June 18, 2008

The Destructor #1 [1975]

This was Ditko's main book for the short-lived Atlas-Seaboard line, drawing all four issues with a variety of collaborators. The launch here was with Archie Goodwin writing and Wallace Wood inking, both men who had had notable collaborations with Ditko back in the 1960s.

The 20-page story "The Birth of A Hero" presents the origin of the Destructor, as we meet Jay Hunter, a young runner for some small-town mobsters who's getting a bit too ambitious for his boss, Max Raven. As luck would have it, Jay's father is a scientist working on a serum which will maximize human senses, and dreams of using it to create a super-hero. Just as we get the exposition out of the way, a hit-man comes in to take out Jay, shooting both father and son. As his final act, Jay's father gives him the serum, which quickly improves his body to the point that it can heal the bullet wounds.

On the run from the mob, Jay finds a costume that his father had prepared for the super-hero he dreamed of creating, and takes the identity of the Destructor, using his new powers to disrupt the criminal operations of Raven, who finally calls in some expert help in the form of Slaymaster. The confrontation between the two costumed adversaries is arranged in the Giant Novelty Company warehouse (a mob front, of course, and conveniently full of giant clown heads and other body parts for better fight visuals). The Destructor is pushed to his limits by Slaymaster, finding out new things about how his powers work in the process, and eventually prevails. He then goes to confront Raven directly, only to see Raven killed by his own underlings, eager to take over his operations. Finally we get the old graveside vow, as Jay promises his father to continue fighting crime to make up for causing his death.

While there was nothing remarkably new about this series, stitched together from aspects of Spider-Man, Daredevil, Batman, the Creeper and others, it's a solid start to a series by a trio of top-rate pros, maybe not at the top of their games but certainly close to it. Ditko is pretty much without equal in the field of heroes moving with improbable gymnastics, and despite the obvious set-up of the novelty warehouse setting for the big fight, it's an effective visual. Slaymaster was also a good one-shot villain in the vein of the original Spider-Man series. Wood's inking as always add quite a bit, while usually leaving the essential Ditko elements in place. Unfortunately, the team was only together for two issues here, and only Ditko was left by the fourth and final issue, and the entire Atlas-Seaboard line ("21 Action Packed Full Color Comics!!", as one ad boasts, not to mention the B&W mags) was almost inevitably not long for the world.



7 comments:

  1. I quite liked the first two issues of the Destructor. The only weak spot, I thought, was his costume, which I thought was bland. Actually, now that I think of it, the name was kind of bland too. Still, the first two issues were well-crafted stories. All in all, I think it was one of Ditko's best efforts in the seventies--probably my top choice would be "Stalker." And it makes me wish he and Archie Goodwin had done more together...

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  2. I have a lot of the Atlas comics series. This was one of the few that had some interesting promise, but the '3rd issue' switch affected them, with a change in writer and direction in issue 4 that didn't make too much sense. (Destructor getting some new powers, falling in with a new crowd that seems to have been using him, etc).

    Ditko did some other stuff at Atlas, including the last few issues of Morlock 3000.

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  3. Ditko told me the Destructor was orginally planned as a series of ten-pagers, so the first issue was actually the first two ten-pagers stitched together.

    Issues 1 and 2 were great. Then, Gerry Conway - the man who ruined Daredevil - got his mitts on it and turned a promising cops-and-robbers strip into a science-fiction strip. It got real stupid real quick. Too bad.

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  4. Ah, that would explain that recap of the origin in the middle of #1, a few pages after we had just read it, and how dense the first half of the series is.

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  5. Phil Latter aka CHROMIUMFOIL8/28/2008 02:27:00 PM

    I loved Atlas' Ditko's The Destructor, but unlike the reviewer above, I loved The Destructor's outfit in # 1 and # 2.
    The less said about # 3 and # 4 the better, like that garish "improved" (note the parenthesis') revision of the costume in # 3 and # 4.
    Now me, I liked everything about # 1 and # 2 INCLUDING the costume, but in # 3 and # 4, everything was ruined, starting with the costume, as well as the additional powers like ray blasts from his hands, etcetera. That was just plain stupid!!!
    The Destructor # 1 and # 2 were some of the very best comic books that came out from Atlas Comics in the mid-seventies.
    Recently, DC Comics has licensed the Archie Mighty Crusaders again, and this time, they're bringing them back in their 1940's incarnations and NOT that godawful 'IMPACT' versions.

    They've also landed characters from many other companies in the past, including Charlton superheroes and others, as well.
    The point is, I think it would be great if DC would someday buy the legal rights to the circa 1975 Atlas comic book characters!
    Someone should really suggest it to them!

    Best Wishes,
    Phil Latter
    Halifax, Nova Scotia
    Canada

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  6. Like all the Atlas books, The Destructor suffered from the dreaded "Third issue shift" where the creative team of the book is changed, changing the whole direction of the book. For the Destructor, this happened after issue #3 where Archie Goodwin got changed to Gerry Conway. This brought in the silly energy blasts and the mutants he fell in with (and you wondered by their expressions if they were just playing him).

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  7. The Destructor was great Ditko. Too bad it changed with #3. Mask was cool, rest of costume BLAH.

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