Atomic Rabbit arrives on the scene. Artist: Al Fago.

ATOMIC RABBIT

Medium: Comic books
Published by: Charlton Comics
First Appeared: 1955
Creator: Al Fago
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Funny animal superheroes have been a part of the animation and comic book scenes since the days of Mighty Mouse and Supermouse, respectively — almost as long as human superheroes have been around, in fact. Marvel had Super Rabbit, DC

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… had The Terrific Whatzit, Fox had Cosmo Cat etc. But the biggest concentration of the sub-genre was at Charlton Comics during the 1950s, which had Hoppy the Magic Bunny, Atom the Cat, and several others — in fact, its longest-lasting superhero title ever was Atomic Mouse. What Magazine Enterprises (Red Mask, Presto Kid) was to western heroes with secret identities, Charlton was to funny animal superheroes.

Atomic Mouse may owe his longevity to the fact that he was created by Al Fago (Neddy Bear, Timmy the Timid Ghost). While Charlton, with its low production costs and in-house distribution, was able to make a success of many properties with little apparent reader interest, such as Black Fury and Cheyenne Kid, Fago had a way of connecting with kids. Atomic Rabbit wasn't as successful, but he had the same advantage. Fago wrote and drew his stories, too.

Atomic Rabbit was a lot like Atomic Mouse, but with a species change and a couple less supporting characters. He protected Rabbitville, rather than Mouseville, from the depredations of Sly Fox, rather than Count Gatto. Instead of an inept assistant, Sly had two kids.

He, too, got his super powers from doubly-forbidden fruit by today's standards — drugs and radiation. But while both their power-enhancers were as radioactive as can be, Mouse's was more blatantly a drug. He got his super powers from U-235 pills, whereas Rabbit's U-235 carrots could be passed off as good nutrition, like Atomictot's vitamins and Popeye's spinach. But while Popeye of the E.C. Segar comics ate lots of spinach for strength through nutrition, the animated Popeye treated it like a drug, getting a huge rush from it and sometimes, just for emphasis, sucking it in through his pipe. Good nutrition or not, Atomic Rabbit definitely fell into the category of drug-based superheroes.

Fago handled Atomic Rabbit from his first appearance, dated August, 1955, through the end of the series under that name — #11, dated March, 1958. As of #12, it was changed to Atomic Bunny, and it's not certain they're the same character. Bunny looked like Rabbit in the first issue, tho drawn by Charlton's editor, Pat Masulli, but his appearance changed radically after that. Then, he was back to his former appearance with the last issue (December, 1959).

A Fago story was reprinted by Norlen Publications in 1959, Comics entrepreneur Roger Broughten, who now owns most of the old Charlton properties, published Atomic Rabbit & Friends as a oneshot in the 1990s.

Whether Charlton published one lagomorphic hero or two, it's been out of the funny animal superhero business for decades.

— DDM

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Text ©2008 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Charlton Comics.