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Before he was Bobby Ewing on “Dallas,” Patrick Duffy was the… – Man from Atlantis #1

May 6, 2012

A couple of things have conspired to drag this old relic out of mothballs. One, a few days ago I mentioned Bobby Ewing and his Dallas dream death on here while talking about an old Thanos-infused Silver Surfer comic. Two, I’ve been watching a lot of the NBA playoffs on TNT, and that network has been saturating the airwaves with commercials for the new Ewing-centric Dallas revival. (WHERE IS MY MAGNUM, P.I. REVIVAL?) Both these things got me to thinking. Hey, didn’t Partick Duffy star in a really bad sci-fi series in the mid to late seventies? And didn’t said series have a Marvel tie-in book? Yes and yes.

NBC’s Man from Atlantis starred Duffy as Mark Harris, the sole remaining survivor of a lost Atlantean civilization, one that can (of course) breathe underwater and whose hands and feet are webbed (GROSS) He was found by and subsequently glommed onto an oceanic research team, which made the series sort of Namor/Aquaman meets seaQuest DSV. Which sounds like Morrissey and The Cure formed a superband to drive millions of music fans into the Stygian arms of suicidal depression. I’ve only ever seen bits and pieces of the show — and TV movies — and it doesn’t look all that good. Even the “exciting” opening seems designed to put you in a coma.

The comic followed in this proud tradition.

Granted, there’s not much to build on here. The television show was a dud, with a lame premise and languid, un-thrilling underwater derring-do. (If you want good undersea TV action, best to seek out Sea Hunt.) But I expect more from Bill Mantlo, who delivered many a solid script in his years at Marvel. This early work, however, belongs more to his Woodgod phase. He did the wordifying on both of the features in this premier issue, and neither will grab you.

The first — with art from Tom Sutton and Sonny Trinidad — has a recounting (note the irregular WE’RE IN A FLASHBACK panel outlines) of the SENSES-SHATTERING ORIGIN of the Man from Atlantis. Gills — ewww:

It’s a yawner. Believe me.

Things get worse in the second. Frank Robbins provides the pencils on this one (inked by The Tribe), and it’s your typical Robbins output. Which means “hideous to behold.” No insult intended to Mr. Robbins. I’m a comic reader who’s not a fan of Neal Adams, so perhaps it’s my evaluation credentials that are suspect. But the man who once drew the worst Captain America ever manages to take his script assignment, which might have actually been halfway decent (it has some cyborg pirate with a metal ship with metal sails and probably a metal parrot lurking somewhere), and wrings whatever readability it might have had out of it.

Here’s Mr. Harris in action. It looks like his power set not only includes being able to breathe underwater and swim just as well as fish (and mammals), but also to make really, REALLY goofy faces while doing it:


Perhaps people might take more interest in a Patrick Duffy interview, included with the extra behind-the-scenes stuff in this oversized issue. It’s of middling note to read what he has to say in the “I can’t believe I have to do this goofy crap” days before he hit the big time:

The show made it through a season plus a few TV movies. The comic flatlined after seven issues. Now you can barely find a soul on Earth that remembers either. And that’s no great loss for humanity, whether surface dwelling or Atlantean.

There are also pin-ups within, and I’ll leave you with one of them — it might rinse the funk out of your mouth. Gene Colan was able to make Namor enjoyable, but I’m not sure that he could have done the same with Mark Harris. This one page (with Frank Giacoia inks) would seem to indicate that he could — “The Dean” indeed:

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