Experiencing bully problems of his own, Lewis sees an ad in the back of a comic book featuring this bodybuilder and decides to mail in the coupon with a quarter to begin his muscle building program [The Figure in the Shadows; 44].
Charles Atlas (1892-1972) was an Italian bodybuilding who was best known for a landmark and long-running advertising campaign. The iconic advertisements were printed in many comic books from the 1940s, and were variants of a theme: a skinny young man (usually accompanied by a female companion) being threatened by a bully, returning home, getting angry, and sending away for the free Charles Atlas book. Shortly thereafter, the newly muscled hero returns to the place of his original victimization, seeks out the bully, and beats him up- rewarded by the swift return of his girlfriend, too. Like all good authors, the ad was said to be based on an experience the real Atlas had as a boy. We like to think Bellairs saw his share of Atlas ads during his youth - who knows if he ever dared to send off for the offer like Lewis did.