Tiger-Man #1, Atlas Comics Seaboard

Tiger-Man #1, April 1975

“Tigerman”

Script: Gabriel Levy

Art: Ernie Colón (credits from the Atlas editorial page; the comic itself has none)

Two would-be rapists are stopped by the dramatic appearance of Tiger-Man. He beats them up, and then casts his mind back to how he came to be.

It all began in a jungle “in the heart of African Zambia.” Doctor Lannie Hill was conducting a study of survival instincts in animals. To this end he extracted blood from a tiger and “isolated the chromosome that makes [it] so powerful!” Unable to find a suitable test subject for this new wonder drug, he used it upon himself. When the tiger was released by a disgruntled native, Hill swung into action and tore the animal apart—the potion had given him “the strength of a tiger!!”

A couple of years passed and Hill returned to the US. Unfortunately he arrived just in time to be told that his sister had been murdered. His heightened senses detected the scent of horses, and he set out to track down the culprit—further armed with the knowledge that his sister was able to point the finger at a bald man before she died. He fashioned a costume out of a tiger skin given him by a tribal chief and stalked off into the night “with the silent speed of a jungle cat…”

Back in the present, he spies a poster for a rodeo show and surreptitiously enters the venue. There he spots Jake “skinhead’ Milner atop a bucking horse, and, remembering his sister’s dying words, knows he’s found his man. However, Jake is surrounded by rodeo groupies when he leaves, so Tiger-Man has to leave him alone. Moreover, his senses tell him that this man’s smell isn’t quite right—he must have had an accomplice. He follows Jake to a rendezvous with the second man, and then follows the pair into a bar. His tiger costume causes a stir, but he shrugs off the ridicule and throws himself bodily at the two killers responsible for his sister’s murder. He smashes their bones and tears their flesh. “…you murdering swine — now you will answer to me — Tigerman!!”

Tiger-Man Atlas Seaboard

The bodies fall to the floor as the sound of police sirens fills the air.

Tiger-Man leaves the bar as swiftly as possible, and, on a rooftop ruminates on his first case. He swears to make all criminals beware their evil ways—and he’s not afraid to kill to get his way!

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Tiger-Man (or Tigerman—the spelling seems to be arbitrary and interchangeable) first appeared in the debut issue of Thrilling Adventure Stories, Atlas’s black and white magazine, but this was his first four-colour comic. He was created to be Atlas’s most powerful hero, their Superman, say, though with his steel claws and willingness to tear apart his enemies he’s closer to Wolverine—who, at the time this comic was published, had only just appeared a few months before and had yet to join the new X-Men.

He’s a very blood-thirsty character, Tiger-Man, and the panel of him taking down the tiger is an eye-opener: the colourist has made his arms red! Animal rights sympathizers might want to steer clear…

While the body of the costume is explained as a gift of a tiger skin from Chief Jnuka, the mask, boots and gloves appear without comment. Presumably, having slaughtered the tiger, Jnuka wanted make sure nothing was wasted! And where the blue leggings and sleeves come from is anyone’s guess. Interestingly, in the first fight, on page 2, the colourist has coloured our hero’s arms and legs flesh tone, which actually looks a bit better—though bare-legged male heroes are few and far between in comics.

The idea of gaining super powers from injecting tiger blood is extremely stupid, but I suppose we can be grateful that Hill wasn’t just bitten by a radioactive tiger! And, yes, I know tigers are from India, not Africa, but what are you gonna do?

Overall, this isn’t actually that bad a comic. Levy’s script is serviceable, and Colón’s art very strong. The dozen or so titles initially envisaged by editor Jeff Rovin were all a bit off-beat, with a distinct different flavour to the standard Marvel or DC offering, and Tiger-Man certainly fits into that category. And, given how super-heroes developed over the next couple of decades, perhaps he was more influential than we might like to think.

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