I thought for today's review we could jump in the time machine and head back to Apri; 1976 and take a look at a book from the short lived Atlas Comics (aka Seaboard / Atlas). It was a company that threw itself wholesale into comics publishing and for a few short months (no title lasted for more than four issues) could have been a contender. Created to be full on competition to Marvel and DC Comics of the time it produced some interesting (and odd) books.
Who could forget titles like 'Tales of Evil: The Bog Beast', 'Morlock 2001', 'John Targitt: Man-Stalker' (no not a slightly suspect name for a website) and my personal favourite 'Tiger Man.' They poached some great talent as well, Howard Chaykin, Steve Ditko, Mike Ploog, Rich Buckler and others. I remember when I heard about the New 52 as being a possibility and how they were going to address different genres other than Superheroics. It did for an instant sting my negativity with 'Oh, for fucks sake, hope it ain't gonna be like Atlas.' But recently I have revisited a few of the books and really enjoyed their non cynical, Bronze age approaches to the medium.
Some of the characters survive (kind of) to this day. 'The Scorpion' by Chaykin was introduced into the Marvel 616 as 'Domonic Fortune' and 'Demon Hunter' by Rich Buckler became 'Devil Slayer' and a regular in one of my favourite runs of volume 1 of the Defenders comic in the 1980s.
So today I thought I would have a look at one of the lesser known titles (actually two titles).
Police Action featuring Lomax NYPD and Luke Malone: Manhunter issue 2.
Lomax NYPD - Written by Gary Friedrich, Art by Mike Sekowsky, Inks by Al McWilliams and Letters by Alan Kupperberg.
'....Taxi 2147 is Missing!'
Luke Malone: Manhunter - Written by Gary Friedrich, Art by Mike Ploog and Frank Springer.
Editor - Larry Lieber.
'Whatever Happened to Luke Malone.'
Published by Atlas Comics.
The Lomax story is I think fair to say the maion story of the issue (although both are roughly the same in length) and features in the main on the cover. It treads all the 1970s hardboiled pavements like Starsky and Hutch did often. It has a pulpy detective feel to it and follows the adventoures of Lomax who they are at pains to make us realise is a maverick cop.
The hero and his partner get called to a kidnapping at the airport. A 'hippy' wearing a red beret has taken hostage at gunpoint a sexy 70s chick and two men who all seem to be cab sharing without knowing each other. Said hippy drives them onto a runway at Laguardia (airport security was a bit shit back then evidently) and asks for cash and a flight out of the country.
Lomax and his partner (McBride) take the call and straightaway witness an unconnected mugging of an old lady. They intervene and Lomax gets a kick in the 'gut' (probably couldn't say 'balls' back then). Lomax leaves his partner to secure the prisoner and makes for the airport on his own (maverick cop style).
Of course he solves the kidnapping in his own way and afterwards takes the sexy 70s chick for a 'nice quiet drink'. Rockford eat your heart out!
The book is light weight sure and doesn't involve any deep thought but it looks great and tells a story that is fun and held my interest. It also tells a story over ten pages that a lot of current writers would take six issues to tell. The dialogue is a blast and is full of people digging this and digging that.
'You better dig me, and dig me good.'
Sekowsky's line looks great. It is as usual quite thick and deliberate but it still reads well today. His costumes look like they were pulled straight out of 'Kolchak The Night Stalker.'! the dialogue is era specific and over predictable in a cool way. But there isn't much else to say about this story other than that. It's just great fun.
The second story in the issue has a more serious tone and is also told in a very succinct style.
'Stow is rookie.'
Luke Malone is also (initially a cop) who has to go to another hostage situation (lots of them about). He is a bit of a hot head and barges in too early, kills most of the criminals but one of them manages to kill Malone's wife who coincidentally is present.
Malone hits the bottle and goes to the seaside to try and get over what has happened. He gets refused service in a local bar. Gets beaten up in a fight. The man who had just fought him hires him for some sculduggery. they drive off, a sniper / hitman shoots at them. The car crashes. Malone kills the sniper, throws a bottle away (deciding not to be an alcoholic) and decides to be Luke Malone: Private Investigator.
Just like that. Yeah. Forget my earlier gripe about modern comics, this one was a little too packed in.
The art however by Ploog and Springer looks excellent and reminds me of Ploog at the height of his Bronze Age powers when he was on Man-Thing and Werewolf By Night.
Both stories read like they should have been TV scripts and are by no means intellectual. However I had real fun reading them and for 50 pence cost from a back issue sale they are fine by me.