The green nuclear energy of the 1968s
There were also superheroes in GDR comics: Atomino from “Frösi” was the creation of an Italian communist. Anyone who reads the classic children’s book today will be amazed at all the debates about the energy crisis and extending the life of nuclear power plants.
BNuclear power was already green 60 years ago. A Roman lawyer who supported the communists in Italy wrote for children once a week in L’Unità about the adventures of a nuclear goblin. In 1968 Marcello Argilli’s “Atomino” was published as a book, with pictures by Vinicio Berti.
On the sky-blue cover, the hero hops beamingly over a rainbow with a daisy in his fingers. The birth of Atominos takes place in a Faustian way in a nuclear power plant: while the scientists are intoxicated by their visions of a better world (“We will generate so much heat that we can use it to melt the ice fields of Antarctica!”), the To create lab cats on a pot in which all the elements of matter are simmering.
The homunculus emerging from the vessel is a child-sized atom. It has a potbelly as a nuclear reactor, a head with a radiation emitter and four limbs. Atomino embodies nuclear power in the form of a hyperactive elementary school student.
On the run from generals and the abuses of the defense industry, Atomino finds a family with a single nuclear physicist and his precocious daughter, who manage to harness the energy of the living atom and tame it. It does all sorts of mischief in exuberance. But at its core, Atomino has a good heart. “It’s not my fault that I’m so strong,” Atomino laments, crying radioactive tears.
Atom is looking for work
It makes itself useful via a newspaper advertisement: “Atomic, radioactive, thermonuclear, electronic, thermoelectric with overvoltage, experienced, seeks work of any kind.” But here too it is misused, as a scab by capital. It’s a long way from the immature, uneducated atom learning not to warm the oceans and melt the polar ice caps to the utopian atom standing on the right side. As late as 1979, singer Pupo landed a hit in Italy called “Atomino,” which proclaimed, “I’m the best of robots / Small as a child / Loyal as a dog.”
In Germany, Argilli’s “Atomino” became a classic children’s book, especially in the GDR. The youth magazine “Frösi” made the little atom famous with comic strips in which it advertised nuclear power and traveled through the East to the Soviet Union until 1983. In Chemnitz, a club is still named after Atomino. And in the energy crisis, in the political debates about taxonomies and lifespans, nuclear power is becoming greener again.
At Argilli, things are going well for Atomino and for humanity. The Academy of Sciences of Italy meets in Rome for a special session. “We will use nuclear energy for the benefit of all citizens,” explains the superhero’s foster father, builds a reactor, fills it with the tears and bodily fluids of the atomic being from the retort – and invites everyone to use as much electricity as they need, to tap yourself and for free. “The city became paradise, as any city in the world could be,” writes Marcello Argilli.