Man from Atlantis #1, “Man from Atlantis”
By Richard Woodley
First Published in October 1977
Published by Dell Publishing Co, Inc.
I wrote about NBC’s Man from Atlantis in March of this year as part of a Q & A segment and I reviewed the first issue of Marvel’s short-lived comic series in June. Recently, the Warner Archive made the first of four made-for-TV movies that launched the series available at its website, so it seemed like the perfect time to review the novelization of that first telefilm, written by Richard Woodley.
The four made-for-TV movies that served as pilots for Man from Atlantis were originally broadcast between March and June of 1977. The novelization of the first telefilm, simply titled Man from Atlantis, was published in October of 1977. As far as I can tell, nowhere on the cover or in the book is it mentioned that the book is based on a television script, which is unusual. The back cover does include the following line: “The first in a series of breathtaking underwater adventures based on the fantastic new television sensation,” but nothing about being adapted.
Man from Atlantis Front Cover – Copyright 1977 Dell Publishing Co, Inc.
It has been quite some time since I saw Man from Atlantis so I can’t say how closely the novelization hews to the telefilm. Broadly speaking, it appears to follow the storyline that begins with a man found on a beach during a storm. He’s brought to a hospital but the doctors don’t know what to do with him. Thankfully, Dr. Elizabeth Merrill, a scientist working with the Naval Undersea Center, tags along when her friend is called to the hospital and is able to save the man by returning him to the ocean and drowning him.
Well, she doesn’t actually drown him. She realizes that the reason he’s having trouble breathing is because he physically cannot breath above water. He’s revived by the ocean water and brought to the Naval Undersea Center where Elizabeth begins to study him. She names him Mark Harris and although he doesn’t talk realizes he’s incredibly intelligent. The Navy soon sees him as an asset and wants him to help recover a submarine (the Sea Quest) missing at the bottom of the ocean with its two-man crew.
Man from Atlantis Back Cover – Copyright 1977 Dell Publishing Co, Inc.
Mark agrees, vocally, and after the shock of hearing him talk wears off everyone gets to work. Mark and Elizabeth head out on the USS Moon River. Mark descends into the ocean and goes to work. To make a long story short, his recovery mission turns into something else entirely when he stumbles upon a laboratory at the bottom of the ocean. He sneaks inside and meets Mr. Schubert, a man who wants to save humanity by destroying it. Mark finds the submarine’s crew alive but under Schubert’s control.
While Elizabeth worries on the ocean’s surface, Mark learns what he can about Schubert before being knocked out and placed in a metal cage to drown. Instead, the water revives him and he’s able to save everyone, stop Schubert from launching the world’s nuclear missiles and make his way back to Elizabeth. In return for helping the Navy, Mark is allowed to go free. Elizabeth bids him an emotional farewell and watches as he swims off. Suddenly, however, he returns, telling her that he has plenty more to learn (and setting the stage for the next telefilm).
I really enjoyed Man from Atlantis. It was a fun read. I have the other three novelization as well and we shall have to see if they’re as good as the first.