On to Mr. Twist's penthouse (whoever he is). Artist: Jerry Robinson.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Spark Comics
First Appeared: 1946
Creators: Ken Crossen (writer) and Jerry Robinson (artist)
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The superhero fad in American comic books had pretty much run its course by 1946, tho a few new ones were still popping up here and there. But when it comes to sciency-sounding mumbo-jumbo to make the few remaining ones seem sort of like they didn't violate plausibility too much, nuclear energy was just getting started. Only the previous August, headlines …

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… all over the world had made everybody aware of the atom's power, but as yet, the dangers of radioactivity were only starting to be understood.

Barry Dale was a recipient of atomic power, but being fictional, wasn't vulnerable to its danger like a real person would be. Barry was a scientist at the Atomic Institute, working to harness the new power source, who realized one day that he'd absorbed enough radiation to power him up — to "explode atoms" as he put it. With this power, he could "smash mountains, wipe out whole cities, leap into the air and travel for thousands of miles at one leap." He figured he may have been a harbinger of the type of person coming in the nascent Atomic Age, but for the time being, was "the only Atoman on Earth".

Barry's powers included the usual super-strength, invulnerability and ability to fly. Also, he had atomic vision, whatever that is, and could heat up his body to the point where he could weld metal with his bare hands. Being a character in comic books, where dressing up to bash evil never goes out of style, he quickly made himself a superhero costume and sallied forth "to help all people, regardless of race or creed or nationality."

Atoman debuted in his own title, Atoman #1, dated February, 1946. The story was written by Ken Crossen, the former pulp magazine writer who created The Green Lama. It was drawn by Jerry Robinson, the early Batman artist who later wrote a book on comics history. The publisher was Spark Publications, a very small outfit that until then had only one non-licensed superhero (Golden Lad) to its name, unless you count Lt. Hercules, a mere parody.

Nor did it have Atoman for very long — he lasted only two issues, the second being dated in April of that year. In fact, the whole company folded just a couple of months later.


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Text ©2010 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Spark Publications.