The Destructor #1 (1975)

This is one of those comics that seems normal on the surface, but where the story behind the story is much more interesting.

First of all: the Destructor is a teen-age boy who as we meet him is a wannabe hitman whose father is a brilliant scientist. Just as the dad is about to make a great breakthrough, the gangster decides to have the dad killed. Suddenly the boy realizes where his loyalties should lie. He finds a costume his father had made for him, and vows to become "a smasher, a destroyer; a destructor… and with all I know about how Raven’s mob works… I can be that in spades."

Okay, it’s not Shakespeare, but this is a really solid comic series that could have turned into something. Unfortunately, it was launched for the short-lived Atlas line of comics rather than Marvel or DC.

Atlas was an extremely short-lived comic company in the mid-’70s. Dubbed as "Vengeance Inc." by Comic Book Artist magazine, Atlas/Seaboard (as it’s more often referred to) was created by Martin Goodman, who was angry at Marvel comics. For details on the history, click here. Like most revenge plots, this one made sense for a time, but very quickly fell apart. The company only lasted a few short months before imploding under a poor business plan, series that never got a foothold, and an indifferent market. The world moved on, but the memory of Atlas Comics has lingered in the minds of a small cult of fans.

Destructor is a good example of where the line started and where it ended up. Despite the awful title, this could have been a good comic. Written by Archie Goodwin and drawn by Steve Ditko and Wally Wood, the first two issues had a stellar creative staff. If the title didn’t start in a high gear, the same could have been said for plenty of other comics that ended up being great. Certainly the staff had been capable of great comics, and given the opportunity, could have turned the book around. Instead, the Goodmans’ meddling did the comic in, and it limped to a conclusion four issues later. It’s too bad. At the time, we had no idea how rare and special the combination of Wood and Ditko would be in comics. They are an ideal team for each other, but in an odd way. Both Wood’s and Ditko’s art have always seemed stiff and posed. You might think that combining the work of the two men might create some of the stiffest art in comics history. Instead, the pair’s art has an odd, uncommon grace to it, a grandeur that you rarely see. Just as in Stalker, the mid-’70s barbarian strip the pair drew for DC, there is a pretty amazing feel to the art here.

Imagine where this comic could have gone. It will always be an opportunity lost.

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