Who is this guy fighting Superman?
James Robinson knows. I know. And after this, so will you.
Hello and welcome to the 13 Days of D.C.F.I.S.-mas! Where we'll be dissecting DC First Issue Special.
You could say F.I.S. was the 1970s answer to Showcase. Or you could say it was Bizarro-Showcase. Whereas Showcase brought us the first appearances of the Silver Age Flash and Green Lantern, the Metal Men, Adam Strange, the Challengers, Enemy Ace, Bat Lash, and many other classic DC characters, First Issue Special gave us one character that was actually popular and a lot of one-hit wonders that only people like James Robinson or Gail Simone remember.
"Sounds like a flimsy premise to milk for 13 posts," you say.
"Bite me," I say. Let's begin with the guy pictured above? Who is he? Hercules in a hijab? Samson in a scarf? Conan in a keffiyeh?
It's ATLAS! No, not the titan Atlas from Wonder Woman. No, not the Atlas who puts the first "A" in "SHAZAM." Not Charles Atlas, who can make a man out of YOU (and who can sue you for creating Flex Mentallo). This is the other other other other Atlas. Is he legend or man? Man or monster? Floor wax or dessert topping?
Sword & sorcery is not a genre Jack Kirby really touched, apart from a few pin-ups in Marvel's Conan comics. This comic is Exhibit A of why he didn't do Sword & Sorcery. The King was not really firing on all cylinders here.. It's a pretty pedestrian story of vengeance seeking hero, evil overlord, weaselly sidekick, etc. What is notable about it is how accurately Kirby was able to predict the plot of the Schwarzenegger/Milius film "Conan the Barbarian" nearly a decade before it came out:
You can probably piece together the rest. The boy grows up into an impossibly muscled barbarian, swears to bring down a reptilian cult, befriends a wizened annoying old guy, etc. etc.:
If there had been a next issue, we would almost certainly have seen Atlas tied to the Tree of Woe and go on to kill several mighty warriors with Wile E. Coyote traps. CROM!
OK so where is he now?:Well, apart from some tantalizing cameos in "hypertime" when Karl Kesel was writing Superboy, and standing in the background of Kingdom Come (yeah, him and like 900 others), we never saw much of old Atlas. But James Robinson's bringing him back, just like he dredged up long-forgotten characters like Stalker or the Blue Starman.
But that's another story.