Strange Adventures #117 (April 1960) debuts the Atomic Knights. Gardner Grayle is an “exactly average” solider in the Third World War – you know that atomic one that happened in 1986 and lasted a mere 20 days. Anyway, what begins is a really decent bit of world-building. Gardner is being chased by thugs and suffers from amnesia / shock. He hides in the ruins of a city where he rescues Douglas Herald, a school-teacher from the mob.
Gardner recovers his memory and remembers the horrors of the atomic war, how entire continents have been reshaped by the “Super-H explosions” and all plants/animals have been destroyed. He learns from Douglas that the Black Baron, a local warlord, has set up camp in the area and has hoarded all the cans of food, starving the common people.
The Black Baron’s men find Gardner and Douglas who use some ancient suits of armor to shield them from radiation blasters. They discover they were protected from the “raguns” and decide to use the suits of armor to confront the Baron. Meeting Douglas’ community, including his sister Marene, they enlisten two brothers (Hollis and Wayne Hobard) and Bryndon, a scientist. The five of them decide march on the Black Baron’s castle. The sixth suit of armor can’t be used, it’s too small for a grown man.
While storming the castle, they run into a scrape, but are rescued by someone in the smaller suit of armor, who turns out to be Douglas’ sister Marene, who is crushing on Gardner a bit. Gardner leans in to thank Marlene:
And with those 16 pages, a nice little science fiction epic is set up, complete with noble heroes, supporting cast, romance, and interesting premise. I’m impressed! The Atomic Knights were created by John Broome and Murphy Anderson, both of whom worked on Captain Comet years earlier. The creators even had the foresight to drop some warnings at the end that things won’t necessarily go so smoothly in future stories. Bryndon the scientist makes sure the reader understands the suits of armor are not indestructible.