Charles Atlas Has a Message for the Kids
Posted June 11, 2010on:
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:
Mac: Hey! Quit kicking that sand in our faces!
Grace: That man is the worst nuisance on the beach!
Bully: Listen here. I’d smash your face… only you’re so skinny you might dry up and blow away.
Mac: The big bully! I’ll get even some day.
Grace: Oh don’t let it bother you, little boy!
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.
Mac: Boy! It didn’t take Atlas long to do this for me! What muscles! That bully won’t shove me around again!
Mac: There’s that big stiff again. Showing off in front of Grace and the crowd. Well it’s my turn this time!
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.