The PopCult Bookshelf

61QWGbI2zPLShowcase Presents
The Great Disaster
Featuring The Atomic Knights
Written and drawn by Various
DC Comics
ISBN: 978-1-4012-4290-9

This is one of those niche comic book collections that seems amazing in that it was even published. Presented here in glorious black and white are 570 pages of post apocalyptic comic book stories published by DC Comics between 1960 and 1983.

In DC’s self published fan magazine, “The Amazing World of DC Comics,” back in 1976, Paul Levitz (who would go on to become the president and publisher of DC Comics) wrote an article that tied together several threads of DC Comics science fiction stories and showed how the early 1960’s adventures of The Atomic Knights could be tied to then current DC series “Hercules Unbound” and Jack Kirby’s classic, “Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth.” He created a cool chronology of “Earth: After Disaster.”


Jack Kirby’s “Atlas”

The theory put forth by Levitz was that some sort of civilization ending apocalypse occurs in 1986, which at the time was still ten years in the future. In the years following this disaster, first Jack Kirby’s “OMAC” series happened right before the complete collapse of civilization, then the adventures of The Atomic Knights, a classic sci-fi series written by John Broome and drawn by Murphy Anderson took place. Sixty years after OMAC lost his superpowers, Kamandi emerged from the fallout shelter he shared with his now deceased grandfather, who in this theory was Buddy Blank, the alter-ego of OMAC. Between “OMAC” and “Kamandi,” Jack Kirby’s Atlas one shot, and DC’s mid-seventies “Hercules Unbound” series take place. Sprinkled throughout were several short “Earth After Disaster” stories published in “Weird War Tales” that explain how humanity died out and intelligent animals took over the world, which sets up the world of “Kamandi.”

Post Apocalyptic Knights in Armor, who ride giant Dalmations. This is great stuff!

Post Apocalyptic Knights in Armor, who ride giant Dalmations. This is great stuff!

This book collects almost all of these stories except for “OMAC” and the long running “Kamandi” series, whose Kirby-written and drawn adventures were recently collected in two beautiful full color hardcovers. In this book we start with a trilogy of tales by the legendary Sheldon Mayer and artist Alfredo Alcala that tell the story of “The Day After Doomsday.” We are then treated to a Superman story from 1976 that looks into the future and then nineteen short stories from “Weird War Tales” and other DC mystery books. After that, we get all fifteen classic adventures of “The Atomic Knights” by John Broome and Murphy Anderson.

That takes us less than halfway through the book. Next up is “Atlas The Great” from “1st Issue Special” #1, written and drawn by Jack Kirby, followed by all twelve issues of “Hercules Unbound,” which boasted among its artists such masters as Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Wally Wood, and Walt Simonson. From there, we get four backup stories from “Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth,” a time travel story where Superman teams with The Atomic Knights, and a reprint of Paul Levitz’s article from “The Amazing World of DC Comics.”

Hercules flexes away a horde of evil wormins, art by Simonson, heavily inked by Wally Wood

Hercules flexes away a horde of evil womerns, art by Simonson, heavily inked by Wally Wood

Pure Walt Simonson art from "Hercules Unbound"

Pure Walt Simonson art from “Hercules Unbound”

There is some great reading here. The standouts are “The Atomic Knights” by Broome and Anderson and “Hercules Unbound,” which boasts some absolutely beautiful artwork. Sprinkled throughout the short stories you will find artwork by folks like Frank Miller, Rich Buckler, Howard Chaykin, Steve Ditko, Paul Kirchner, Alex Nino, and Mike Nasser. It’s quite the treasure trove of obscure work by big name artists.

However, it is still astounding that DC bothered to publish such an obscure collection of work. I’m glad they did it. It’s really cool to have all these stories in one place. But given DC’s current utter disregard for even their most recent history, it’s stunning to think anybody at the company still cares about this material or that anybody in marketing thought that it could possibly sell to today’s audience.

Regardless of how or why this book came out, it’s just really, really cool that it did. What you get here for a relatively low price is hours and hours of entertainment about the end of the world. Ours is not to wonder why, ours is just to enjoy. The Great Disaster is great, but it’s certainly no disaster. If, by some chance, this book somehow becomes a success, I hope that we get a second volume. They could easily fill it with the non-Kirby issues of “Kamandi: The Last Boy On Earth,” as well as Jim Starlin’s short-lived revival of “OMAC” and a memorable three-part “Earth AD” story drawn by Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin, that I was a little surprised wasn’t included here.