Captain Atom #79, "Dr. Spectro!"

CAPTAIN ATOM #79; Charlton Comics; Feb-March 1966; Pat Masulli, editor (and 
also credited with creating Captain Atom); featuring "Captain Atom Faces Dr. 
Spectro, Master of Moods!"  Story by Steve Ditko and Joe Gill; pencils by 
Ditko; inks by Rocke Mastroserio; lettering by Jon D'agostino.  On the  cover
signed by "Ditko & Rocke", Captain Atom slugs it out with Dr. Spectro,  who is
clad in a costume with black torso and hood with a chest sunburst symbol, 
rainbow-colored arms and leggings.  Captain Atom is throwing atomic punshes 
symbolized by atom symbols, while Spectro is surrounded by a multicolored  circular
halo.  The usual terrified bystanders cower in the background, and  the blurb
invites us to "Witness the Birth of the Incomparable DOCTOR  SPECTRO! 
Different-- Dangerous-- Diabolical"

Review by Bill  Henley

Captain Atom debuted for a brief run in Charlton's SPACE  ADVENTURES in
1960-61, and then returned in 1965.  STRANGE SUSPENSE STORIES  #75-77 featured CA
reprints from the SPACE ADVENTURES run, and then with #78 the  title became
CAPTAIN ATOM and Steve Ditko, who was then on the verge of leaving  Marvel, began
producing new Captain Atom stories.  So this issue features  just the second
new story in the mid 60's run.  On the splash page, Dr.  Spectro shines a blue
ray on Captain Atom, causing the atomic hero to become the  target of hate
and rage from a mob of bystanders.

"In the Southwest, an  Air Force truck loaded with highly classified
equipment came to a barrier in the  road".... the barrier is no product of the state
highway department, but the  scheme of a hijacking gang which fells the guards
with nerve gas.  "RODENT  will pay plenty for this shipment!", the gang leader
exults.  Maybe not,  for at that moment "the mighty figure of Captain Atom"
bursts through the walls  of Rodent's criminal hideout.  Cap smashes through
metal barriers in his  way, and when a steel wall over a foot thick blocks his
path, he merely "changes  his molecular body structure" and dematerializes
through the wall.  Felling  Rodent and his men with very material fists, Cap
rescues a valuable "list of the  gangs Rodent works with", but not before one of
the names on the list has been  burned away.  Acting on orders from Washington,
Captain Atom assumes an  undercover civilian disguise to track down that last
gang, suspected of  masterminding the truck hijacking.  He has arranged to
meet his aide Gunner  Goslin at a nearby circus, and while waiting for the
rendezvous he takes in the  sideshow of a character advertised as "Dr. Spectro,
Master of Moods". Colorfully  costumed as befits a circus performer, "Ladies and
gentlemen, few of you  recognize the importance of COLOR in your lives!"  the
good doctor explains  to his audience.  "By using COLOR and LIGHT I can make
Urging the audience to "watch the changing lights", Dr. Spectro  is able to
change their mood from happy and cheerful to somber.  Captain  Atom, in the
audience secretly, is intrigued by what appears to be a genuine  ability with
"tremendous potential".  But then a heckler mocks Dr. Spectro,  calling him a
fake, and reminding the doctor of the hard-luck events which  brought him from
the halls of science to the circus sideshow.  Conventional  physicians and
researchers scoffed at his claims to be able to heal patients by  the use of color.
Now, taking out his frustrations on the hapless heckler,  Dr. Spectro shines
a deep blue ray in his face, causing him to be overcome with  terror and flee
the tent. 

Captain Atom plans to meet with Dr.  Spectro after the show, but another
onlooker has taken an interest in the  doctor-- the mustached leader of the
hijacking gang, who needs more money for  his getaway and figures Dr. Spectro can
help him get it.  When the gangster  tries to enlist Dr. Spectro's services for
"just a joke on someone, the doctor  rebuffs him, but the thug only warns,
"You'll do it the HARD way then!"   Harder than he thinks, for a punch knocks Dr.
Spectro into his own apparatus  which exposes the doctor to the full force of
his own refracted  color-energy...particularly the red ray which "bathed his
brain....hate began to  dominate his change his entire mind...."
He resolves that "I  have POWER.... I can DESTROY them all!  No one will
ever LAUGH at me  again!"  He now has the ability to beam his color-rays from his
own body  through the symbol on his costumed chest, and his first victims are
the gang  that accosted him,  made sick and terrified by Spectro's blue ray. 

Having fled Spectro's influence, however, the crooks are still  determined to
pull off a bank job, and when Captain Atom's uniformed Air Force  aide Gunner
runs into them and overhears their plans, they take him  hostage.  Meanwhile,
the disguised Captain Atom meets with Dr. Spectro and  tries to convince him
to "benefit all mankind wity your discoveries", but it is  too late for that. 
Spectro strikes the Captain with his blue ray, and even  he is driven away by
the effect of sickness and fear.  While recovering,  Cap realizes that Gunner
is missing, till he receives a signal on his belt-radio  from Gunner, who has
been locked by the gangsters into the warehouse where the  stolen air force
equipment is also stored. Flying to the rescue, Captain Atom  learns from
Gunner that the crooks have gone off to rob the bank, and flies in  pursuit while
Gunner calls the police.  Arriving at the bank, Cap  superheats a gun out of
the gangleader's hand, but the resourceful if  unprincipled boss hurls a handful
of sand from an ashtray into Cap's face.   Half blinded by the sand and
unable to use his full powers for fear of  committing murder, Cap nonetheless
manages to slug the three gangsters into  submission.  "I should give you an atomic
punch, TRAITOR!", an angry Cap  tells the leader (apparently stealing
military materiel counts in his eyes as an  act of treason) though it only takes an
ordinary punch to lay him  low.

But before Cap can savor his victory, he hears screams of terror  indicating
that Dr. Spectro is on the rampage in the street outside.   "Creating evil
hues never before seen by man" (though Charlton's printing plant  is only capable
of reproducing a sickly yellow), Dr. Spectro beams his mood-ray  at the
crowds causing them to flee in panic.  The police and even Captain  Atom himself
are also caught in the spell of terror, until Cap gets the idea of  surrounding
himself with a shield of "pure heat-energy" which somehow protects  him from
Spectro's color-rays.  But though Captain Atom is no longer  paralyzed by
terror of Dr. Spectro, the would-be benefactor turned villlain has  more tricks up
his sleeve, or more precisely attached to his wrists.  He  uses wrist-blasters
to shoot color-rays at Cap in the form of sheer physical  energy capable of
rocking our hero back on his heels.  To top that off, Doc  beams a blue ray at
the crowd which changes their fearful panic into raw mob  hatred aimed at
Captain Atom.  The weakened Cap is just barefly able to  take to the air to avoid
the rage of the crowd.  He comes up with the idea  of forming an atomic
fireball from his hand to launch against Dr. Spectro.   But this turns out to be a
mistake, for the Doc's "electromagnetic refractor" on  his chest is capable of
absorbing the heat of the fireball and converting it to  more energy for Dr.
Spectro's use. "Captain Atom's power now belongs to  me!"

A barrage of orange rays momentarily stuns Cap, but he recovers and  manages
to dodge another attack by Dr. Spectro.  Cap throws a punch at  Spectro,
Spectro punches back, and as so often in Ditko-drawn stories, the  battle turns
into a knock-down, drag-out fistfight.  Finding his power  weakening, Spectro
renews it by causing a car's gas tank to explode and then  absorbing the
resulting heat-energy.  But as Captain Atom battles on,  Spectro needs an even greater
source of power, and he finds it when Cap hurls  him against a high-tension
power line.  Rather than trying to disengage  from the line, Spectro "stayed
there with 50,000 volts pouring into his  body".... "The fool!  He'll never be
able to control all the power he's  absorbing!"  Cap tries to halt the flow of
power into the line, but the  supeenergized Dr. Spectro goes on the attack
with a barrage of multicolored  beams.  But as Doc hurtles at Captain Atom, what
Cap expects comes to pass;  "Dr. Spectro had too much energy....he almost had
to burn out like a light bulb  that has received too much voltage! " 
"Destroyed by a hate that was too  much for any man's body", Dr. Spectro's corporeal
existence vanishes in a  blinding flash of rainbow energy.  But as Cap reports
back to the local  police and they ask if Dr. Spectro is gone forever, he
replies, "N-no, I...I  don't think so, somehow....I feel he's still up 
there....somewhere....waiting...!"  And from somewhere in the sky, a  disembodied voice
replies, "You are right, Captain Atom!  I will return,  and when I do, I shall
prove that I am supreme after all!  Next time I  shall not fail!"  Dr.
Spectro did indeed return two issues later, in CAPT.  ATOM #81.

The Blue Beetle backup series had not yet been introduced to  CAPTAIN ATOM at
this point, so for a filler feature, we have "Moon-Run!"  a  sci-fi short
story clearly drawn by Ditko (and probably scripted by Joe  Gill).  In the story,
a uniformed pilot waves goodbye to "Iris, the girl he  loved" as he boards a
rocket ship to pilot a routine run to the moon.  As  the ship buttons down and
lifts off, the passengers discuss the prospect that a  new model of robot
will soon be used to pilot ships like this.  The general  agreement is it's a bad
idea, because robots are imperfect, lacking the judgment  and courage that a
human pilot requires.  Unconcerned with the chatter, the  pilot performs his
duties, distracted only by the vision of his love imagined  against a
background of space.  But then the "stablizers meshed", and as  the ship threatens to
fall into the sun or collide with meteors, the pilot  battles bravely to keep
it under control despite being battered with radiation  in the unshielded
control cabin.  He ultimately saves the ship, but as the  passengers praise his
bravery and try to care for his "injuries", they discover  he is actually a
new-model humanoid robot.  The damaged automaton reflects  how the girl he fell in
love with feels the same "fear, disgust for robots" as  other people, and so
he can never see her again.  One of the passengers  comments that "You really
can't tell the difference between one of these things  and a real human!  Boy
they've really made them perfect now!"  Another  man warns, "Take it easy,
he'll hear you!" but as tears leak from the robot's  eyes, the first man scoffs,
"So what!  The thing ain't got no feelings or  emotions!  It's only a robot!"