Thursday, March 24, 2016


Most superheroes of the 1940s were content to grab themselves a single origin, if they had one at all. Greedy Atom Blake, Boy Wizard, by contrast saddled himself up with enough origin to establish any two or more colorfully-apellated crimefighters in their chosen profession.

When he debuts in the pages of Wow Comics No.1, schoolboy Atom Blake already possesses Herculean strength and a mad-on for school bullies. Rocks can be crushed to dust in Atom's adolescent hands, and the boy exhibits unusual speed but, when a classmate asks him the origins of his unusual powers, all Atom can think to say is "I'll have to look into it."

This means quizzing his aunt and uncle, surrogate parents who raised him from birth and yet to whom he refers as "you people." Take that right in your emotional heart, Aunt Nora and Uncle Joe, you're "outside."

When you are gone ...
Uncle Joe reveals that Atom's biological father, physicist Stuart Blake, conducted absurdly dangerous experiments on his infant son, and that's probably why the state arranged for a foster scenario. Specifically, the elder Blake had invented a device which could release the atomic potential of matter (we call that "a bomb," typically, but let's keep listening) and then transfer that power to a living being. Although the initial experiments resulted in an orangutan being blasted into atomic powder, Blake decides to try lower doses of the device on his own son, still in swaddling clothes. The end result is Atom Blake, powered with atomic strength! Wow!

He says this in response to
getting kissed by a girl
That ought to be good enough for any superhero, but it's not enough for Atom Blake. While searching for his father, Atom recalls a ring left to him by his pop. He wears it out of filial piety, but it doesn't occur to him to use it for anything until crooks swipe it from his hand and then throw it to the ground - snapping open a hidden compartment.

Translating the mathematical code language used by his father, Atom reads the following inscription "If the man in need or by evil oppressed can this message read, I will grant his request." Yes, Atom Blake has a wishing ring!

Initially, Atom can get the ring to provide any sort of wonder by simply asking in plain language. "Let these wires binding my wrists and ankles blow away in smoke," for instance, and "Tunnel, appear!" and so on. "Return this movie to Blockbuster for me!" "Download season two of Breaking Bad." All kinda commands.

Within a couple of appearances, Atom is dedicated to finding his lost father and trades his earth-bound adventures for explorations of deep space. Around this time, the rules surrounding his magical wishing ring change - it's powered by arithmetic rather than rhymes, which sounds like the next stage of hip-hop. Perhaps Atom's publisher, Fawcett, felt that the atomic wishing ring and Ibis the Invincible's all-powerful Ibistick bore a little too much in common to fly, and so the extra wrinkle of impenetrable and meaningless math was a better fit.

Reunited with his father and having picked up an alien princess as a playmate, Atom begins exhibiting powers like flight and teleportation, making him a sort-of interesting mix of Captain Marvel Jr and Ibis, a mishmosh of Fawcett's top two tiers of characters. He didn't last all that long, however, and hasn't returned despite DC arguably owning his rights after the protracted legal battle with Fawcett over the course of decades. Could Atom Blake, Boy Wizard, ever return? It's a mathematical longshot, but that was his specialty.

He didn't know he could do this until he tried.


Unknown said...

It's probably just as well he hasn't been brought into the DCU.

"Hi, I'm Atom Blake."

"Oh, Captain Comet?"

"No, that's Adam Blake. I'm a boy wizard."

"Like Klarion?"

"No, he's a witch-boy! I'm a wizard!"

"Like Harry Potter?"

"NO! I have this magic ring..."

"So you're a Green Lantern?"

John said...

Thanks for the ELO reference. The wordplay in the "Swamp Thing" intros always cracks me up, too. "Tell Me Swamp Thing Good" is my favorite so far.

Matthew Johnson said...

Interestingly the same pattern -- garden-variety superstrength caused by experiments conducted by missing father, then more exotic powers granted by object left behind by said father -- is followed by the main character in Daniel Clowes' THE DEATH RAY.

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