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Off The Shelf: Dames In The Atomic Age

This pulpy throwback combines a wild sci-fi story with a boffo art team for a book full of fun.

Dames In The Atomic Age

Way back in July at San Diego Comic-Con, I got drunk on my birthday and went to a little indie expo that had set up shop in the bar. I bought a few things, and one of them was Dames In The Atomic Age by Christopher Ryder and Marc Sandroni, an Art of Fiction title. It sounded cool, had a dame on the cover, and I figured it might be my kinda jazz. It took me until this week to actually sit down and read it. And whaddaya know? It's kinda my jazz.

Ryder isn't trying to surprise anybody here with clever plot twists or high-minded concepts or anything – he's giving us a straight-ahead pulp science-fiction story about a private dick named Andrew Fisch in post-atomic Los Angeles, who's just discovered that his best friend and favorite boxer Winston is bangin' his new client's wife, and he's gettin' beat up by three weird identical Russkies who happen to be sporting far out ray guns. Seems they make off with the dame, see, and it turns out the dame's hubby happens to be a high-end muckety-muck science whiz with a diabolical Vincent Price moustache and a couple of kooky party tricks up his sleeve – like little green men and giant-sized ants, see. It's a whopper of a tall tale, yessiree!

The story is free and easy, and I find it amusing that Fisch isn't really all that good a detective, which gets him into trouble, as he's too slow to realize what's going on around him – which, to be fair, would strain the credulity of any right-minded fella. What really makes this book shine is the fantastic art from Marc Sandroni and the brief appearances by a slew of other artists contributing some really fun splash pages to drive home the old-school theme. Tony Fleecs contributes a Sunday Funnies style comic strip about a Dodger Doogan, Jr. Dick complete with period-accurate racism, there's a pitch-perfect brochure for Palm Springs from a trio of artists, and there are even a few pages of a Golden Age-looking comic book diversion called Planet Bizarre from a different trio. Sandroni handles the main story beautifully, with a clean-cut style that fits the tone of Ryder's story to a tee.

Dames In The Atomic Age is a book that's pure homage to old chiller monster B-movies and detective stories – and it's a book that really loves its own title. It makes a point to keep throwing in funky splash images to showcase it. Each one feels like it should come with its own orchestra hit, as they also tend to come on big reveals – rolling over panels when the ants appear, or tucked into boulders when they rampage, things like that.

It's good old-fashioned comic book fun! Ain't nothin' wrong with that.

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