Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Captain Atom #1 (March, 1987)

A brown-haired man sat nearly nude in a silver pod being lowered miles below the Earth's surface. Electrodes strapped all over and cameras trained on him, Adam told bad jokes to calm his anxiety. Dr. Megala was sympathetic, but Colonel Eiling reminded "Nathaniel Adam was found guilty of treason and sentenced to die. If he survives this experiment, the government has agreed to commute his sentence and make him a free man. That prospect does not 'amuse' me..."

Encased in seemingly indestructible metal taken from a downed alien spacecraft, Adam hoped to soon return to his loving wife and young children. If not, he'd made Eiling promise to deliver a letter that the Colonel instead ripped up. A multi-megaton bomb was detonated, leaving no trace of Adam, the extraterrestrial pod, or even any remaining radiation...

Jeff Goslin was Adam's best friend in the military, and passed along what information he could to his wife "Ange." The UFO had crashed in Nevada a year earlier, and the presumed dead "little green men" inside were put on ice. The ship was immune to the most powerful weapons around, and Nate was being used to determine its outside extremes. "Lissen up. This is the same Cap'n Adam who went down with his plane 30 miles inside Cambodia and managed to walk out again a week later. The man's a natural-born survivor..."
An amorphous pink humanoid form appeared from nowhere in the desert, and unintentionally brought down a jet fighter with its energy beams at Winslow Air Force Base. Conventional weapons bounced right off it, but the creature eventually laid down on its own. Taken into custody, military scientists observed the creature slowly absorbing outer layers of mass into itself, becoming more human in appearance. It turned into a silver-skinned human male. General Eiling wanted an up close look as the creature opened its eyes. "Eiling... What happened to you. You look so... old!!"

Eiling cleared the room, then hammered at what appeared to be Nathaniel Adam. "I remember your sense of humor, Captain. I still do not share it." Eiling told Adam about his rise in rank, and the deaths of John Wayne, Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, Johnson, Humphrey, Jack Benny, Anwar Sadat, Indira Ghandi and John Lennon. "Your wife is dead too." Adam was sufficiently provoked, so Eiling hit him with nerve gas and claimed he was an inhuman creature that attacked him. No one was to get near the thing without his orders.

Eiling next consulted Dr. Megala, who had deteriorated physically from needing leg braces to a fully automated body. Megala believed the alien metal had needed sufficient time to absorb the explosion, with the excess energy it could not immediately absorb used to fuel a "quantum leap" through years of space-time. Eiling feared what Adam represented, and had no intention of allowing Megala further access. Instead, he had Adam stuffed into a rocket meant to launch a new communications satellite, and ordered Megala's death.
Babylon, Megala's brawny Black aide, injected the assassin with the potassium chloride intended for the doctor. Both men went into hiding. Captain Adam also escaped death by using his energy powers to explode the rocket within the atmosphere, and learned to fly to safety under his own power. Adam traveled to his family's home, but found it vacated, with Dr. Megala and Babylon anticipating his arrival. Adam agreed to join Megala in hiding, so that his powers could be studied and a means found to restore his full humanity before reuniting with his wife.

Government agents found Megala's hideout, and observed from afar. Tests found that Captain Atom's skin was impervious to injury, and that he could access "quantum potential" to fire unlimited energy at will. His silver skin could absorb and repurpose energy as simple as flames or as complex as lasers. Adam could effect his field of gravity to allow for flight propulsion, and he had incredible strength. Finally, Adam managed to reclaim his human form when desired.

General Eiling followed this progress, and when the time was right, alerted President Reagan. Eiling's forces took over Megala's home, and the General had Adam fly them both to the grave of Angela Eiling (1938-1982.) After mourning for three years, Ange married Wade for eleven years before dying one night of a heart attack in her sleep. "Perhaps our years weren't as idyllic as the years of young love she shared with you... More mature, certainly less passionate, perhaps." Wade had raised Adam's children. "Margaret is 23 next month. Randall is 26." Ronald Reagan was under no obligation to honor any agreement made to Nathanial Adam in 1968, but in 1986 would allow him a measure of freedom if he acted as a deep cover agent and public super-hero...
"Point of Origin" was by Cary Bates, Pat Broderick and Bob Smith. For an extra quarter, the book ran forty pages without ads, and obviously took advantage by spanning eighteen years and dumping loads of exposition. For the times, it was somewhat decompressed, since the heroic Captain Atom wasn't really introduced and didn't get to fight a super-villain. Still, it told a fairly complete origin story with lots of subplots generated, a wealth of supporting characters, and an antagonist to truly make the blood boil. The art was somewhat off in its weird proportions and general inconsistency, which may be due to the page count or the collaborative process. That would improve with time, just as did the main character and stories.