What will happen when the glass-craving thieves cross paths with The Tiny Titan?
In the back of The Atom #28 is a little Gardner Fox gem titled "The 100,000 'Atoms' of Ivy Town!" Here’s the story so far: Everyone in Ivy Town mysteriously shrinks and then faints, including Ray Palmer’s love, Jean Loring. In an effort to save his city, Ray heads to the Ivy Town Glass Works to make some special lenses that might be the key to a cure. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to The Atom, three crooks, all of whom have remained full-sized, are making hay in a town full of fainted tiny people. They’ve already robbed a bank. Their next stop? The Ivy Town Glass Works!
Ray walks into the glass works building and spies the villains. As he watches one of the crooks pick out a new glass bowl (for all that plastic fruit he has laying around on his counter?), Ray wonders why the thieves and he had not shrunk. Despite this advantage, Ray decides to stop being so tall. He needs to catch the swine before they steal "the Glass Museum's priceless treasures!" (The priceless treasures look kinda like basic glass to me, but I am not known for my glass savvy. I'm willing to accept the expert opinion of both the residents and the out-of-town thieves when it comes to the wonderfulness of their glass collection.)
"Moments later, after Ray has reduced his size to that of the 6-inch Tiny Titan…" Apparently the only way to fight regular-sized people who are in a town full of tiny people is to stop being a regular-size person and become a tiny person. This is why The Atom rarely came home with me from the comic shop. It's difficult to see the advantage of being really tiny. For example, Ray finds a bottle-neck shaper (to be referred to now as pincers, because that’s what they look like) and somehow manages to capture one of the villain's fingertips. Ray squeezes and the bad guy looks to be in a world of hurt. What was preventing Ray from finding that same tool as a normal human and putting it on the bad guy’s finger and squeezing? Maybe the bad guy didn’t notice a 6-inch man holding a bottle-neck shaper coming at him? Maybe he didn’t feel the tip of his index finger sliding into the jaws of the pincer-like tool? Wouldn’t most people feel that?I still don't know enough about The Atom. Being an intrepid Lois-Lane-wannabe, I immediately begin investigating by opening Wikipedia. It appears that it's just his normal grown man's strength only in a little body. So is that strength somehow magnified just from being tiny? Does the pressure he applies to the pincer as The Atom somehow exceed the pressure he could apply to the pincer as a normal sized man? If he has the same amount of strength why would it be any different? And if that's the case why not punch the bad guy as a grown man instead of as a 6-inch man? Does being tiny give him that big of an advantage? In some cases, it's a definite yes. But in others, like the pincers, there doesn't appear to be an advantage. It's just about "look at the tiny man using a tiny weapon on a tiny part of the villain's body and yet tiny guy wins."
I need to stop thinking about this. Let's move on. The pincers appear to do their job and the villain has a very throbbing fingertip. Ray then punches him on the chin after leaping in the air. (This punch would have a lot less effectiveness because of the fact that he is not on solid ground. At the same time, had he punched him as a regular sized man it would be very effective. I said I would stop thinking about this, sorry.) Another one of the villains shoots at tiny Ray. He avoids the bullets and then "Again clicking the size-and-weight control devices in the palms of his hands, the heavyweight Atom lands on a structure containing a number of stone molds…" I was under the mistaken impression that his controls were on the belt. However, it appears they’re in the palms of his hands. By saying heavyweight, I'm now assuming they mean the weight of the full-sized Ray. This causes the shelf full of stone molds to fall on two of the men. (It's amazing that in a glass museum there hasn't been a single piece of glass broken, despite there being quite a lot of bullets zinging around.) That takes care of everyone!
After locking the crooks in a closet, Ray shoots back up to full size and goes on the hunt for a couple of big lenses. He plans to coat them with chemicals "like those in the cave that first gave me the idea how to reduce and enlarge myself in size!" Another clue — I think this particular story heard about my ignorance and keeps filling me in on the details of The Atom. As John Byrne always says, "Every comic is someone's first." He always said it was imperative to put as much information in each comic so that even if it's the first time you read it, you would know enough to understand the story. There are definitely nuances I'm missing, but I appreciate the great job Gardner Fox is doing.
After finishing up his giant circles of coated glass, Ray attaches them to a helicopter via cables. I don’t want to doubt Ray Palmer, but he hasn't even checked on Jean. How does he know this is going to work? Has it worked on her? Will it work on the town? What if it makes every person in town explode?
As he's hovering far above Ivy Town, I have to give him credit because he's not ignoring the whole "blowing up" thing. He just thinks he has a way, by making it very gradual, to beat that effect. And while he's up there irradiating the town, he's thinking about what caused everyone to shrink in the first place. He decides there's only one thing everyone has in common and that's the drinking water. He flies over the reservoir and sees bubbles in one small spot. He then makes a leap that bypasses theory, critical thinking, just plain thinking and almost everything else as he says, "Those bubbles indicate where some foreign body fell into the water!" I hope it isn't just a little methane gas coming up from the bottom, a small school of fish or a scuba diver having a little fun. No, when Ray sees bubbles, he thinks falling foreign bodies. Perhaps he's hoping the foreign falling body is that of Ann-Margret. (Since this comic is December ‘66 / January ‘67, that seems like a pretty good guess to me).
Not Ann-Margret, just a fragment of a white dwarf star. Darn those white dwarf star fragments! You can't go anywhere without running into one. I know I have three in my junk drawer. Grabbing the radiating culprit, Ray sticks a spare size-and-weight control device on the rock (which is about the size of a basketball) and shrinks it down so small it will "sink to the molten core of the planet." Back into the helicopter he goes. He drops chemicals in the water to neutralize the effect of the dwarf material. "His mission accomplished, Ray carries Jean home and places her on her living room divan (there's an old-fashioned word), where, in due time… Jean wakes up! She's embarrassed at her sudden shrinking and fainting, but Ray tries to make her feel better by giving her the explanation of why everyone in town fainted. "The loss of consciousness suffered by the whole population was caused by a temporary, insufficient supply of blood to the brain — caused in turn by the physical and mental shock of shrinking in size!"
There is a panel where, when I first glanced at it, it looked like when Jean came back to full size her breasts just kept growing. I was just looking at the picture wrong. Really wrong. It was her knee. Better to note that Ray and Jean finally get that kiss they wanted back at the beginning of this tale.
I now have a new appreciation for The Atom. I learned a lot about the character, loved the goofy glass museum mayhem and feel that Ray Palmer has certainly made the most out of his somewhat diminutive superpower. Before I make any more "small" puns, I'm going to sign off and ask you to come back next month for more thrilling adventures in DC Comics' wonderful Silver Age.
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