Superman in Crisis

SiC 37 — Up and Atom! (11:07:1985)

Reviewing DC Comics Presents 90 and responding to your feedback!

4 replies on “SiC 37 — Up and Atom! (11:07:1985)”

I remember this as an interesting team-up of Captain Atom, whom I remember from his days at Charlton in his yellow and red costume (’cause I’m that old), and Firestorm, since their powers are quite similar. The plot point that their powers reacted dangerously was an interesting one, I thought, and your explanation that, possibly, this might be due to Captain Atom’s origin on another Earth which no longer existed was a good one. Superman seemed almost a deus ex machina in this story, diagnosing the incompatibility of the Nuclear Heroes’ energies, and, somehow, knowing the proper distance they should be separate to avoid problems, discovering Rayburn’s identity, and essentially causing Rayburn to neutralize himself, all with very little real explanation (other than, “Hey! He’s Superman, and he’s the star of the book; the other guys are just guests!”).
I liked Gene Hendricks’ thoughts on Superman’s killing, relating it to Clark’s farm upbringing. That makes a lot of sense. I agree that Superman should not kill cavalierly, but certainly an argument can be made that there may be times when killing might seem necessary.

Hi, Jon. Just wanted to leave a few quick comments. First, and perhaps most superficially, I agree with you about the change to the “DC Comics Presents” logo. I don’t think the version that they inaugurated with this issue really pops as much as the older one did.

I have to admit that Firestorm is a character who has never really grabbed me, so I would have found this issue rather uninteresting back when it was first published. I bought (or did not buy) team-up books in those days based largely on how interested I was in the guest star, so I would have let this one pass me by. There were some interesting things here, though, especially the notion of the two similarly powered heroes interacting negatively with one another. You don’t see that kind of thing very often, but it makes for an interesting complication. Kudos to the two of them for figuring out how to work together despite that difficulty. It’s too bad that the story repeated the old trope of The Villain Likes the Pretty Lady, but I wonder if writers who had come up through the Silver and Bronze Ages would have even thought to do anything else. It was, sadly, a pretty standard plot device in those days, and sometimes it’s hard to even notice the problematic aspects of things that are so familiar. It would definitely be written differently today, I think.

The inclusion of Captain Atom in this story does lead into another chapter of the whole “When Did They Know They Were Going to Reboot” debate. As you say, this story must have happened after the Crisis, since we have a Charlton character existing on the same Earth as Superman. I’m trying to remember that time as a comics reader. I can recall, once all of the earths were compressed into one, being a little puzzled about how that was all going to work out. Those six months or so between the end of the Crisis and the first issue of Byrne’s “Man of Steel” miniseries feel very nebulous in my memory. Obviously something had changed, but it wasn’t clear yet exactly how much. In retrospect, we know that a complete restart of Superman was in the works, but it would be fascinating to know how and when that news permeated through the DC Offices. Were they already in talks with John Byrne at this time? I imagine they must have been, but I suppose we’ll never know. This issue seems like the kind of story that the writers might have thought would be the new normal, before they found out what the really new normal was.

It’s too bad that Elliot S! Maggin doesn’t have pleasant memories of this period in Superman history, but I can understand why he might not. I don’t want to speak for him, of course, but after having been involved in writing Superman since the early 70s, it can’t have felt good to learn that this hot artist from Marvel was coming in to start things over from scratch. Now, I have no special knowledge of how any of the people involved actually felt. But looking back, the end of the Crisis and the Superman reboot really does seem like a changing of the guard, and longtime Superman talents like Maggin, Schaffenberger, Cary Bates, and others, sort of step aside for the newer folks. That kind of thing happens throughout the history of comics, but it’s always a bit sad when it does.

Thanks for reading my thoughts, and I’ll see you next time!

Hi Jon! It’s me. Again. That’s ok, right? Well, thank you for saying so, you’re a peach.

Anyhoo, I don’t have much to say about DCCP #90 that hasn’t been said. It’s not a great story, Rayburn’s problematic at best, but it was nifty to pair Firestorm and Captain Atom in the same story. Instead, may I share some thoughts on those 2 heroes? See, I knew you’d be good with that. Again, a peach.

I don’t know if it was the cartoons or comics where I first saw Firestorm, but it was pretty closely one then the other. I did borrow or skim or buy the odd issue on occasion. However, over a year ago, I did a Firestorm read through on DCU Finite from his debut series all the way thru the Fury of Firestorm volume. And for me, these comics hold up. It is great superhero fun, Gerry Conway’s writing is great, and it really doesn’t feel dated at all. Revisiting the Ostrander run which I was more familiar was fantastic, and I enjoyed filling the gaps in my reading there. When you get to it, I hope you’ll get a kick out of it.

For Captain Atom, I actually had issue #89 from his original series when I was a kid. Not positive but I think it was from a Whitman 3-pack, and likely a reprint as this would have been in the 70s, long after the issue was published. Sadly, my copy of that comic is long gone, but what’s amazing about that issue is it included not just the Captain, but also Nightshade, Punch and Jewelee, and Blue Beetle! Little did I know how much I’d be seeing those characters just a decade later.

When DC started the new Captain Atom series around the time of Legends, I only picked up an occasional issue, but like Firestorm, I started reading that series on DCUF, and again, what a good choice that was! For an older writer, Cary Bates was doing fantastic things with that comic. I probably appreciate it more now than I would have as a teenager. I can’t recommend it enough.

So yeah, I get my money’s worth out of DCU Infinite. (Yes, I’ll relent on the joke, because obviously, I appreciate the content they have.)

Thanks for more podcasty goodness, Jon. And until next time, thanks for reading.

Hey, Jon. It’s me checking in from Later Land. I was happy to catch up with this episode, of course.

When you titled this episode, were you thinking we would hear it in Rainier Wolfcastle’s accent? Yes? Worked perfectly!

I am in complete agreement about the updated DCCP logo – nowhere close to as dynamic is the other one. I also wonder why they would change in this late in the series, you know?

As for the issue itself, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I’m a sucker for prime Firestorm and I was a big Captain Atom reader, so it was interesting to see him in this version. Feels like the cancelling of each other’s powers wasn’t always consistent, but a minor quibble. I know you read more Firestorm since you recorded the initial segment, but can’t remember where you left off.

Always happy for the Superman reading updates and the entertaining feedback session, of course. Okay, I will work towards catching up on this week’s episode – talk to you soon!

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