Bookshelf: Man from Atlantis #1 (Comic Book)

Man from Atlantis #1
First Published February 1978
Published by Marvel Comics Group

This was the first of seven issues of Man from Atlantis published by Marvel Comics in 1978 (the final issue came out in August of that year). The cover declares that the comic is a “Giant-Size BONUS Issue!” with “2 Novel-Length Mark Harris Adventures!” There are indeed two full stories included in the issue, although I would hesitate to call them novel-length. There are also several behind-the-scenes articles and color pin-ups.

Man from Atlantis #1 Front
Man from Atlantis #1 Front – Copyright 1978 Marvel Comics Group

The issue begins with a five-page recap of the Man from Atlantis television series. More specifically, it recounts the plot of the first pilot telefilm, also titled “Man from Atlantis,” that was originally broadcast by NBC on March 4th, 1977. Three additional telefilms were aired; the weekly series didn’t premiere until September of 1977. By the time the first issue of Marvel’s comic tie-in was published, it was evident that the series was headed for cancellation.

Following the recap, the first story — “Birthright!” — begins. Mark is swimming at a depth of 11,500 feet while Dr. Elizabeth Merrill, Dr. Miller Simon and the rest of the crew of the submarine Cetacean watch. Mark finds a sunken ship upon bearing the same mysterious symbol found on the swimming trunks he was wearing when he washed up on land.

Unfortunately, Mark never gets the chance to truly investigate. A technologically advanced pirate by the name of Lars Skorba wants the ship, the Cetacean and Mark. He leads his crew out into the deep waters in their powerful “deepsea suits” and attack Mark. Thankfully, Mark is able to fend them off (a few are killed but not directly by Mark) and force Lars to free the Cetacean, which had been trapped by rocks.

In the second story, “There Are Monsters in the Sea,” Mark battles a crazed half-man, half-machine named Jonah while trying to save the life of a whale. Jonah and his robot helmsman, aboard the solar-powered Starbuck, attack the whale and force it to beach itself. With the sun shining brightly in the sky it’s only a matter of hours before the whale dies. Eventually, after Mark is unable to defeat Jonah in battle, the robot helmsman turns on his creator and frees the whale, killing Jonah in the process.

In between the two stories are three articles. The first is a biography of Patrick Duffy, which reveals how he started taking predigested protein due to the incredible physical workout of filming Man from Atlantis. The second article, titled “Face to Face with the Man from Atlantis!,” was written by David and Janice Cohen. The former worked for Marvel in its British department and the latter the colorist for the Man from Atlantis comics. They scored an invitation to the set and watched a scene being filmed.

The final article, “Man from Atlantis: The Second Season,” was written by Mary Jo Duffy and explains how the weekly series will differ from the telefilms. It also gives descriptions of seven episodes, many of which had already aired by the time the article was published. Rounding out the issue are three full-page color pin-ups, an advertisement for the next issue and the first installment of the editor’s “Out of the Depths” column, which would later become a letters column.

It’s been years since I’ve seen an episode of Man from Atlantis (and I think I’ve only seen the first pilot telefilm). So I can’t speak to the accuracy of the stories. The characters are sort of recognizable, although Mark doesn’t look much like Patrick Duffy. As is always the case with comic tie-ins, there could have been legal issues involved with the likenesses of the cast.

I was a little surprised to see robots in the second story. That seemed a little outrageous. But the second telefilm was about aliens and episodes of the weekly series involved gigantic jellyfish, a land of giants beneath the ocean, and a mermaid. So, maybe robots weren’t so strange.


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