Nukla saves the world from surrendering. Artists: Steve Ditko and Sal Trapani.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Dell Comics
First Appeared: 1965
Creators: Joe Gill (writer), Dick Giordano and Sal Trapani (artists)
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Dell Comics was one of the great powerhouses of the comic book industry — but only as long as it was connected to Western Printing, which licensed properties from Disney, Warner Bros.,

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Hanna-Barbera, MGM and many others. When Western pulled out of the partnership to form its own comic book imprint, Gold Key, Dell was left with nothing to publish, and had to come up with properties of its own in a hurry. These ranged from modest successes, such as Kona, Monarch of Monster Isle and Thirteen Going on Eighteen, to complete non-successes, such as Johnny Jason, Teen Reporter and Millie the Lovable Monster. Nukla, for example, lasted four issues, and would be practically forgotten today, if not for the fact that comic book enthusiasts tend to remember superheroes better than they do the likes of Around the Block with Dunc & Loo and Linda Lark, Registered Nurse (each of which ran twice as long).

Nukla was Matthew Gibbs, a CIA spy who piloted a U-2 airplane just like the real-life Francis Gary Powers, who had been shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960. Matt, too, was shot down, in his case over China, but it must have been with some kind of weapon that doesn't get into the news, because instead of falling to Earth, he and his plane were disintegrated. But like Captain Atom and Doctor Solar before him, he was able to pull himself (along with the plane) back together. Somehow, he sensed that the general who had ordered the attack was about to kill a bunch of peasants who knew too much. He wished he could do away with those who "have murder in their hearts"; and lo and behold, found being disintegrated had had the salutory effect of making him capable of doing just that, by means of energy shooting out of his fingers.

The fact that making such a wish meant he had murder in his own heart wasn't mentioned.

From that point on, he was able to pass at will in and out of a material state (and take his U-2 with him), fire nuclear blasts from his hands, and do all sorts of other superhero-like things. Using a modification of his flight suit as a superhero costume, he continued to work for the CIA, doing America's dirty work all around the world.

Nukla #1 (December, 1965) is credited to writer Joe Gill (long-time mainstay of Charlton Comics) and artist Sal Trapani (Metamorpho, Fab Four). But it's an open secret that Trapani often hired ghosts to pencil his work, while he only inked it. He was a heavy-handed inker, so it doesn't always show, but in this case it's known that his penciller was Dick Giordano (later an editor at DC Comics), who also happened to be his brother-in-law. Later issues were also credited to Gill and Trapani, but at least one (#4) was definitely pencilled by Steve Ditko (Speedball, The Creeper).

After his four-issue run (the last dated September, 1966) was over, Nukla sank without a trace.


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Text ©2006-08 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Dell Comics.