1st Issue Special #1 (April, 1975)
“Atlas the Great!”
Writer/Artist/Editor – Jack Kirby
Inker/Letterer – D. Bruce Berry
Cover Price: $0.25
I’m the kinda guy who thinks that, at least in concept, there is no such thing as “rules”. Sure, there’s regulations, policies, and laws… but “rules” don’t exist… at least in the sense of being imposed upon by others. My personal code makes it so “rules” only apply to the most important things in life… ya know, like comic books… and mayyybe Pro-Wrestling.
My rules are as follows:
1. Never leave a copy of Superman #75 behind in the cheap-o bin.
2. Never pay more than a quarter for an issue of Youngblood.
3. If you come across an issue of 1st Issue Special… you pick it up.
We join our story in progress as Atlas (the Great) performs an impressive feat of strength. Before a packed house he crumbles tremendous stone slabs into dust by crushing them under his mighty arms. At the same time, there’s a bit of a hub-bub in the marketplace. A man called Kargin sees Atlas as no more than a mere charlatan, and seeks to challenge him on the field of battle… which consists of a wooden platform. This doesn’t go so well for ol’ Kargin.
Atlas’ second collects the shekels from the crowd who bet against him. Some are not so keen to pay the piper, and so suggest that Atlas is nothing more than a cheating dog! Before a full-blown riot breaks out, the streets are ordered to empty in preparation of the King’s passage.
When the King’s transport is delayed, the sore losers blame the traffic stop on ol’ Atlas… and so, the guards proceed to attack. Atlas takes care of them with the quickness, and then, with one hand, snatches the King himself out of his carriage. Archers take aim, and so Atlas hoists the King up… daring them to fire.
It is then that Atlas hears a voice… one that is quite familiar to him. This causes us to travel back in time to flashback-ville, where a young Atlas is watching his village be decimated by an army of horseback soldiers. He sees his mother kidnapped… and his father struck down. He runs to his father, however, is grabbed by a giant hand. A hand belonging to a General of some sort… who looks like, in Atlas’ words, a “Human Lizard”.
It is here that we learn that Atlas has always been “mighty”. He wallops the General with the power of a grown-man… then heads into the tall grass. Once there he comes upon a man in a green tunic, who puts his hand over his mouth to keep him quiet and not give away their location. Atlas, being a boy of steel gives him a snap mare for his troubles.
After the army has moved on, Atlas runs back to his village… the man in the tunic follows. Atlas enters a demolished hut, and reappears holding a large and impressive glowing crystal. The gentleman identifies himself as Chagra, and from the size of that rock deduces that the boy’s tribe hail from Crystal Mountain. Tribe leaders pass the crystal down from generation to generation to signify the tribe’s new ruler. Atlas is now, by hook or by crook, the leader of the tribe. Chagra decides to throw in and give the boy his loyal following.
Next we watch Atlas come of age… and witness several heroic acts which caused word of his name to spread. He begins to fight competitively in the Colosseum… and is wildly successful, even earning the vaunted “Helmet of Champions”. During this time Chagra maintains his position as loyal follower.
One night, a bit later on… Chagra comes clean about his true intentions. He wants to visit the Crystal Mountain. Atlas agrees to take him, however, not before they go to the Lizard Kingdom for some delicious revenge. Passage to the Lizard Kingdom is shielded by a mountain of flame… which our pair are able to traverse, as they know it is but mere illusion… perhaps the doing of Fire Wizards.
We now return to the present… remember that? Atlas is still holding the King above his head. He shifts in the direction of that familiar voice… who turns out to be… get this… the Human Lizard!
Well, this was something. Now, I haven’t read hundreds of mid-70’s origin stories… but of the few I have read, more than a couple feel like this. A child’s parents or village is slaughtered… child comes of age, and seeks vengeance. I think we last chatted about that here with our ill-fated pal, Kong the Untamed. Sadly, Atlas wouldn’t loom all that large over the DC Universe… until, of course, James Robinson dug him up during his run on Superman… because, Mr. Robinson clearly digs him some 1st Issue Special.
For what this was, I suppose it was good enough… and it’s always a good time when Kirby is involved. Some awesome full-page (and double-page) spreads here. Unfortunately, like all issues of this series… we do not get an ending. Worst of all, it doesn’t even bother me that we didn’t.
I’m kind of struggling for something to say… this is the kind of issue that doesn’t really lend itself to analysis. It just sorta “is”. Not great, not horrible… if it weren’t for my strange fascination with 1st Issue Special, I would never have checked it out.
(Instead of the) Letters Page: