When I was young, it seemed like you could find comic books everywhere–in convenience stores, in card stores, in drug stores, in department stores and in supermarkets. Sadly, that’s no longer the case, and the industry is much the worse for it.

CAPTAIN ATOM #84 by Modern Comics was available in a Three-Comics-In-A-Bag line offered through supermarkets in 1977. What it and the other comics eventually released in the line really were was reprints of books published over the years by Charlton. The real CAPTAIN ATOM #84, of which this was a facsimile, was published in 1966.

Having grown unhappy with his relationship with Writer/Editor Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, the artistic genius behind Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, shifted his main operations over to Charlton Comics. Under the editorship of Dick Giordano, Ditko began to revitalize their moribund “Action Hero” line, injecting the Captain Atom strip with the same type of public commentary and satire he’d introduced in his Marvel work. The Blue Beetle he completely recreated in his own image, resulting in a strip that bore many of the hallmarks of Spider-Man, but which had a charm and a flavor all its own. 

The revived Charlton books only lasted a few issues each, hampered by spotty distribution and a general apathy on the part of the publisher. But they’re cracklin’ good comics, well worth seeking out. It’s something of a shame to witness the ignoble end that Captain Atom and the Blue Beetle have been brought to in the last couple of years.

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