Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Atom Special #1 (1993)

Professor Alpheus V. Hyatt created the Time Pool, a portal to the past "the size of a medium pizza." Ray Palmer was a natural choice to explore the potential of the diminutive doorway, and had in many Silver Age adventures. Unfortunately, Hyatt was never able to expand the size of the Time Pool, and instead busied himself with miniaturizing the hardware that produced it. Hyatt had it down to the size of a VCR when one day, a hand holding an old fashioned alarm clock appeared out of the Time Pool. The numbers and hands fired out of the clock and into Hyatt's face, leaving him bleeding and unconscious.

The Loaded Dice Mob had supposedly given "the Justice Society a very small amount of trouble back in '43," but the geriatric precursors to the Royal Flush Gang were down to knocking over a local fast food joint. The Atom stealthily showed up to unleash a grease trap on one, swat guns away from others, and straight up deck the last old man standing. At one point he did almost get swatted by a spatula into a deep fryer, but he adjusted his weight to coast on heat fumes and recover. The cause of this brief slip in aptitude was a vision of Laethwen burning to death on a gas range. "He can't see her. He can't hear her. But he can still smell her flesh cooking. That was no hallucination. Was it?"

In the aftermath, a rude cop ribbed the Atom about his tell-all memoir, his lack of friends afterward, and news of Hyatt's hospitalization. "Officer... don't take this the wrong way, but... shut your big mouth before I float inside and rip your molars out." The Atom traveled by phone line to Ivytown General's Intensive Care Unit, only to find Jean Loring and Norm Brawler waiting in the lobby. Norm had gotten into an argument with Hyatt's doctor over his unwillingness to even attempt to remove the intricate time bomb attached to Hyatt's face, while the physician pointed out that this was all the fault of their association with the Atom. Brawler shrank away from the point. "Hyatt needs a hero... and the only one we know ratted out on us." Brawler wanted to kick Ray's butt for making "noble speeches" about it being to dangerous for him to stay in Ivytown, then leaving his friends in the lurch. "He's just too immature to stay around and clean up his own messes!" Proving the point, Ray tied Norm's shoelaces together and knocked him over.

Ray had a discussion about microsurgery with the doctor, and then went in to Hyatt's room to visit his cantankerous friend. In his place, Ray saw his father on his deathbed, began crying, and then screamed in a panic "I need a doctor! Now! He's dying" Everyone rushed in to find Hyatt wondering what all the fuss was about. The doctor politely told the Atom not to worry about performing that surgery after all, while quietly wondering about the effects of all that size changing on the brain. Ray's best friend Norm and ex-wife Jean then left Palmer to join Paul Hoben at a bar to bitch about Palmer behind his back. In a book heavy with exposition related to the Mighty Mite's continuity, this was where the levee broke. Ray's origin was retold... His turning his back on civilization to live with a six inch barbarian culture in the Amazon, including his lover Princess Laethwen... the fire set by the C.I.A. to smoke Palmer out that destroyed this new life... Ray's revenge of shrinking the rogue unit down and trapping them... Paul was as usual a jerk, especially when his affair with Jean that broke up her marriage to Ray came up. Palmer, who had been spying the whole time, finally revealed himself by dousing Paul with his brew. Ray then discussed his short time living a normal life as "Professor Don Shuffler," his setting up Adam Cray as a new Atom serving the Suicide Squad, and Cray's murder as a result. Palmer was filled with self-pity and regret, which Norm brusquely attempt to snap him out of. However, Ray stated "I'm going to help Hyatt. Then I'm getting out of your lives for good."

Outside the bar, Ray was confronted by the image of the rainy night he caught Jean and Paul making out in a car. Ray shook it off, then tried to get an operator to connect him to the Hanesworth Estate. The Atom had to show up on her desk, spouting about his (expired) JLA membership to finally get through. Ray figured all of his circumstances added up to his archenemy Chronos, including apparitions of Adam Cray getting stabbed through the back with a nail in the estate's shag carpeting. While distracted, a cat swiped its claws across the Atom's back, so he sent it flying with a judo maneuver. That move kind of blew his cover, and one of Chronos' men escorted Ray to his master. However, the Gene Bomb set off by the Dominators during an alien invasion of Earth had left Chronos in a coma.

Within the speck upon a fork, the Atom built a home away from home out of molecules where he could hide from the world. Still, even on a bit of food debris, a man's got to eat. Ray grew off the fork into Hyatt's dining room, then raided his fridge. Norm began to knock on the front door, and when Ray tried to ignore him, beat down the door. Once inside, Brawler phantoms of Ray's dad in the deathbed with tiny Adam Cray getting impaled on the sheets and the Princess was cooking on the stove while Jean and Paul made out on the couch. Norm was flabbergasted, but once Palmer got over the shock, he was thrilled to learn the ghosts were not figments of a delusion as he had feared. "You saw them? You saw them, too? All right... all right... we're going to figure this out." If someone could make the Atom's fears manifest, they could surely fake Chronos in a coma (I know, I know, it's serious...)

The physicist deduced that Chronos had used the clunky old Time Pool generator to find and steal the portable new one. The original filled the better part of Hyatt's office, so it remained accessible to Palmer, who figured out how to use it to connect to the location of the current model. The Atom thanked Norm for saving his mind, then dived into the Time Pool. Meanwhile, Norm was drugged and kidnapped by a henchman. Chronos had set a trap for the Tiny Titan as well, involving "weird temporal/spatial advances" that knocked him out. Ray Palmer woke up at six inches tall and stripped down to his boxers. Chronos had his costume, and joked about spicing the drab thing up with pinstripes. See, Chronos really was in a coma, but his younger self had managed to travel through time to reverse his fate. He'd used the Time Pool to steal itself, but Chronos had to learn how to use Atom's size altering belt before he could exploit it. Threatened with the possible execution of Norm, Ray relented to giving Chronos what he wanted... seemingly.

Norm's head had been shoved into the Time Pool, and while Chronos and his men were distracted extracting it, Palmer used a metal stirrer to pole vault to the compact generator. Activating it, Ray tossed the device through the Time Pool it created. Chronos objected, but was stabbed through the hand. The device landed on a vanity table in 15th century France. Chronos blindly reached into the pool to try retrieving it, but instead knocked it off the tabletop. The device broke as it hit the floor, the Time Pool immediately dried up, and Chronos' severed right arm landed on the vanity. His wristwatch was still in fine working order though, so the French made the best of this unexpected treat. "Henri! Pour me a brandy and dispose of the arm!"

Chronos was screaming bloody murder and going into shock, but while the Mighty Mite was trying to save his life, Chronos was still ordering his henchmen to attack. The mobile lab everyone was in was somehow contained in a limousine, so Brawler performed a running headbutt on the driver, who skidded into a tree. Everyone ended up at the hospital, and while police congratulated Norm as a hero, he acknowledged being heartened by the Tiny Titan proving his own heroism once again. The Atom payed Hyatt a visit, and against the objections of his doctor, cockily performed successful microsurgery. The Atom returned to his cabin on the fork, and kicked it down, recognizing that he could no longer hide from his problems. "Goodbye, Laethwen, Adam, Dad. Rest in peace. Please." Ray Palmer grew up, tossed the fork in the garbage, and joined a homecoming party in his honor. Enrica Negrini worked in a cameo.

"Shrinking From The Past" was by Tom Peyer and Steve Dillon. I read this a year or two after it was released, when I was actively exploring the greater DC Universe after abandoning Marvel Comics and moving beyond Batman/Superman/New Titans. This came out during the death and rebirth of Superman, which was noted by Jean during the exposition fest. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about the weird winding course of the Atom's travels for the first time. I knew the character from cartoons and team books, but had no idea he'd gotten up to such shenanigans, and the material covered here was mostly just late Bronze Age. It was much darker and more violent than I expected, and unlike the deconstructed icons of the Chromium Age, that suited the Atom. Compared to DC's other Silver Age revivals, The Atom was definitely the most action oriented book, as if a pint-sized hero took the edge off all those brutal blows in a time of speed tricks and lantern constructs. Sword of the Atom was gory as hell, which made sense for a quasi-barbarian saga, and it was only natural for Ray to take some of the jungle with him back to the States. I like how Peyer used ambitions of a mental breakdown to regress Palmer back to his insecure days in the '70s Justice League, only to work him over to the smug fighting form of his earliest adventures by the end of the tale. I absolutely love Steve Dillon's art on this, as his thoughtful faces and bursts of savagery are well suited to the character, and I can't think of a single super-hero he's ever nailed so fully (Punisher included.) Dillon was unquestionably better off on Hellblazer, but it's still a shame this creative team never made it to series. As a more knowledgeable Atom fan, this comic doesn't hold up that great, but it's still an ideal primer for neophytes.

Join the Spooktacular Samhain Celebration at this coven of blogs!


  1. "Bough Breaks" @ Batman: Gotham Knights Online
  2. "Haunts" @ The Flash: Speed Force
  3. "Dead Calm" @ The Aquaman Shrine
  4. "The Distance Gone" @ Diana Prince is the New Wonder Woman
  5. "Ghosts' - The Corpse Corps!" @ Green Lantern: Corps Conjecture
  6. "The Death Sentence" @ Superman: Great Krypton!
  7. "Heart's Afire" @ Martian Manhunter: The Idol-Head of Diabolu
  8. "Life Itself" @ The Captain's JLA Homepage


Thursday, October 25, 2012

2010 “The Atom's Family: Smidgen” animation-style fan fiction by N:TAS

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N:TAS DCU: The Atom's Family: Smidgen 10-10-10

"NightwingTAS" continues his Atom animated series concept cavalcade from the Super Buddies message board by employing "Sword of the Atom" as anatomical allusion...
"After he and Jean split up, Ray went to live among the Katharthans, and fell in love with Laethwen, their beautiful Katarthan princess. The Katarthans and their village were soon believed to be wiped out by a horrible fire and the Atom returned to Ivy Town. What Ray didn't know was that the Princess as well as some others had escaped just before the fire was set. Laethwen was told that Ray had returned and perished in the fire. Laethwen returned home and gave birth to the daughter Ray never knew he had. On the day of her coranation Laethwen told their daughter, the new Princess Raeanna about her father Ray Palmer, The Atom of the Planet Earth. Raeanna always knew she was different, her skin was a different color, but was told that it was just a pigment disorder. Raeanna also had a natural ability to grow and shrink at will.

During the Infinite Crisis Ray had went MIA traveling the Multiverse, as Donna Troy, Kyle Rayner, and Jason Todd set out to find him, they discovered the Katarthans and Raeanna, hearing that her father was still alive Raeanna asked for her mother's permission to join these 3 in their search for her father, and Laethwen granted it to her and presented her with a costume much like the one that her father had worn while living with them.

When Ray had returned to Earth he discovered he had a daughter, Raeanna. Rae took a name that her mother had given her ever since she was a baby, Smidgen. Smidgen fights along her father's side and is getting to know not just him, but her new home, Earth."

I like this better as an Elseworlds than canon, since it's pretty convoluted and ages the hell out of Ray Palmer. The costume is a genderbent kick.

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

2010 “The Atom's Family: Molecule” animation-style fan fiction by N:TAS

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N:TAS DCU: The Atom's Family: Molecule 10-08-10

"NightwingTAS" continues his Atom animated series concept cavalcade from the Super Buddies message board with teen team spirit...
"Tony Johns lived his life quietly always blending in to a crowd almost disappearing. Tony never knew about his true parentage until the Silver Lantern Argent and the Teen Titans East approached him. They revealved to Tony that he is really half H'San Ntall, a alien race who impregnated 9 woman and sent 8 of them back to Earth to give birth to them so upon their 16th birthdays their powers will kick in and they will be better able to invade Earth. Upon hearing about this Tony wanted to run disappear, anything, but what he did shocked him, he shrunk. He eventually returned to his original size and after talking to Argent Tony decided to join the Teen Titans East and become Molecule. Argent presented Molecule with a costume that resembled the one that The Atom wore when he was a Teen Titan with her. Molecule and Argent grew close and the two have begun dating."

I think Molecule was one of the legions of icon derivations Geoff Johns came up with for Teen Titans in the wake of 52/One Year Later. His biography at Titans consists of "The super-shrinking adventurer known as Molecule joined the Teen Titans for a short time after the events of Infinite Crisis. Molecule was later murdered by the Terror Titans." Seems N:TAS elaborated here, and I like how he tied the character into Dan Jurgens' run. The costume is distinctly Molecule's own, and I think this is one of the better extensions of "The Atoms' Family."

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

2010 “The Atom's Family: Damage” animation-style fan fiction by N:TAS

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N:TAS DCU: The Atom's Family: Damage 10-06-10

"NightwingTAS" continues his Atom animated series concept cavalcade from the Super Buddies message board by resurrecting a spirit of the '90s...
"Grant Emerson life has changed a lot during the Infinite Crisis. His father returned and has been helping him to control his powers. He also became close to Jesse and Rex Tyler, even joining them as members of the JSI. Grant has finally found the family and friends he has always longed for."

Good for Grant! He was always such a whiny little bitch, giving him some happy could only be an improvement. One of these days, I need to cover my partial run of Damage from when I collected the title on the monthly. He had a pretty great set of costumes, and while this one apes his lesser Sins of Youth gear, that unusual color scheme remains oddly effective.

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

2010 “The Atom's Family: Micron” animation-style fan fiction by N:TAS

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N:TAS DCU: The Atom's Family: Micron 10-04-10

"NightwingTAS" continues his Atom animated series concept cavalcade from the Super Buddies message board with a retcon flavor...
"Adam Cray was once known as the Atom, the first man to take up Ray Palmer's hero identity while he was believed to be dead. Ray recruited Adam to pose as The Atom while he took a spot of a fallen member of the Micro Squad. Adam joined Amanda Waller's Suicide Squad, and found out that fellow member Deadshot was the man who killed his dad, and Deadshot told him he can have one free shot at him. While on a mission Adam saved the life of Amanda Waller, something she did not forget. On another mission the Micro Squad member Blacksnake impaled Adam through his heart believing him to be Ray Palmer. Amanda Waller not forgetting her debt to Adam took a DNA sample and used her Checkmate and Cadmus connections to have him put in a regeneration chamber using cloned tissue to heal him. After he was revived Adam took up the name Micron and joined Ray Palmer's growing family of pint sized superheros."

That's a lot of road to travel just to get to Adam Cray. Maybe he could have had a brother or something? It's kind of cool that Cray gets to reclaim his mantle as the poor fashion standard bearer in the Atom family (influencing '90s Teen Titans Ray Palmer, sadly,) but I'd have taken this opportunity to hue closer to the Justice League Beyond Micron's creepier duds.

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