The Short Career of Atoma

The Golden Age of Comics is littered with one-hit wonders, characters who appeared a single time and then vanished into obscurity, only known to those of us who bother to excavate these disposable treasures of yesteryear. Sometimes, some pretty innovative work was done on these stories, which is why it pays to bring them to light once again. One such strip made its only appearance in the back of JOE PALOOKA COMICS #15 from Harvey in 1947

Atoma was created by artist Bob Powell–nobody is quite sure who wrote the strip, possibly Powell himself. It wasn’t a super hero story so much as it was a futuristic time travel adventure in which chemist Dusty Rhodes discovers a formula that will take him into the far future, where he meets Atoma, a historical researcher. The whole strip has a bit of a Buck Rogers flavor to it, so possibly that was one of Powell’s influences in creating it.

Atoma was one of those rare strips that featured a woman in the lead role. There was something in the air in the late 1940s that caused several publishers to experiment with female-led hero strips, few of which caught on. But it definitely made Atoma a bit more distinctive than its fellows.

But probably the most innovative and memorable feature of this single Atoma strip is the way that Powell lays out all of his pages to mimic the page number–so this page makes a giant 3. Of course, he also skimps on backgrounds throughout this story like a fiend–to teh point where I wonder if somebody else was intended to have drawn in some of these backgrounds and it never got done before publication. It’s a very sparse strip.

I also wonder if there wasn’t initially another panel or two at the end of this final page that were clipped off by the need to advertise the Green Hornet. What’s there still mimics the shape of a 7 but not as effectively as it might do if Powell had the same full page space as on other pages.

4 thoughts on “The Short Career of Atoma

  1. Bee-you-ti-ful!
    Thanks for sharing this great strip.
    I love the art and the page layouts.
    Also your scans show the lines and dots of the Craftint Multicolor colour separation method so clearly… assisted by the simplicity of, for example, page 2 panel 1.


  2. Wonderfully experimental!

    As for page 7: I suspect the last panel was originally a full-length shot of the two characters. Certainly a single long image would better balance the wealth of copy at the top of the panel.


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