There seems to be a trend in pop culture to rehash, reuse, reboot older properties. Old TV shows are becoming movies, sequels are being created decades after the original and in comic books characters are getting rebooted. For the most part, I’m not a fan. They rarely recapture the magic of the original. But in a few cases when the property is in the right hands something great can come from another kick at the can.
William ‘Willy the Wharf Rat’ Burns debuted as the titular character in The Atomic Thunderbolt #1. This first, and only issue debuted in 1946 by publisher Regor Co. Only 15 pages of the character were ever published but that was enough to interest IPPY Award winning writer Kevin Powers some 70 years later. With the character in public domain, Keven set out to revive William Burns and his Atomic Thunderbolt persona with a new comic series initially launched through a Kickstarter project. Recently Kevin distributed the first issue as a digital copy reward from that Kickstarter.
Right off the bat Kevin hits a nice little nostalgic nerve by setting the first story in 1946. Reading the word “mook” brought a sly little smirk to my lips as the post war setting is emphasized with the dialog choices. The story opens with a mysterious super hero saving the day and being brought to the attention of the CIA’s precursor, the Office of Strategic Services. There, Agent McPherson starts the investigation to identify this new hero while dropping a tonne of hints towards a “he isn’t the first superhero” sub-plot. After hitting the streets McPherson gets sufficient info to identify William Burns and a sting operation to draw out the reluctant hero unfolds. And of course, what 1940’s comic book would be complete without an appearance by Nazis? Captain America: First Avenger, ABC’s first season of Wonder Woman … this post war period is very familiar territory for an old comic reader like myself and I liked it a lot.
Provided as a backup feature in the comic, the original 15-page story scanned from an original Atomic Thunderbolt #1 was a nice touch giving us the public domain original story to read for ourselves.
Kevin’s story flows well and hits the first issue checklist efficiently. Origin, intro all the characters, set the stage, and leave sufficient clues for future sub-plots. The art from Matt Gaudio is pretty darn good but it does show an artist fairly early in their career. Some of the facial expressions are a tad unrefined and the occasional anatomy issue pops up. The inking is a bit less solid then I would prefer with some black areas not being filled in fully in a style choice that wasn’t my favourite. Aside from this black issue the rest of the colouring from Donna Gregory is great.
So, I’m hooked. I want to read more. I want the next issue.
Issue: The Atomic Thunderbolt #1 | Publisher: TJ Comics
Writer: Kevin Powers | Artists: Matt Gaudio & Donna Gregory
Price: $8.00 – 48 pages Limited Kickstarter Edition