High Five! Comics

Charles Atlas Has a Message for the Kids

Posted on: June 11, 2010

Today I was reading through Steve Gerber’s Man-Thing # 16 and staring up at me on the first page was an advertisement so incredible I had to talk about it. Though the world of comics has always been a bizarre and ever-changing landscape a few concepts have remained intact. Among them is the idea of male wish fulfillment, more specifically: Big Muscles. I don’t think I need to back up this claim as anyone who’s even heard of superheroes knows they pack some serious guns.

With nary a thought to this I open my beloved Man-Thing book and there was an ad for Charles Atlas‘ workout program. Take a good gander at this:

If it’s hard to read, I’ve transcribed it below (or you could just click it to enlarge):

Panel 1.
Mac: Hey! Quit kicking that sand in our faces!
Grace: That man is the worst nuisance on the beach!

Panel 2.
Bully: Listen here. I’d smash your face… only you’re so skinny you might dry up and blow away.

Panel 3.
Mac: The big bully! I’ll get even some day.
Grace: Oh don’t let it bother you, little boy!

Panel 4.

Mac: Darn!!! I’m sick and tired of being a scarecrow! Charles Atlas says he can give me a real body. All right! I’ll gamble a stamp and get his free book.

Panel 5.
Mac: Boy! It didn’t take Atlas long to do this for me! What muscles! That bully won’t shove me around again!

Panel 6.
Mac: There’s that big stiff again. Showing off in front of Grace and the crowd. Well it’s my turn this time!

Panel 7.
Mac: WHAM! Now it’s your turn to dry up and blow away!
Grace: Oh, Mac! You are a real man after all!

There you have it, kiddies! Don’t like getting bullied? Gain weight, find the people you hold grudges against, and punch them in the face! I can’t think of a better message for our nation’s youth. Maybe this stuff made more sense 40 years ago.

Upon researching Charles Atlas I learned he was one of the first nationally recognized body builders in America, providing inspiration to countless muscle-men who would follow him. Quite likely if it hadn’t been for the success of ads like this California and Minnesota may have never had a robot hit-man from the future or an alien-hunting jungle commando as their respective 38th governors. What I do know is that the absurdity of Silver Age comics seems to have bled into the Real World in ways I never thought possible before now. This world is bizarre.

Happy readings,



5 Responses to "Charles Atlas Has a Message for the Kids"

Marvel, you so crazy!

Not just Marvel – those occurred in all the comics. IIRC I even once saw one in a Charlton.

You’re too young to remember Margaret, but once upon a time being a wimp and backing down from everything wasn’t a well thought of idea.

Margaret didn’t write this post. But, you are right. All of us at High Five were born in the 80s and didn’t read comics in the 20s-70s when Atlas was running his business.

The point of my post wasn’t that it’s good to let people push you around. I found the ad somewhat absurd in that it: a) preys on the insecurities of the nerd/geek culture, and b) does not endorse standing up to bullies, but rather exacting violent revenge months or even years later.

I wasn’t really waxing philosophical. I mostly just found the ad funny.


I grew up reading these comics and Charles Atlas ads. Had no effect on me and I thought they were funny and not realistic. What does the generation of today have. Violent video games, free porn all over the internet, and the great UFC and MMA.

Randy, you’ve made my day.

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