Atlas Comics came out with some pretty strange characters in the seventies, and out of all of them...
Morlock 2001 has to be the strangest by far. Written by Michael Fleisher (who had worked on Spectre and Jonah Hex) and penciled by Allen Milgrom (of Captain Marvel and Avengers fame), the story is about a future totalitarian government who finds a man growing inside a plant, whom they plan to use as a weapon against those who rebel.
In this future of 2001 the government in particular is pretty hilarious. They have "Thought Police" that go around killing people that aren't following the rules, which includes stashing books (which aren't allowed after the great book burning of the eighties!) or talking about subjects like truth and freedom. They infiltrate a greenhouse of a scientist conducting "illegal botanical experiments" and kill him...taking his precious plant pods along the way.
They take the pods to a top secret laboratory for observation. There the regime's scientists discover that there is a man growing inside one of the pods...and he's attached to the inside of the pod "just like a pea or a bean!".
They rejuvenate the man and after they discover he can speak (apparently his fibro-cellular structure was pre-programmed) he is subjugated to a series of
They name their new weapon Morlock, and once he is ready to go to work they learn that touching him can be very bad, as it will cause the victim to mutate into a green fungus that spreads across the entire body...killing them as they become rooted to the ground in agonizing, plant-like posture. Hedging, anyone?
The regime sends Morlock out to basically just touch everyone that is pissing them off, causing rooted plant-people to sprout up around the city. Morlock's one pleasure is feeding birds, and he meets a woman while bird-feeding one day and befriends her. He tells her everything, and how he dislikes being told to kill people. But eventually, he finds out she is a spy for the government...and Morlock feels betrayed and apparently very hungry, as he turns into his true monstrous form and proceeds to eat the woman all up for a yummy treat. Awesome! I've always wanted to do that to a spy...
Morlock escapes the facility and somehow finds the laboratory of the scientist that created him, where he is able to learn his true purpose...and his one downfall, which is that if he turns into his plant form he is capable of commiting acts of "hideous evil"! Meanwhile, the evil totalitarian regime assembles an army to seek out and destroy the "alien life form who threatens the security of our happy society!".
And that is the first issue of Morlock 2001. I found it pretty entertaining and a lot different from normal superhero fare. It has some good seventies cheese, and Fleisher's future with it's book burnings and Thought Police is just hilarious. There is nothing very heroic about Morlock, at least in this first issue. I mean...he eats his love interest! Sure, she might have been a spy...but according to her, her intentions were good. It's a moment that I've never seen in a comic before, nor had expected.
The cover of this issue is a bit misleading, as we see Morlock battling a plant creature...that is essentially himself! I enjoyed this comic not only for it's cheesy bits but because it was just so off the wall, and I'll have to check out more issues from Morlock 2001 in the near future.
Doesn't Morlock 2001 and the Thought Police sound like a good band name?