The Atom #36: "Duel Between The Dual Atoms!"

The Atom #36
"Duel Between The Dual Atoms!"
April - May, 1968

Story By: Gardner Fox
Art By: Gil Kane And Sid Greene

The Atoms of two worlds are engaged in battle.  Two awesome allies --
have become two furious fighters!  The ensuing fallout threatens both
Earth-One and Earth-Two.  Now that you know the conditions for -- "Duel
Between The Dual Atoms"

Betty Roberts is a matchmaker who sees Professor Al Pratt of Calvin
College as someone who could use some companionship.  Her friend Marion
Thayer is a real looker, as well as loaded, too.  The Roberts are eager
to have Al come with them on a double date.  The professor finds this
almost too good to be true, brains, beauty, and money.  Mr. Roberts
assures his friend that Marion is a winner, while Betty wonders why Al is
being so coy.  Like Al Pratt, Marion Thayer is very particular, and the
Roberts take the professor to the Thayer Mansion located in the Klaxon
Woods area of Calvin City.  Being the Atom, Al hasn't been able to let
romance come his way.  If Marion Thayer is half as lovely as the Roberts
said --  The door opens, and the professor sees an much older woman
standing in the doorway.

When she asks if there's anything wrong with her make-up, Al wonders why
Betty and Jim have tried to set him up with a fifty year old?  When
Marion sees her reflection in the hall mirror, she lets out a scream, and
faints.  Betty Roberts has also been affected, and the professor realizes
that something must be causing the women to age prematurely.  ZZZT  The
sound of an electrical device in the back room is heard, and Al decides
to investigate as the Atom.  With Marion now on a couch, the JSAer sees a
group of men using ray-guns to blast a wall safe.

The five feet two inch tall hero does a forward flip, kicking down two
hoods, then launching himself forward to clobber a third.

The armed crook strikes him with his thermo-blaster, twice, and prepares
to fry the Atom.  The Mighty Mite grabs ahold of the table edges, and
delivers a double-kick to the safecracker's jaw.

The hapless hood is punched into a book shelf and unconsciousness.  The
Atom plans to conceal the device -- to take it to his Calvin College lab
for an examination.  The police are called to come pick up the mess.  The
absence of Al Pratt has gone unnoticed, and the professor tells his
friend to take them to the Roberts home, while he looks into the possible
cause.  Hours pass, with the nuclear physics professor studying the
thermo-blaster in his laboratory.  He knows that the device has nothing
to do with the sudden aging of the girls.  Al decides to turn in the
thermo-blaster to the police department as evidence.  When he arrives at
the police station, the desk sergeant is on the phone about another woman
from Klaxon Woods who has suddenly become old.

The college professor suggests that they send the scientific bureau to
Klaxon Woods -- to search for a device emitting a special type of
radiation.  The Atom will head to Earth-One -- where things tend to
parallel events on Earth-Two.  It could be that the aging process hasn't
happened yet -- and if so, he can learn what was responsible.  If it has
already occurred, perhaps the heroes of Earth-One have already dealt with
it.  At the Ivy Town Museum on Earth-One, a quartet of hoods are
wondering how much a jeweled pistol will get them from Freddy The Fence.
The Atom leaps over a pistol, having heard a tip about someone looking to
steal the gun collection.  As two of the crooks swing their pistols
towards him, the Mighty Mite clicks on his size-controls, and disappears
from sight.

Grabbing onto the arm of one of the hoods, the JLAer returns to his
six-inch height, and tugs hard.  This causes one crook to strike his
crooked crony with the pistol.  An atomic punch takes care of the other
hood, but there are two more to go.  The Atom kicks one crook, then grabs
onto the other's middle finger, and increases his weight to one hundred
and eighty pounds.

The bald bandit is thrown for a loss.  The next moment finds the Mighty
Mite wondering why he's fighting these men whom he has never seen before.
The crooks wonder among themselves... how did they get out of prison,
why isn't one of them playing poker with the gang, and why isn't the
other watching Maverick on TV this evening.  The Atom recalls that he's
Ray Palmer -- an Ivy University student -- who has a date with the new
girl on campus -- Jean Loring. 

After heading for his rooming house, the Mighty Mite wonders how he's
going to be able to reach the door knob, when the door opens.  The masked
character refers to him as the Atom... and tells him how he's vibrated to
his Earth for some aid.  Even at his six inch height, Ray Palmer has
never heard of the Atom.  Although the Atom from Earth-Two knows that Ray
Palmer is the Atom of Earth-One, the Mighty Mite claims never to have
seen him before.  After finding himself at a small size in costume, and
fighting some guys he didn't know, the sophomore college student is ready
for his date with Jean Loring.  Al Pratt realizes that the Atom has lost
ten years of his memory, then explains to Ray about the nature of his
dwarf-star matter costume...  It becomes invisible and intangible after
expanding... the size-controls are within the palms of his gloves, and
are activated when pressed a certain way.

Ray Palmer is now his normal self, and doesn't want to miss his date with
Jean Loring.  He doesn't remember where he got such a fancy suit, but
it'll do for the night.  Al Pratt thought he had problems back on
Earth-Two, and wonders how Ray becoming younger could be connected with
the aging women on his own Earth.  After buying a box of chocolates and a
bouquet for his date, Ray rings the doorbell.  When he sees Jean in
curlers, he figures that he's come early for their date.  She smiles at
the candy and flowers, calls him darling, and kisses him.  Needless to
say, Ray is surprised at how this particular date has progressed.  After
the clinch, she notices that her fiancee looks younger, and he is
surprised to hear that they're engaged to be married.  Jean reminds Ray
that he was the one who had been proposing to her throughout the years,
and he better not be trying to break their engagement.  The Atom from
Earth-Two steps from the shadows and tells her what's happened.

Things start making sense for Jean Loring, but Ray doesn't welcome the
arrival of the JSAer.  In his mind, he hasn't even had his first date
with Miss Loring -- and now she wants to marry him.  The next moment
finds both her fiancee and the costumed hero vanishing from sight.

The Atom has activated his atomic vibrator to return them to Earth-Two.
(Holy Comics Code, Batman!)  He realized that whatever was causing the
women to age here -- would return Ray to his rightful age.  He is now
twenty-eight years old, is the Atom of Earth-One, just as Al Pratt is the
Atom of Earth-Two.  After demonstrating how his size and weight controls
work, Ray is asked why Al didn't become younger on Earth-One when he did?
ZOK!  The Earth-One Atom is in no mood for answering questions, and
punches his counterpart on the ankle.

The stress of aging forward once more has caused mental stress in Ray
Palmer, with the Earth-Two Atom taking it on the chin from the Mighty
Mite.  CLICK!  With no other choice, the JSAer swings at his smaller foe,
who disappears from sight.  He reappears and knocks the Earth-Two Atom
back into a birdbath.

The Mighty Mite offers the JSAer a free try, but when the Earth-Two Atom
swings, the JLAer dodges the blow with ease.  The Atom hurls a bird-house
at his larger foe, but it is thrown back at him. KRASH!  Grabbing ahold
of his Earth-One counterpart, the JSAer prepares to vibrate them back to

Pinning his smaller opponent against a tree, the Earth-Two Atom punches
at him, but the JLAer manages to activate his size-controls once more.
After shrinking between the JSAer's fingers, the Atom tries to keep his
counterpart from activating his atomic vibrator controls.  (Holy Comics
Code, Batman!)  The larger Atom hurls himself towards the garden
flagstones, in hopes of triggering the vibrator.

Both Atoms fall onto the garden walk... with the two heroes traveling for
Earth-One, but the Atomic Vibrator suffers from a faulty filament --
leaving them on yet another world.  The JLAer leaps for his larger
opponent, who responds in kind with a mighty punch.  VAAM!

The Mighty Mite is soon caught in the tendrils of an alien plant.  The
Earth-Two Atom activates his counterpart's size-controls, freeing him
from the deadly plant.  Ray Palmer is back at six feet once more, but
he's ready to keep fighting.  He is unable to defend himself against the
older hero, who delivers an awesome onslaught from which there's no

KA-WAAAK!  The Earth-2 Atom manages to break through Ray Palmer's
defenses with one final blow.  He is now able to repair his atomic
vibrator -- and continue on their way to Earth-One.  (Holy Comics Code,

Now on Earth-One, the JSAer sees that Ray Palmer has been de-aged a few
more years.  The lad wants to head for Mount Ivy, where the Scienceers
Club is about to have their meeting.  They are to fire off a test rocket,
and he's the one responsible.  The Atom chases after the fourteen year
old, in hopes of making him understand what has happened.  Young Ray
Palmer heads up to Mount Ivy, where he finds a radio-telescope, and no
sign of the Scienceers.  Figuring that someone must have chased them off,
the teen begins to beat at the radio-telescope with a rock.  As the
radio-telescope falls to the ground... Ray Palmer regains his rightful
age and his memory once more.  They learn that the radio-telescope had
been picking up some stellar radiation from outer space, and broadcasted
it in the surrounding area.

Ray doesn't remember their fight, but apologizes for it nonetheless.  The
owner of the radio-telescope turns up, and tells them about the radiation
from a distant star which was captured as it was being formed.  On
Earth-One, it had a "youth" frequency -- but on Earth-Two, it was the
reverse.  Only the Pembrooke area of Ivy Town were affected, the
radiation coming from the Van Allen Belt.  The radiation Al Pratt
absorbed on his own Earth protected him on Earth-One.  The two agree to
head back for Earth-Two.  On Mount Calvin, they find the radio-telescope,
with the radiation being bounced from the Moresby Radiation Belt -- and
deflected to Klaxon Woods.  Instead of picking up the radiation from a
new star -- this telescope has gathered the radiations from a dying one
-- affecting the aging process of females.  The two Atoms find that the
radiation has formed a force-field around the radio-telescope.  Although
the JSAer cannot reach it, the JLAer can by shrinking to the size of an
atomic bullet.  (Holy Hi-Yo Silver, Batman!)

The elder Atom hurls his counterpart towards the force-field... with the
Mighty Mite caught in the energy storm...  He realizes that Professor
Hyatt's Time Pool promises a smoother ride, but the time has come to
increase his size...  Now on his knees, the Atom crawls for the controls,
and turns the telescope off.  The Earth-Two Atom topples the
radio-telescope, just as the Earth-One Atom collapses from exertion.

Back on Earth-Two, the women have regained their rightful ages, with Al
and Marion all smiles on their date.  On Earth-One, Jean Loring smiles at
the thought that Ray Palmer was engaged to a girl who he hadn't dated

On the cover of The Atom &36 by Gil Kane, the Mighty Mite delivers an
atomic punch to his Earth-Two counterpart.  The title isn't big enough
for two small super-heroes.

If Al Pratt was in his teens during the 1940's, he'd be in his thirties
in 1968.

Al dated and married a girl named Mary.  Whatever happened to her?

In current continuity, Al Pratt is the father of Damage.

Safecrackers in Calvin City make certain to wear business suits whenever
committing a caper.

At the beginning of the story, Betty Roberts' husband is named Jim on
page 3.

By page 6, the name of Betty Roberts' husband is now Bill.

Did the matchmaking wife get a divorce and get remarried in the space of
three pages?

I guess that Gardner Fox was a fan of Maverick.

As a sophomore, Ray Palmer was surprised at how well his first date with
Miss Loring went.

As a super-hero, Ray Palmer was surprised at how things with his ex-wife

In the "Inside Atom" letters page, Jeff Pierce of Stanford, Cal. writes:

"Dear Editor:

To be honest about it, I fully expected Atom #34 to be a complete
failure, a "bomb" as they say in the vernacular of the times.  It pleases
me to state that I was totally and irrevocably wrong.  The 34th venture
of The Atom in his own mag was one of the finest such stories to date.

My main criticism was the cover, the worst ever to have appeared in The
Atom.  Nothing seemed to fit in and the hero of the moment seemed (perish
the thought) uncoordinated.  Gil Kane has always been noted for his
graceful, streamlined poses, so the last thing I expect to see in a
Kane-pencilled mag is an awkward hero.  Another thing: it appears that
Atom had better seen an orthopedist, because he seems to be getting
pigeon-toed in his old age.

In sharp contrast to the cover was the interior art work.  Up until this
issue, I had planned to write you an angry letter of protest about the
artwork decay of the Gil Kane-Sid Greene team.  I now find this to be far
from necessary.  I have no idea how it was done, but Atom 34 erased all
the previous high-water marks for the team and stands as the best
Kane-Greene yarn printed to date.

The story itself was quite enjoyable.  I'm glad that you're giving Atom a
more steady diet of super-villains, rather than all those gangsters.  Now
don't get me wrong - I enjoy a good detective story as much as the next
fellow, but which is the better story: "Case of the Hooded Hijackers" or
"The Thinker's Earth-Shaking Robberies"?

Although there have been literally hundreds of groups consisting of
criminals with different talents and/or abilities, the Big Gang was as
well-handled as any of them.  Their reason for stealing, their modus
operandi, their various powers, their costumes and characterizations, all
were portrayed well.  Except one: Big Bertha.  Now I won't question the
fact that a playing card can open a safe or the fact that a gun can shoot
a propeller.  However, not even by stretching the bounds of reality to
the fullest can I believe that a female midget, no matter how skilled she
might be or how many gold medals she might have won, can throw a shot 80

The editor replies:

"Another beef about beefy Bertha's shotputting ability!  It didn't bother
the next critic in his member-by-member analysis of the Big Gang."

Tom Peyer of Syracuse, N.Y. writes:

"Dear Editor:

Though I find it pretty hard to believe that a gang of criminals would be
more concerned with the size of its loot than its value, I enjoyed
"Little Man, etc." and would like to see more of the Big Gang.

No group can be judged collectively yet fairly, and the Big Gang is no
exception - so I'll try to tell you what I think of them one by one.

Big Head: Now come on!  We, the readers, are asked to believe that one
man could have the brains of an entire college faculty?

Big Ben: Okay, but it gets kind of annoying seeing him always hurrying
the gang up, and remarking that the first robin of spring appeared 0.32
seconds early... ease up on him, give him some Chronos-like gimmicks.  He
has great potential.

Big Wig: He's okay, but how many different gimmicks can be incorporated
into wigs?

Big Bertha: She's very good, but could be improved if you can give her
extraordinary strength in addition to her cannon-like aim.

Big Shot: Very good.  The only member of the group who would be
entertaining on his own.  Give him some "solo" adventures against the
Tiny Titan.

Big Cheese: His concept is a little absurd, but I like the way his
cheeses come through in a pinch.

Big Deal: I like him - I really can't explain why.

Though some of them are individual flops, they're great together!"

How did the creative team sneak the "atomic vibrator" past the Comics
Code Authority?

Ray Palmer was de-aged and joined the Teen Titans after events seen in
Zero Hour.

The Scienceers were a club, which had Editor Julius Schwartz as one of
its members.

The owner of the radio-telescope on Earth-One resembles Julie Schwartz.

The Super Skrull once found himself trapped in the Van Allen Radiation
Belt in a Marvel Team-Up story by Chris Claremont.

The shape-shifting villain was later freed in an early Alpha Flight story
written and drawn by John Byrne.

Steve Chung
"Review Between The Reviewed Atoms!"