“The Second Man in Space”
- Artist: Steve Ditko
- Writer: Joe Gill
This issue of Space Adventures correctly predicts that the first man in space will be a Russian. Though it is not Yuri Gagarin, but an un-named cosmonaut who has ridden a rocket to the stars and lost contact with the surface. A bunch of physicists in Cape Canaveral are meeting to evaluate available information. The Americans don’t even know if there is anyone aboard the satellite. One of those present is Captain Allen Adam (he gets a first name!), a brown-haired USAF officer. He is incorrectly referred to as “Captain Adams.”
Captain Adam asks if a photograph of the satellite would help the scientists with their little espionage project. He then tells Gunner that he is heading into space to help the “scientists and generals.” Adam dons his now-yellow costume and his hair becomes white (the actual color of Captain Atom’s hair has never been consistent, even in the late 80s when he was a DC property). Gunner is left to hold Cap’s regular clothes while he blasts into space to save the day.
As established in the previous issue, Captain Atom can survive in space. Cap finds the satellite, which he discovers is manned. New power alert! Cap is super-sensitive to heat. He “feels” the cosmonaut through the satellite’s walls. The cosmonaut is unconscious and his life is “ebbing.” He was injured in the launch, internally. Cap thinks to himself, “I’ve got to help him… but if I interfere with their program, it could mean war!” Remember, kids, 1960 is during the Cold War.
New power! Well, old power. His first power actually. Cap has the ability to re-integrate his atoms after disintegrating them. This allows him to enter the craft. He quickly assesses the cosmonaut and realizes their is a cure for what ails him. He flies to a hospital in New York and demands of a random doctor that he gives him “1,000 units of space vaccine.”
Can I just say that “space vaccine” is just plain lazy? I suppose Joe Gill could have come up with something better if he had the internet at his fingertips. I suppose it was good enough for 1960s kids.
The Soviet ground control is getting angry with Igor for not responding. Accusing the poor bastard of being a traitor. And his name really is Igor. Cap comes aboard and injects the vaccine. The Soviet comes to, surprised to find himself in space, but more surprised to find a stupid American has beaten him there.
Cap guides the capsule back to mother Russia, turning himself invisible (new power!) as he does so. The Russians rejoice as they have won the space race. But their happiness is short-lived as Igor tells them that the Americans already have a man up there (Captain Atom).
Now, come on. If this was reality, the Soviets would have shut Igor up or killed him so he wouldn’t spread talk of their failure. But it isn’t reality, so Igor blabs away to the entire world, leaving even the Americans to scratch their heads. In the final panel, one rocket scientist says to another, “We must have rockets at some other pad better than the ones we’ve got here! Imagine! We’ve had a man in space all this time and didn’t know about him! We kept that secret well!” Stupid scientists. And again with the exclamation points.
Gunner and an again-brown-haired Captain Atom wink at the reader.
Overall, I give the story a C. I think even by 1960s standards it was a little far-fetched that Igor’s story would have become public knowledge. And the space vaccine is just dumb. I do give Joe Gill kudos for making the Soviets win the space race. I think that took guts. An A+ for Ditko’s art (I love the little stars that follow Cap wherever he flies) give the issue a solid B.
There are three other stories in this issue worth a look, but for the purposes of this blog I am skipping them.
This “universe” was absorbed into DC Comics’ Multiverse when the Charlton characters were purchased by DC. This universe became Earth-4.
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