Atom (Ray Palmer)

This article is about the superhero who can shrink his body. For the superhero with atomic absorption and superhuman strength, see Captain Atom.
The Atom

Pencil art by Doug Braithwaite painted over by Alex Ross from a page from Justice #6 (August, 2006.)
Publication information
Publisher DC Comics
First appearance Showcase #34 (Oct. 1961)
Created by Julius Schwartz (editor and co-plotter)
Gardner Fox (writer)
Gil Kane (artist)
In-story information
Alter ego Raymond "Ray" Palmer
Team affiliations Justice League
Teen Titans
Indigo Tribe

Ability to shrink and grow his body and other objects to varying degrees (including the subatomic level) while manipulating his weight to his advantage
Maintains strength of normal size in shrunken state

Genius level intellect
Ph.D. in physics
Showcase #34 (Oct. 1961), debut of the Silver Age Atom. Cover art by Gil Kane and Murphy Anderson.
Series publication information
Schedule Bimonthly, monthly
Format (Atom, Atom and Hawkman, Power of the Atom): Ongoing series
(Sword of the Atom): Limited series
(Brightest Day: The Atom Special): One-shot
Genre Superhero
Publication date (Atom)
June 1962 – August 1968
(Atom and Hawkman)
October 1968 – October 1969
(Sword of the Atom)
September – December 1983
(Power of the Atom)
August 1988 – November 1989
(Brightest Day: The Atom Special)
July 2010
Number of issues (Atom): 38
(Atom and Hawkman): 7
(Sword of the Atom): 4
(Power of the Atom): 18
(Brightest Day: The Atom Special): 1
Creative team
Writer(s) (Atom)
Gardner Fox, Frank Robbins
(Atom and Hawkman)
Robert Kanigher, Gardner Fox, Denny O'Neil
(Sword of the Atom)
Jan Strnad
(Power of the Atom)
Roger Stern, Tom Peyer
(Brightest Day: The Atom Special)
Jeff Lemire
Penciller(s) (Atom)
Gil Kane, Mike Sekowsky
(Atom and Hawkman)
Murphy Anderson, Dick Dillin
(Sword of the Atom)
Gil Kane
(Power of the Atom)
Dwayne Turner, Graham Nolan
(Brightest Day: The Atom Special)
Mahmud A. Asrar
Inker(s) (Atom)
Murphy Anderson, Sid Greene
(Brightest Day: The Atom Special)
John Dell III
Letterer(s) (Brightest Day: The Atom Special)
Sal Cipriano
Colorist(s) (Brightest Day: The Atom Special)
Pete Pantazis

The Atom is a fictional superhero appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics. The character was created by editor and co-plotter Julius Schwartz, writer Gardner Fox and penciler Gil Kane. The Atom was one of the first superheroes of the Silver Age of comic books and debuted in Showcase #34 (October 1961).

Publication history

The Atom debuted in Showcase #34 (cover-dated Oct. 1961) from the DC Comics precursor, National Comics.[1] Early comics-fandom pioneer, Jerry Bails, corresponded the National Comics editor Julius Schwartz in December 1960 outlining an updated version of Al Pratt, the company's 1940s Golden Age Atom.[2] Bails, and future Marvel Comics editor-in-chief, Roy Thomas collaborated on a suggested version that incorporated elements of the Golden Age hero, Quality Comics' Doll Man.[3] Eventual Atom writer Gardner Fox wrote Bails on January 1, 1961, stating that Schwartz passed along Bails' letter to him. that I might write and let you know that okay okay okay (this is hush-hush) an Atom book may get under way [sic] in the next month or so. I am trying to cook up some "new" super-powers for him in.... Your own suggestions are excellent and most especially the one about the atomic compression of his body, which is to be a feature of the "new" Atom. I have seen art samples of how he will look. ... [A]t the present moment the intent is to make him a college student rather than the scientific experimenter you have in mind. This is all talk, mind you nothing definite.[4]

Schwartz wrote Bails on January 6 saying he had already been planning a new version of the Atom, in the vein of National's reimagined Golden Age superheroes the Flash and Green Lantern, and had already asked artist Gil Kane to sketch designs.[5] Kane, unaware of Bails' suggestions,[6] said he did "a series of drawings" on large illustration boards, including a depiction of the new Atom riding a German shepherd dog and another of a pistol firing at the Atom, who wore the costume he eventually would in his comic debut but without a belt.[7] Kane, who lived in Jericho, New York, on Long Island, at the time, drove to the nearby Hicksville home of DC production person Tom Nicolosi, who colored the drawings using St. Martin's dyes.[7] Schwartz, after seeing the drawings, had the belt added, a detail Kane said he disliked since "it broke up the costume lines."[8] Schwartz said he had not wanted to reuse the Golden Age Atom, Al Pratt, and had read about dwarf stars and thought a fragment of one could power the new hero's miniaturization. He added that he and Fox together plotted the early stories of this new Silver Age Atom.[9] Fox said in 1979, "I doubt that any feedback from Bails or Thomas had very much of an influence, though always kept their ideas in the back of our minds."[10]

His civilian name, Ray Palmer, was an homage to science-fiction magazine editor Raymond A. Palmer.[11]

Fictional character biography

Silver Age

Raymond "Ray" Palmer, Ph.D., is a physicist and professor at Ivy University in the fictional city of Ivy Town, somewhere in New England, specializing in matter compression as a means to fight overpopulation, famine and other world problems. Using a mass of white dwarf star matter he finds after it lands on Earth, Palmer fashions a lens that enables him to shrink any object to any degree he wishes. Compression destabilizes an object's molecular structure, however, causing it to explode.

Ray Palmer with his girlfriend and later wife, Jean Loring. Art by Gil Kane and Murphy Anderson from Showcase #34 (Oct. 1961).

During a spelunking expedition, Palmer and his students, along with his girlfriend, lawyer Jean Loring, find themselves trapped in a cave. In desperation, Palmer secretly uses the lens he has carried with him to shrink himself in order to be able to climb through a small opening in the fallen rocks sealing the cave, knowing he will likely explode. Using a diamond engagement ring, Palmer enlarges the hole sufficiently and descends to the floor to try to alert the others of the escape route before dying. However, upon entering the lens' beam, he finds himself returned to normal size and without danger of exploding. As the lens is covered with cave moisture, Palmer believes this has altered the beam to allow this strange effect. When subsequent experiments still result in objects exploding, Palmer concludes some unknown force in his own body allows him to safely size-shift. He decides to use this effect to become a superhero.[12] A retcon in Brightest Day: The Atom Special (July 2010) removes the influence of his exotic physical makeup, tying his survival instead to the discovery of a compression matrix, a fabric able to spread the effects of the ray on the entire body, stabilizing it. The prototype matrix later became his costume. In the same issue, Palmer's father was introduced, contradicting issues of DC Comics Presents and The Atom Special #1, which showed that Palmer's parents had died while he was young.[13]

Palmer creates a belt tool to control his miniaturization to subatomic size with an emergency backup mechanism in his gloves, and develops a costume that he can wear at most times that only becomes visible when he shrinks significantly. In addition, he develops equipment that allows him to decrease his weight in addition to his size, allowing him to glide on air currents on a low setting, while a high setting allows him to handle or strike objects with the equivalent strength of his normal size and build. A favorite travel method is to call some location on the telephone and when the phone is answered, Palmer can shrink enough to travel through the phone lines in seconds to emerge out the answering phone.

He carries out the bulk of his early superheroic adventures in Ivy Town, where he often helps his girlfriend, Jean Loring, win her cases. Much later, he gains the innate equivalent powers within his own body.

Palmer has fought against several alien and supernatural threats, as well as having his own rogues gallery: his arch enemy is Chronos the Time Bandit, the menace of the Bug-Eyed Bandit, the dangerous eco-terrorist Floronic Man, and the miniature misguided Bat-Knights of Elvaran. He also had several time travel adventures by means of Professor Alpheus V. Hyatt's Time Pool. The Atom is a member of several incarnations of the Justice League, and the team is gracious enough to supply a special chair scaled to his default size which can elevate to whatever height needed so he can easily partake in team meetings without having to go out of costume. There, he meets Hawkman (Katar Hol pre-Hawkworld, Carter Hall post-Hawkworld), one of his closest friends in the superhero community. Neither character achieved major popularity, and even in their heyday were mostly supporting characters, often with Palmer as a specialist in size alteration who was often needed to access extremely confined areas only he could access. Hawkman would manufacture prosthetic wings for a myna Ray saved, taking on the name Major Mynah and became the Atom's partner and steed.

Sword of the Atom, Power of the Atom, and Teen Titans

Sword of the Atom #3. Cover art by Gil Kane.

The Atom had one short-lived miniseries and three subsequent specials, all titled Sword of the Atom, in which Palmer abandons civilization after divorcing his wife Jean, who had an affair with fellow lawyer Paul Hoben, and becomes the heroic paragon of a tribe of six-inch (152 mm) -tall yellow-skinned humanoid aliens called Morlaidhans in the jungles of South America. He also becomes consort to their princess, Laethwyn. Palmer bequeaths his size-changing belt and role as Ivy Town's protector to Jean's new husband, Hoben. During this time, Palmer's friend Norman Brawler pens the book The Atom's Farewell, in which he reveals Palmer's identity as the Atom.

Eventually the colony is destroyed, despite Palmer's attempt to save it, by a group associated with the US Government acting as loggers.[14] Palmer is forced to escape via the telephone to North America. In the attempt, he fails to anticipate that the connection will involve satellite relay and the unexpectedly arduous trip causes him to remain at approximately three feet high and without his costume's size changing equipment.

With the help of a friend, Ray creates a new costume from the material of the white dwarf star. This time, instead of a belt, Palmer uses an encephalotronic grid in the costume's headpiece to control the costume. The grid is keyed to his unique brainwaves. This enables him to transfer his mass into an unknown dimension which allows him to alter his size and weight just by thinking about it. He can even make the new costume appear or disappear with a thought by shifting most of its atoms to or from the other dimension. This allows him to be in costume while at full height or to shrink without having to have his costume appear. He can even increase his weight while remaining six inches (152 mm) tall or reduce his weight while remaining at full size. Ray often does this and is then light enough to ride wind currents, where he actually appears to be flying to a limited degree. Palmer also develops a mental link with the white dwarf matter to which he has been regularly exposed. Most of the mass lies within another dimension. Ray can draw upon that mass and hit with a super-concussive force. He has been shown to punch through concrete walls, crush an exam table and break the axle of a car that is moving at high speed.

Power of the Atom #7, depicting the Atom in his new costume

Palmer would learn of those behind the genocide of the Morlaidhans, namely five CIA operatives, part of a group called the Cabal. In a mission called Operation: Fireball, the tiny aliens were murdered in hopes Ray would return as the Atom and become a tool for the Cabal (as Ray worked for the CIA in his earlier years). Instead, Palmer shrank the five agents to six-inch height and the CIA would employ them as a group called Micro/Squad. The Atom would take on new enemies during this period, such as Humbug, a sentient robot in control of an army of duplicates of itself, and Strobe, a technological armor-clad crook. Micro/Squad would also return, attempting to murder Palmer for what he did to them. Instead, teammate Ginsburg dies in the explosion they set and Ray approaches Adam Cray about becoming the new Atom in order to bring the remaining Micro/Squad into the open. Cray agrees, steals Paul Hoben's size-changing belt, and joins the Suicide Squad. The plan works as the villains emerge and Palmer takes the place of operative Sting; but their leader, Blacksnake, kills Cray and takes the belt for himself, returning to normal height. Blacksnake murders the remaining members of his crew as Ray arrives, revealing himself, posing as Sting, and battles him. After Blacksnake is defeated, the Cabal employs Task Force X II to murder him in order to protect their secrets.

Later, during the events of Zero Hour, Palmer is rejuvenated to a teenage state and develops the ability to grow in height in addition to his previous abilities, all of which he's capable of controlling innately without using his white dwarf star-based equipment. He becomes field leader of a new group of Teen Titans, composed of hybrids of human beings and the H'San Natall, after a chance meeting with Isaiah Crockett on his first day attending Ivy University. As a former member of the Justice League, Palmer viewed his affiliation with the Teen Titans as a step backward. The group primarily battled the Veil, an anti-alien organization that employed Deathstroke and Dark Nemesis, but it's revealed that their leader Pylon was actually a H'San Natall. They would also face Jugular (hired by the H'San Natall) and Loren Jupiter's son Jarrod, aka Haze. The Atom's new growth powers were instrumental in the battle against Sekhmet of the Millennium Giants. Ray subsequently regains his original age and memories and loses his new powers after he begins to rapidly age and Waverider has to use DNA taken prior to his rejuvenation to restore him to his original state. Palmer returns to his teaching job at Ivy University, but also becomes an associate and alternate member of the JLA. With his exit from the Teen Titans, the group disbands. One notable student under Palmer was Ronnie Raymond, who, without the knowledge of elements of Martin Stein, found difficulty in fully employing his abilities as Firestorm.


In JLA/Avengers, Ray appears first as taking the place of Wally West during the Justice League's mission to the Marvel Universe when he realizes that there is no Speed Force in the other reality. The Justice League arrives and battles a group of monsters while searching for the Ultimate Nullifier, but Ray stays behind after a brief confrontation with the Avengers, where he sees them meeting with Metron who gives a story different from the one given to the League by The Grandmaster. Intrigued at this turn of events, Ray jumped on Metron's chair, which took him to the Grandmaster's base. When Batman and Captain America arrive, having tracked Metron with the aid of equipment provided by the Fantastic Four, he shows them that while the Grandmaster is trying to stop Krona, his team in his game is the League, rather than his own universe's Avengers. When the Grandmaster merges the universes to stop Krona, Ray disappears until the two teams join up to go after Krona himself. Ray participates in the battle and ends up disappearing after Krona's defeat.

Identity Crisis and Countdown

In the 2004-05 limited series Identity Crisis, Jean Loring kills Sue Dibny, the wife of the Elongated Man. After stealing some of the Atom's shrinking technology and his costume, she kills Sue in a misguided attempt to win Palmer back. She also arranges a hit on Tim Drake's father which is carried out by Captain Boomerang (Digger Harkness). The intent is for Jack Drake to kill some random attacker, but both manage to kill each other. After committing her to Arkham Asylum, Palmer shrinks himself to microscopic size and disappears.[12]

Palmer eventually meets up with his old friend Carter Hall after microscopically traveling through phone lines. He warns Hall of the consequences of mindwiping Batman and of harassing criminals over a crime that is perpetrated by Jean, one of their own. Palmer explains he needs time away, and shrinks himself again after Hall agrees to keep the meeting secret.[15]

His legacy lived on, however. Ryan Choi, a student of Physics in Hong Kong that corresponded with Ray Palmer via mail in the past, found a copy of his costume and shrinking device to become the current Atom. Around this same time, an unnamed teenager with powers similar to Palmer joins the Teen Titans under the name Molecule. After a brief tenure with the team, he is later killed during a confrontation with the Terror Titans.

During the missing year, Palmer's technology is employed by Supernova to shrink and grow in size in order to enter and exit the bottle city of Kandor.

DC Comics would not reveal Palmer's whereabouts since his disappearance at the end of Identity Crisis.[16] However, Palmer returned to play a very important role in the Countdown limited series. A Monitor asks the Source Wall what is the solution to "the great disaster," it answers "Ray Palmer". Subsequently Kyle Rayner, Donna Troy and Jason Todd scour the Multiverse for the former Atom, who just might hold the key to saving reality from a crisis of unparalleled proportions."[17]

In their travels, the quartet has found people marked with the Atom's familiar symbol. The group tracks Palmer to Earth-51, where he assumes the life of its native Palmer after his life is cut short during his studies of the Multiverse and discovery of the looming Crisis. Meeting the Jean of Earth-51 and the Justice League again for the first time, Palmer is found on a world where the heroes have been able to eradicate supercrime and create a utopian Earth (Later revealed to have been the result of this reality's Batman murdering all of this world's super-criminals after the Joker killed Jason). However, once Kyle, Donna, Jason and Bob the Monitor are able to track him down, Bob attempts to kill Palmer; with the Challengers' help, Palmer escapes and reveals to the Challengers that it was the Ray Palmer of Earth-51 who was meant to stop the Great Disaster and that he had been trying to carry on his work, to no avail.[12]

When the Challengers return to their own Earth, Jimmy Olsen is kidnapped by Mary Marvel, who has been corrupted by Darkseid.[18] Palmer hitches a ride from within Jimmy. When Darkseid takes control of Jimmy's powers, Palmer locates and shuts down the control sphere inside Jimmy's brain, but is then swarmed by Apokoliptian antibodies. While escaping this onslaught, Palmer discovers the "battery" containing the New God spirit energies.[19] Palmer removes it from Jimmy's head and shatters it, releasing the energies.[20]

Palmer later (after much cajoling) joins Donna, Kyle, and Forager in their new mission as border guards to the Multiverse, realizing that there is nothing left for him on Earth anymore.[21] However, Palmer returns home to New Earth one more time, upon realizing that his old nemesis Chronos had taken his identity to mislead a young pretender to his identity, Ryan Choi. After helping his successor to once again save Ivy Town, he returns to the Multiverse with a new sense of fulfillment, leaving his town in the hands of a new, capable hero.[22]

During the Final Crisis, Palmer returns to New Earth and works with Choi again to aid in the efforts to evacuate the last free humans.[23]

In Justice League: Cry for Justice mini-series, it has been confirmed that Palmer will become a member of Hal Jordan's new Justice League.[24]

Blackest Night

Main article: Blackest Night

On the night of the superhero's memorial day, Palmer asks Hawkman to visit Jean's grave to be honored as a fallen member of the community, but Hawkman refuses because of what she did in Identity Crisis.[25] Palmer is later shown speaking to Hawkman again, over the phone (unaware that his friend has been killed and reanimated as a Black Lantern). Atom is then invited to visit undead Hawkman in order to discuss his heartache over his wife.[26] Palmer is later revealed to have shrunk into Hawkman's ring, escaping certain death. Joining the battle between Hal Jordan, Barry Allen, and the Black Lanterns, Palmer is set upon by Black Lanterns Ralph and Sue Dibny, who use his guilt over Jean's actions to try to feed on his compassion-filled heart. Palmer is saved from death by the Indigo Tribe, who combine their light with Hal's to destroy the Dibnys and their rings. During the crisis, Palmer was able to deduce with the heroes that the black rings are simulations taking the identities of the deceased and needing to feed. The Indigo Tribe take the heroes to the Hall of Justice, unceremoniously taking Hal Jordan and abandoning the rest when the Black Lanterns renew their attack.[27]

Palmer helps the heroes escape via a phone line, and then brings them to the JSA, who were also being attacked by Black Lanterns. During the crisis, Palmer meets Damage, son of Al Pratt, the first hero to be called Atom. The two heroes briefly acquainted during the battle, and begin to develop a friendship. Palmer stopped the Black Lantern Al Pratt from killing Damage, but was unable to keep the reanimated Jean from finishing the job.[28] Palmer made a futile attempt to stop one of the black rings from turning Damage's corpse into an undead before Jean used his own technology to shrink him, Mera, and herself into the fully transformed Damage's ring.[29] As Palmer and Mera battle Jean inside the black ring, Jean reveals Nekron's plan along showing what is happening at Coast City, as deceased residents and revived heroes arise as Black Lanterns under the demon lord's commands. Deadman witnesses their battle and plans to rescue Palmer and Mera from Jean.[30] Deadman saves Palmer and Mera by briefly possessing Jean, allowing them to escape and join the heroes against Nekron and his army. During the battle, Palmer is chosen as a deputy officer of the Indigo Tribe to be more effective against Nekron's forces. Although the Indigo Tribe eschews formal uniforms for tribal patterns over simple garments, Ray Palmer's costume is turned into a close approximation of the tattered Sword of the Atom clothings he had used in the past.[31]

Palmer's past is rehashed, showing that he never quite got over Jean, even during the days of Sword of the Atom. Indigo-1 claims that she can teleport the armies of each Lantern Corps onto Earth, if given time to meditate. The responsibility falls to Palmer to protect her while she does so. Before she enters her trance, she reveals to Palmer that the indigo staff and his overwhelming compassion allows him to mimic the other powers of the Lantern Corps; she demonstrates this by temporarily becoming a Red Lantern and vomiting corrosive blood all over an attacking company of Black Lanterns. She then enters her trance, while Palmer fights off Black Lanterns Hawkman and Hawkgirl by temporarily becoming an Orange Lantern, loudly proclaiming "I want my friends back!" He then summons two orange energy duplicates of Khufu and Chay-Ara to help him fight off his and Indigo-1's attackers. He is briefly successful. But then Jean shows up to torment him, and she leaps into Indigo-1's ring. Palmer follows her. He ends up reliving Sue Dibny's death, and is then attacked by various Black Lantern Morlaidhans, the minuscule race he befriended during Sword of the Atom. He fights them off and, summoning the powers of a Green Lantern, destroys Jean. Indigo-1 manages to summon the various armies and thanks Palmer for his help. He tells her to keep his involvement in the deployment of the troops a secret, and asks that she help him find a way to legitimately resurrect Hawkman and Hawkgirl.[32]

In the final battle, Palmer gets his wish when Hawkman and Hawkgirl are brought back to life by power of white light at the end of the Blackest Night series.[33] Ray's involvement of secret resurrect remains unknown.[32]

Brightest Day and Adventure Comics co-feature

In July 2010 Ray Palmer had a Brightest Day one-shot that led to a co-feature in Adventure Comics. Written by Jeff Lemire with art by Mahmud Asrar, the co-feature focused on Ray Palmer's early life.[34] For a brief three-issue tenure, Palmer was part of writer James Robinson's new Justice League line-up, but resigned in order to help his friend Martin Stein with some sort of project.[35] At the start of the Brightest Day event, Ray and Stein are seen at the funeral of Gehenna, the girlfriend and partner of the second Firestorm, Jason Rusch. When Jason gets into a confrontation with Ronnie Raymond over Gehenna's death, Ray steps in and tries to stop it.[36] Ray manages to separate Jason and Ronnie from Black Lantern constructs.[37]

Afterward, Ray discovered his father was attacked and the suspect was his own uncle David.[13] With Ray's father in the hospital, Ray discovers his father had a stroke and his investigation of technology had been stolen. He seeks out Oracle to find the Calculator, Oracle manages to trace a data line, and Ray enters through the internet where he then encounters the Calculator and interrogates him to find out the dealers are. However, Calculator creates a room with no oxygen to make Atom's heartrate slower and he attempts to kill the Atom.[38] Ray manages to grab Calculator and shrinks to return to Oracle's base. While Ray is in remission, he threatens Calculator who tells him that something called the Colony has manipulated Ray. Later, Prof. Hyatt was attacked by the Colony while looking for white dwarf matter.[39] When Ray arrives, he goes to rescue Prof. Hyatt. During the fight, the Colony dies by incineration from the white dwarf matter. Ray calls Oracle to trace the phone line, and while he arrives at the Colony's base he is confronted by the Colony squad.[40]

After failing to avoid detection, he is confronted by Uncle David and with his help, pulls him away from the Colony heading towards the teleporter. Once safe, Uncle David tells Ray about the Colony. David also tells Ray that he could not leave and could not work on the projects on his own, he shows Ray how to travel using the astrology orb called the ant farm to see a mini-planet of microscopic nature. But, the Colony followed them to David's hideout and travels to the ant farm Ray then engages them in an epic battle.[41] After the battle the Colony died from incineration as it did before but, Ray managed to save him using his stable white dwarf matter. Ray demanded to know what they desired and the Colony tells him the same thing, and they transport the ant farm to the Colony's base. He destroys Ray's belt buckle's white dwarf matter and kills himself. Since they cannot return, Ray follows David with a backup plan when suddenly Ray is approached by robotic insects.[42] David explains that the robotic insects are caretakers. They manage to fix the belt buckle and he returns to normal size when in Colony's base. Failing to escape, Ray is forced by the scientist to bring the white dwarf matter. He shows the monitor renderings where Colony is standing in front of the hospital where is father his and he is going to kill him.[43]

When Ray refused, Hawkman prevents Colony from attacking Ray's father. Ray receives a call from Oracle to trace the monitor renderings, but Hawkman is being attacked by the Colony squad that miniaturize into Hawkman's body. Ray chooses to save Hawkman to leave the Colony's base while the other Colony escapes and kidnaps Ray's father. Ray rescues Hawkman by leaping into a body of the Colony attackers. When Hawkman is recovering, the Colony leaves their message to bring the white dwarf meteor and warned him no tricks, and to bring the meteor in order to save his family. While Ray traded the meteor to Colony before the Colony leaves, they exchange it for Ray's family that is in the ant farm. Ray travels into the ant farm and discovers that they planted a nuclear bomb on a vest strapped to his uncle David. Ray then manages to save his father and David and shrinks the bomb before it had a chance to detonate. While Ray's father is recovering, Ray reveals to David that he planted the white dwarf meteor into a nano-liquid to make the Colony's headquarters shrink. Ray, David, and Hawkman arrive at the location of the Colony's headquarters to attack their base. After the Colony was defeated however, David tells him there are more Colonies in the area. Later, Ray returns his father home. Ray forgives his father and apologizes for giving him a rough life before he overhears a firefighter rescue service, as he is a capable hero once more.[44]

During this same period, Ray begins an investigation into the disappearance of Ryan, whom unbeknownst to the superhero community, had been murdered by Deathstroke. Ray comforts Ryan's girlfriend Amanda, and muses Ryan may be hiding out like Ray did after the events of Identity Crisis.[45] While he shrinks himself to investigate he discovers microbiology blood.[46] He arrives at the Hall of Justice to tell the League members that Ryan is missing. The League starts to help Ray's investigation to find Ryan's whereabouts.[47] He discovers Ryan's DNA cell is not a match. The DNA cell came to someone else.[48] Later, Ray discovers evidence that Dwarfstar had a hand in Ryan's death, and vows to find him and make him pay.[49] Ray eventually finds Dwarfstar in a hospital, where he is recovering from the severe injuries he sustained from his torture at the hands of Giganta (Ryan's ex-girlfriend). Believing it may lead to a lighter sentence, Dwarfstar confesses to hiring Deathstoke to kill Ryan. Armed with this knowledge, Ray leaves to inform the Justice League.[50] Later, he asked Batman (Dick Grayson) to get revenge on Deathstroke for murdering Ryan.[51] Ray and the Justice League arrive to attempt to arrest Deathstroke and the Titans.[52] The Justice League battle against the Titans in Khandaq, where Ray seriously injures Deathstroke for killing his friend. The battle is stopped by Isis, who forces the Justice League to flee in order to avoid restarting World War III.[53] After failing, Ray begins writing the eulogy for Ryan's funeral, and is comforted by Superman.[54] In the final issue, Ray meets Ryan's friends and family, and gives the speech at his protégé's funeral.[55]


In the Convergence crossover, when the alternate Brainiac miniaturized the universe of the New Earth, Ray Palmer who had been in a mental state with his powers to increase size affected since imprisoned in the dome, sends out a broadcast message that he will pursue Deathstroke for Ryan Choi's murder. Ray then engages Deathstroke in an epic battle, but Ray is being pulled by the mysterious voice of Telos to fight opposite Angor universe's Barracuda. While Ray battles Barracuda, Ryan Choi suddenly appears and to be alive, and confronts him.[56] Ryan explains that his death and consciousness had survived in the universe where the Atoms' masses are shifted to whenever they change size. Ryan then returns to the realm of the living after appropriating Ray's hand that Barracuda severed during their battle, to create a new body for him after they defeat Barracuda. Ray is hospitalized after losing his hand, and Deathstroke infiltrates the hospital and attempts to kill him, but Ryan interferes as they work together to defeat Deathstroke and restored Ray's hand.[57]

The New 52

In this timeline of The New 52, Ray appears in Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. as S.H.A.D.E.'s science advisor,[58] although he appears to have retained his abilities.[59]

DC Rebirth

Subsequently, in DC Rebirth reboot, on Earth-Prime, Ray Palmer's apprentice Ryan Choi is scolded when Ray cancels classes for the fifth day in a row. When Ryan goes to get Ray from his workshop where he has been confined, he instead finds a video recording from Ray. In it he reveals he discovered a universe beyond the subatomic, a so-called Microverse, and within that found something that posed an existential threat to their universe. He asks Ryan, the only other person who knows how to use the Atom's technology and whom Ray trusts, to go into it and finish his work. Ray informs Ryan that upon arrival he will meet with someone who he himself has encountered. He tries to warn Ryan about something, but the footage cuts out abruptly before he can finish.[60]

Powers and abilities

The Atom possesses the power to alter his size down to the subatomic level while retaining his natural strength level. This is accomplished by using the remnants of a white-dwarf star made into a belt buckle worn with his costume. Originally, he had to manipulate his abilities via the belt and later with hand movements before eventually syncing with his brainwaves itself. The Atom is one of the few heroes in the DC Universe that has 100% control over his body on the molecular level (Plastic Man and The Flash being examples of others), thus making him exponentially more powerful than he is often portrayed; he is limited only by his application of his powers. Some of the applications he's demonstrated include reducing his mass to glide through the air (simulating flight, like Wonder Woman) and increasing his mass to punch through concrete. He's also demonstrated the ability to make his costume appear and disappear at will by shifting its atoms between this dimension and another.

He has been shown to be able to ride phone lines to his destination by dialing a number and traveling through the handset (his signature use of his power), and recently shrinking small enough to travel on photon signals through fiber optic cable.[28]

Some of The Atom's more impressive feats include shrinking into Superman's bloodstream and manually rearranging his molecules to create Kryptonite and defusing Black Lantern Al Pratt's Atomic Punch and resizing within him, ripping his body apart in the process.[28]

Following the events of Zero Hour, the Atom gained the ability to also grow in size and internalizes his other abilities without the use of his white dwarf star-based apparatus. However, when returned to his natural age, these abilities were lost.

He was a member of the Indigo Tribe, Ray possessed an indigo power ring powered by compassion, which provided him with flight, energy projection, and a protective force field. He also utilised a staff capable of duplicating the abilities of other wielders of the Emotional spectrum within range.

He has also shown the ability to allow others to shrink down with him if the situation requires it, such as when he shrunk himself, Superman, Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and Plastic Man to repair the links between seven shattered subatomic particles, or shrinking Steel, Supergirl and Superboy to directly treat a kryptonite tumor in Superman's body. However, this ability is relatively limited; initially anyone other than himself who was shrunk would explode after two minutes if not returned to their normal size, although he was later able to extend this time to around an hour.

Supporting cast

Rogues gallery

Other versions

The Dark Knight Strikes Again

Frank Miller portrayed Ray Palmer as a major player in Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again. He was taken prisoner by Lex Luthor and made to live in one of his own petri dishes for a period of years until his rescue by Catgirl. He was then instrumental in the liberation of Kandor, gaining access to the bottle by 'hiding' inside Lara- the daughter of Superman and Wonder Woman- when she confronted Brainiac, slipping inside the bottle to break it from the inside and allowing the Kryptonians within to gain superpowers to defeat Brainiac.

In The Dark Knight III: The Master Race, Palmer attempts to restore the natives of Kandor to their full height, but is instead tricked into reviving a twisted Kryptonian cult, whose leader proceeds to crush Palmer and Kandor.

League of Justice

Other re-imaginings of the Atom include an appearance in League of Justice, an Elseworlds story portraying the Justice League in a The Lord of the Rings-type story where the Atom was recast as a wizard/fortune teller called "Atomus The Palmer".

JLA: Age of Wonders

In JLA: Age of Wonder, Ray Palmer worked with a science consortium whose members at one point included Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla.

JLA: Rock of Ages

In JLA: Rock Of Ages, the Atom is part of what remains of the Justice League in an alternate future where Darkseid has taken control of the Earth. The Atom dies sacrificing himself to kill Darkseid, riding a burst of photons through the villain's invisible force field and into his optic nerve, then discharging white dwarf radiation into Darkseid's four-lobed brain.

DC: The New Frontier

In DC: The New Frontier, Ray Palmer doesn't become the Atom but is a leading scientist in using lenses to shrink matter. However, in his experiments this matter would then explode. His technology was instrumental in destroying the Centre when the Flash bathes the alien in the beam and it explodes. Later, in the epilogue, the Atom is shown in a group shot.

JLA: The Nail

In JLA: The Nail and Another Nail, Atom often stands on Flash's shoulder, following Hawkman's death. He is shown infiltrating the Thinker's base to investigate the possibility that he was involved in the conspiracy against other heroes, but discovered upon entering the base that the Thinker was dead after he stumbled upon clues to the true mastermind's plans, having been killed by a brainwashed Metamorpho (The only other person capable of infiltrating the Thinker's security).

Countdown to Final Crisis

In Countdown to Final Crisis, The Search for Ray Palmer and Countdown: Arena (2007), a number of alternate versions of Ray are introduced.


In the alternate timeline of the Flashpoint event, the Atom lost a leg to radiation poisoning and became a corrections officer in Doom Prison, acting as a controller of Amazo. During the prison break, the Atom's control is pulled out by Eel O'Brian and Heat Wave who then force him to retrieve their weapons. After the Atom does it, Heat Wave crushes his skull with his fingers.[61]

In other media




Main article: Arrowverse
Brandon Routh as Ray Palmer/The Atom

Brandon Routh portrays Dr. Raymond "Ray" Palmer / The Atom in The CW's Arrowverse.



Video games


This version of Atom was ranked as the 144th Greatest Comic Book Character of All Time by Wizard magazine.[67] IGN also ranked the Atom as the 64th Greatest Comic Book Hero of All Time stating; "Of all the superheroes out here, Dr. Ray Palmer might be one of the most brilliant tortured souls imaginable."[68]

See also


  1. Showcase #34 at the Grand Comics Database.
  2. Thomas, Roy (Autumn 1999). "Splitting the Atom". Alter Ego. 3 (2). p. 8.
  3. Thomas, "Splitting the Atom", pp. 8-9
  4. Fox letter to Bails, reprinted in Thomas, "Splitting the Atom", p. 10
  5. Schwartz letter to Bails, reprinted in Thomas, "Splitting the Atom", p. 10
  6. Thomas, "Splitting the Atom", p. 11
  7. 1 2 Thomas, "Splitting the Atom", p. 10
  8. Kane in Thomas, "Splitting the Atom", p. 11
  9. Thomas, "Splitting the Atom", p. 13
  10. March 26, 1979, letter from Fox to James Flanagan, published in Robin Snyder's History of Comics vol. 2, #2 (Feb. 1991) and quoted in Thomas, "Splitting the Atom", p. 14
  11. Brice, Jason (1998-08-14). "Alter Egos And Alternate Earths". Retrieved 2011-03-21.
  12. 1 2 3 Beatty, Scott, Wallace, Dan (2008). "Atom II". In Dougall, Alastair. The DC Comics Encyclopedia. London: Dorling Kindersley. p. 30. ISBN 0-7566-4119-5
  13. 1 2 Brightest Day: The Atom Special (July 2010)
  14. Power of the Atom #1
  15. Archived October 23, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  16. MEGA CON 2007: DAY ONE & DCU PANEL Archived March 3, 2007, at the Wayback Machine., Newsarama, February 18, 2007
  17. "DC Comics". DC Comics. 2010-04-21. Retrieved 2011-03-21.
  18. Countdown to Final Crisis #4 (April 2008)
  19. Countdown to Final Crisis #3 (April 2008)
  20. Countdown to Final Crisis #2 (April 2008)
  21. Countdown to Final Crisis #1 (April 2008)
  22. The All-New Atom #25
  23. Final Crisis #7 (2009)
  24. Justice League: Cry for Justice #1 (July 2009)
  25. Blackest Night #1 (July 2009)
  26. Blackest Night #2 (August 2009)
  27. Blackest Night #3 (September 2009)
  28. 1 2 3 Blackest Night #4 (October 2009)
  29. Blackest Night #5 (November 2009)
  30. Green Lantern (vol. 4) #49 (December 2009)- a "Tales of the Black Lantern Corps" co-feature in the issue.
  31. Blackest Night #6 (December 2009)
  32. 1 2 The Atom and Hawkman #46 (January 2010)
  33. Blackest Night #8 (March 2010)
  34. The Atom Grows Into One-Shot, Ongoing Co-Feature, Newsarama, April 13, 2010
  35. Justice League of America (vol. 2) #43 (March 2010)
  36. Brightest Day #0 (April 2010)
  37. Brightest Day #2 (May 2010)
  38. Adventure Comics #516 (July 2010)
  39. Adventure Comics #517 (August 2010)
  40. Adventure Comics #518 (September 2010)
  41. Adventure Comics #519 (October 2010)
  42. Adventure Comics #520 (November 2010)
  43. Adventure Comics #521 (December 2010)
  44. Giant-Size Atom (March 2011)
  45. Titans (vol. 2) #28 (October 2010)
  46. Titans (vol. 2) #29 (November 2010)
  47. Titans (vol. 2) #30 (December 2010)
  48. Titans (vol. 2) #31 (January 2011)
  49. Titans (vol. 2) #32 (February 2011)
  50. Titans (vol. 2) #33 (March 2011)
  51. Titans (vol. 2) #34 (April 2011)
  52. Titans (vol. 2) #36 (June 2011)
  53. Titans Annual 2011 (July 2011)
  54. Titans (vol. 2) #37 (July 2011)
  55. Titans (vol. 2) #38 (August 2011)
  56. Convergence: The Atom #1 (April 2015)
  57. Convergence: The Atom #2 (May 2015)
  58. Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1 (September 2011)
  59. Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #7 (March 2012)
  60. DC Universe: Rebirth one-shot (May 2016)
  61. Flashpoint: Legion of Doom #2 (July 2011)
  62. Prudom, Lauren (January 21, 2015). "'Arrow' Without Oliver? Producers preview the Rise of Black Canary, Atom and Brick". Variety.
  63. "CW Eyeing 'Atom' As Next DC Series – TCA". January 11, 2015. Retrieved January 11, 2015.
  65. Andreeva, Nellie (February 26, 2015). "Arrow/Flash Superhero Team-Up Spinoff In Works At CW; Brandon Routh, Victor Garber, Wentworth Miller, Caity Lotz Star". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 27, 2015.
  66. Damore, Meagan (July 20, 2016). "CASSIDY'S BLACK CANARY, ATOM & MORE WILL APPEAR IN "VIXEN" SEASON 2". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved July 20, 2016.
  67. "Wizard's top 200 characters. External link consists of a forum site summing up the top 200 characters of Wizard Magazine since the real site that contains the list is broken.". Wizard magazine. Retrieved May 7, 2011.
  68. "The Atom is number 64". IGN. Retrieved May 14, 2011.

External links

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