Hello comic book fans!
Welcome to today's episode of TEX'S BACK-ISSUE QUEST! My back-issue quests are episodes of my blog in which I have the pleasure of showing you little gems from my collection of back-issue comics. And speaking of little, today, we'll be talking about the smallest hero in the DCU:
This is my copy of Showcase #34, published in 1961! This comic features the first appearance of Ray Palmer, the Silver Age Atom, and his then fiancée, Jean Loring. Created by writer, Gardner Fox and legendary artist, Gil Kane, Ray Palmer is a immensely brilliant, highly driven professor of physics, who was studying the compression of matter. After finding a fragment of a white dwarf star, Palmer figured that by grinding a lens from the fragment and passing light through the lens, one might be able to shrink objects down to a fraction of their original sizes; unfortunately, every test failed, ending with the objects exploding. After being trapped with some friends in a cave, Palmer decided to use his lens to shrink himself to a size small enough to squeeze between the rocks so that he could save his friends, accepting that in doing this he would die, exploding just like every object that the light from the lens had touched. Ray was able to save his friends, and to his surprise (and delight), he did not explode. Fashioning his bio-belt, a control system to help him shift his size, Ray embarks his career as the size-shifting, evil-smashing Atom!
I've shown this before, but it just doesn't seem right not to put these in the same post:
FUN FACT 1: The first Atom in the DCU was the Golden Age Atom, Al Pratt, who first appeared in 1940. He has no powers (at first), other than the abilities of a superb boxer. He was called the Atom because of his diminutive stature: 5 feet 1 inch.
FUN FACT 2: The Silver Age Atom was not the first shrinking superhero, that honor belongs to Quality Comics' Doll Man, AKA Darrell Dane, created in 1939 by the late, great, Will Eisner, under the pen name of William Erwin Maxwell, with art by Lou Fine.
FUN FACT 3: The second size shifting superhero was Doll Girl who appeared as Doll Girl for the first time in 1951. Of course she had been around since 1939 as the love interest/sidekick of Doll Man; however, she didn't gain her abilities until twelve years later.
FUN FACT 4: TEX loves Quality Comics, especially Kid Eternity.
FUN FACT 5: Ant-Man, Hank Pym, a very similar superhero to The Atom, would be created by Marvel just one year later in 1962.
FUN FACT 6: Ray Palmer is a metahuman. His body has a gene that keeps him from exploding as he manipulates his size and mass with the dwarf star material.
FUN FACT 7: The Atom's nickname is The Mighty Mite.
FUN FACT 8: Ray and Jean didn't last. Jean Loring eventually suffered a mental breakdown, and desperate to have Ray back in her life, she used one of his old suits to shrink down and enter the body of Ralph Dibny's (Elongated Man) wife, Sue, giving her a stroke. Jean had hoped the incident would bring the heroes closer to all of their loved ones; unfortunately, Sue was killed and Jean was eventually exposed as the murderer. She was incarcerated in Arkham Asylum, but eventually, she became a host for the powerful villain, Eclipso.
FUN FACT 9: Once, in The Brave and the Bold vol 1, #115, Batman becomes brain-dead after being electrocuted. The Atom enters Batman's skull and dances about expertly on specific areas of his brain, controlling his body so that Batman can continue fighting crime after death. Luckily, Batman is revived by the end of the story. I can't even make this up.
FUN FACT 10: The Atom can travel at the speed of electricity. He can ride the electric pulses in any landline to the destination of the call. Unfortunately, he cannot do the same with cellphones.
FUN FACT 11: The Atom is WAY more powerful than he appears - his power is limited by his will to apply it. There are only three superheroes in the entire DCU than can control EVERY MOLECULE in their entire bodies. Ray Palmer is one of those, with The Flash and Plastic Man being the other two.
FUN FACT 12: The Atom killed Darkseid once...With SCIENCE! In JLA vol 1 #14, Darkseid cannot be defeated due to a supposedly impenetrable force field that surrounds him. Ray Palmer deduces that the force field is not impenetrable...Because Darkseid can see them! Light can get in! Palmer has Green Arrow (Connor Hawke) fire an arrow at Darkseid which he rides, shrinking down small enough to ride a photon on a beam of light right into Darkseid's eye and into his brain, where Palmer sets off a wicked explosion, killing Darkseid, and himself.
Yessir. Ray Palmer's Atom is as consistently heroic as he is consistently underrated - which makes him one of my faves in the DCU.
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