Secret Origins 34 (1988) was the second of three issues devoted to the origins of the members of Justice League International. Captain Atom, Rocket Red and Gnort get tales in this issue.
I really didn't know much about Captain Atom before reading this story. He was a Charlton Comics character, so unfamiliar to me, and little of what made up his own book was reflected in the pages of Justice League. Here, Cary Bates, Greg Weisman, Alan Lee Weiss and Josef Rubenstein pull off a complicated, but wonderful, origin tale.
Effectively, this takes the Captain Atom stories from Charlton and turns them into a big cover story, a lie put forth by the US government to conceal the true origin of Captain Atom. In this telling, he is a mechanic who gets stuck in a nuclear missile, and gains his powers when the nuke goes off.
He operated undercover for a number of years, but now that he is out in the open as a hero, people connected to his earliest cases are having a reunion, sharing their stories.
But really, these are all actors rehearsing their roles. General Eiling and Dr Megala are monitoring this, and pick apart the mistakes in the stories.
In truth, Nathaniel Adam was convicted of treason and sentenced to death. He was forced to take part in a nuclear experiment that thrust him twenty years ahead in time, as well as giving him powers. He is now forced to pretend to be a hero, while spying for the government.
I absolutely loved this, and started picking up occasional issues of the series after reading it. So this story definitely did what it was supposed to do.
William Messner-Loebs, Irv Novick, and Josef Rubenstein turn in the origin of Rocket Red, told as a meeting that the Russian hero has with Gorbachev, and a general who believes Rocket Red to be a potential traitor, because his brother wants to emigrate.
The actual origin is dealt with very quickly, recapping events from Green Lantern Corps, when Kilowog helped create the Rocket Red outfits, which lead to a confrontation with the rest of the Corps. Dmitri, the Rocket Red in the Justice League, was not introduced in that tale, he made his debut only in the pages of Justice League International itself.
Here he goes into action to save Gorbachev's life from the general, who turns out to be a killer android.
The last story in the issue is the origin, such as it is, of Gnort, a Green Lantern Corps member who had been hanging around the Justice League recently, as related by Keith Giffen, JM DeMatteis, and Stephen DeStefano. This character had also been introduced in the pages of Justice League International. Gnort is a charmingly stupid and incompetent Green Lantern, and the tale here is pure silliness, and just a hoot.
Gnort's uncle Gneuman was an honoured member of the Corps, while Gnort was a totally useless stoner and pizza delivery boy. The uncle felt that being part of the Corps would give Gnort some direction and self respect, so pleaded with the Guardians of the Universe to admit him.
They reluctantly did. And have been regretting it ever since.
Actually, almost none of that would turn out to be true, but those revelations came much down the road. For now, Gnort was pure fun, and so was his goofy origin tale.