Sunday, March 21, 2010

Prisoner In A Test Tube!

I was really enjoying writing for this blog, but between the time it takes to do a nice synopsis, crazy arguments with overly opinionated right wingers, schoolwork, other blogs, getting a whopping five (appreciated) hits a day here and my simply not being Damian enough for the gig, I don't seem to be pulling it off. But you know what? Screw it! This is Silver Age Sunday, and I'm here for goodness from the wayback, not that old familiar cryin' cussin' moan.

The first story from January-February 1962's Showcase #36 was "Prisoner In A Test Tube!" I never much cared for Gardner Fox's writing, so I figured by the Atom's last "try-out" issue, the bloom would be off the rose. Color me surprised then that the hits just keep on coming, with another bitchin' Fox tale for Ray Palmer! Art by the team supreme of Gil Kane and Murphy Anderson!

Professor Anton Kraft is set to leave Budapest, Hungary for Ivytown U.S.A. when some inexplicit Soviet types kidnap him. Since this was still the Cold War dark ages, even though Kraft is a world famous scientist, nobody in the States knows him well enough to detect an impostor taking his place to spy on his American counterpart, who also happens to be Jean Loring's pappy. Meanwhile, the real Kraft will enjoy a heaping helping of Eastern Bloc brainwashing before he will get to use the secrets stolen by his double to build a super-weapon. "Then the cold war shall get... HOT!"

Professor Loring, daughter Jean and her beau Ray Palmer all meet the phony Kraft at Ivytown Airport. Jean drops her shiny handbag, and after "Kraft" picks it up for her, she tells Ray "Now you can drive me to the Federal Bureau of Investigation!" You see, Jean knows "nobody on this side of the Atlantic has ever seen the Professor," and wants to be sure he's him before daddy lets him near all those national secrets. Now, Ray's already stated that Jean's I.Q. is impressive, so maybe she was just sharp as a tack on that spy's ass. Yet, we're also establishing Jean as a hateful nutbar, and concluding the professor is an evil double is quite the supposition to make. This leads me to believe that...

  1. Jean naturally hates and distrusts all foreigners like a good American. Of course she's going to gather fingerprints and turn them over to an F.B.I. that's all ears.
  2. Jean was secretly tipped by the feds, and just not giving them any more credit than she does the Atom when clucking about "her" victories.

Either way, the F.B.I. office in nearby Greendale City confirms the worst suspicions. Emphasis mine: "Good thing we checked, Miss Loring! The man now with your father is an impostor, just as we feared!" Since the senior Loring is working on a precursor to the Strategic Defense Initiative, this is quite the potential fubar, if only because the Reds might dupe out what a pipe dream Ronnie Reagan's Star Wars actually was. Ray suggests this might be a job for the Atom, but Jean doesn't know how to contact him, so Ray suggests an A-Team style personal ad. Or, y'know, maybe Jean could apply that big brain to figuring out the Atom shows up every time she has a problem, and that might be connected to her scientist boyfriend's ongoing work on shrinking things.

Almost as if to drive home the point of Jean's obliviousness (or just to get some damned attention,) the Atom appears as a speck of dirt on Jean's copy of the newspaper ad (cue kid reading this in five years scratching their head about this "newspaper" thing,) then grows into her six inch super-hero. "How's that for a quick response" indeed, you little pimp dog! The Tiny Titan is briefed about the matter, and lacking a single anti-establishment bone in his body, phones Central Intelligence in Budapest to offer his services. Working with the C.I.A. to maintain their covert operation in Hungary, the Mighty Mites discreetly investigates Kraft's home via a shoestring lasso and swinging through a keyhole.

I guess the Soviets were dealing with budget cuts, because they were still trying to break Professor Kraft in his own home, instead of doing something intelligent like going anywhere else but Professor Kraft's own home. It just makes it too easy for our favorite tiny Republican to explain to the distressed Kraft that the jig is up stateside, and that the World's Smallest Super-Hero will find a way to smuggle the Prof out of the country. Well, if the commies don't lunge to capture the incredible miniature man for their superiors, leading to his accidentally landing on flypaper. The Atom can't quite overcome the menace of common adhesive before getting plucked out with tweezers and stuffed into a beaker (see story title,) but he can get small enough to climb right through a perforation in the tube's cork. Clever as he is, the Atom waits until everyone is escaping in a small private plane to do so.

Using a ruler, the Tiny Titan pole vaults, landing on "the pilot's neck like a ton of bricks," then using his weight control to slam the co-pilot's chin against an instrument panel from a sick angle. "Give me a hand, Professor! We'll fit them with parachutes-- then dump them out!" I assume this is to keep their corpses from landing on innocents, because physics dictate the Atom killed the hell out of those guys. It's a good thing Ray Palmer learned to fly in connection to his research work!

A few days later, Ray is strolling with Jean, and the faux Professor is in custody. Jean just cannot figure out how to thank the Atom, which leads me to believe she's totally faking it, just to screw with Ray's head. Palmer suggests another personal ad, and for no logical reason, clips out "JEAN LORING THANKS THE ATOM FOR HIS HELP!" with cumbersome scissors while acting as the Atom. "Someday, when I tell Jean the Atom is really her boy friend Ray Palmer-- we'll both get a big laugh out of this!" And then she'll go insane. Good work, Ray!


LissBirds said...

"nobody on this side of the Atlantic has ever seen the Professor,"

It's amazing how many stories wouldn't work in today's world becuase of something as simple as Google. Same thing goes for cell phones.

I don't know why, but it makes me a little sad.

I'm glad at least that currently they still have kept the restriction that the Atom needs to travel by landline and not cell phone.

Verification word was "first." That's awfully mundane.

Diabolu Frank said...

New technology just means folks get the chance to invent a new cliche. My problem is when they don't, and you're sitting there going "why don't they just..." Something as simple as "I can't get a signal" doesn't even get thrown out half the time.