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“The Gremlins from Planet Blue”

  • Writer: Joe Gill
  • Pencils: Steve Ditko
  • Inks: Rocke Mastroserio
  • Letterer: Jon D’Agostino

Starting with this issue, Strange Suspense Stories was retitled Captain Atom.  Prior to this issue, there had been no new adventures of Captain Atom published since October 1961, four years earlier.  This is also the first time since Space Adventures #33 that he pretty much carried an entire comic himself.  So when he came back, he came back in a big bad way.

So let’s look back at December 1965 and see what our world was like back then.  It was a turbulent time, particularly in the United States.  President John Fitzgerald Kennedy had been assassinated two years prior and Lyndon Johnson was the sitting U.S. President.  Sir Winston Churchill died in January of that year.  On March 7, “Bloody Sunday,” some 200 Alabama State Troopers clashed with 525 civil rights demonstrators in Selma, Alabama.  On March 18, Cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov became the first person to walk in space.  On August 11, the Watts riots began in Los Angeles, CA.

This issue opens with some aliens watching Captain Atom’s exploits on a video monitor.  Cap is rescuing disabled astronaut Mike Crandall while the aliens are bitching about him constantly ruining their plans.  Professor Arnold Jupe says (to no one in particular) that all the recent problems NASA has been facing have actually been sabotage.  Jupe and his “brilliant and beautiful” daughter Leah are civilians working for NASA’s Gemini program.  Captain Adam has been assigned as their liaison officer.

Leah shares her father’s conspiracy theory with Captain Adam, who thinks Jupe may be correct.  He excuses himself, then transforms into Captain Atom to monitor the latest launch.  We get a quick three-panel retelling of his origin (no changes).

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Your guess is as good as mine who it is Captain Atom is battling in the third panel.  He looks like a super-villain but not one we’ve seen.  Mostly Cap has fought spies and aliens.  The closest thing to a super-villain we’ve gotten so far was the Silver Lady from Venus.

Cap discovers there is a malfunction in the rocket and uses his powers to reach inside and correct it.  He changes back to Captain Adam and rejoins Jupe just in time to be chewed out by a General Brill for leaving the Jupes alone.  Brill says to stay with the Jupes every moment, which is okay by Cap because he respects and admires the professor and has a crush on Leah.

Cap and Leah are hanging around outside the Jupe house, about to get freaky, when Professor Jupe sticks his head out and says there is an “ominous presence” in the house.  He has a feeling the saboteurs are nearby (and he’s right because one of the aliens is listening outside the window).  Adam tells the Professor he has nothing to worry about and he should hit the sheets.  As Jupe sleeps, the creepy alien outside watches him.

As the creepy alien uses some sort of mind control device on the Professor, Cap and Leah note a drop in temperature in the house.  When Cap and Leah check on him, Jupe is acting weird.  He’s getting dressed to leave.  Adam phones General Brill, who tells him to stop imagining things and get some sleep.  Meanwhile, Jupe and Leah have left.

The Jupes board a yacht and elude Captain Atom.  He gives up the search and returns to base to report to Brill.  The General says they’ll search for the missing scientists later because Adam is part of the ground control communications team at the next Gemini launch.  Don Bullard and David Morse, friends of Adam, are the two astronauts scheduled to go up.

Shortly after the launch, ground control loses contact with the rocket.  Readings indicate an open hatch.  Adam races out of the control room, angering Brill again.  As Captain Atom, he flies to the disabled capsule only to find the two astronauts missing.  The creepy aliens watch this on a monitor and say they have to get rid of “that creature.”

The Planet Blue aliens (Planet Bluians?) fire a ray at Cap which immobilizes them.  They use it as a tractor beam to draw Atom to their world.  Once there, one of the astronauts complains that the planet is too cold, so Cap increases his radiation to provide heat (new power!) which freaks out the aliens.  Captain Atom starts hurling fireballs at the aliens and leads the astronauts to the Planet Blue Space Port.

Bullard, Morse, and Captain Atom board an alien spaceship and manage to get it going by pushing random buttons.  Cap puts them on a course for Earth and then takes off.  He has to face Brill and a possible reprimand or court martial.  Adam doesn’t get in trouble, though, and is instead sent back out to find the Jupes.

Atom searches the one island off the Florida coast that the other searchers missed because it is uninhabited.  Of course, he finds Leah sitting on the beach… brushing her hair?  (Oh, right, 1965.  That’s the only thing silly girls did back then.)  It turns out she was just there to lure Captain Adam in.  He is blasted by another Bluian Blue Ray.  One blast turns him into a “stumbling hulk.”

Leah leads Adam to a huge complex built by Professor Jupe and the aliens.  Jupe is designing rockets for his alien “friends.”  Adam points out that Professor Jupe is actually a slave to the blue men, under the influence of the blue ray.  The Bluoids fire another ray at Adam, who feigns unconsciousness.  Adam and Leah are led to the complex below, and as soon as Leah has her back to him, Adam slips out and becomes Captain Atom.

Jupe launches a “killer missile.”  Atom shows up and blasts the missile.  He starts wailing on aliens while being careful not to harm the human slaves.  Captain Atom uses heat to un-brainwash Jupe (what the?).  The aliens escape, but Atom says they won’t bother Earth again.

Captain Adam reports back to General Brill, who “talked for an hour straight without repeating himself once or saying anything nice.”  What a weird bit of text.  Adam is dismissed and he thanks General Brill.

Now this is more like it.  The story is 19 pages long.  There is a backup story, but it does not feature Captain Atom.  Ditko and Gill did not let us down after the four year hiatus.  With few exceptions, Ditko’s art is beautiful.  And I like the new characters introduced.  Will Leah Jupe be Captain Atom’s Lois Lane?  Time will tell.  I’m anxious to read the next issue.  I give this one an A.

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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