Saturday, February 6, 2010

Birth of the Atom!

From the strange combination of white dwarf star and sunlight-- product of the awesome forces of nature at her mightiest-- steps a Tiny Titan into a world of giants--

Dedicated to overcoming evil-- enlisting his services on the side of law and order against crime and injustice-- he is to startle the world by the amazing inventiveness of his brilliant mind and the sheer physical power of his atomic body!


Story by Gardner Fox
Art by Gil Kane & Murphy Anderson.

...and with that, the basics are established. Ray Palmer is really, really smart; he gets really, really small, and along with (or in spite of) the first two, he can really, really bust heads. People tend to forget that last part, but history will out.

At Ivy University's nuclear physics laboratory, Ray had been firing all kinds of light beams through this lens he'd created that he'd found could shrink stuff. Unfortunately, like Wayne Szalinski with six pack abs, that stuff tends to explode inside of a few minutes. If Ray could just get it together, the agricultural benefits alone would solve a good many of mankind's problems, which I think was mighty thoughtful of him.

Frustrated with his current progress, Ray sat himself down and thought up a nice, relaxing flashback sequence. Three months earlier, Ray's work was even deeper into Nowheresville, until he saw a meteor fly through the sky. Now, here's Exhibit A of Ray's badassery. Rick Moranis could shrink stuff, so that doesn't count. It's when Ray Palmer, graduate student and fellowship research physicist, straight up chases the falling meteor on foot through the woods. He's running around in penny loafers and a sharp suit, busting out acrobatic maneuvers in pursuit of the thing. Ray found this dense cannonball-sized fragment of white dwarf star matter, and huffs it back to his car, without a scraped knee or even mud on his shoes. No regular nerdlinger was he!

From there, Ray consistently failed to prevent the instability of the compressed atoms from going kablooey, which brings us back to the present (as of September-October 1961.) Ray's lady lawyer honey Jean Loring waltzes in, and she's not four panels into her introduction before the ol' ball-breaker shows her fangs. After refusing Ray's fifty-seventh proposal of marriage (diamond ring in hand,) Jean's all "Still no luck with your experiments, I see!" Why is she such a mega bitch? After fifty-seven rejections while still keeping her man, she knows she can be. "Besides, you know very well I'm determined to prove I can be a success as a lawyer, before I give up my career and settle down!"

Because, y'know, that's the choices she's got. Chaste Type-A harridan or barefoot and pregnant. Hello, Atomic Age Gender Roles! How're things with that new account you landed, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce? Ray's got nothing in his pockets but that ring and failure, so it's no wonder Jean wants to keep her options open. "I've got to make those experiments work! Jean's so high in the IQ department, she breezed through law school in two years! She'd never be satisfied with half measures! Neither will I!" Way to prioritize, Ray. The skirt's clearly wearing the pants around here.

Ray takes Jean and his class on a nature hike to Giant Caverns, and seeing as his class is collectively short and learning the difference between stalagmites and stalactites (Me too! "C"eiling or "G"round! Scientastic!) I figure he got a grade school side gig to pay Zales' back for that damned ring. Misfortune strikes in the form of a cave-in, so Ray has Jean tell the kids stories to calm them while he finds a quiet place to lose his $#*! No wait, Ray's not a lame-o, despite his stalled experiment, squirming under Jean's thumb, and having forgotten to tell anyone he was taking a busload of other people's children to hang out in a cave. Awkward... But yeah, Ray's brain is on it, and it finds a tiny ant hole of sunlight peeking into the cave. Ray figures he can use his handy lens (ring, failure, shrinking lens-- missed that earlier) to reduce himself, escape, leave the shrew and squirts to die, change his name, win a fortune on Jeopardy!, and retire to someplace with lax extradition laws.

OR... he's willing to sacrifice his own life for others, getting topside and carving out a large enough opening for the kids with his not-wedding ring. "Muscles bunched on back and arms, the Mighty Mite rips away masses of rock from the aperture..." but, "Uhh-- strange rumblings in my body... Not much time left! Got to get back to Jean and the kids and show them the way out!" Ray leaps to the ground, and runs back under his lens to regain his normal size. Wouldn't that make him smaller? That's Gardner Fox "science" for you.

Ray's shocked to find his insides not yet on the outside, and determines water impregnated with an unknown chemical had dripped on the shrinking lens, reversing its effects and keeping Jean from finding her boyfriend has taken on a resemblance to a wiener left two minutes in the microwave. How convenient. Oh, Ray's DC Comics trademark exclamation of shock? "Great stars!" It makes sense if you think about it, but still sounds like a Martian Manhunter line, though I might be biased.

"Come on, everybody-- I've found a tunnel to the outside!"
"But there isn't any tunnel, Ray! You and I once explored every part of these caves..."
"There it is, Jean! I just enlarged it, that's all!"

Man, you could have fun ad-libbing over those lines with a dirty mind. Ray's afraid Jean will "cross-examine" his hole, but she doesn't care about anything but getting out, establishing her "ends justify the means" stance on accidentally murdering friends' wives, but that won't come up until much later.

Ray gets his "special water" back to the lab, but stuff keeps blowing up. "I can come to but one conclusion-- that some mysterious force in my own body-- whatever it is, I don't know-- enabled me to regain my proper size! With further experiments I'll be able to solve this problem! Now that I am able to turn myself into a Human Atom-- who knows what strange and wonderful things might happen?"

You will, by reading this blog! Or the Atom Archive Editions. Or Showcase Presents: The Atom, which is where I'm getting this from. Do I have any true purpose in this crazy mixed up universe, or am I just peddling free story synopsises to justify not putting a bag over my head and starting the car engine in a closed garage with a gun in my mouth after mixing vodka with a fistfull of Xanax? You'll know, by reading this blog! Or one of my other ones. I've got a bunch. It keeps my hands occupied.


Luke said...

The skirt wears the pants indeed. I think one of the reasons why Ray palled up with Katar was because he saw him as being "in charge" of his relationship with Chayera (that may or may not have been the case), along with admiring his tough guy persona.

Of course, Hawkman could also play the brain and the Atom could easily play the tough guy, but I digress.

At least that dang ring came in handy for something other than more credit card debt... yeeeesh.

(Jean's "ends justify the means stance"... LOL!)

Diabolu Frank said...

I prefer when it's clear Hawkgirl is quietly running the show. Y'know-- let Katar huff and puff, then swoop in and re-channel his energies toward more productive ends.