The 1970s seem to be a decade in history that just won’t die. That can either be a good thing or a bad thing. Depends which side of the fence you’re standing on.
The 70s were kinda like the wild frontier for me. The phrase “Politically Correct” hadn’t been shackled to us like a 50 lbs steel ball. Sex was still something you had with whoever ya wanted and whenever ya wanted. We drank, we fought, we had fun.
I was in high school and college during that decade. Needless to say I had one hell of a time and still have the scars and memories to prove it. For comic books it was a weird time. The first generation of fans turned pro were taking over Marvel and DC Comics. Distribution was changing the ways comics were bought. Like movies and TV, comics were getting a little more adult. That happened because of what I said earlier, the fans turning pro. They still loved comics and the super heroes they grew up with, but they wanted to see them in more adult situations that appealed to them now.
Granted, compared to today’s comics they were small steps into “grim and gritty” stuff. That didn’t really kick into high gear until the mid 80s when the second generation of fans turned pro started taking over?my age group.
Here it is 2005 and we’ve seen just about every revival of any line of remaining superheroes that comics had to offer in its rich history. Sure there are lots of characters from the Golden Age that have yet to be dug up and re-animated, but that’s only a matter of time now.
One line of super heroes that did slip under the radar were the characters of the Atlas/Seaboard line. This was a group of comic books that came out in 1974 under the direction of former Marvel Comics publisher Martin Goodman along with his son Chip. Martin was an in-law relation to Stan Lee and his boss for many years.
From all the stuff I’ve read through the years, Martin sounded like a very old school 40s and 50s type of publisher of comics and magazines. It sounds like his son Chip was just kinda along for the ride.
Seems that when Martin sold Marvel to Cadence for a hefty sum, he was promised that his son Chip would stay on as some sort of editorial director or sorts. Well, according to history, Cadence soon found out that Chip wasn’t really qualified and was part of a son/nephew kinda deal. Chip quickly found himself kicked to the curb.
Well, this kinda pissed Martin off. So he decided to start his own comic book publishing company called Atlas/Seaboard. Of course he would also hire Chip.
Martin did all sorts of things to muddy the waters a bit. Stuff like making up logos, ads, and characters that mirrored those of Marvel and DC. He also went as far as to hire talent away from the big two, including Stan Lee’s very own brother and semi-related to Goodman?Larry Lieber.
For a while everybody was pissed off. Goodman, DC, Marvel they were all trying to step on each other’s pecker. Too bad for Goodman he didn’t plan his vengeance a little better. He started Atlas/Seaboard during a time when comic book distribution was changing into what we now call the direct market.
Goodman was able to hire some of the very best talent in the business. There were marquee names like Steve Ditko, Howard Chaykin, John Severin, Neal Adams, Wally Wood, Russ Heath and Alex Toth among the many top talent creators that Goodman brought over to Atlas. How could he go wrong?
After about a total of about 65 issues and a few magazines Atlas rode off into the sunset without the girl and on a donkey instead of a stallion. It was a shame. Back then I admired the fact that there was another choice to Marvel and DC. For the time these books were a little edgier than the other stuff going on in comics. Nothing big by today’s standards, but a little more than we were used to then.
Even through my drunken, lustful haze of beer and women I was able to buy every issue of the Atlas line. I’ve still got em’. As I got into the business I always made sure that when at a convention I picked up duplicates of any Atlas comic I found. Wasn’t hard. Most of the time they were in the 4 for a dollar box. The reason why? I knew that one day they would come in handy. One day these characters would be wanted and needed again. I planned on being there when the call went out.
All the time I was at Eclipse I pushed for us to buy the characters from the Goodmans. In 1994 I pushed Eclipse Publisher Dean Mullaney so much that he finally checked into it and talked to Goodman. He also did some research on copyrights and such on his own with the Eclipse lawyers. It seemed that the copyrights had expired and the Goodmans no longer owned those characters. Now don’t hold me to all this because my memory isn’t all that clear, but this is the round about way it went.
Dean wanted to pay the Goodman’s a price he thought the stuff was worth, but the Goodmans wanted much, much more. Dean declined. He also told them that he found out the stuff was free and clear. Needless to say that subject went back and forth with no real winner of the argument.
So Dean gave me the greenlight to develop the characters and update them where they needed to be updated. I came up with a plan and a history for them along with a storyline for a series. We hired a couple of artists to draw up and update some of the characters. We published a few ash cans with these results.
Then Eclipse Comics went out of business.
Those ash cans were lost some where at Eclipse. There was talk that then big time retailer Moondog’s in the Midwest had a few of them. I had my copies. Or I did. Soon after that my office burn to the ground and I lost everything.
Somewhere here at the ranch I have a file on my plan and stories for the Atlas characters. I’m not real sure just where they are, but they are here somewhere. One day I’ll do my Indiana Jones thing and dig em’ up.
Sometime around then Martin Goodman died in Florida I believe. Then a few years ago his son, Chip also passed away. The “Atlas Curse’? Naaaw, just time and life marching on.
The reason I’m bringing all this Atlas history is because Atlas is the piece of comic book history that needs to be shoved back into the playing table of today.
We all know how Marvel and DC love the big themes. Just think if one of them were to do the Atlas characters and merge them into their own current continuity. I’ve got a real nice way of making that happen. More on that another day.
The Atlas characters would be great for a smaller publisher to do. It could establish them right off the bat with some instant history and back issues for readers to clamor for. Trade paperbacks to be collected. Who said you can’t do something new with super heroes?
Some of you may ask?”Who cares about these forgotten characters?” You’d be surprised. If they were done right it could mean a while lot to readers in general. Never ignore the knock of opportunity in the world of entertainment.
There’s a wonderful website that has a load of history and art from the Atlas/Seaboard days. I highly recommend you check it out. It’s easy and fun to run around. Just click on this: http://www.atlasarchives.com. It might also spark you to go seek out these issues at your local comic shop or on Ebay. Don’t try and bust in here at the ranch and steal mine. You’d never make it out alive.
For those of you that are too lazy to click on a link here is a checklist of the Atlas books and I’ve sprinkled some Atlas covers here for ya to gaze at.
Here’s your manly ATLAS COMICS Checklist!
The Barbarians #1 June 75
Blazing Battle Tales #1 July 75
The Brute #1 – #3 Feb 75 – July 75
The Cougar #1 – #2 April 75 – July 75
Demon Hunter #1 Sept 75
Destructor #1 – #4 Feb 75 – August 75
Fright #1 June 75
Grim Ghost #1 – #3 Jan 75 – July 75
Hands of the Dragon #1 June 75
Ironjaw #1 – #4 Jan 75 – July 75
Moorlock 2001 #1 -#3 Feb 75 – July 75
Pheonix #1 – #4 Jan 75 – Oct 75
Planet Of Vampires #1 – #3 Feb 75 – July 75
Police Action #1 – #3 Feb 75 – June 75
Savage Combat Tales #1 – #3 Feb 75 – July 75
Scorpion #1 – #3 Feb 75 – July 75
Tales of Evil #1 – #3 Feb 75 – July 75
Targitt #1 – #3 Mar 75 – July 75
Tiger Man #1 – #3 April 75 – Sept 75
Vicki #1 – #2 Feb 75 – April 75
Weird Suspense #1 – #3 Jan 75 – July 75
Western Action #1 Feb 75
Wulf the Barbarian #1 – #4 Feb 75 – Sept 75
SEABOARD MAGAZINES –
Devilina #1 – #2 Jan 75 – May 75
Gothic Romances #1 Dec 74
Movie Monsters #1 – #4 Dec 74 – Aug 75
Wierd Tales of the Macabre #1 – #2 Jan 75 – Mar 75
Thrilling Adventure #1 – #2 Feb 75 – Aug 75
Personal favorites of mine were: Tiger-Man, Planet Of The Vampires, Police Action, Targitt, and Ironjaw. There are some really fun books here. You should really check em’ out.That’s It. We’re Done. Go Away.
I hope you enjoyed the little history lesson in comics. It’d be even better if ya stayed awake. Maybe I need a pretty young assistant in a short skirt and heels to keep attention span from limping.
I’ll be interested in hearing your thoughts on the stuff from Atlas. If you’ve read em’ before or are just reading them for the first time. It’s a great line of comics to collect and relive the 70s. If you were too young to be in the 70s it’s still a fun way to learn more about comics.
Remember, today ain’t nothing but yesterday with a better haircut.
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