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 Showcase #34 (October 1961). Since this appearance he has gone on to star in the Justice League of America comics and gain his own title. Eventually by the end of the 60's both the Atom and Hawkman merged into one series. After the merge of the two character's comics, their title was cancelled.
The Atom continues to have occasional comics and is almost always seen as part of the Justice League books.
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 three 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 to her his secret identity.
Soon, Atom's super-heroic alter-ego took a toll on his marriage. Jean drifted into an affair out of loneliness with Paul Hoben. 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 their 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 opportunity 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 Lanterns and the creation of the universe, and the only way to destroy the Black Lanterns 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 decides 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 appears, grabs Ray and then shrinks him into Indigo's ring, corrupting it.
Jean forces Atom to watch all the death's he inadvertently caused, like the death of Sue and Laethwen and her kingdom. Atom pushes Jean off, then finally learns 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.
Real Name: Raymond "Ray" Palmer
Occupation: Physics Professor, Superhero
Height: 6 ft.
Weight: 180 lbs.
Base: Ivy Town
Jean Loring, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Ryan Choi, Laethwyn and Adam Cray.
Justice League, Teen Titans, Suicide Squad, S.H.A.D.E. and Indigo Tribe.
Chronos, Floronic Man, Bug-Eyed Bandit, Dr. Light and Deathstroke.
First Appearance: Showcase #34 (October 1961).
Gardner Fox and Gil Kane.
Earth-2 The Earth-2 counterpart for the Atom is Al Pratt. The difference between the two high. While Al was a college student, Ray is a college professor. While Al was 5ft. man who relayed on his own strength instead of powers, Ray was a 6ft. man who could shrink down to almost about 6 in. Al and Ray have met before on multiple occasions.
League of Justice (1996)
The Atom appears in the fantasy set Elseworlds story. He appears in the role of a wizard/fortune teller. He goes by the name Atomus the Palmer in this story.
JLA: Rock of Ages (1997-1998)
The Atom appears in a alternate future of what remains left of the Justice League.
JLA: The Nail (1998)
The Atom is shown in this Elseworld tale standing on the shoulder of The Flash during the funeral of his superhero friend, Hawkman. He also appears as one of the main members of the Justice League .
The Dark Knight Strikes Again (2001-2002)
In the sequel to to The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller. He is first shown being trapped inside Petri dish being held prisoner by Lex Luthor. Once Carrie Kelly, in her Catgirl identity, saves the Atom he becomes one of the first of the older heroes to join Batman's army of heroes. Ray also plays a huge part in the story with helping free the bottled city of Kandor.
In them company crossover, Ray appears as the Atom as a replacement for Wally West when Wally finds that he cannot use the Speed Force in Marvel's 616 universe. In this Elseworld he is shown helping both the Justice League and the Avengers. He participates in the battles and at the end of the story, he disappears back to the DC Universe.
JLA: Age of Wonder (2003)
Ray Palmer is seen working with a science consortium where both Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla took part in at one point.
DC: The New Frontier (2004)
In this limited series which takes place between DC's Golden and Silver Age of Comics, he appears as a scientist experimenting with size changing. His experiments end in failure though. However despite this The Flash manages to destroy the Centre with one of Ray's failed technology. Later on during the book he appears in a group shot as the Atom. The reason for him not appearing as the Atom full time was due to the fact that only heroes who were around during the 1950's were shown in their heroic identities. Ray Palmer didn't make his superhero appearance until 1961.
JLA: Another Nail (2004)
The Atom appears once more in the continuation of the JLA: The Nail Elseworld tale.
Countdown to Final Crisis (2007-2008)
During this storyline many alternate Ray Palmers were seen including:
- Earth 6: Ray gets solar powers and goes by the superhero name, The Ray.
- Earth 11: Ray appears as a woman on the world where the genders of our heroes are reversed.
- Earth 15: He appears as Jessica Palmer.
- Earth 30: He appears in the Superman: Red Son reality as a American scientist living in Russia.
- Earth 51: On this world he never became involved with either size manipulation or crime fighting. However on the world he was the JLA's resident genius and he had a superhuman like immune system.
Atom loses a leg due to radiation poisoning and becomes a correction officer at Doom Prison as the operator of Amazo. During a prison break of Heatwave and Plastic Man he was forced to retrieve their weapons. After doing so Heatwave crushed his skull leaving the Atom to die.
The Atom in Other Media
Being around since the Silver Age of Comics and being set in many of the Justice League stories of that time, Ray Palmer has of course been shown in other media in the form of his superhero identity, The Atom.
Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure
Starting on September 7, 1967 The Atom has appeared in various segments of this show. He has appeared in 3 Justice League segments along with fellow League members The Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Aquaman, and Superman. In addition to be in this segment he also starred in 3 of his own segments. He was voiced by Pat Harrington Jr. who also voiced Speedy for the shows Teen Titans segments.
The Atom made occasional appearances throughout the classic 1973 show voiced by Wally Burr.
In the episode "Hereafter" a future version of Vandal Savage mentioned that when he was younger he stole a piece of dwarf star matter from Ray Palmer.
Justice League Unlimited
The Atom made a appearance in animation for the first time since the Super Friends. He was a recurring character on the show. He appeared in the episodes:
- Fearful Symmetry- September 4, 2004
- The Return- September 18, 2004
- Dark Heart- December 11, 2004
- Clash- June 15, 2005
- Panic in the Sky- July 9, 2005
On the show he was voiced by John C. McGinley.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold
Ray appears in the episode "Sword of the Atom" along with Batman, Ryan Choi and Aquaman. Despite Ryan be shown as the Atom it was revealed on the show that Ray was the original Atom and he currently resides in the Amazon with Laethwyn. The episode does show some influence of the Atom's early 80's mini-series, "Sword of the Atom".
As with almost the rest of the DC Universe, Ray Palmer did appear on the Young Justice television show which aired from November 26, 2010 to March 16, 2013. Throughout the show we see him mentioned for membership of the Justice League, to him getting inducted into the League, and him often times teaming with Bumblebee. On the show he was voiced by Jason Marsden.
Sword of the Atom
In addition to appearing in DC Nation's Young Justice, he also appeared in his own DC Nation short based on his classic mini-series Sword of the Atom. Once again he was voiced by Jason Marsden.
Legends of the Superheroes
His first live action appearance was in the 1979 TV specials Legends of the Superheroes. He appears in the second of the two live action specials titled "The Roast" where he is played by Alfie Wise. In this special he is revealed to be engaged to Wonder Woman villain, Giganta.
Justice League of America
His next (and so far his last) live action appearance was in the failed television pilot for a Justice League of America show made in 1997. He was portrayed by John Kassir.
Justice League: The New Frontier
The Atom appeared as Ray Palmer to bring in flawed shrinking technology to help fight the Centre. He was later seen in ending in his Atom costume. He was voiced by Corey Burton.