As a golden age hero, the Atom's origin has been told and retold numerous times, however there are always some unifying events. An atomic scientist and genius Ray Palmer was working on a method of reducing objects in size using white dwarf star matter. While he was on a wilderness expedition he became trapped in an underground cave after a collapse in the tunnel. With the threat of death imminent, he improvised an escape. Using a piece of white dwarf star matter he fashioned it into a lens (in some versions the lens is from a set of glasses of the diamond from an engagement ring) which he deduced if focused in the correct way would allow him to shrink to a small size upon entering into the beam of the lens and escape from one of the cave's small openings and seek help. He was successful and upon rescuing himself (in some cases of the origin there are people with him) he returns to civilization where he decides to embark on a superhero career, incorporating the size reduction ability into a belt which he wears.
His early adventures occurred in Ivy Town alongside his long time girlfriend Jean Loring. Ray was also one of the first heroes to join the ranks of the Justice League of America as it expanded its roster from the original seven members.
Others have worn the mantle and costume which Ray made so famous - Adam Cray and Ryan Choi. There is no direct connection with the golden age Atom, Al Pratt.
Atom was created by Gardner Fox and Gil Kane. In the 1950s and 1960s DC Comics used the ongoing series Showcase to highlight many new characters who they hoped might be popular enough to headline their own series. Another focus of this series, though not an official mandate, was to update Golden Age versions of characters and relaunch them with a more scientific emphasis. One of the biggest departures from previous character was the Atom, as Al Pratt was replaced with Ray Palmer, a dedicated scientist who could shrink to microscopic size. He debuted in issue #34 and soon went on to his own series as well as sharing a series with Hawkman, while also joining the Justice League of America.
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, and the dangerous Eco-terrorist Floronic Man. 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 of America, 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, 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.
Post-Flashpoint / Earth 0
Post-Flashpoint, Ray has became a member of the Superhuman Advanced Defense Executive, better known as SHADE. Ray serves as their science liaison to the United Nations, making sure that SHADE does not abuse their mad science. As the science liaison to the UN, Ray has contributed some of his shrinking and teleportation equipment to construct a new headquarters for SHADE, a flying orb six inches tall with a city inside of it. He also helps the team find where the monsters are spawning, allowing the team to deal with them.
Major Story Arcs
Some time after becoming the new Atom, Ray Palmer would be offered membership in the Justice League of America, an offer that he would gladly accept. It was here where he developed a great friendship with his teammate Hawkman.
While still an active member of the Justice League of America, Ray Palmer (Atom) met Jean Loring with who he would start dating, and after that marry. Jean Loring learned that Ray Palmer was the Atom after he revealed his super-identity to her.
Soon, Atom's super-heroic alter-ego took a toll on his marriage. Jean drifted into an affair out of loneliness. At this time, Atom discovered a subatomic world in the Amazon and falls in love with a woman named Laethwen. He divorced his wife Jean and lived in this subatomic world for a time. Soon enough, Ray missed his old world and returned to it.
Suicide Squad and Back To The League
After returning to the normal world Ray Palmer would assist the Suicide Squad in a few missions, and his help allowed the team to overcome missions that would have failed otherwise. However soon after that Ray Palmer would be invited to rejoin the Justice League of America, an offer that he would gladly accept and was now in the team where he thought he belonged.
During the crisis of time known as Zero Hour started by Hal Jordan as Parallax and the former member of the Teen Titans, Extant (former Hawk) the two villains made a lot of changes to the DC Universe continuity and to the heroes themselves. Some were erased, and others were really...changed. One of the victims was Ray Palmer, who was de-aged from a man of 30 to a 17-year-old teenager. This change did not affect Ray's memory of his past as an adult and a member of the Justice League of America.
After being de-aged, Ray Palmer would return to the Ivy University, where he had previously worked as a physics professor, in an attempt to return to his true age. Before he could do that, however, he met Isaiah Crockett (Joto/Hotspot) a teenager who was a real genius and who would demonstrate his powers based on heat for the first time, with Palmer looking on. This led to both of them being teleported into one of the H'San Natall ships.
It was here were Ray Palmer would meet the rest of the teenagers who had just manifested their powers and would become the newest incarnation of the Teen Titans.Working with the new "superheroes" Ray Palmer was able to rescue Prysm who was in a virtual reality simulator program from the H'San Natall. After rescuing Prysm, they were all able to escape from the H'San Natall and return to Earth where they would meet the former ally of the Teen Titans, Loren Jupiter (Mr. Jupiter) along with his daughter (although they didn't know she was his daughter) Omen aka Lilith Clay.
After this unexpected and not planned mission Ray Palmer along with the rest of the new superheroes decided to stay together as a group and become the newest incarnation of the Teen Titans who would have the funding of Loren Jupiter (Mr. Jupiter). Although at first he didn't want to become a member, Ray Palmer would join the Teen Titans while trying to discover a way to return to his real age. He became the leader of the group. He wasn't that happy about being the leader of the Teen Titans because he had been in the Justice League of America and considered membership of the Teen Titans to be a step down for him.
Some time after this Ray Palmer would start to rapidly age because of some shifts in the chronal energy. It was also revealed that Waverider had taken one part of Ray's DNA during Zero Hour in an attempt to find a cure to what had happened to Ray during the time crisis. Thanks to this, Ray Palmer became a 30-year-old man again. Some time after this, the Teen Titans disbanded after saving their teammate Joto (Hotspot) who had been thought dead.
Identity Crisis, 52 and More
After Ray's ex-wife, Jean Loring, murdered Sue Dibny in the hopes of getting Ray to be concerned for her safety, she lost her mind. Jean was taken to Arkham Asylum but was soon liberated by the Eclipso entity. Ray was so distraught over Sue's death that he needed to run away, out of his world.
After shrinking away from his world, he came across a being that informed him of the multiverse. He eventually found a way to travel between worlds on a quantum level. He looked for himself on each world hoping to see a Ray who hadn't suffered as he had. On "Earth-51," he found himself working on opening a gateway to alternate realities. He then saw himself die in an explosion when the experiment went wrong.
Ray was scientifically curious what "he" had been working on. He now had a reason to stay on this world when he discovered that the research his other self was doing had catastrophic consequences if they weren't completed. He also discovered that this Ray had a blind date set up with Jean. He jumped into this world and tried to figure out what event caused this one to be so different than his own.
Ray was living a "perfect" life on Earth-51 until he was found by Donna Troy, Kyle Rayner, Jason Todd (also known as the Challengers from Beyond) and The Monitor, who had been searching for Ray. The Monitor told everyone that it is his job to become aware of and eliminate multiversal anomalies. Since Ray was not of this world, the Monitor told him that he must be eliminated. With the help of the Challengers assistance he escaped, and explained that it was the Ray of Earth-51 who was meant to stop the great disaster.
Ray Palmer has been in the center of Blackest Night since Day 1. Ray was first shown calling Hawkman, asking him and Hawkgirl to accompany him to Jean Loring's funeral. This infuriates Hawkman, demanding to know why she even gets a proper funeral after what she did to Elongated Man and Sue Dibny. Hawkman hangs up, and begins arguing with Hawkgirl, who thinks they should go to support Ray. As Hawkgirl attempts to calm his rage, they are attacked by Elongated Man and Sue turned Black Lanterns. As Hawkgirl bleeds out, Hawkman realizes they can't beat theyre new enemies, and are killed. Scar appears and vomits 2 black rings as theyre hearts are ripped out.
Hawkman then calls back Ray requesting to talk. Ray happily agrees, shrinking through the phone line, not knowing what happened to his friends.
Later, Hal Jordan and The Flash are shown being attacked by Black Lantern leaguers Hawkman and Hawkgirl, Martian Manhunter, Firestorm and Elongated Man, Ray jumps out of Hawkman's Black Lantern Ring. The three fight for their lives, until the arrival of Indigo-1 and Munk destroys Elongated man and Sue. The heroes use the oppurtunity to escape, hiding inside the Hall of Justice and encountering Mera, Aquaman's wife and Jason Rusche, the current Firestorm.
Indigo-1 tells the group about the Black Lanters and the creation of the universe, and the only way to destroy the Black Lanters is a mixture of Green Lantern energy and the energy from any other lantern corps. Indigo then teleports Hal away to find the Black Lantern battery as the undead leaguers break in and attack the remaining heroes. As they fight through the building, Black Lantern Firestorm manages to break into the corpse storage under the Hall of Justice and bring Black Rings for the dead villains. At the arrival of the Black Lantern villains, Jason (Now fused with the Black Lantern Firestorm) tells them all to run. Atom then uses the nearest phone to teleport Flash and Mera to a police station far away.
Flash leaves to instruct all the other heroes around the world on how to defeat the Black Lanterns, and leaves Ray and Mera. Ray decides to see Mister Terrific if he has any strategies to defeating the army. He travels to the JSA Headquarters in New York via Mister Terrific's T-Spheres. Mera and Atom join the JSA's fight. Atom finds Damage and Atom Smasher battling back the Freedom Fighters and Al Pratt. Atom manages to inspire Damage to try harder and survive, only to watch him be killed by Jean Loring, now a Black Lantern. Jean grabs Atom and Mera and shrinks them down into Damage's Black Lantern ring, and explains theyre creation and goal, not knowing Deadman is following close behind.
Atom and Mera escape temporarily. Ganthet then dedcides they need more help, and creates copies of the Red, Yellow, Green, Indigo, Orange and Violet rings, and sends them out to deputize people. Atom gains the Indigo ring for his immense compassion and finds Indigo-1 to get help using it. Indigo decides to transmit to her corps to come to earth. Jean apppears, grabs Ray and then shrinks him into Indigo's ring, corrupting it.
Jean forces Atom to watch all the death's he inadverdently caused, like the death of Sue and Laethwen and her kingdom. Atom pushes Jean off, then finally lears to channel other lanterns power and channels green lantern energy and destroys Jean.
Atom is later shown with the other deputies and Lanterns defeating Nekron.
Powers & Abilities
Can alter size at will, and can alter body mass to deliver sizable blows at a diminutive size. Since he retains his full strength, by rapidly mass-shifting he can leap like a flea. He can also become weightless to glide on breezes. By shrinking to the size of a subatomic particle he can travel through conductive landline wires at the speed of electricity. As previously stated above, he can travel across dimensional barriers.
Recently, after being induced into the Indigo Tribe, Ray was given an Indigo Tribe ring, power staff and costume. This allows Ray to access the powers of Indigo Tribe members such as energy blasts and constructs, flight, compassion installation etc. He can also teleport and channel the powers of any nearby lantern. In addition to the powers bestowed upon him by the Indigo Tribe, Ray retains all of his previous size-alteration abilities.