Monday, June 14, 2010

Are You Ready for the Great Atomic Knights?

"World War III--The Great Atomic War--is over...And in its wake lies an earth in ruins!  Of plant life, there is none!  Of animal life, only a small number of humans lingers on! There is no government and the prevailing law is might makes right!"

- Strange Adventures #117, 1960.
As you recall, unless you've been afflicted with the h-bomb radiation-induced amnesia, there was a terrible atomic war in October of 1986. No? Well, then you don't inhabit the odd--and oddly optimistic--post-apocalyptic world of John Broome and Murphy Anderson's Atomic Knights, recently collected in one hardcover volume.

The tale of the Atomic Knights begins in Strange Adventures #117 (June 1960). Amnesiac Gardner Grayle is running from smartly-groomed, but otherwise degenerate post-apocalyptic survivors (think the folks in The Road with more Brylcreem and Burma-Shave). Luckily, Grayle comes across a newspaper that jogs his memory about the recent nuclear holocaust, and reminds him of his one brush with fame--a news piece describing him as utterly average in every way.

A lot of people would take this one-two punch of global and personal setbacks as an excuse to give up, but not our Grayle. He finds a few other survivors, and they decide to strike a blow against the local strongman. The group includes Douglas Herald, a former teacher, Bryndon, last scientist on earth, the Hobard Brothers, and Marlene, Herald's sister, and eventually Grayle's lover interest. After the lucky (and improbable) discovery that old suits of plate armor protect against the radiation beams from the bad-guy's "raguns", the group becomes the Atomic Knights, and begins a quest to re-establish democracy, and civilization.

The Atomic Knights go on to have many more strange adventures in Strange Adventures, travelling across the former United States, mostly fighting the despotic forces of the fascistic Blue Belts, but also encountering aliens, mutated plants, and mole-men--you know, the post-atomic war usual suspects. Along the way they get to use giant dalmatians as mounts, and figure out an alternative, bio-fuel source for automobiles.

In my favorite Atomic Knights' adventure, they free all the surviving doctors from being mind-controlled thugs by bringing jazz back to New Orleans. To this end, they briefly become an Atomic Knight band and play "When the Saints Go Marching In" while marching down Bourbon Street!

H-radiation, or no, is there any doubt that the fate of the America and democracy is safe in these guys' hands? Give your post-atomic gaming a boost, or just fortify yourself with Silver Age strangeness, and check them out.


Chris said...

Yes, stop the plants from emitting black smoke by burning them. That'll work.

I am greatly intrigued by this dystopian vision of a world in thrall to heavily armoured, dog riding, jazz-loving village idiots.

Trey said...

Hey, let's be fair--their leader is utterly "intellectually and physically" average--and has the newspaper clipping in his wallet to prove it.

Brutorz Bill said...

Excellent. I did a write-up about them for Mutant Future awhile ago.

Jay Dugger said...

Aren't the Atomic Knights's steeds inspiration for Gamma World's podogs, and wasn't that a John Wyndham novel that inspired Brutorz?