Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Per Degaton, Part 3: "DEATH TO THE ATOM!"

When last we left Al “The Atom” Pratt he’d committed to roaming the streets of Gotham til he found Per Degaton and could simply shake the information he needed out of him about how to fix The Change.

‘Cuz the Atom’s a tough little macho guy and that’s how he rolls.

Sure enough, that’s exactly what he’s doing, and it’s exactly as ridiculous as it sounds.

Note the Atom is "on the street level above" outside the Gotham Insurance Co.;
above WHAT you will soon learn.

Sigh. I wish a 5'1" overly-muscled, aggressive Jewish physics student in a fetish get-up were roaming the streets looking to shake ME til I gave him what he wanted.

Aside for Modern Readers Who Don't Know Al "The Atom" Pratt.  I didn't make that description up; those are the Atom's stats.  Here's a point of reference:

That man is contemporary music's shortest male pop star, Bruno Mars.
He is FOUR INCHES TALLER than Al Pratt.

Meanwhile, underneath the street, Degaton's Diabolical Forces have grown tired of the tedium of world domination and are pressuring him to stop off for some good old-fashioned BOOTY-PLUNDERING.

The bald guy is Kale. He’s P.D.’s awesomely practical Human Resourcs manager, played with characteristic charm by Anthony Carrigan.

I'd swear Per Degaton was being played by Elon Musk, except that's clearly Elon in the foreground.

Kale knows how to take a wallop without blinking and convinces Degaton to see the wisdom of letting the troops line their pockets on the path to world domination.  What a man! So they break into the Gotham Insurance Building (right below where Al Pratt JUST HAPPENS to be stomping about angrily) to steal a million in gold, because I guess that's something insurance companies had on hand in 1947. 

It ain't called the Golden Age for nothing.

Kale’s booty-plundering is so palpably groundshaking that Al nearly does a Pratt-fall. 

Ordinarily I'd make some crack here, but there already is one.

Al investigates with his usual delicacy.

Al Pratt, Master of Deduction.

Note that Al’s adventure is following same pattern as Jay’s, but in Al’s case, encountering Degaton is actually part of his agenda.

Jay had the presence of the Special Metal from which to deduce why Degaton's weapons are unaffected by the Change and Al does not.

Al atomizes the PerDegagoons and then manhandles P.D. himself.  

I think if we translated Al Pratt into modern terms, he'd be an MMA fighter; just one of those tough little monkeys whose power is beating the CRAP out of people any way he can.

The Flash’s assignment required speed. Atom’s required a confrontational rage-monster.

Who better to confront a would-be Napoleon than someone with a Napoleon Complex? Gotta admire Atom’s resolve to simply BEAT the info out of the man who’s brought modern civilization to a standstill.  And it almost works.


Look, we all know Degaton winds up in the rubbish bin.  But I want to learn that Kale went on to second-banana for ALL the great villains of his time, all of whom lost because they didn’t listen to him.

For example:

Such verve! Such enthusiasm! The man’s a gem.

Behold the Genius of Kale:

Probably because The Atom is a small target
and Degaton won't admit what a terrible shot he is.

An excellent point, Kale! The Atom is just a diminutive college student in a stupid costume, with no powers or abilities other than GRIT and possibly an extra Y chromosome.  He really doesn't merit anything other than a bullet.

But, no.  Degaton, vainglorious and pompous, has to pretend to be a supervillain rather than what he is: a mere thuggish world conqueror.

MY way: elaborately and unsuccessfully.

"I AM DEGATON." Pfft. Like that means something. Do you need TP for your bunghole? What a poseur. If you learn nothing else from this series, learn this: Per Degaton is a ****.  It is absolutely his most consistent character trait and the real reason he always fails.

Instead of following Kale's sensible suggestion OR crafting a truly supervillainous death trap, he cobbles one together out of the safety exhibits at the insurance company that looks like Mousetrap from Hasbro (or Ideal, if you're old enough). 

What is this? Final Destination: the College Years?

Hey, Per; Rube Goldberg's lawyer's on the phone... .

Okay even the Hooded Claw would find this laughable.
Then again, he has a pretty active sense of humor.

Look, Al’s a macho hunk and a physics expert.
Expecting wit would be asking for too much.

Wasn't this scene in the SAW: Jigsaw Babies cartoon?

I’m not even going to show you his escape because the trap is unworthy. Al simply ATOMS his way out. 

Unlike Per Degaton, if I had a time machine, I wouldn't try to conquer the world. I'd go back and set down for a series of long talks with Ben Flinton about the thought process behind the design of the Atom's costume, which somehow remains counterintuitive and uncannily OFF even if you've been staring at it for 82 years.

While the Atom didn’t get ALL the information he’d hoped, he did learn it was a BATTLE that Degaton changed. And, as we the readers know, it was obviously the Battle of—

Hawkman always had the pulpiest splash panels.

WHAT?! Tanks emerging from the subway?! Degaton’s attack on Gotham’s civic district is already underway! Join Hawkman tomorrow for his fight against Degaton’s Diabolical Forces to protect the Mayor!


Anonymous said...

If I had to guess what was going on with the Atom's costume, take a look at the brown parts, and how they look kind of like a circus strongman's outfit. Like on this page and the illustration of Joe Greenstein, who used the stage name of (checks notes) "The Mighty Atom" and is known for beating the crap out of Nazis:

It's never confirmed anywhere, but there is good reason to believe that Al Pratt is based on Joe Greenstein.

Anyway, my best guess on Al's costume is that they started with a strongman motif in brown, and then added color (and a mask and a cape) because superheroes have to be colorful (and masky and capey). It's the least madness-inducing explanation.

Scipio said...

Thank you; that makes sense. I mean, in a comic book way. It makes it a little easier to understand how this character wound up in the JSA. In that outfit.

It's the full facemask/cape WITH the v-neck tee-shirt combo; even if you set aside the leather bits, that combo is nuts.

Anonymous said...

I am dredging through my brains, thinking about Roy Thomas using Per Degaton in "All-Star Squadron" and in JLA / JSA crossovers ("Crisis on Earth-Prime"). And I recall Kale is present. In particular, the last page of the penultimate issue has Degaton making some sort of megalomaniacal threat, and I am pretty sure one of the henchmen asks Kale: "do you think our boss is crazy?" And Kale responds, "Naw, just enthusiastic". Kale always rocked.

Something else that came up in my memory dredge: in the mid 70s they used to sell DC Comics sleeping bags that were weird low-quality affairs, covered in scans of panels from comics. I remember seeing one at a discount store and being very confused, like, why does Green Lantern have a cape? I don't think this was the exact one I encountered, but it's close:

Scipio said...

All-Star Squadron #15 (1982).
"Think he's crazy, Kale?"
"No...just enthusiastic."

Truly the greatest Named Henchman of all time.

Bryan L said...

Maybe the Atom's full facemask was an acknowledgement of how difficult it would be for him to conceal his identity. There couldn't have been an huge population of heavily muscled guys that were 5'1" at Calvin College. Or anywhere. Covering his full face is a bit more discreet than his later mask that showed his mouth and jaw.

Although if the pandemic taught us anything about comics, it's that breathing through a mask is somewhat problematic if you're exerting yourself.

Anonymous said...

"why does Green Lantern have a cape?"

"why are you wearing a cape?"
"why are you wearing a TIE?"


I hope (not a request, just a hope) that this review of the premiere golden age team story will eventually lead to a review of a story of a different golden age team: The Seven Soldiers of Victory, starring Green Arrow and his peers. Those assembled here are politely encouraged to take a moment to really think about that.

BTW, did you know it's been thirteen years since this site featured a Golden Age Starman story? Because it has. It has indeed been that.

Scipio said...

"There couldn't have been an huge population of heavily muscled guys that were 5'1" "

That... had never occurred to me. It's...Impossible for Al Pratt to have kept his identity secret. At all. The only explanation is: no one cares enough to try to figure it out. I mean, it's not like he has a Rogue's Gallery.

Scipio said...

Well, there weren't that many Seven Soldiers stories at all; 17, I think. I don't think they were all that entertaining. I think that's why there were only 17 of them.

Starman. Gee.

I think I'd have to check with doctor first.

Anonymous said...

I've been following this blog for over fifteen years and I'm startled to learn that you need to find a story entertaining before you make fun of it. Live and learn.

Bryan L said...

I actually read a theory about Bruce Wayne and Batman that theorized that lots of people in Gotham know who Batman is, but they simply allow him the fiction of thinking that he's got them fooled. "Sure, Bruce, yep, you've got to run. See you soon."

Bryan L said...

Oh, that's in reference to nobody caring about Atom's identity.

Anonymous said...

An alternate explanation is that, unlike most fictionopolises (fictionopoli?), Calvin City (or rather, the state in which Calvin City is located) has a really good prison system and when the Atom's enemies get locked up, they actually stay locked up.

FWIW, from Wikipedia: "According to Jess Nevins' Encyclopedia of Golden Age Superheroes, the Atom "fights the Emperor of America, agents of the Black Dragon Society, and the Carnival of Crime, in addition to the Cootie Gang, Mandini the Magician and the scavenger Undersea Raiders."

Technically, villains that the Atom fights in his chapter of any given JSA saga could debatably be considered part of his rogues gallery, at least the ones who fight only the Atom and not any other JSA member in any other chapter. That's not the case in our current story, of course. Much like how, in Seven Soldiers of Victory stories, Alexander the Great, Shakespeare's Falstaff, and other enemies fought only by Green Arrow and Speedy could be considered part of Green Arrow's rogues gallery. I guess. It's subjective.

Bryan L said...

Thank goodness someone is willing to stand up to the Cootie Gang.

Scipio said...

" I'm startled to learn that you need to find a story entertaining before you make fun of it. "

Consider: I have to sit and READ THEM. REPEATEDLY. If they aren't entertaining in the first place, it's torture.

Why you think I don't make fun of Marvel stories?

Scipio said...

"to stand up to the Cootie Gang."

And it only took him one motorcycle, one tire, and three punches.

Anonymous said...

I genuinely considered searching the GCD for Al Pratt stories and thus, by definition, Al Pratt villains, but I decided that it wouldn't be entertaining enough.

Anonymous said...

Changed my mind.

The only ones that even remotely sounded like non-conventional criminals were:

Kali worshippers
Mustache Max
the Tusk

Scipio said...

Enjoy that.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. :-)

The GCD (which doesn't cover all the villains in every issue, anyway) also offers:

Lefty Lou Albano

Basil and Boris

Boris (same as above? who knows?)

Boss and Slink

Bradley and Meeger

the Brooklyn Murder Trust

Nick Crock

Duke and Slugger

Earl Evans, Jack, Nick, and Tony


Stacy Hogan

Joe and Mike

Joe, Mike (same as above? who knows?), and Peters


Maxie (same as Mustache Max? who knows?)

"Faro" Mike (same "Mike" as above? who knows?) and "Cue" Bonomo

Pingler ("I don't know, I've never pingled.")

Mr. Potter and Evole



Stroehm and Kane

Anonymous said...

Wait, LOU ALBANO???? Just Google for "Lou Albano".