The Atom II

Created by Gardner Fox & Gil Kane

NAME + ALIASES:
Ray Palmer

KNOWN RELATIVES:
Jack Douglas Palmer (father), Dave Palmer (uncle), Jean Loring (ex-wife, deceased)

GROUP AFFILIATIONS:
Justice League of America, Suicide Squad, Teen Titans

FIRST APPEARANCE:
Showcase #34

+ History

While in college, Ray Palmer discovered a tiny fragment of white dwarf star material that had fallen to Earth. An astronomy and physics student doing research on the nature of size and matter. Ray theorized that if he were to grind a lens from this fragment and focus ultraviolet light through it, he could shrink anything struck by the light down to a fraction of its original size. Palmer rushed off to his laboratory, tried the experiment, and found that it worked exactly as he had imagined, with one tiny little catch: the objects he shrunk became unstable and exploded moments later.

A couple of days later, a disillusioned Palmer and some friends became trapped in a cave-in while out spelunking and Palmer was forced to risk instability and used the shrinking lens on himself in order to escape the cave and save the lives of his friends. However, Palmer didn't explode for some reason, and returned to his normal height. In fact, the shrinking lens worked on his body much better than he had expected, and he developed a set of control devices that gave him limited control over his weight as well as his size. Palmer later hypothesized that some unknown "x-factor" in his genetic makeup prevented his atoms from becoming unstable, though many scientists now believe that Palmer's ability to shrink was actually made possible by the "meta-gene" possessed by all humans. (Showcase #34)

Keeping his discoveries a secret, Palmer created the secret identity of the Atom and embarked on a career of crime fighting in Ivy Town, Connecticut. For a while, the new Atom operated strictly on his own, battling such nemeses as Chronos the Time Thief, the Computer Crooks, and the Floronic Man. The Atom was voted in as the League's second non-founding member after a battle with the mysterious Mister Memory, who was later exposed as perennial JLA adversary Amos Fortune. (Justice League of America #14) The Atom later became a full-time physics professor at Ivy University, and married his longtime sweetheart Jean Loring, (#157) though the couple was divorced only two years later. (Sword of the Atom Special #1) Just before his divorce, the Atom traveled to the Amazon basin, where he discovered the Katarthans, a race of six inch tall aliens. (Sword of the Atom v.1)

 

Small Hero, Big Tragedies

After he and Jean split up, Palmer returned to live amongst the aliens, and fell in love with Laethwen, a beautiful Katarthan princess. (Sword of Atom Special #1) The Katarthans and their village were soon wiped out by a horrible fire and the Atom returned to Ivy Town, only to find that one of his friends had written a book exposing Palmer's secret identity in his absence. (Secret Origins #29, Power of the Atom) After battling various foes, such as Strobe, Humbug, and Swarm, Ray learned that a US Government agency had engineered the destruction of the Katarthans, in order to induce Palmer's return to the states. (Power of the Atom #17) He avenged the Katarthans by permanently reducing the agents responsible for the massacre to six inches in height. (#18) Palmer returned to Ivy Town just long enough to bid his friends farewell, and then briefly went into hiding.

Recently, he was approached by Amanda Waller, who convinced him to fake his own death, so he could secretly join the espionage unit known as the Suicide Squad. (Suicide Squad #44) As a part of this mission, Ray went undercover and Adam Cray served in the Suicide Squad as the Atom (III). Cray was killed by Blacksnake and Palmer resumed the role of the Atom. (Suicide Squad #61) He has since returned to join the newest Justice League on a semi-active basis. (JLA #27)

In time, Ray and Jean were able to be friends again. In the divorce she had received half of his patents. As a gesture of friendship, Jean decided to sign them back to him. Little did he know that this was but one of many facets to Jean's deadly scheme to win Ray back. Since their divorce, Jean had somehow become seriously deranged and believed that the only way to be reunited with Ray was to force the issue. Incredibly, she devised an elaborate plan to endanger Sue Dibny, wife of the Elongated Man. She succeeded, but murdered Sue in the process. Jean was privy to the fact that every year, knew that Ralph would be absent, solving a custom-tailored mystery devised by Sue. She bypassed the Dibnys' security by shrinking down and traveling via the phone lines into their home. Then she entered Sue's body and obstructed the blood flow to her brain. To cover up this evidence, Loring scorched Sue's body. (Identity Crisis #1)

Jean knew that this event would send all the heroes scrambling to protect their loved ones and—hopefully—drive Ray back into her arms. Loring employed two other schemes to cover her tracks. First, she faked her own murder (#3) then she hired Captain Boomerang to kill Tim (Robin) Drake's father Jack. She supplied Jack Drake with a gun to defend himself, hoping that Boomerang would be killed and that everyone would believe he was Sue's killer as well. Eventually, Dr. Mid-Nite's autopsy of Sue's body revealed the truth, and the Atom himself elicited a confession from Jean. She was promptly admitted to Arkham Asylum (#6). Soon thereafter, Jean became the new host for the ancient entity known as Eclipso (III). (Day of Vengeance #1) She was ultimately defeated and placed in orbit around the sun — a permanent onslaught of Eclipso's greatest weakness.

After all this, the Atom disappeared.

Ray resigned his position from Ivy University, and left his size-changing belt in the care of a former protegé, Ryan Choi, who became the new Atom (IV). (All-New Atom #1)

Ray was preceded as the Atom by Al Pratt, a member of the Justice Society. The two of them worked together occasionally during JLA/JSA team-ups. Pratt died during a battle against Extant. (Zero Hour #3)

Ray Palmer is a hard-working, dedicated man. In fact, "dedicated" is hardly the word for it; "driven" is a little closer to the truth. Once Palmer starts working on a problem or puzzle, there is absolutely no stopping him. This single-minded pursuit of his goals is more than a little responsible for Palmer's shattered marriage, though it has occasionally come in handy to Palmer the crime fighter. In spite of his obsessiveness, Ray is a level-headed hero and a basically likable human being.

+ Powers

As The Atom, Ray can assume any size from his normal six-foot stature down to sub-microscopic, although he generally deems a height of six inches as most functional. He can also assume any weight at any height — up to his full 180 pounds. It has never been explained where his mass goes when he discards it to make himself lighter.

The Atom can travel from place to place by sound waves conducted through telephone wire. Originally, his size/weight controls were located in his belt buckle. However, he later moved them to his gloves for greater accessibility and swifter transitions.

Appearances + References

» FEATURED APPEARANCES:

  • Action Comics #425, 427, 430, 433, 435, 438-439, 442, 447-448, 453-454
  • Detective #432, 436
  • Identity Crisis #1-6
  • Showcase #34-36

» SERIES:

 Atom v.1, 45 issues (1962-69)

 Sword of the Atom, 4-issue limited series (1983)

 Power of the Atom, 18 issues (1988-89)