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The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
Craig Wallace
Atoman
of the Seven Sentinels

Craig Wallace, who is commonly known by his super-heroic name "Atoman," is a "super-hero" who was part of the super-team known as the "Seven Sentinels." This team was apparently a prominent and world-famous team of super-heroes in earlier decades, and they still command respect, although they are now senior citizens.

The Seven Sentinels are transparent analogues to DC Comics' most prominent super-team, the Justice League of America. Atoman is a direct analogue to Superman, the world's most famous superhero character. In Atoman's first appearance, he appeared alongside "Sun Woman", an analogue of Wonder Woman, and "the Hound," who was an analogue of Batman. This trio of legendary super-heroes, analogues of DC Comics' trinity of most popular heroes, arrived at the "Top 10" precinct in Neopolis to protest the arrest of M'rrgla Qualtz, an alien character code-named the "Vigilante from Venus," an analogue for J'onn J'onzz, a.k.a., the "Martian Manhunter," who was a founding member of the Justice League of America alongside Wonder Woman, Superman and Batman.

Atoman is a relatively minor character in the colorful and critically-acclaimed Top 10 comics written by Alan Moore and published by America's Best Comics. The original stories were illustrated by Gene Ha and Zander Cannon. The original Top 10 series ran for 12 issues, and has since been followed up by two additional 5-issue limited series, a graphic novel and a few other stories set in the same universe. Atoman did not appear until the 7th issue of the original series, and then he appeared only briefly. The Top 10 series does not focus on traditional super-heroes, but instead is a police procedural that focuses on the police officers of the Neopolis Police Department's 10th Precinct - officers who, like everyone else in Neopolis, have super-powers or are otherwise based on fanciful comic book-style characters. Thus, despite the fact that Atoman is one of his world's most prominent super-heroes, he plays only a minor role in the Top 10 comics in which he appears.

Atoman is presumed to be a Methodist purely because he is an analogue of Superman, who is a Methodist. Atoman's teammate Sun Woman clearly has the same religious affiliation as her DC Comics analogue, Wonder Woman, as evidenced by the fact that she invokes Helios, a classical Greek god that she worships. Presumably Atoman likewise shares his analogue's religious affiliation. There are, however, no references within the Top 10 comics themselves to Atoman's religious affiliation.

Atoman's real name is Craig Wallace. He shares his surname with a number of prominent Methodists, including: George Wallace Jr. (governor of Alabama in the 1960s, '70s and 80s, and a candidate for Democratic nomination for President in 1964, 1972 and 1976); Lurleen Wallace (the first female governor of Alabama); William A. Wallace (U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania, 1875-81); David Wallace (governor of Indiana); Benjamin Franklin Wallace; Charles Slover Wallace.

Based on Atoman's super-hero codename and the atom symbol he wears on his chest, it is reasonable to assume that his powers are derived in some way from atomic energy. Unlike Superman, Atoman may be purely human and not share Superman's alien heritage, from which Superman derives some of his religious beliefs. (Superman was raised as a Methodist and retains the values of his Methodist upbringing, but he has also adopted Kryptonian beliefs to varying degrees over the years.)

Sun Woman, M'rrgla Qualtz the Vigilante from Venus, the Hound, and Atoman
Above: Legendary super-hero Atoman (a.k.a. Craig Wallace) protests the arrest of the alien M'rrgla Qualtz, his fellow teammate in the Seven Sentinels. Atoman is an analogue to the DC Comics character Superman. He is flanked here by (left to right): M'rrgla Qualtz the Vigilante from Venus, the Hound, and Sun Woman. Note how Sun Woman here invokes the Greek god Helios, indicating that she shares the same religious affiliation as her DC Comics analogue, Wonder Woman. [Source: Top 10 #7; written by Alan Moore, pencilled and inked by Gene Ha, layouts by Zander Cannon; published by America's Best Comics: La Jolla, California (2000); page 17.]

Should all Superman analogues be classified as Methodists?

No. To do so would be completely meaningless results. In fact, a good case can be made that Atoman himself should not be identified as a "Methodist."

When we first encountered Atoman in our reading of Alan Moore's delightful Top 10 comic book series (published by America's Best) we were struck at how Atoman and his teammates in the "Seven Sentinels" were so clearly intended as analogues of Superman and the other members of the Justice League of America. Superman was clearly a Methodist and so, we reasoned, Atoman could be identified as a Methodist as well, because Atoman is based on Superman. This helped bolster the rather meager numbers of Methodist super-heroes on our list. (We have subsequently found a few additional genuine Methodist super-heroes, so their numbers no longer look quite so paltry). Also, Atoman really seemed like a Methodist, and not just because of the interesting Jeff Smith/"Frugal Gourmet" parallels in the Top 10 storyline.

Subsequently, we have realized that there are countless Superman analgues extant in published comics. Not only have major publishers such as Marvel and Image and DC itself established both major and minor characters that are analogues to Superman (often as part of JLA analogues), but clear analogues to this most archetypal of modern super-heroes have appeared in cartoons, film, television, books, online Flash animation, etc. Many of these Superman analogues are satirical or simply silly, but a number of them, such as "Supreme" originally published by Image Comics, are very serious indeed. In some cases, enough background information is available about these characters that we can know the characters are not Methodists (such as with the Amish (JLA: The Nail and Soviet Communist (Superman: Red Son) versions of Superman published by DC Comics itself in Elseworlds stories). But often, these Superman analogues simply fill a story niche placing them in contrast to or in opposition to other characters, and they themselves are not "fleshed out" with very much detail.

It would be meaningless to classify all or even a large number of these Superman analogues as "Methodists." We could easily find dozens of such characters, and depending on how far afield in various media we look, and how loose we were with how we identified analogues, we could probably find over a hundred such characters. But the point of these characters is not their religious affiliation. These characters are typically intended to be the most popular or most powerful super-hero character on their respective Earths. This "preeminent superhero" is their role and it is the only characteristic that is consistently present in the analogues. The religious affiliation of Superman was not in the minds of the writers who created and utilized these analogues. In most cases, they probably wrote their stories without even thinking about the fact that Superman is Methodist.

Atoman seems more Methodist than most Superman analogues, and for now we let his listing stand. But in most ways, Atoman isn't significantly different from other Superman analogues. He can be seen as standing in for all of them, or he can be viewed as a disclaimer that while we recognize many characters are based on Superman, those analogues can not themselves be regarded as Methodists. Ultimately, all costumed super-heroes created since the introduction of Superman in 1938 are in some way derivative of the Man of Steel. But their lineage was in most cases established before Superman was firmly established in DC Comics canon as a Methodist. If anything, the religious lineage of Superman's innumerable literary descendants owes more to the Judaism and assimilationist Jewishness of Superman's creators (Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster) than to the Methodism that was eventually associated with their famous creation. More importantly, Superman's appeal as a universal, "everyman" character has much to do with his influence and the extent to which other strories have been modelled on him.


Atoman and the Seven Sentinels visit the Top 10 precinct
Above: The first appearance of Atoman. [Source: Top 10 #7; written by Alan Moore, pencilled and inked by Gene Ha, layouts by Zander Cannon; published by America's Best Comics: La Jolla, California (2000); page 16.]

First Appearance of Atoman

Atoman first appears partially shown in the last panel at the bottom of page 15 of Top 10 15. He then is featured on pages 16 and 17 alongside fellow members of the "Seven Sentinels", Sun Woman and the Hound. The dialogue from these pages is presented below. [Source: Top 10 #7; written by Alan Moore, pencilled and inked by Gene Ha, layouts by Zander Cannon; published by America's Best Comics: La Jolla, California (2000); pages 15-17.]

ATOMAN: Traynor! I want to talk to you!

JETMAN (Captain Traynor): I see. And you are . . . ?

ATOMAN (Craig Wallace): Don't be stupid. You know who I am. I'm Craig Wallace, I'm Atoman, and I still have a lot of influence in this town.

THE HOUND (Laurence Lomax): And I own a third of it. Now, where are you holding the Vigilante?

MONSOON (Hector Lopez): I tried to tell them you were busy, Captain . . .

JETMAN (Captain Traynor): It's okay, Hector. So, by "Vigilante," I take it you mean the so-called "Vigilante from Venus," M'rrgla Qualtz. At the moment we're holding it . . . her . . . for multiple homicide.

THE HOUND (Laurence Lomax): This is outrageous Captain. M'rrgla Qualtz was our comrade in the Seven Sentinels . . .

JETMAN (Captain Traynor): Mr . . . Lomax, isn't it? Laurence "The Hound" Lomax? Mr. Lomax, Ms. Qualtz has decapitatd and partially ingested a number of young women . . .

THE HOUND (Laurence Lomax): I don't accept that. M'rrgla is a hero. Craig, Delia and I would like to see her.

JETMAN (Captain Traynor): Well, then, I guess it would hardly be politic of me to refuse, would it? Ms. Qualtz is through here. I should warn you that she's going through some sort of alien life-cycle change. You may find her appearance distressing.

VIGILANTE FROM VENUS (M'rrgla Qualtz): Delia . . . Larry . . . Craig. Look what they've done to me. [By this, Qualtz means that the police have imprisoned her. Her appearance here, alien though it may be, is apparently identical to the way that the Seven Sentinels are used to seeing her. This is the first time, however, that Captain Traynor and the other police officers of the 10th Precinct have seen Qualtz in this essentially humanoid female appearance. When the police apprehended Qualtz, she was completely non-humanoid in appearance, like a monstrous insect or unidentifiable creature, and she was much larger.]

SUN WOMAN (Delia Spyros): Oh, M'rrgla. Oh, you poor thing . . .

ATOMAN (Craig Wallace): Traynor, this is disgusting. This woman saved Earth from the Krell Armada, and you won't even allow her clothing?

JETMAN (Captain Traynor): She . . . She looked different earlier.

MONSOON (Hector Lopez): Yeah. She tried using telepathy to make me free her.

VIGILANTE FROM VENUS (M'rrgla Qualtz): That isn't true. He wanted to sex me. A woman officer stopped him.

SUN WOMAN (Delia Spyros): By Helios! Captain, your department will pay for this!

ATOMAN (Craig Wallace): Sun Woman's right, Traynor. Our lawyers will pulverize you. That's not a threat, Traynor. That's a guarantee.

THE HOUND (Laurence Lomax): Absolutely so, Captain Traynor . . . Know any prayers?

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Webpage created 31 March 2006. Last modified 7 August 2007.
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