Imagine a group of incredibly gifted children — all roughly the same age, all hiding amazing abilities from a world they know will never accept them, and all the result of genetic mutation. One man commits himself to the task of gathering these extraordinary children into an experimental new school, both to guide them in the use of their unique abilities and to shield them from the jealous suspicions of the “normal” population.
You may already be familiar with the saga of The Uncanny X-Men — but this is the tale of Wilmar Shiras’ Children of the Atom, first published in 1953 by pioneering SF publisher Gnome Press.
Born to workers caught in an explosion at an atomic weapons facility, these remarkable youths were orphaned just a few months after birth when their parents succumbed to delayed effects from the blast. Now they are in their early teens, scattered across the country, each unaware of the others’ existence. But beginning with the introduction of 13-year-old Timothy Paul to school psychiatrist Dr. Peter Welles, all that is about to change. After identifying Timothy and his fellow prodigies for what they are — and for what their potential might be — Dr. Welles commits himself to gathering these “Wonder Children” into an experimental school, both to harness their intellectual abilities and to shelter them from the world they've left behind.
At this new Academy, teachers and students alike throw themselves into discussion and learning, laying the groundwork for what they hope will become a rich new chapter in human history. But once the Children of the Atom are all in one place, keeping their existence a secret becomes more and more of a challenge, and escalating events soon force a reckoning not only among the Wonder Children themselves, but also with the larger society that lies just outside their sanctuary’s walls.
Over the decades that followed, this eloquent portrait of gifted children confronting a hostile world proved itself to be an enduring classic. It has often been credited with providing the inspiration for Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s world-famous comic book creation, The Uncanny X-Men.