Every superhero team needs a member whose powers including shrinking. It’s a requirement. The Avengers have Ant-Man. The Justice League have the Atom. Unlike his shrinking counterpart, Ray Palmer has scarcely been used since his creation. With all things comics on the rise, that’s set to change.
Ray Palmer was a silver age reinvention of the Atom, much like Green Lantern and the Flash. The Atom, Al Pratt, was created in 1940, with basic powers like super human speed, strength, etc. Gardner Fox and Gil Kane took the character name, redesigning him from the ground up like the formerly mentioned heroes. The Atom, Ray Palmer, debuted in Showcase #34, 1961. Dr. Ray Palmer, a physicist from Ivy Town, New England, possessed the ability to shrink himself to the size of an atom, because science. He developed his shrinking technology from a white dwarf star that fell to Earth. He fashioned a device to manipulate his size to his belt buckle, with is full body suit spreading the affects evenly across his body. The suit is apparently always there, though unseen. Appearing somewhat magically as he shrinks. With his abilities, Palmer rides through phone lines, traveling great distances quickly.
Despite having rogues gallery, Floronic Man, Bat-Knights of Elvaran, and Chronos the Time Bandit, and even a girlfriend, Jean Loring, the character never took off. Like Green Lantern/Green Arrow, Atom was paired in a series with Hawkman entitled, Atom and Hawkman. That too was a bust. The character would appear in the occasional Justice League story, a mini-series like Sword of the Atom, or working with other heroes like Firestorm. It wasn’t until 2004’s Identity Crisis that Palmer was brought back to the fold in a big way. The events of Identity Crisis left him broken, having him disappear from the DCU. Both Countdown and Final Crisis tried to utilize Palmer, along with him playing a minor role in Blackest Night and Brightest Day. None of it mattered. The New 52 has Palmer as a science adviser for S.H.A.D.E., working with Frankenstein.
Aside from the golden age incarnation, there’s been a few others to go by the name Atom, using a similar power set. There was Adam Cray, who worked under Palmer’s guidance infiltrating the Suicide Squad, Ryan Choi, and Rhonda Pineda. Choi, an Chinese character, was a creation of Gail Simone and Grant Morrison. He took over for Palmer after his disappearance, but was eventually killed by Deathstroke. Pineda, going by Atomica, is a New 52 creation, serving as a mole for the Crime Syndicate in Forever Evil.
Palmer has seen a few incarnation outside of comics, though mostly in animation; Justice League Unlimited, Young Justice, and Justice League: The New Frontier. His biggest role comes from season 3 of Arrow, played by Brandon Routh (Superman Returns, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World).
The Atom has always been a fun character, used sparingly in DC’s history. Though never able to sustain his own series, Palmer has always played a small role has a background character. Get it? Small? Sigh.
What’s your favorite Atom incarnation? Who’s better, Ant-Man or Atom? Comment below!
Shortest bio yet.