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Sunday, November 08, 2009

This Week's Suspended Animation - The Scorpion


The Scorpion, Published by Seaboard Periodicals, 32 pages, original cover price 25 cents.

In 1974, a new comic book publisher set up shop, determined not only to make a splash in the industry, but, according to some in the business, to take a bite out of Marvel Comics. And, though Atlas Comics folded in short order, their initial offerings included what some consider highly entertaining comic work, rife with potential. One such creation was The Scorpion, by none other than well-known writer/artist Howard Chaykin.

The main character, Moro Frost, was an adventurer set in late-30's New York. By Chaykin's own admission, the character was "the first initiation" of Chaykin creations such as Dominic Fortune and Reuben Flagg. The Scorpion showed a lot of promise, and was an interesting alternative to the superhero glut of the time.

Chaykin's art and storytelling techniques were the crown jewel of the book, as his sketchy, rough-around-the-edges art style is perfect for such period crime stories. His writing and characterization were quite entertaining, as well, especially considering this was his first writing assignment.

Not an altruistic hero, Frost coined what might have been his catch-phrase in the last panel of issue two; "The Scorpion is not a charitable institution." One of the oddities of this character (which was never explained) was that he had lived an inordinately long life, having been involved with the Union Army and as a pilot in World War I.

All in all, The Scorpion was a fine beginning to what could have been one of the great adventure comics of the modern age. Unfortunately, the first two issues were Chaykin's only work, as the third and last installment saw the character transplanted into a modern-day, superhero setting, complete with spandex and Marvel-esque look and feel. Again, an effort to steal some of the big dog's thunder.

The Scorpion is recommended for all but younger readers, and will appeal to lovers of adventure and period stories, and those generally interested in comics history. It remains quite affordable, and can be found comics shops, comics conventions, or online auctions and catalogs.

Review by Mark Allen

(Check out The Atlas Archives to learn about The Scorpion, and other Atlas characters, comics and history!)