American Comics with his Showcase successes Flash, Adam Strange and Green Lantern, directly leading to the Justice League of America which in turn inspired Fantastic Four and the whole Marvel Empire and…

However, his fourth attempt to revitalize a “Golden Age Great” stalled when Hawkman (debuting in Brave and the Bold #34, February-March 1961) failed to find an immediate audience. Undeterred, Schwartz back-pedalled and resolutely persevered with the Winged Wonder, whilst moving forward with his next revival. Showcase #34 (September-October 1961) offered a space age reimagining of the pint-sized strongman of the 1940’s Justice Society of America: transformed into a fascinating super-science champion and seemingly eternal underdog by design.

Ray Palmer was a young physicist working on the compression of matter: a teaching Professor at Ivy Town University. He was wooing career girl Jean Loring, who wanted to make her name as a trial lawyer before settling down as Mrs. Palmer (yep, that’s what the 1960s were like for the fillies; years of striving and achievement followed by glorious, fulfilling days cooking meatloaf, changing nappies and gracefully dodging the more hands-on and persistent male neighbours…)

One evening Ray discovered an ultra-dense fragment of White Dwarf Star Matter, leading his research into a new direction. By converting some of that degenerate matter into a lens he could shrink objects, but frustratingly they always exploded when he attempted to restore them to their original state.

As fiercely competitive as his intended bride, Ray kept his progress secret until he could perfect the process. In the meantime, the couple took a group of youngsters on a science hike to Giant Caverns, where a cave-in trapped the entire party.

As they all lay entombed and dying, Ray secretly activated his reducing lens to shrink himself, using the diamond engagement ring he was carrying to carve a tiny fissure in the rock wall into an escape hole. Fully expecting to fatally detonate any second, he was astounded to discover that some peculiar combination of circumstances allowed to him to return to his normal six foot height with no ill effects. With his charges safe he returned to his lab to find that the process only worked on his own body; every other subject still catastrophically detonated.

Somewhat disheartened he pondered his situation – and his new-found abilities. Naturally, he became a superhero, fighting crime, injustice and monsters, but Ray also selfishly determined to clandestinely help Jean become successful as quickly as possible. To those ends he created a bodysuit from the White Dwarf material which could alter not only his height but also his weight and mass…

This second massive monochrome volume collects The Atom #18-38 (April/May 1965 to August/September 1968), the remainder of Palmer’s solo stories. Issue #39 saw the title merged with another struggling Schwartz title to become The Atom and Hawkman – an early casualty of declining interest in superhero comics at the end of the 1960s).

The Tiny Titan explodes into all-out action with the first of two short tales scripted as always by Gardner Fox, pencilled by Gil Kane and inked by Sid Greene in Atom #18. ‘The Hole-in-the-Wall Lawman!’ finds the hero tracking a safe-cracker who has inadvertently stolen a miniaturised thermonuclear bomb, after which ‘The Atomic Flea!’ sees him lose his memory while fighting thugs, wrongly deducing that he must be part of the flea circus where he regains consciousness…

Clever whimsy, scientific wonders, eye-popping action, perspective tricks and simply stunning long-shots, mid-shots and close-ups with glorious, balletic, full-body action poses are hallmarks of this dynamic series, but #19 brought a whole new edge and dynamic to the Atom when he becomes the second part of a bold experiment in continuity.

‘World of the Magic Atom!’ is a full-length epic featuring a fantasy adventure battling beside a sexy sorceress in a world where science held no sway. Her name is Zatanna

The top-hatted, fish-netted, comely young conjuror appeared in a number of Schwartz-edited titles, hunting her long-missing father Zatarra: a magician-hero in the Mandrake mould who had fought evil in the pages of Action Comics for over a decade beginning with the very first issue.

In true Silver Age “refit” style, Fox conjured up an equally gifted daughter and popularised her by guest-teaming the neophyte with a selection of superheroes he was currently scripting. (If you’re counting, her quest began in Hawkman #4 and after this chapter moved on to Green Lantern #42; the Elongated Man back-up strip in Detective Comics #355 before concluding after the GL segment in Justice League of America #51. Through a very slick piece of back-writing, he even included a connection to the high-profile Caped Crusader via Detective #336 and ‘Batman’s Bewitched Nightmare’.)

Atom #20’s ‘Challenge of the Computer Crooks!’ finds the Mighty Mite again battling ingenious robbers attempting to use one of those new-fangled electronic brains to improve their heists, before impersonating a leprechaun to sway a reluctant witness to testify in court in ‘Night of the Little People!’.

A recurrent theme in the Tiny Titan’s career was Cold War Espionage. The American/Soviet arms-and-ideas race figured heavily in the life of physicist Palmer and in the collegiate circle of Ivy Town where even Jean’s father was a scientist carefully watched by both CIA and KGB.

Issue #21’s ‘Combat Under Glass!’ pits the Man of Many Sizes against commie spies and an enraged housecat, whilst ‘The Adventure of the Canceled Birthday’ offers another enchanting “Time-Pool” tale wherein the Atom travels to England in 1752. Here he meets Henry Fielding, helps to establish the Bow Street Runners, and solves the mystery of 11 days that dropped off the British calendar (for the answer to this mysterious true event look up the Julian Calendar on line – although buying this book would be far more entertaining and just as rewarding…)

Ray Palmer’s mentor and colleague Professor Alpheus Hyatt created a six-inch wide energy field that opened portals to other eras. Hyatt thought it an intriguing but useless scientific oddity, occasionally extracting perplexing items from it by blindly dropping a fishing line through. Little did he know his erstwhile student was secretly using it to experience rousing adventures in other times and locations. This charming, thrilling and unbelievably educational maguffin generated many of the Atom’s best and most well-loved exploits…

‘Bat Knights of Darkness!’ introduces the Elvarans, a subterranean race of 6-inch tall feudal warriors who had inhabited Giant Caverns since prehistoric times. When these savage, bat-riding berserkers fall under the mental sway of cheap thug Eddie Gordon, all of Ivy Town is endangered. This visual tour de force is a captivating early example of Gil Kane’s later swashbuckling fantasy epics and a real treat for anybody who loved Blackmark, Star Hawks or even the 1983 classic Sword of the Atom.

Issue #23 opens with a smart science-fiction teaser as the Mighty Mite plays a peculiar joke on the police in ‘The Riddle of the Far-Out Robbery!’ but it’s back to blockbusting basics when he stops the ‘Thief with the Tricky Toy!’ and even more so in #24 when he saves the entire planet from plant Master Jason Woodrue in feature-length thriller ‘The Atom-Destruction of Earth!’

The Camp/Superhero craze triggered by the Batman TV show infected many comicbooks at this time, and a lighter, punnier tone was creeping into a lot of otherwise sound series. ‘The Man in the Ion Mask!’ is far more entertaining than the woeful title might suggest: a solid heist-caper featuring another crook with a fancy gadget, and even espionage caper ‘The Spy Who Went Out for the Gold!’ is a smart, pacy rollercoaster ride of thrills and spills, but there’s really not much I can say to defend the ludicrous yarn introducing costumed nut the Bug-Eyed Bandit.

Feeble felon Bertram Larvan builds a robotic mini-beast to rob for him and despite some wonderful artwork from Kane and Greene ‘The Eye-Popping Perils of the Insect Bandit!’ in #26 remains an uncharacteristic blot on Gardner Fox’s generally pristine copy-book.

The art quality grew in leaps and bounds during this period, as seen in romantic tryst-come-slugfest ‘Beauty and the Beast-Gang!’, accompanied at the back by spectacular historical high-jinks as Atom uses the Time Pool to visit the Montgolfier Brothers in 1783 Paris, saving Benjamin Franklin’s life and becoming a ‘Stowaway on a Hot-Air Balloon!’

It’s non-stop costumed criminal action when super-thief Chronos returns in #28’s ‘Time-Standstill Thefts!’, with a side-order of scientific mystery as ordinary citizens began to change size in ‘The 100,000 “Atoms” of Ivy Town!’, before the sheer drama intensifies as the Mighty Mite teams up with the Earth-2 Atom for a cataclysmic clash against one of the worst villains of DC’s Golden Age in ‘The Thinker’s Earth-Shaking Robberies!’

Nasty thug Eddie Gordon returned in #30, which wouldn’t really have been a problem except he once more gains control of the diminutive flying berserkers in ‘Daze of the Bat-Knights!’ whilst old comrade Hawkman guest-stars #31’s ‘Good Man, Bad Man, Turnabout Thief!’

Here the heroes battle a phantom menace hidden within the brain of an innocent man, whilst issue #32 sees a most astounding episode in the Tiny Titan’s career as he becomes a giant invader of a sub-molecular universe in enthralling fantasy thriller ‘The Up and Down Dooms of the Atom!’

Bert Larvan inexplicably won a second appearance in ‘Amazing Arsenal of the Atom-Assassin!’ and it must be said, comes off as a far worthier opponent the second time around, whilst outlandish comedy-thriller ‘Little Man… You’ve Had a Big-Gang Day!’ produces the daftest assemblage of themed villains in DC history – each has a gimmick based on the word “big”. Led by Big Head, Big Bertha is strong, Big Wig uses weaponized toupees – and wait till you see what Big Cheese can do…

Despite all that, this lunacy is actually hugely enjoyable Big Fun!

Issue #35 leads with sterling crime-caper ‘Plight of the Pin-Up Atom’ and closes with the gripping ‘Col. Blood Steals the Crown Jewels!’, following the Mighty Mite into another Time Pool adventure in 1671 London.

Earth-2’s Atom returns for one of the very best team-up tales of the Silver Age in ‘Duel Between the Dual Atoms’ after a stellar radiation menace plays hob with victim’s ages on both worlds simultaneously, before the creative team signs off in mind-blowing style in #37, by adding a new ally to the Atom’s crime-fighting arsenal in ‘Meet Major Mynah!’

A trip to war-torn Cambodia results in the diminutive hero adopting a wounded Mynah bird who – with a few repairs and scientific upgrades from Hawkman – transforms the faithful talking bird into both alternative transport and strafing back-up for the Man of Many Sizes.

This volume concludes with a classy and extremely scary transitional tale from writer Frank Robbins and artists Mike Sekowsky & George Roussos. ‘Sinister Stopover… Earth!’ is an eerie alien invasion mystery perfectly in keeping with the grimmer sensibility gradually taking over the bright shiny world of comics at the time and still one of the spookiest tales of the Atom’s captivating run.

With the next issue, changing tastes and times forced The Atom and Hawkman titles to merge (for those tales you should see Showcase Presents: Hawkman volume 2), but even then the move only bought an extra year or so.

Superheroes were once more in decline and different genres were on the rise. The Atom was never a major name or colossal success, but a reading these witty, compelling tales by Fox, where Kane first mastered the fluid human dynamism that made him a legend, you’d be hard-pressed to understand why. This is sheer superhero perfection. Why not try a little Atomic Action… just a tiny bit?
© 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 2008 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Showcase Presents the Atom volume 1


By Gardner Fox & Gil Kane with Murphy Anderson, Sid Greene, Mike Sekowsky & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1363-3 (TPB)

There’s a glorious wealth of classic comics superhero material available for fans these days, but whether in archival volumes or digital editions, an inexplicable amount of classy material remains in limbo. Prime case in point is the subject of today’s re-review: a veteran champion with an immaculate pedigree, a TV presence and sublime creative teams, who yet languishes in the realm of the currently unavailable…

Julius Schwartz had already ushered in the Silver Age of American Comics with his Showcase successes Flash, Adam Strange and Green Lantern, but his fourth attempt to revive and revitalize a “Golden Age Great” had stalled when Hawkman (who debuted in Brave and the Bold #34, February/March 1961) could not find an immediate audience. Undeterred, Schwartz persevered with the Winged Wonder, whilst moving forward. For Showcase #34 (September/October 1961) he revived and retooled a pint-sized strongman of the 1940’s Justice Society of America, resulting in a fascinating science-fiction champion and eternal underdog.

Professor Ray Palmer is a young physicist working on the compression of matter whose day job is teaching at Ivy Town University. He is wooing career girl Jean Loring, who wants to make her name as a trial lawyer before settling down as Mrs. Palmer (c’mon, it was the 1960s). One evening, Ray finds an ultra-dense fragment of White Dwarf Star Matter, which propels his researches in a new direction. By converting some of the degenerate matter into a lens he is able to shrink objects, but frustratingly, they always explode when he attempts to restore them to their original state.

As fiercely competitive as his intended bride, Ray keeps his progress secret until he can perfect the process. One day, the couple take a group of youngsters on a science hike to Giant Caverns, where a cave-in traps the entire party. As they all lie trapped and dying Ray secretly activates his reducing lens to shrink himself, and employs the diamond engagement ring he carries to carve a tiny fissure in the rock face into an escape hole. Expecting to explode at any second, he is astounded to discover that some peculiar combination of circumstances permit to him to safely return to his normal 6-foot height with no ill effects.

With his junior charges safe, Ray returns to his lab to find the process only works on his own body: all other subjects still catastrophically detonate. Somewhat disheartened, he ponders his situation and his new-found abilities…

And thus ended ‘The Birth of the Atom!’:a taut and intriguing short tale written by Gardner Fox and dynamically illustrated by Gil Kane & Murphy Anderson, which was supplemented in that Showcase issue by the spectacular ‘Battle of the Tiny Titans!’, wherein a 6-inch tall, teleporting alien becomes the unwilling slave of petty thief Carl Ballard and goes on a crime-spree in Ivy Town.

Jean is called in to defend a bank-teller accused of embezzlement – after all, the woman claims her cash-drawer was emptied by a little genie – and Ray determines to clandestinely help her using his newest innovation, a suit made from White Dwarf material, which can alter not only his height but also his weight and mass.

The story is thrilling and entrancing, not to mention astonishingly inventive – including such gimmicks as the molecule-sized Atom traveling along telephone wires – but the art – which allowed Kane to combine the usual long-shots, mid-shots and close-ups with glorious, balletic, full-body action poses – made this and all subsequent Atom adventures a symphony of human dynamism.

Ray’s patronising sexism in secretly aiding his dearly beloved was explained away over the years as a simple eagerness to help her achieve her career goals so she could then settle down as his bride…

Some text pages featuring a potted history of the original Al Pratt Atom and the science behind that phone trick filled out Showcase #34… and Schwartz was back on track with another instant hit.

The second try-out issue opted for a complete done-in-one story. ‘The Dooms from Beyond!’ is a spectacular tale of witches, curses and murderous trickery in pursuit of an inheritance, capped with biographies of Fox, Kane and Anderson – a true rarity in a time when most publishers preferred their staff to toil in anonymity.

The final Showcase try-out again featured two adventures; the first of which – ‘Prisoner in a Test Tube!’ – introduced a recurrent theme in the Tiny Titan’s career: Cold War Espionage. The American/Soviet arms-and-ideas race figured heavily in the life of patriotic physicist Ray Palmer and in the collegiate circle of Ivy Town where even Jean’s father was a scientist carefully watched by both CIA and KGB.

In this pensive thriller, a brief moment of East-West détente allows the Reds to replace a visiting Hungarian professor with a deadly doppelganger until the Atom takes a diminutive hand, after which it’s back to basics with super-science and criminal conundrums in the mystery of ‘The “Disappearing Act” Robberies!’

Editor Schwartz knew he had a sure thing. Barely breaking stride to count the sales figures, the bi-monthly Showcase stint segued into a bi-monthly feature title. The Atom #1 debuted with a June/July 1962 cover-date highlighting a spectacular full-length yarn entitled ‘Master of the Plant World!’ This pitted the hero against Jason Woodrue (later famed as the sentient vegetable Floronic Man) as an extra-dimensional botanist who enslaves Earth’s supernatural plant spirits in a scheme to conquer our world.

It’s followed by ‘The Oddest Man on Earth!’: another superb scientific mystery, counter-pointed by the return of Carl Ballard in the action-packed revenge thriller ‘The Prisoners who Vanished!’, and with #3 our hero finally faces a costumed arch-foe as flamboyant thief Chronos begins his obsessive career in ‘The Time Trap!’

That issue was doubly significant, if singly themed. Second tale ‘The Secret of the Atom’s Lamp!’ introduces Ray’s mentor and colleague Professor Alpheus Hyatt and his “Time-Pool”: a 6-inch wide energy field that opened onto other eras. Hyatt believed it to be an intriguing but useless scientific oddity, occasionally extracting oddments from it by blindly dropping a fishing line through it. Little did he know his erstwhile student was secretly using it to experience rousing adventures in other times and locations, such as this initial exploit in which the diminutive daredevil visits Arabia in 850 AD and unravels the true story of Aladdin. This charming, thrilling and unbelievably educational yarn set a format and high benchmark for some of the Atom’s best and most well-loved exploits…

Our hero joined the Justice League of America with issue #14 (September 1962) and The Atom #4 (December 1962/January 1963) featured ‘The Machine that Made Miracles!’: a prototypical crossover story in which the hero helps League mascot Snapper Carr solve a baffling mystery with aliens at the bottom of it, whilst ‘The Case of the Innocent Thief!’ offers a cool procedural crime yarn, as once more a client of Jean Loring’s occasions some clandestine legal aid from the Tiny Titan…

Issue #5 opened with a smart science-fiction thriller as the Mighty Mite journeys to a sub-atomic civilisation in ‘The Diamond of Deadly Dooms!’ (with a delightful art contribution from the great Mike Sekowsky) before ‘The Specter of 3000-Moons Lake!’ tests the hero’s detective skills in an eerie tale of bogeymen and bandits.

‘The Riddle of the Two-Faced Astronaut!’ in #6 was actually a cunning crime-caper, but the real highlight is another Time-Pool tale wherein our hero meets and masters infamous rogue Dick Turpin in ‘The Highwayman and the Mighty Mite!’ The next issue formed part of Editor Schwartz’s charm offensive to promote Hawkman as Winged Wonder encounters Tiny Titan in a full-length spectacular, world-threatening epic ‘The Case of the Cosmic Camera!’

Justice League villain Dr. Light opens a campaign to pick off his foes one by one when he subjects the Atom to a ‘Lock-up in the Lethal Lightbulb!’ in #8 and master craftsman Sid Greene began occasional inking duties with the deft mystery of ‘The Purloined Miniatures’ which completed that issue.

‘The Atom’s Phantom Double!’ is another high-tech fantasy of deadly doppelgangers, complimented by ‘The Seaman and the Spyglass!’ (Greene inks again) wherein the Mighty Mite proves instrumental in Hans Lippershey’s invention of telescopes, incidentally aiding explorer Henry Hudson shape the destiny of the USA, courtesy of the ubiquitous Time-Pool.

‘Ride a Deadly Grenade!’ is another breathtaking all-action Cold-War spy-thriller, whilst ‘The Mysterious Swan-Maiden!’ was just a crafty scam exposed by the scientific adventurer, but Atom #11 truly tested the Tiny Titan’s deductive mettle with both ‘Trouble at the Ten-Year Club’ and the Greene inked fantasy thriller ‘Voyage to Beyond!’

A technological master-criminal briefly made our hero his weapon-of-choice in ‘Danger… Atom-Gun at Work!’ after which charming Time-Pool tale ‘The Gold-Hunters of ’49!’ allows the compact champion to meet his literary hero Edgar Allan Poe in #12, with which issue Greene became regular inker (necessitated by Hawkman finally getting his long-awaited and Murphy Anderson-illustrated solo-feature).

Chronos returned in #13’s ‘Weapon Watches of the Time-Wise Guy!’, with Anderson returning to ink procedural drama ‘I Accuse Ray Palmer… of Robbery!’, but super-science was increasingly the order of the day as our hero then endures ‘The Revolt of the Atom’s Uniform!’ in #14, and battles spies with ‘Illusions for Sale!’ and the crafty Hyper-Thief in ‘The Super-Cracker who Defied the Law!’ in #15.

Atom #16 was another mind-boggling novel where yet another criminal scientist brought about the bizarre ‘Fate of the Flattened-Out Atom!’ before this immensely dynamic treat for eyes and imagination concludes with #17’s ‘Case of the Hooded Hijackers!’ (wherein Gil Kane displayed his love of gangster movies and potent talent for caricature) and finishes big with another magical Time-Pool extravaganza as the Tiny Titan visits the year 1888 and retrieves ‘Jules Verne’s Crystal Ball!’

The Atom was never a major name or huge success, but from reading these witty, compelling tales by Gardner Fox, where Gil Kane first mastered the fluid human dynamism that made him a legend, you’d be hard-pressed to understand why. This is sheer superhero perfection, and long overdue for a closer look.
© 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 2007 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Crisis on Multiple Earths: the Team-Ups volume 2


By John Broome, Gardner Fox, Mike Friedrich, Neal Adams, Murphy Anderson, Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1228-5

Super-Editor Julius Schwartz ushered in the Silver Age of American Comics with his Showcase successes Flash, Adam Strange and Green Lantern, directly leading to the Justice League of America which in turn inspired Fantastic Four and the whole Marvel Empire and changed the way comics were made and read…

Whereas the 1940s were about magic and macho, the Silver Age polished everything with a thick veneer of SCIENCE and a wave of implausible rationalistic concepts quickly filtered into the dawning mass-consciousness of a generation of baby-boomer kids.

The most intriguing and rewarding was, of course, the notion of parallel worlds…

It all began, naturally enough, in The Flash, flagship title of the Silver Age Revolution. After ushering in the triumphant return of the costumed superhero concept, the Crimson Comet, with key writers Gardner Fox and John Broome at the reins, set an unbelievably high standard for superhero adventure in sharp, witty tales of technology and imagination, illustrated with captivating style and clean simplicity by Carmine Infantino.

Fox didn’t write many Flash scripts at this time, but those few he did were all dynamite; none more so than the full-length epic which literally changed the scope of American comics forever.

‘Flash of Two Worlds’ (Flash #123, September 1961) introduced the theory of alternate Earths to the continuity which grew by careful extension into a multiversal structure comprising Infinite Earths. Once established as a cornerstone of a newly integrated DCU through a wealth of team-ups and escalating succession of cosmos-shaking crossover sagas, a glorious pattern was set which would, after joyous decades, eventually culminate in a spectacular Crisis on Infinite Earths

During a benefit gig Flash (police scientist Barry Allen) accidentally slips into another dimension where he finds the comic-book hero upon whom he based his own superhero identity actually exists. Every adventure he had absorbed as an eager child was grim reality to Jay Garrick and his comrades on the controversially designated “Earth-2”. Locating his idol, Barry convinced the elder to come out of retirement just as three Golden Age villains were making their own wicked comeback…

The floodgates were opened, as over the months that followed many Earth-1 stalwarts met their counterparts either in annual collaborations in the pages of Justice League of America or in their own series. Schwartz even had a game go at reviving a cadre of the older titans in their own titles. Public approval was decidedly vocal and he used DC’s try-out magazines to take the next step: stories set on Earth-2 exclusively featuring Golden Age characters.

Showcase #55 and 56 saw Doctor Fate and Hourman as a dynamic duo battling Solomon Grundy and the Psycho-Pirate and, still searching for an concept that would support its own series, Schwartz, Fox and Murphy Anderson debuted the team of Starman and Black Canary in The Brave and the Bold #61 (September-October 1965); the first of two stunning sagas which somehow led to nothing…

All those stories can be found in the previous edition (Crisis on Multiple Earths: the Team-Ups volume 1) whilst this second splendid collection – chronologically re-presenting The Atom #29 & 36, Flash #170 & 173, Green Lantern #45 & 52 and The Spectre #3 , cumulatively spanning October/November 1965 to April/May 1968 – opens with Brave & Bold #62 and a second Starman/Black Canary case wherein the resurgent champions ferociously face off against husband-and-wife criminals Huntress and Sportsmaster who had been stalking superheroes for kicks and profit. By the time Feline Fury Wildcat became their victim our heroes were on the case and ready for anything…

This compelling thriller was originally augmented by a text feature biography of the original Starman and that is reprinted here before Earth-2 Emerald Gladiator Alan Scott reunites with “our” Hal Jordan (Green Lantern #45, June 1966, by Broome, Gil Kane & Sid Greene) to thwart ‘Prince Peril’s Power Play’ as Scott’s comedy foil Doiby Dickles was romanced by an alien princess. The only fly in their ointment was a gigantic and ambitious space warrior who needed her to cement his own plans for conquest, but judicious use of green energies soon taught him that nobody likes a pushy tyrant…

Earth-2’s Tiny Titan was Al Pratt, a short man with super-strength, whilst we had size changing physicist Ray Palmer. When they met in Atom #27 (February/March 1967, by Fox, Kane & Greene) it was for an all-out cataclysmic clash between the Mighty Mites and one of the most dangerous villains of DC’s Golden Age in ‘The Thinker’s Earth-Shaking Robberies!’

With Green Lantern #52 (Broome & Kane, April 1967) Alan Scott and Doiby popped over from Earth-2 to aid Hal against the scurrilous return of his arch nemesis Sinestro in camp-crazed and frankly rather peculiar fight-frenzied fist-fest ‘Our Mastermind, the Car!’ after which a brace of Scarlet Speedsters at long last reunited in Flash #170 to face the ‘The See-Nothing Spells of Abra Kadabra!’ (May 1967 by Broome, Infantino & Greene) which found the Vizier of Velocity hexed by the cunning conjuror and rendered unable to detect the villain’s actions or presence.

Sadly for the sinister spellbinder, Jay Garrick was visiting and called on the services of JSA pals Doctors Fate and Mid-Nite to counteract the wicked wizard’s wiles…

Promptly following, Flash #173 (September 1967 by Broome, Infantino & Greene again) featured a titanic team-up as Barry, Wally “Kid Flash” West and Jay were sequentially shanghaied to another galaxy as putative prey for alien hunter Golden Man in ‘Doomward Flight of the Flashes!’

However, the sneaky script slowly revealed devilish layers of intrigue and his Andromedan super-safari concealed a far more arcane purpose for the three speedy pawns, before the wayward wanderers finally fought free and found their way home again…

Eventually Schwartz finally achieved the ambition of launching a Golden Age hero into his own title; sadly just as the superhero bubble was bursting and supernatural stories were again on the rise…

After three Showcase appearances and many guest-shots, The Spectre won his own book at the end of 1967. From #3 (March/April 1968) comes this all Earth-2 team-up by neophyte scripter Mike Friedrich and artistic iconoclast Neal Adams which exposed the ‘Menace of the Mystic Mastermind’ wherein pugilistic paragon Wildcat confronted head-on the inevitable prospect of age and infirmity even as an inconceivable force from another universe possessed petty thug Sad Jack Dold and turned him into a nigh-unstoppable force of cosmic chaos…

This fabulous peek into forgotten worlds and times concludes with one of the very best team-up tales of the Silver Age as the Earth-2 Atom returns in ‘Duel Between the Dual Atoms’ (April/May 1968, by Fox, Kane & Greene) wherein a radiation plague plays hob with victim’s ages on both worlds simultaneously. Sadly the deadly situation also turns normally hyper-rational Ray Palmer into an enraged maniac and almost more than his aging counterpart can handle…

Still irresistible and compellingly beautiful after all these years, the stories collected here shaped the American comics industry for decades and are still influencing not only today’s funnybooks but also the wave animated shows, movies and TV series which grew from them. These are tales and this is a book you simply must have.

© 1965-1968, 2007 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.