(from “School for Super-Villains!” in Adventure Comics #372, cheapest September 1968; by Jim Shooter, Curt Swan & Jack Abel)
The above panel — which a young Andrew first encountered one of DC’s digest-sized reprint collections — was the direct inspiration for this feature. It beautifully epitomizes the funnybook realm’s approach to scientific subjects in that era, where authentic science facts were hilariously extrapolated into absurd plot devices.
Yet as dodgy and misunderstood as the mechanics behind Chemical King’s little parlor trick were, that scene did pique my younger self’s curiosity enough that I cracked open my family’s set of encyclopedias to do further research on the chemical process of oxidation.
I wish I could say that this led me to a lucrative career as a respected research chemist, but no. Lab work was too messy and smelly for my tastes. Still, it is a nice reminder that sometimes bad science can fuel an interest in the real deal.