The funny thing about Atlas comics is that they no longer seem as crap as they once did. Don't get me wrong, there's still the stench of failure about a lot of the material put out by that much-maligned publisher of the '70's, and time has not dulled the feelings of disgust from the first time I ever saw Ironjaw, ( who could ever, in their wildest dreams, have thought that was a good idea?! ) And when as kids, we swapped comics, you'd have to give away at least 3 Atlas' for a Marvel. And even then you'd have to beg. But, with hindsight, it wasn't all bad. There was, for instance, The Destructor:
Created by the unbelievable team of Archie Goodwin, Steve Ditko & Wally Wood, The Destructor was Atlas' version of Spider-Man, with a little Daredevil thrown in, and I guess it is fairly generic stuff, but I dunno, I always thought this guy had potential.
The Destructor was Jay Hunter, a disagreeable little punk who worked for a gangster with the wonderfully Silver Age name of Max Raven, and whose father was a batty scientist working on a serum to " heighten all the human senses to near-animal sharpness ". When Raven decides to take out Jay, basically on a whim, Hunter Sr. takes a bullet for the ungrateful little guttersnipe, and pours said serum down Jay's throat.
Soon, realizing that pop's serum has made him faster, stronger & meaner than the average bear, Jay slaps on the superhero costume the old guy had previously made for him, ( man, he really did have all this worked out, didn't he? ) and sets out to demolish Raven's operation.
There're a lot of things to like about The Destructor; It goes without saying that the first issue is well drawn & well written, but there's also enough uniqueness in the character to make him stand out. Firstly, he's a bad guy, and not even a reformed bad guy. Apart from the obligatory 'vow at the graveside' scene at the end, there's no real indication that Jay is suddenly going to be rescuing any puppies from burning buildings. A pretty unlikeable character to begin with, the serum seems to make him more vicious & violent, something I suspect Goodwin would've played on if the series had lasted. And I'm equally sure Jay's single-mindedness is what attracted Ditko. He's almost a Rand-ian superhero.
There's also the intriguing way his powers work:
All of his senses are working at peak efficiency, and Ditko quite often draws Jay moving like a crab, or an insect, making almost impossible bodily contortions, the implication being that as adrenaline pumps through him, he becomes more animalistic, but interestingly, it also exhausts him, as if he's a junkie to his powers. In fact, The Destructor is more like a prototype Wolverine than a Spider-Man. Plus, as a bonus, we do get a classic Ditko villain in Slaymaster, a hired assassin who looks like he should've been in The Enforcers with Fancy Dan & Montana.
Sadly, like nearly all the Atlas titles, The Destructor only lasted four issues, going far from it's starting point in the process.
It's actually a shame that no one's ever brought any of Atlas' characters back. After all, a few of them would still work: Tiger-Man, The Grim Ghost maybe, and definitely The Destructor. If you'd like to read the whole of the first issue, truck on over ( in an animalistic way ) to Diversions Of The Groovy Kind, where The Groovy One has it up there for your delight & delectation, and see if you agree with me.
December 14th, 1977 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.
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