The TOP 13 ATLAS/SEABOARD Comic Book Titles — RANKED

A 50th ANNIVERSARY salute to Martin Goodman’s failed revenge play…

Black and white Ernie Colón ad art, colored by Walt

By WALT GROGAN

Fifty years ago this month, on June 24, 1974, Atlas/Seaboard opened its offices in New York City. If you’re unfamiliar with Atlas/Seaboard (aka Atlas Comics or simply Atlas), it was a short-lived, upstart company founded by former Marvel Comics publisher Martin Goodman as an apparent act of revenge after the company that bought the House of Ideas from him in 1968 reneged on a deal to keep his son Chip on. (It’s a matter of some dispute but widely believed to be the case.)

Over its roughly one-year tenure, Atlas published 23 comics titles with only a few lasting to four issues, as well as five different magazines. Rather than start small, it flooded the market with titles subscribing to all genres popular at the time: superhero, monster, war, police, sci-fi, horror, Western, and teen comedy.

Colón ad art, colored by Walt

With initial offerings of higher page rates, the company attracted both veteran and new creators, including Steve Ditko, Neal Adams, Wally Wood, Dick Giordano, Howard Chaykin, Ernie Colón, Jim Craig, Archie Goodwin, Rich Buckler, Gerry Conway, Michael Fleisher, Gaspar Saladino and Alex Toth, among others. The first comics titles were cover-dated January 1975. Larry Lieber and Jeff Rovin were the company’s editors.

Sales, however, were sluggish and distribution proved difficult. Goodman became impatient and titles were yanked or reimagined to feature new or redesigned characters who sometimes only shared the name of their predecessor. Atlas’ final issue was cover-dated September 1975.

Colón colored by Walt

The Atlas titles are still fairly easy and inexpensive to acquire today with only the Archie Comics knockoff, Vicki (itself a reprint of Tower Comics’ Tippy Teen), and the magazine Gothic Romance commanding high prices due to low print runs.

A commission by Colón with colors and dress by Walt

The whole line is a fun read, however, even though many of the titles were pretty dark for the time, and I can imagine a few bumped up against the limits of the Comics Code Authority.

Art by the late Steve Erwin and Bob Almond with colors and trade dress by Walt

While Atlas was one of the few Bronze Age companies to challenge the might of DC and Marvel in the realm of mainstream adventure comics, it paved the way for later companies like Neal Adams’ Continuity Comics, Dark Horse, and even Image to compete with the Big Two.

A fan commissioned grouping of Atlas heroes by Ian Richardson and Alex Garcia. Trade dress and colors by Walt.

Atlas made a brief return to the comics market in 2011 around the same time that DC’s New 52 line was kicking off. The new Atlas brought back updated versions of Phoenix, The Grim Ghost and Wulf the Barbarian. But it was a new title, Atlas Unified, that caught my fancy. It was a Crisis on Infinite Earths-style comic that attempted to bring together all of Atlas’ characters — including Vicki! Sadly, it only lasted three issues and its story was never completed.

Jimbo Salgado

Through it all, Atlas remains a cult favorite — and with the company’s 50th anniversary upon us, here are my TOP 13 ATLAS/SEABOARD COMIC BOOK TITLES — RANKED:

13. The Cougar (two issues). Stuntman Jeff Rand channels Carl Kolchak, the Night Stalker by stumbling across and battling the supernatural as the crimson-garbed Cougar. By Steve Mitchell, Dan Adkins and Frank Springer.

Frank Thorne

12. Weird Suspense (three issues). After a curse is placed on him, Count Eugene Lycosa could turn into a deadly humanoid spider. By Michael Fleisher and Pat Boyette.

Dick Giordano

11. Phoenix (four issues). Astronaut Ed Tyler is captured by an alien race hiding on Earth and escapes with a super suit and an atomic weapon that he uses to battle the invaders. By Jeff Rovin and Sal Amendola. Later by Gary Friedrich and Ric Estrada.

Giordano from a Sal Amendola layout

10. Morlock 2001 (three issues). With the ability to cause a deadly fungus to grow on people he touches, Morlock can also turn into a deadly plant monster who absorbs his victims. By Michael Fleisher and Al Milgrom. Later Gary Friedrich, Steve Ditko and Bernie Wrightson.

Al Milgrom pencils, Giordano inks

9. The Brute (three issues). A frozen caveman is revived in the 20th century and causes mayhem. By Michael Fleisher and Mike Sekowsky and then Alan Weiss.

Giordano

8. Targitt (three issues). After avenging the death of his family, Special Agent John Targitt, is given a suit that enhances his strength and makes him bulletproof. By Ric Meyers and Howard Nostrand.

Giordano

7. Fright (one issue). The son of Dracula, Adam Lucard, tries to tame his vampiric side but when it is accidentally unleashed, blood is spilled! By Gary Friedrich and Frank Thorne.

Thorne

6. Hands of the Dragon (one issue). Wu Teh and his twin brother Ling are trained in the martial arts by monks. By Ed Fedory and Jim Craig.

Jim Craig

5. The Grim Ghost (three issues). 18th century highwayman Matthew Dunsinane is captured and hanged for his crimes. Trapped in hell, he accepts a deal from the devil to return to the land of the living but is transported to the 20th century. By Michael Fleisher and Ernie Colón.

Colón

4. Planet of Vampires (three issues). Captain Chris Galland and his crew of astronauts return to Earth after a long mission only to find New York in ruins. A disease has caused some of the humans to suck the blood of those unafflicted. A very Planet of the Apes-like take by Larry Hama and Pat Broderick.

Pat Broderick pencils, Neal Adams inks

3. Demon Hunter (one issue). Gideon Cross is tasked with preventing the rebirth of a hellish demon cult. Written by David Anthony Kraft and drawn by Rich Buckler. This character was reimagined at Marvel as Devil Slayer.

Rich Buckler

2. The Destructor (four issues). After he’s gunned down, narcotics dealer Jay Hunter is given an experimental drug by his scientist father. Gaining super-strength, Hunter, as the Destructor, makes it his mission to battle the Mafia. Initially written by Archie Goodwin with art by Steve Ditko and Wally Wood.

Larry Lieber pencils, Wally Wood inks

1. The Scorpion (three issues). Howard Chaykin’s pulpy Moro Frost, with shades of the Shadow and Doc Savage, takes on cases in 1930s New York City. This early Chaykin throws in a bit of Alex Toth, as well as some of the first examples of his fascination with the fashion and nostalgic feel for a bygone time. It’s the clear winner of the line.

Howard Chaykin

Sadly, publisher Goodman didn’t give it a chance to breathe and with the third and final issue, the immortal 1930s Scorpion was killed off — but returned in the present under a new secret identity. While I liked the new Scorpion’s costume, I would have rather had Chaykin’s creation continue (and he sort of did as Marvel’s Dominic Fortune).

MORE

— 13 Groovy Gaspar Saladino ATLAS/SEABOARD Logos — RANKED. Click here.

— 13 Groovy ATLAS/SEABOARD COVERS: A LARRY LIEBER Birthday Celebration. Click here.

A 10-year-old Walt Grogan fell in love with the Big Red Cheese thanks to essays written by Dick Lupoff and Don Thompson in the paperback edition of All in Color for a Dime, released in 1970 and bought for him by his father off a paperback spinner rack in a liquor store on the South Side of Chicago. Walt runs The Marvel Family Web Facebook page devoted to all incarnations of the Fawcett/DC Captain Marvel and blogs about Captain Marvel at shazamshistorama.com.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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11 Comments

  1. I had some of the titles. But with a new baby the focus drifted from comic books. I had hope for the titles. Somehow the few titles I saw seemed different than what was out there. But I looked again and they were gone. Too bad.

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  2. I have no memory of these on the racks. That said, I do have The Destructor issues. I bought these decades later for the “new to me” Ditko art.

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    • The Brute was the very first comic I bought off the rack. For a couple of months in early ’75 I had equal amounts of DC, Marvel and Atlas in my burgeoning comic collection.
      I’ve heard Tippy Teen is a rare find.

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  3. Wish an omnibus of the complete line could be published some day…

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  4. I remeber seeing them/looking AT some on the racks, but never appealed to me much and never bought one. That was in college and I was already probably not buying comics at that time.

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  5. Never saw the 100 page one, or the Tippy Teen.

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  6. I remember seeing the Atlas name on the spinner rack but I went for DC, Marvel and Gold Key when I was a kid. Thanks for the info!

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  7. That 100 page book is real correct? Not a fan made cover? I can’t find any info on that one, anyone know what the actual title was? Was it Atlas League? Me wants!

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  8. I bought a few of these, but never seriously collected them. I already bought enough of the Marvel and DC Comics characters that I liked. The Atlas Comics I bought were because of the interesting art.

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