Atom-Smasher

aka Nuklon + Cyclotron + Nuklon II

Created by Roy Thomas and Jerry Ordway

Atom Smasher

NAME + ALIASES:
Albert Julian Rothstein aka Nuklon

KNOWN RELATIVES:
Phil Rothstein and Terri Curtis (née Kurtzberger, parents, deceased), Terry Curtis (Cyclotron, grandfather, deceased), Danette Reilly (Firebrand II, adoptive grandmother), Al Pratt (the Atom, godfather, deceased)

GROUP AFFILIATIONS:
Infinity, Inc., Justice League America, Justice Society of America, Suicide Squad, JSA All-Stars

FIRST APPEARANCE:
All-Star Squadron #25 (Sept. 1983)

APPEARANCES:

  • 52 #24, 33
  • All-Star Squadron #25-26
  • Green Arrow v.2 #81
  • Infinity, Inc., 53 issues (1984-88)
  • JSA #1-76
  • Justice League America #0-113
  • Justice Society America v.3 #23-28
  • Outsiders Special #1

» SEE ALSO:

Nuklon II

NAME + ALIASES:
Gerome McKenna (deceased)

KNOWN RELATIVES:
None

GROUP AFFILIATIONS:
Infinity, Inc.

FIRST APPEARANCE:
52 #5 (June 2006)

APPEARANCES:

  • Infinity, Inc. v.2 #1-12

History

Clark Kent meets scientist Terry Curtis. From Action Comics #21 (1940); art by Joe Shuster.
Cyclotron reveals himself to former girlfriend, Firebrand. From All-Star Squadron #22 (1983); art by Jerry Ordway.
Pinup from Infinity, Inc. #22 (1985); art by Jerry Ordway.
Al acts on his feelings for Lyta and proposes marriage, to care for her unborn child. From Infinity, Inc. #49 (1987); art by Vince Argondezzi.
Al saves his mother's life, but at what cost? From JSA #15 (2000); art by Stephen Sadowski and Michael Bair.
Black Adam executes Kobra with the help of Atom-Smasher. From JSA #51 (2003); art by Leonard Kirk and Keith Champagne.
Al has a change of heart. From 52 #49 (2007); art by Eddie Barrows.

Albert Rothstein aka Nuklon is the grandson of scientist Terry Curtis aka Cyclotron, a character who first appeared in 1940's Action Comics #21.

Curtis was a brilliant scientist who experimented with atomic power. One day an explosion in his lab drew the attention of Clark Kent (Superman), and also that of Superman's nemesis the Ultra-Humanite. Ultra used a torture ray and forced Curtis to finish his technology for Ultra. The villain used it to terrorize Metropolis. Superman eventually overpowered Ultra and rescued Curtis. (Action #21)

Ultra wasn't finished exploiting Curtis' brain power. He rebuilt his underground lair and returned to blackmail Curtis over the life of his infant daughter, Terri. They were kidnapped and Terry was forced to build an "atomic disintegrator" for the Ultra. These inventions were also infusing Curtis with superhuman powers and he took the name Cyclotron. As the Humanite's minion, he helped acquire several powerful artifacts which were to help Ultra conquer the world. (All-Star Squadron #21)

These activities brought Cyclotron into conflict with a former lover — Danette Reilly, also known as Firebrand II, a member of the All-Star Squadron. (#22) During the struggle, Terry revealed to Danette that he had a daughter, and that Ultra was using the girl as blackmail for Curtis' assistance. Firebrand was able to appeal to Terry's inherent goodness and he ultimately betrayed the Ultra-Humanite.

But before the battle was over, the Atom was irradiated by Cyclotron's atomic powers. This radiation later manifested as super-strength for the Atom. Cyclotron turned on Ultra and apparently destroyed them both. Unbeknown to others, Cyclotron did not die immediately; he was thrust forward in time emerged within the chaos of the Crisis on Infinite Earths. When he returned to 1942, it was at the moment of his departure, and he perished. Danette then took custody of the infant girl, who was also often cared for by the Atom. (Squadron Annual #2)

Terri grew up to be a prominent scientist herself and married Phil Rothstein. The two had a son, Albert Julian and the Atom became his godfather. Al was raised alongside other JSA progeny including Hector Hall, Lyta Trevor and Rick Tyler. They formed a fraternity and set their sights on membership in the JSA. Al (who had super-strength and the ability to grow in size) took the name Nuklon. The young heroes were rejected by their elders and instead formed their own group, Infinity, Inc. Ironically, during Infinity's first case, they traveled back to 1942 and helped the All-Star Squadron win the battle against the Ultra-Humanite. (Infinity, Inc. #1-10)

Al was a steadfast member of Infinity, and he revealed his identity publicly along with his fellow Infinitors. (#12) He had always carried a torch for Lyta Trevor, but she was partnered with Hawkman's son, Hector (the Silver Scarab). When Hector died, Al was so moved to protect Lyta and her unborn child that he proposed to marry Lyta, but she declined. (#49)

After Infinity's demise (#53), Albert was briefly affiliated with Maxwell Lord's Conglomerate (JLQ #12) and was seen in an encounter with Shrapnel in Seattle. (Green Arrow #81) He then joined Wonder Woman's Justice League International with another Infinitor friend, Obsidian. (JLA #0) Nuklon was an optimistic foil to Obsidian's overwhelming pessimism, and the pair stayed with the League until it was disbanded by the UN after a controversial Extreme Justice mission. (JLA: Incarnations #6) He also flirted with Icemaiden (who turned out to be gay).

Atom-Smasher: A Black Destiny

When the Justice Society of America reformed, Al was one of their charter members. He adopted a new code name, Atom-Smasher, in memory of his mentor, the Atom and his grandfather, the reluctant villain Cyclotron. He also ditched the dyed-red mohawk and changed his uniform to more closely resemble the Atom's. NOTE: The name "Atom-Smasher" was coined by Mark Waid in Kingdom Come (1996); it is another term for cyclotron. (JSA #1)

Al's time with the new Justice Society, turned this mild-mannered powerhouse into a tragic figure. Their missions led him down a dark road to choices that put him at odds with his friends. It began with the death of Al's mother, who had gone to work for NASA and fell victim to a terrorist bombing masterminded by Kobra. (JSA #11) Al was so enraged that during a subsequent battle with the time-traveling villain Extant, Atom-Smasher altered history so that Extant would die in Terri's place — the timeline was altered and his mother restored to life. (#15)

In the new JSA, Al met the young Courtney Whitmore, Star-Spangled Kid II (later called Stargirl). The two became quite close, but Albert disagreed with JSA leaders about how to deal with Kobra. This led him to secretly joined Black Adam, Northwind and Brainwave with a plan for proactive measures. (#40) Atom-Smasher soon quit the JSA when the team refused to strike against Kobra. (#45) After Kobra escape from authorities, Adam's group tracked him down. Atom-Smasher held onto Kobra as Black Adam punched his heart out. (#51) In the war to free Adam's home country of Kahndaq, Atom-Smasher executed numerous other enemies, but also chose to help his former JSA comrades. When Adam agreed to a compromise to remain within Kahndaq's boundaries, Al honored his loyalty to Adam and remained there as well. (Hawkman #25) NOTE: It was hinted in JSA #15 (2000) that Al would marry Courtney Whitmore in the future.

Al was recruited by Rip Hunter for a case to stop Per Degaton and work with the JSA. His former teammates were openly hostile towards him but suffered through the mission to travel back to 1951 and re-inspire the original Justice Society. (JSA #68-72) After his return from this mission, he asked the JSA to readmit him, but many members were unforgiving of Al's choices. They held a vote but before the result could be revealed, Al was taken back to Kahndaq by Black Adam to help fight off the Spectre and Eclipso. (#73) Atom-Smasher risked his life against the Spectre by enlarging his body beyond normal limits. He was near death when Al offered himself to the Spectre if the entity would leave Kahndaq alone; the Spectre accepted. Al's broken body was taken by the JSA. (#75)

He reconnected with his friend, Obsidian in Los Angeles when Todd and his boyfriend, Damon, got engaged. (Manhunter v.4 #22)

Atom-Smasher turned himself over to authorities and plead guilty to international charges. Outside the courthouse, an OMAC drone attacked and Albert stomped it into retreat. This last bit of valor might have gotten the attention of Amanda Waller. When he was transferred to Belle Reve prison, she recruited him for service in her black ops team, the Suicide Squad (aka Task Force X). (#76) Waller and Atom-Smasher launched a new Squad to confront Black Adam, who was making bold threats to international peace. (52 #24. 33) Al led them into Bialya when Black Adam invaded the country. (#45) They were too late to stop Adam from devastating Bialya and Al met the JSA there during the cleanup effort. (#46) Al tried always to give Adam the benefit of the doubt and in his ultimate battle with the heroes, Atom-Smasher saved Adam from death (which was unseen by the others). (#49-50)

In Atom-Smasher's public absence, another hero took the name Nuklon (II). This young man was Gerome McKenna, a recipient of Lex Luthor's Everyman gene therapy who joined Luthor's Infinity, Inc. (52 #9)

Atom-Smasher kept tabs on Black Adam as he returned to Kahndaq to resurrect his wife, Isis. (Black Adam: The Dark Age #1-6) Al eventually realized that Adam might be beyond redemption, and he returned to the Justice Society. He was willing to lead them to Adam but insisted that he be readmitted to the team. (Justice Society of America #23-24) This time the JSA was willing to give Al the chance to honor the legacy of the Atom. (#25) As part of this, he tried to mentor his teammate, Damage (Grant Emerson), who was the Atom's son. Al took Grant to Al Pratt's former house in Civic City. He hoped to give Grant some connection to the father he never knew, but Damage was still bitter about his past, and he destroyed the Pratt home. (JSA Kingdom Come Special: The Kingdom)

Another one of Al's former Infinity teammates, Mister Bones, became the head of the Department of Extranormal Operations. Bones paid Atom-Smasher a visit to tell him that the D.E.O. was watching him. It seemed all the Infinitors were doomed to tragedy. Just then, Stargirl called upon Al to help deal with Obsidian, who had sensed a hostile presence and shut down the JSA HQ. (#27) For unexplained reasons, the elder members of the JSA advised Al to break off any romantic ties to Stargirl. He complied in order to save her whatever harm they had imagined, though it pained him to do it. (#28)

Sometime after this, Atom-Smasher was kidnapped and impersonated by the evil Johnny Sorrow. Sorrow needed to coax Stargirl into falling in love with him (as Al) because only a true-love kiss could bring the beast called the King of Tears to Earth. (JSA All-Stars #4-5) Just as the JSA caught up to her, Stargirl discovered the truth. When Sorrow was defeated, Al kept his distance from Courtney and struck up a friendship with a new member, Anna Fortune. (#6) Atom-Smasher joined the All-Stars just as his "cousin," Damage, was killed by Black Lanterns. (#7) Al remained with that team until it was re-absorbed into the larger Justice Society. (Justice Society of America #54)

This timeline may no longer exist. It ceased when DC rebooted its line with the so-called "New 52."

New 52

In the DC Universe known as the "New 52," the character of Atom-Smasher has been melded with that of the Atom. This version of the Atom can grow to giant size and deliver an atomic punch.

On Earth-0, Ray Palmer is not known to have used the codename Atom, though his size-changing technology plays an important role. Earth 3's Atomica is a member of the Crime Syndicate, and she infiltrated the Justice League.

Earth-2, Version Two

After the Crisis on Infinite Earths, the original Earth Two was merged into all other surviving Earths. After the Infinite Crisis, the multiverse of the DC Universe was restored, there was again an Earth-2. Their history seemed to have unfolded as if the first Crisis had never happened (picking up approximately after Infinity, Inc. #24). On it, Infinity Inc. and the Justice Society merged to form Justice Society Infinity, and Nuklon was a member. (JSA Kingdom Come Special: The Kingdom #1)

Nuklon II

Gerome McKenna aka Nuklon II. From 52 #21 (2006); art by Joe Bennett and Jack Jason.
Sealing their fates. From Infinity, Inc. v.2 #12 (2008); art by Javier Aranda.

The second Nuklon was Gerome McKenna. He gained super-strength through a transformation by Lex Luthor's Everyman program. Luthor unveiled a group of six heroes at a press conference and dubbed them the new Infinity, Inc. (52 #9) Luthor claimed that he had long since bought the copyright for the name from Sylvester Pemberton's estate. At first, these heroes did not take code names, but they sprang successfully into action against Kobra agents. (#17, 21) The Everyman program soon came under serious public scrutiny when dozens of its patients were slaughtered after entering a metahuman battle in Metropolis. (#24)

Many new Infinitors experienced major physical and psychological problems following their Everyman transformations. Gerome became a pathological narcissist, spending all day in front of a mirror. This had a metahuman component as well—Gerome manifested an evil duplicate who began living alongside him. (Infinity, Inc. v.2 #1)

While Gerome and his friends adjusted to their powers, they also tried to help other victims of the Everyman's after effects. Gerome had to accept living with his own duplicate, one who was constantly tormenting him. Still, McKenna wanted only to control the duplicate; they managed to work together on Infinity's cases. (#7)

Things worsened when an even darker duplicate appeared from within the first. They began plotting to kill the original Gerome. (#8) They worked in secret with Infinity's nemesis, Dr. Fogel, who promised Gerome's duplicate that he could eliminate the original. (#9) The duplicate killed the original McKenna, but he was double-crossed by Fogel, who deactivated the powers granted by the Everyman process. Without those powers, the duplicate faded from existence. (#11-12)

+ Powers

Atom-Smasher is a metahuman whose powers presumably come from his grandfather's exposure to special radiation. He has superhuman strength and the ability to grow to over 50 feet tall. He can also control his density to allow him to phase through solid objects.

Nuklon II had super-strength and the uncontrollable ability to manifest duplicates of himself (which were progressively more evil).