Friday, May 17, 2019
Number 2339: Harvey Kurtzman and the atom bomb thief
“Atom Bomb Thief!” was written and drawn by Harvey Kurtzman for Weird Fantasy #14 (actual issue #2, 1950).*
At the time there was a lot of talk about atomic secrets being stolen, and the Russians building their own bomb (the Soviet Union detonated their first nuclear bomb on August 29, 1949, so it was in the news.) Besides the pay-off of the story being obvious, EC Comics used those snappy surprise endings so often the ending was not a real surprising surprise, but at least appropriate to the build up.
SPOILER ALERT: Kurtzman used a real life nuclear test as his ending, the Baker bomb test at Bikini Atoll in July, 1946. Camera footage from that test was used at the end of Stanley Kubrick’s dark 1964 fantasy, Dr Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.END SPOILER
Kurtzman’s story was also a way for him to use some cinematic effects in his drawings, enhancing the storytelling. I especially like the the layouts of the first and last pages.
*Weird Fantasy had been “formerly A Moon...A Girl...Romance” in order to save on having to buy a new second class postal permit. In this case they got caught after five issues, so they had to start re-numbering with issue number 6. The result was issue numbers repeated later on, affecting issue numbers 13 through 17.