Captain Atom is a fictional comic book superhero. Created by writer Joe Gill and artist/co-writer Steve Ditko, he first appeared in Space Adventures #33 (March 1960). Captain Atom was created for Charlton Comics but was later acquired by DC Comics and revised for DC’s post-Crisis continuity.
In both incarnations, the character was a military official, (scientist Allen Adam in the Charlton version, Air Force pilot Nathaniel Adam in the DC version), who was caught in a scientific experiment and “atomized”. He was able to reform his body, and found that he had acquired superhuman strength and endurance, the ability to fly, and to project energy blasts.
Throughout the years, the character has been featured in several moderate-to-short lived eponymous series, and has been a member of DC’s all-star Justice League.
The Charlton Comics version of Captain Atom was Allen Adam. The character's origin had Adam working in a special experimental rocket when it accidentally launched with him trapped inside. Entering the upper atmosphere, the rocket exploded and Adam was atomized. However, he somehow gained superpowers that included the ability to reform his body safely on the ground. He was outfitted in a red and yellow costume that apparently acted to shield people from his nuclear powers. When he "powered up", his hair changed to silver-white. Later, in his own title, he replaced this costume with a liquid-metal outfit that was under his skin, and transformed when he powered up. Captain Atom's powers were similar to such other nuclear-powered superheroes as Gold Key's Doctor Solar and Dell Comics' Nukla. Captain Atom was first published in a series of short stories in the anthology series Space Adventures # 33-40 (March 1960-June 1961) and # 42 (October 1961). Charlton began reprinting his short adventures in the anthology Strange Suspense Stories beginning with #75 (June 1965), renaming the title Captain Atom with #78 (Dec. 1965) and giving the hero full-length stories and supervillain antagonists (previous stories involved Cold War anti-Communist missions or dealing with aliens). Captain Atom later teamed with the superhero Nightshade. The superhero Blue Beetle starred in the initial backup feature, later replaced by a Nightshade backup series.
Captain Atom was canceled with issue #89 (Dec. 1967). In 1975, the unfinished Ditko art for issue #90 was inked by John Byrne and published in the first two issues of the official Charlton fanzine, Charlton Bullseye, as the 10-page "Showdown In Sunuria" (writer: Jon G. Michels) and the 11-page "Two Against Sunuria" (writer: Roger Stern). Captain Atom next appeared in issue #7 (May 1982) of the new-talent showcase comic also called Charlton Bullseye, in a story by writer Benjamin Smith and artist/co-writer Dan Reed, which for some reason returned him to his original red-yellow outfit. The character's last pre-DC appearance was in AC Comics' one-shot Americomics Special #1 (Aug. 1983), in a story teaming the Charlton "Action Heroes" Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, Nightshade, and The Question as the Sentinels of Justice. This last story had originally been done for Charlton before the company folded.
The actual Charlton characters made their re-appearance in the DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths, which introduced Earth-Four as the native reality of Captain Atom on which he had had all his Charlton era adventures. By the series end, Earth-Four (and the Charlton characters) was incorporated into the Post-Crisis DC Universe. The last appearance of this Charlton-era Captain Atom was in DC Comics Presents #90 (February 1986).
A new, post-Crisis version of the character was introduced in 1986 with the launch of a monthly comic written by Cary Bates (long-time writer of The Flash and Superman), co-written by Greg Weisman and drawn by Pat Broderick.
This modern captain's name was established as Nathaniel Christopher Adam, a United States Air Force officer of the Vietnam War era. Adam had been framed for a crime he didn't commit and sentenced to death under the watch of Col. Wade Eiling in 1968. As an alternative to execution, he was invited to participate in a military experiment with little chance of survival, in exchange for a presidential pardon. The experiment involved testing the hull of a crashed alien ship's durability by exploding a super nuclear bomb under it. Adam survived as the metal melted into his body and the excess energy threw him forward in time 18 years (not incidentally, this coating with alien metal gave the revised character a full-body silvered metal look distinctly different from his previous incarnations).
Regaining coherence in 1986, Adam found himself a man out of his time and in the hands of Eiling, now a general and the second husband of Adam's now-deceased wife. Everyone had assumed that Nathaniel Adam had died on the day of the experiment, so his presidential pardon was never issued and the current government refused to acknowledge the previous administration's promised pardon. Seizing the opportunity at hand, the government used the outstanding murder/treason charges against Adam to blackmail him into being a government-controlled superhero codenamed Captain Atom. The events of the Charlton stories were established as simply the cover story for Adam, who also was assigned the alias of Cameron Scott, an Air Force intelligence operative. It was during this time he met the superpowered terrorist, Plastique, who would become a recurring part of Nathaniel's life.
Upon his initial return from the Quantum Field, Nathaniel Adam was portrayed as the classic "man out of his time". Early conflicts involved him coming to terms with his lost time with his children (who were now close to his current age as a result of the time jump), the death of his wife (who had married his nemesis Eiling prior to dying), and the overall ramifications of his newly acquired powers.
Atom/Adam served under Eiling reluctantly, while succeeding in clearing his name. Eventually, Atom rebelled against Eiling, resigned from the Air Force, and found some fulfillment as an actual superhero. Captain Atom joined the Justice League at the request of the U.S. government, eventually serving as leader of Justice League Europe. During his career he had a brief romance with Catherine Cobert, developed a friendly "rivalry" with Firestorm, become involved with and eventually married to Plastique (ironically, a one-time Firestorm foe), battled Major Force (his would-be successor), learned basic heroics from Batman when he briefly lost access to the Quantum Field, and commanded the metahuman forces during the Invasion storyline.
In 1991, Captain Atom was canceled with #57, as Atom was slated to become the hero-turned-villain Monarch in DC's Armageddon 2001 crossover event; however, when word of this leaked out, DC changed the ending at the last minute. Atom and the Monarch character continued battling through time in Armageddon: The Alien Agenda limited series, until he was returned to his own time at the conclusion. Captain Atom then returned to the League, founding an offshoot team, Extreme Justice in 1995. Whilst leading Extreme Justice, Captain Atom came across another version of Monarch, this one claiming to be the real Nathaniel Adam. Later in 1999, he was a member of the poorly-received all-Charlton-character group L.A.W. In 2003, he again teamed up with several former members of the Justice League as the "Super Buddies" in the humorous limited series Formerly Known as the Justice League. Around this time, various stories reintroduced Atom's conflict between his role in the superhero community and his responsibilities as a government agent.
At some point, Atom's marriage to Plastique appears to have ended in separation or divorce. Apart from a brief mention of her at the beginning of L.A.W., the marriage appears to be forgotten. Plastique has reappeared in 2006 as a villainess again, undoing her reformation into a heroine. A later confirmation is brought in by the Captain Atom: Armageddon miniseries in which, after falling in love with Angela Spica of the Authority, Capitan Atom reminisces about his short marriage with Plastique, and attributes their divorce to their irreconcilable views about world and politics, since Nathaniel, even in his spousal life, couldn't stop to be a loyal soldier of the U.S.A., and Plastique couldn't simply put aside her life as a terrorist.
Later in 2003, writer Jeph Loeb returned Captain Atom to his roots as he went back to work for the government, this time for President Lex Luthor in the first story arc of the Superman/Batman series. Atom seemingly sacrificed his life to save Superman and Earth by piloting a starship to destroy a kryptonite meteor, but as it had previously been established that this type of accident could not kill him, he soon returned to life and to the background of the DC Universe. In a 2005 issue of Superman/Batman it was made clear that Captain Atom survived the collision with the kryptonite meteor, but after absorbing massive amounts of radiation and becoming a super villain described as a "Kryptonite Man"; the radiation was siphoned out of Captain Atom by a device made by Hiro Okamura (the new Toyman) which returned Captain Atom to his usual self (if somewhat confused).
At the moment of his apparent death, Captain Atom experienced a time-shift coinciding with his 2005 appearance in Superman/Batman, resulting in his arrival in the Wildstorm Universe. He quickly gets into a fight with an overzealous Mister Majestic and the fight ended with Majestic soundly defeated. Seeing the frightened reactions of onlookers, and puzzling over his own altered appearance, he realizes that he has somehow become trapped on an alternate Earth, one where superheroes are feared by the general populace. Mistaken by the local super-heroes as the force destined to destroy their universe, he was in fact an instrument used ultimately by Nikola Hanssen, new host for half the essence of the Void, to reclaim her whole power (partially lodged in his own body, and cause of his altered appearance) and use it to trigger the reboot of the WildStorm universe, in the WorldStorm event.
Captain Atom was returned to the DC Universe in Infinite Crisis #7 when Superboy-Prime punctured his Earth-Eight counterpart Breach. Confusingly, the end of Armageddon has him reappear in the devastated Blüdhaven. One Year Later, Captain Atom is revealed to be contained inside Blüdhaven and used to administer radiation treatments to metahumans. Apparently Void, able to finally let him go home, was unable to ensure his safety, and multiple damages on his radiation-shielding skin had left him comatose and unable to keep down his body radiations to safe levels; this forced the Atomic Knights to keep him constantly contained. In 2008's Countdown #8, it is learned that these ruptures were caused as part of a greater plan by Solomon the Monitor, in his plans to "recreate the Monarch" as part of a larger scheme to force the assimilation of the other Monitors.
After being fitted with an updated version of the Monarch armor (Armageddon 2001) to contain his radiation, the Captain awakens. Seeming to be mentally unstable, he breaks free, apparently kills the rampaging Major Force, and then releases a vast amount of energy, obliterating what was left of Blüdhaven. He remains missing until Kyle Rayner, then known as Ion, discovers him in The Bleed, a place between dimensions. The Captain indicates that he is traveling through The Bleed in order to operate outside the gaze of the Monitors. He discusses his time in the Wildstorm Universe, and his desire to visit other alternate worlds.
The 4-issue miniseries Countdown: Arena features Monarch battling alternate versions of characters throughout the Multiverse to compile the strike team for his new Multiverse army, specifically one Superman, one Batman, a Wonder Woman, a Green Lantern, a Flash, a Blue Beetle, a Nightshade, a Starman, and a Ray. Monarch's behavior becomes increasingly violent, notably killing the Eve of Shadows' country for attempting to violate the Monarch's rule of "no escaping." Monarch is now paranoid, and unwilling to share details of his past to his "subordinates", the Red Son Superman and Liberty Files Batman are able to discern that under the Monarch armor lies another Captain Atom, so they employ his other counterparts: Breach (Tim Zanetti) and Quantum-Storm (Ronnie Raymond) to assemble an army of Captain Atoms from the different dimensions to fight back. In the Arena storyline's conclusion, Monarch reveals that Breach is his brainwashed accomplice and he has lured his 51 counterparts into his presence in order to murder them and absorb their power. With his team of Eve of Shadows (Earth-13), Vampire Batman (Earth-43), Ray "the Ray" Palmer (Earth-6), the monstrous Scarab (Earth-26), Hal Jordan Jr. (Earth-12), Starwoman (Earth-7), Johnny Quick (Earth-3), Wonder Woman (Earth-34) Red Son Superman (Earth-30) and himself - the sum power of 52 Captain Atoms - Monarch believes he is ready to confront the Monitors, and does so, finally launching his war on Earth-51 against the exposed Monitors.
In a protracted fight against Superman-Prime, his suit is damaged, releasing a chain reaction that apparently destroys the entire universe of Earth-51 aside from its Monitor.
2007's Countdown: Arena featured Captain Atoms from alternate universes. The combatants of the series are introduced as a new Breach of Earth-8, a Ronnie Raymond/Nathaniel Adam fusion called "Quantum-Storm" from Earth-37, and another from Earth-38 who rules over his Atomic Knights. Additionally, issue #1 introduces a "Brigadier Atom" from Earth-13 married to Nightshade, and in Countdown: Arena #3, Breach gathers together a group of alternate Captain Atoms, including Earth-13's Brigadier, the Captain Atom as depicted in the graphic novel Kingdom Come (Earth-22), and a Captain in a red/silver variant of the Monarch's costume, the classic Charlton Comics Atom (Earth-4), and a Hulked out variant from an unknown Earth. Several more variants are shown in Countdown: Arena #4, including a President Atom, a robot called Quantum Mechanix, Kid Quantum of the Legion of Super-Heroes, Captain Adamma, Quantum Boy, an anthropomorphised wolf version, a Soviet Atom from Earth-30 , a Doctor Manhattan-lookalike, an energy based-Atom who makes calculations during his attacks, and a giant-sized actual Atom. Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 3D depicts a Captain Allen Adam from Earth-4, a cross between the original Charlton version and Dr. Manhattan.
Captain Atom appears briefly in flashback sequences of Alex Ross and Mark Waid's 1996 graphic novel Kingdom Come, printed under DC Comics' "Elseworlds" imprint. His death at the hands of the villain Parasite, and the irradiation of Kansas this caused, was what made Superman return to action and sets the events of the story into motion. His outfit in this comic was a combination of his original Charlton uniform and his later DC costume. The Kingdom Come universe established created Waid and Ross would later be introduced to DC canon in the form of Earth-22.
February 1988 would introduce the character of Major Force, a villainous parallel and foil of Captain Atom who receives a treatment similar to the one which gives Nathaniel Adam his abilities. The character would go on to become an ongoing antagonist for Captain Atom. The 2006 Teen Titans One Year Later storyline would introduce a new character called Bombshell, a teenage girl patterned on Captain Atom and given a similar origin story and abilities. The character would eventually turn out to be a villain and an eventual member of the supervillain team "Titans East".
The character appeared in the animated television series, Justice League Unlimited. In that series, his premise is closer to that of Wildfire of the Legion of Super Heroes, in that Atom is a disembodied mass of sentient energy contained in a special suit. He serves as a mild antagonistic political foil for Green Arrow in much the same way the Silver Age Hawkman did in the comics; that is, they pursue bickering conflict between the military officer and the former peace activist, although this type of conflict has not been developed since the pair made peace in their first mission together.
In later episodes, Captain Atom is seen fulfilling the role of an all-around powerhouse with severely conflicted loyalties; examples of this role include controlling a nuclear reactor ("Task Force X"), then later being coerced into fighting Superman by his superiors in the U.S. Air Force, who at the time were acting on instructions from Project Cadmus ("Question Authority"). In his first appearance ("Initiation") he was voiced by CSI's George Eads while his later appearances were voiced by Chris Cox. The JLU version of the character speaks with a slight Texas accent, and his true identity is "Captain Nathaniel Adam".
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