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Charles Atlas

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Charles atlas betty lou

Betty Lou defies the Charles Atlas approach

Charles Atlas (1892-1972; born Angelo Siciliano) was a pioneering physical culture advocate and bodybuilder, who took his professional name in 1922 after the Greek hero Atlas. Atlas was best known for his bodybuilding courses (specializing in "dynamic tension"), first advertised in the 1920s. Atlas' own physique graced the ads, typically clad in leopard-patterned trunks/loincloth, and his hand signature accompanied the claims.

The best known form of these advertisements appeared in comic books, from the 1940s well into the 1970s, particularly one ad called "The Insult that Made a Man out of Mac" (with ad copy by Atlas' business partner Charles Roman), in which a "97-pound" weakling takes the Atlas course after a beach bully kicks sand in his face. After venting his frustrations on an innocent wooden chair, Mac sends away for the course, becomes muscular and punches the bully, becoming the hero of the beach.

References

The 1978 book The Exciting Adventures of Super Grover, itself a parody of comic books, features a one-page ad, "I Felt Like a 98-Ounce Weakling, says Betty Lou." Betty Lou appears on the margins, in the Atlas role, wearing a Tarzan-style spotted cloth outfit, and with her name appearing as a cursive signature. In the ad/story itself, Betty Lou is bullied at the beach. Like Mac, Betty Lou kicks a chair and, in her own Super Grover comic, spots an ad by "Herry Hercules" for a bodybuilding course. Betty Lou, however, pictures herself bored while performing the exercises and would rather play football.

In a markedly different resolution, Betty Lou stands up to the bully not through physical violence, but by informing him that his behavior is unfriendly and upsetting to fellow beachgoers. Duly chastened, the bully reforms. Betty Lou exhorts the reader to tell their own bullies the same thing.

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