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“The Space Prowlers”

  • Writer: Joe Gill
  • Artist: Steve Ditko

“Who were they? The eerie intruders with lashed lightning in their fists were a menace to every nation, to all men, to the entire world!  Captain Adam, U.S. Air Force, was helpless to solve the global riddle… so he used his ability to become Captain Atom… the human atom bomb-missile who was impervious to all weapons!”

So begins “The Space Prowlers.”  Captain Adam is strolling by a “concrete blockhouse” in which top secret documents are stored when he notices the guard, Corporal Blackmer, is dead.  He is then set upon and zapped by a weird alien in red goggles and a tank top.  The alien books it to a space craft leaving Cap to be surprised that the zap gun almost killed him.

Adam switches to Captain Atom and blasts the fleeing craft with just enough power to bring it down without harming the occupant.  When he reaches out to touch the alien, it dissolves into corrosive and poisonous gas (in a panel in which Gill refers to Cap as “the molecular man.” Nice!).

Cap flies up into space to see if the alien had friends and he does!  Cap is attacked and blasts back.

The space prowlers pour on the laser fire, so intense that even indestructible Captain Atom’s life is in danger.  So, Cap does the most logical thing and destroys himself with the force of a 100 megaton nuclear bomb.  As established in Space Adventures #33, reintigrating his disentigrated atoms is the first trick he learned as Captain Atom.  Unfortunately, this trick takes out thousands of the attacking aliens.

Cap flies to Washington, DC, where the president has seen the whole thing with his giant White House Telescope (Did Eisenhower have a giant White House Telescope? Joe Gill and Steve Ditko say he did.  Good enough for me.).  The president warns that there is a whole fleet of these small ships and one giant mothership in orbit around Earth.  Using Eisenhower’s Presidential Telescope, Cap sends a powerful beam to the mothership, slicing it in half.  The president thanks him, but Cap is worried he’s going to get court-martialed for going AWOL.  So Captain Atom flies home.

Who were the space prowlers?  What were they stealing?  Were they all destroyed?  It seems like sloppy storytelling.  But I love to see Cap blasting space aliens.  I give Joe an F for this story but Steve an A for art, which gives “The Space Prowlers” an overall score of B on the FKAjason Meaningless Rating System.

“A Victory for Venus”

  • Writer: Joe Gill
  • Artist: Steve Ditko

Our story opens with the Atlas-Thor-Able XIV launching.  It is supposed to orbit Venus and send back some nice color photos of the planet.  Cap is being a bit of a show-off and standing on the launchpad as it lifts off.  Observing this, a General Nicholas is first worried Adam will be killed, then pissed off that he wasn’t.  He threatens to court-martial Adam for endangering his own life (he doesn’t know about Captain Atom).  Adam tells Nicholas to chill; he’s been sent by the president. Somehow this shuts General Nicholas up.

A few hours later, Gunner calls Adam into the control room, as pictures of Venus are about to come in (What the… how fast is this rocket?!?!?!).  Cap watches the screen as Gunner runs off on some errand and then the first images come in.  There are chicks in space orbiting Venus!  The screen goes black, so naturally Adam thinks the space ladies have sabotaged the cameras.  He changes into Captain Atom and flies off to either kick some alien ass or get some alien tail (he kind of indicates both.).

Traveling at speeds in excess of 100,000 mph, Captain Atom arrives on the scene and the space ladies speak to him via telepathy.  They know who he is, having seen him fly around the neighborhood.  Cap says he intends to repair the camera, but the space ladies say no way.  Cap threatens them, but hesitates too long and the space ladies blast him with their ray guns.  He is knocked out and the space ladies use their own tech to send him back to Earth.  They tell him soon he will return to them as a friend.

Cap comes to on Earth with Gunner running up to him.  The space ladies are on the screen and looking for him.  One of the Venutians tells him, “This is farewell, Captain!  Your mechanism will be totally destroyed… but it served the purpose of bringing you to us!  Come once more… all of us will be waiting!”

For the first time in Captain Atom’s (short) history, we get some foreshadowing of things to come.  Great story, great Ditko art.  A’s all around.

This “universe” was absorbed into DC Comics’ Multiverse when the Charlton characters were purchased by DC.  This universe became Earth-4.