The Atom (Ray Palmer) was part of the Silver AgeSuper-hero comics from the late 1950s to the early 1970s revitalization of super-hero comics at DC. He appeared in 1961.
He was typical of the lot – he drew elements from the Golden AgeSuper-hero comics from the late 1930s to the early 1950s, such as the “Atom” name and Doll Man’s power, but with a much more science-fictional bend.
The stories were also longer and meatier than back during the 1940s.
Though he’s a relatively early Silver Age figure, Ray Palmer has mostly remained a C-lister. He received much of his exposure as one of the Justice League’s science brains.
This profile covers everything up to Blackest Night. Since that’s a lot of material, it was split into halves for the sake of slower readers.
- Real Name: Raymond A. Palmer.
- Former Aliases: Sting, Don Shuffler, Mr. Jones.
- Known Relatives: Jean Loring (Eclipso, ex-wife, deceased), Laethwen (wife, deceased), Jean Loring of Earth-51 (wife, deceased), Mary Sue Palmer (mother, deceased), David (father, deceased).
- Note: Action Comics #523 calls Ray’s mother Mary, whereas Power of the Atom #6 has it as Sue. So I’ve listed her as Mary Sue.
- Group Affiliation: Justice League of America; Formerly Teen Titans, Indigo Tribe.
- Base Of Operations: Ivy Town, New York.
- Note: Ivy Town has also been stated to be in Connecticut.
- Height: 6’0” (1.82m) (5’8” (1.72m) as teen).
- Weight: 180 lbs. (82 Kg.) (which apparently stayed the same as a teen).
- Eyes: Blue. Hair: Brown.
Powers and Abilities
The Atom can reduce his size to subatomic levels. There is no known limit on how far he can shrink. This is achieved by means of white-dwarf star matter from which his costume and belt were made.
Originally the size-changing was controlled by a mechanism in his belt buckle. But he frequently became stopped from reaching the buckle, so he created a remote control for it in his gloves. At this time his costume would disappear when he was at his full height.
At the beginning of The Power of the Atom series, his original costume had been destroyed, its remnants absorbed into his body. Creating a new one, he managed, with help, to merge the new costume with the remnants of the old one.
Dr. Palmer discovered that he could now control the size change mentally. He could also manifest his costume or not, at will, so it didn’t automatically appear whenever he shrunk.
The physics of shrinking
The weight decrease when shrinking isn’t automatic. It must be activated independently of the size-changing. So he may retain his full weight and strength at six inches (15cm).
Conversely, he can, since The Power of the Atom, reduce his weight while still at full height. This allows him to glide about as he does when shrunk.
His mass seems to disappear to an extra-dimensionalComing from another reality location. Since The Power of the Atom he’s been able to access additional mass from this location. This allows him brief bursts of strength while at full size.
He’s able to transport himself along phone lines by shrinking himself small enough to ride the signals. Ray later adapted to travelling on photon signals along fiber optic cable. Mobile phones did take some getting used to once he returned from the jungle, but they no longer explode when he arrives through them.
Recent changes to his technology allow him to take others with him when travelling in this manner. These also allow him to better shrink other willing individuals. He’s done these things before, but they usually required some extra device to be built, or involved a degree of risk.
Ray has developed a fighting style against regular-sized opponents. It involves jumping about, shifting from feather light to glide around, to his full weight for striking and manipulating his opponent’s moves.
He also shifts his size to evade attacks and move through obstacles.
He often leverages his opponent’s movements against them, using judo to throw far larger people around.
Ray was the leading scientist of the JLA, and remained as scientific advisor even when a reservist.
He’s built a number of devices on and beyond the bleeding edge of current terrestrial technology.
He has two Ph.D.’s. One is presumably in physics, but it isn’t stated what the other is in.
From a young age Ray was fascinated with the way things worked. He thus developed an interest in science early on, which has never left him.
His father died of cancer while he was still young. And his mother died before he became the Atom.
Ray became a graduate student and fellowship research physicist at Ivy University.
After recovering a fragment of a white dwarf star which fell to Earth, he became obsessed with finding a way to compress matter. Palmer’s main goals were to make farming more efficient, and to enable larger loads to be transported using less energy.
Fashioning a lens from the white dwarf star matter, he discovered that ultra-violet rays shone through them temporarily shrunk inanimate objects. However, these objects would blow up when they returned to their original size.
While leading a nature club hike, a cave-in stuck him and his students in a remote cave. Having brought a lens with him, he managed to secretly use it on himself. He then made a hole big enough for them to escape through.
Expecting to explode at any moment, he was surprised to find himself simply returning to normal size without a problem.
Further experimentation found nothing to explain the difference. Ray decided that it must be due to some odd factor of his genetic makeup.
Fabricating a suit out of the white dwarf star matter (which would be invisible and intangible at his normal size), he assumed the identity of the Atom.
His first case was helping his girlfriend Jean Loring win her first case as a lawyer. Jean had refused his repeated marriage proposals until she was successful enough in her career.
Palmer grew to enjoy the super-heroing beyond its utility of getting Jean established. He soon clashed with super-villains such as Chronos, Jason Woodrue (the Floronic Man), and the Bug-Eyed Bandit.
His aid was also often requested by the CIA and FBI for dealing with Communist spies. Thus, he’d often be transported into Eastern Europe via a phone call.
His mentor Professor Alpheus V. Hyatt had developed a Time Pool, which created a small hole in time and space. Hyatt dropped a magnet through this hole to see what he could pick up. The Atom would often secretly tag along the magnet to go sight-seeing (and usually foiling some crime) in the past.
Offered membership in the Justice League of America, Atom accepted. He then served on and off with most iterations of the team. He also developed a friendship with team mate Hawkman, and they often worked together.
Eventually revealing his identity to Jean, they were married.
Something to evoke 1961, lessee… Well, everybody loves the Marvelettes, right ?
History (part 2)
The time he spent in costume, along with that devoted to his job, and the time Jean spent on her growing practice, eventually drove the pair apart. Howbeit, Ray didn’t notice until he stumbled upon Jean kissing her law partner, Paul Hoben.
Deciding to spend some time apart, Ray went to investigate signs of white dwarf star matter in the Amazon jungle.
Ruff in the jungle
His plane crashed. Ray survived, but he was stuck at a height of six inches. He soon discovered that the source of the energies came from the disused technology of a civilisation of Katarthans, six-inch tall yellow skinned humanoid aliens.
Over the centuries on Earth, with no support from home, they’d lost most of their knowledge of how their technology worked. They had become barbaric.
(Their home planet wasn’t named at the time. Thus they were initially called Morlaidhans, after their main city on Earth, Morlaidh).
Atom joined, and eventually led, a rebellion against the oppressive ruler. He also fell in love with the Morlaidhan Princess, Laethwen.
They overthrew the oppressor, but he’d sabotaged the white dwarf star matter engines to destroy Morlaidh. Atom could only give its inhabitants time to escape by absorbing the energy himself to delay the explosion.
Sword of the Atom
This left him growing back to his natural size, but also thrown unconscious from the site.
He was eventually found by Jean. Despite his being declared legally dead after being missing for so many months, she had come searching for him.
Palmer thus returned to the outer world. However, he found it unfulfilling after his time in the Amazon, and couldn’t forget Laethwen.
Coming to accept they no longer loved each other as they had, Ray and Jean divorced. They also worked with their friend Norman Brawler to write a biography revealing Atom’s identity. Palmer’s secret identity no longer was important, as he returned to the Amazon and didn’t intent to come back.
By this time the stresses of size changing meant his body could no longer carry on doing so. He chose to permanently live at six inches high. Finding the Morlaidhans, he was reunited with Laethwen, and they married.
His happy life in the Amazon came to an end when a logging operation threatened the Morlaidhans. He tried to stop the loggers, but failed. The entire area was razed in a fire, so Palmer didn’t even have any bodies to find.
Power of the Atom
Distraught, he returned to Ivy Town. However, his powers were now resurfacing. This was possibly in part because he had absorbed the white dwarf star matter in the earlier destruction of Morlaidh.
Having trouble adapting to life now his identity was public, he tried adopting a couple of others. But they didn’t last long, and he felt as though he was endangering his friends by hanging around them. As a result, he nearly accepted a job offer from the CIA.
Palmer changed his mind when he learned that the Agency had been responsible for killing the Morlaidhans, as a way to regain his services. Hunting down those responsible, he permanently shrunk them to six inches tall. But the lot continued serving the CIA as the “Micro Force”.
Ray then dropped out of sight.
They believed the action against him had been part of a larger campaign by a group called the Cabal, to gain control of all super-heroes. In their estimation, Palmer had been wanted as much for his knowledge of others’ secret identities as for his powers.
They faked his death in an explosion, using one of the shrunken CIA agents they’d somehow acquired. This left only enough remains to test that the body had experienced size-changing. They set up a new Atom, Adam Clay, as a member of the Suicide Squad.
Against Micro Force
Steel and Waller also made a deal with one of the shrunken agents, Sting. He gave a full confession, was restored to his full size, and went to prison. Meanwhile Ray infiltrated the Micro Force disguised as him.
He hadn’t uncovered much information about the Cabal by the time the Micro Force clashed with the Suicide Squad. Ray also was unable to stop Blacksnake from killing Cray and the other members of Micro Force, but did capture him. Blacksnake was assassinated before he could give any evidence.
(Waller and Steel did learn a bit more than they revealed to him. They then threatened the President with releasing it to the super-hero community should any further such actions be taken.)
While fighting Monarch during Zero Hour, Ray was de-aged to a teenager. As a result, his memories of the intervening years became hazy.
He returned to Ivy to try working out what to do with his life. Once there, Ray became involved when teenager Isaiah Crockett was kidnapped by aliens.
Isaiah and three other teens were half-alien, created as part of a breeding experiment. With Ray’s help they broke free, and returned to Earth where they became the new Teen Titans. Ray joined as a mentor, and developed a friendship with Isaiah.
Titans no more
During the Genesis Wave his powers were altered so that he could grow as well as shrink. This didn’t last long, as he soon suffered spurts of weird aging.
This was cured when Waverider returned him to Zero Hour. Waverider took a scan of Ray before Monarch attacked him, then imposed that on his current body.
Restored to his adult state, Palmer was reunited with the Titans as they confronted the aliens who created them. The team disbanded soon after.
With Jean having divorced Paul, Ray became worried about her safety after the murder of Sue Dibny, wife of the Elongated Man. Jean and Ray began growing closer again, especially after Jean survived an apparent attempt on her life.
The reconciliation collapsed when he learned that Jean had killed Sue. Jean’s plot had been to harm Sue in an attempt to draw Ray back to her, out of concern. She’d used his old size changing belt, but misjudged the damage, then panicked and tried to cover her tracks.
Her sanity deteriorating by that point, she’d faked an attack on herself to draw Ray closer.
She then hired Captain Boomerang to murder Jack Drake (Tim Drake (Robin)’s father) to make it seem the work of a serial killer.
Having her committed to Arkham Asylum, Ray walked away from his life. He shrunk to microscopic size and disappeared.
This profile continues in its second half.
Source of Character: DC Comics.
Helper(s): Peter Piispanen, Darci, interrobang75, Mike Winkler, The Ghost Rider (movie version) WU on WORG for part of the Penance stare mechanics copied for the Indigo Ring.
Writeup completed on the 27th of January, 2011.