May 20, 2009

It Stalks the Public Domain - Doom in the Air

Hey, kids! Comics!

Below is the 8-page "Doom in the Air" from Charlton's THE THING #14 [1954].

As you'll see, this story starts off looking like a western, as a man is arrested for a murder, but the proper authorities who want to give him a fair trial are intercepted by the three sons of the murdered man, who want to mete out their own frontier justice. Then it gets weird, as the story jumps to the atomic age, and starts to play on the fears of that era in an odd revenge story with a radioactive twist. This is great stuff, with a lot of curveballs in the narrative, a much snappier script than is common for these stories and loads of great visuals from Ditko (pay close attention to the backgrounds of several scenes, and that scene at the bottom of page 5 is just gorgeous).

In both the writing and the art this is one of my favourite early Ditko stories.

Interesting side note, this story has several parallels with the Swamp Thing story "The Nukeface Papers" (SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING #35-#36 [1985]) by Alan Moore, Steve Bissette and John Totleben. From some info provided by Steve Bissette this appears to be a coincidence, as the creation of Nukeface dates from Totleben's sketches in the late 1970s (certainly a time when radiation and nuclear safety fears were high), and Totleben was unaware of the Ditko story (which was never reprinted by Charlton) and Bissette didn't see it until he got a copy of the original 1954 comic a few years after the 1985 story was done and noticed the similarities. It's not clear if Moore would have seen the story, even though Charlton comics were often reprinted in the Alan Class comics in Britain pre-Code stuff like this wasn't common (and unfortunately there's no index of those reprints), and in any case the core idea pre-dates Moore's involvement, or any of the team even working on Swamp Thing. Still, a fascinating comparison, especially the closing images of each story.

The usual links:
Buy Ditko's creator-owned work
Subscribe to DITKOMANIA
Check out new and upcoming Ditko publications
Download public domain comics, likely including the one this story is from

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