Captain Atom by Julie Bell

Captain Atom

(Roy's Elseworld version)


The super-hero Captain Atom first appeared in 1960, at Charlton Comics. He eventually became a DC Comics character – see our Ages of DC Comics article if you want to know the basics.

Here we’re not going to cover the published character, but an “Elseworld ” original variation. It is broadly similar to the version seen in DC Comics during the 1980s and 1990s. But things take a different turn and the character evolves in a completely different direction.

The main difference is that this version assume that the Armageddon 2001 publishing event took place as DC had originally planned. What actually happened is that DC changed the ending of that big annual crossover at the last minute, due to leaks. And thus here, contributor Roy explains his take of what could have been.



  • Real Name: Nathaniel Adam.
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: None (all deceased).
  • Group Affiliation: JLA.
  • Base Of Operations: JLA Watchtower.
  • Height: 6’1” Weight: 200 lbs. Age: 27
  • Eyes: Blue Hair: White (Both silver in Atom form).

Powers and Abilities

Nathaniel Adam’s natural talents were honed in the military, where he received extensive training and combat experience.

When he extrudes the alien metal that was bonded to him greatly increases his physical abilities – particularly his strength and durability.

It also allows him to manipulate energy. The metal taps into the Quantum Field, allowing Captain Atom to radiate, absorb, or redirect radiant energy.



Nathaniel Adam was born in 1950 in a rural Mid-West United States community. His father, like most of the men in the Adam family, was a career military man. He had served in WWII and Korea. He raised Nathaniel with a tradition of honor and duty with many examples and lessons from history.

The most inspirational figure of Nathaniel’s youth was Cincinnatus , the Roman general whom wanted neither glory nor power. Cincinnatus served only because he was needed and returned to his simple farmer’s life when duty no longer called.

Nathaniel’s mother also raised him to be responsible and devoted to those around him. However, she died in an accident when he was a freshman in high school.

Adam was accepted into the Air Force after graduation from college. His father passed away due to natural causes shortly thereafter.


Nathaniel Adam excelled in the military from the beginning. He had a promising career ahead of him. He was assigned to duty in Southeast Asia. He had certain concerns with U.S. involvement in the region, the greatest of which was his belief that if the military was to intervene, it should be totally committed to winning the war instead of being compromised by irrelevant political agendas.

He was also deeply offended by his commanding officer, who was part of a drug-smuggling ring. Nathaniel started to gather evidence to charge his CO . But the officer in question was as stupid as he was corrupt. He tried skimming profits from his partners-in-crime, only to get himself killed and Nathaniel framed for the crime.

The court martial was short and to the point. All of the evidence pointed to Nathaniel and there was no evidence concerning the CO’s alleged criminal activities. Nathaniel Adam was sentenced to life in prison.

Immediately after the court martial, Nathaniel was approached by Captain Wade Eiling. Eiling offered Nathaniel a pardon and a new identity in exchange for participating in a top-secret experiment. Nathaniel accepted this as an opportunity to get out of prison and find the necessary evidence to clear his name.

The experiment

The experiment involved placing a subject in a shell of metal recovered from the hull of a crashed alien vessel. This shell was to then be stress-tested by being at ground-zero of a nuclear detonation. Eiling neglected to mention that last detail, of course. At the age of 23, Nathaniel was caught in the heart of a nuclear explosion… and vanished.

Four years before the present day, Nathaniel returned. The nuclear blast had reacted with the alien metal and catapulted Nathaniel into the quantum field. He was moved forward in time to the present era. Furthermore, the alien metal was now bonded to him.

While absorbed into him, Nathaniel was the same person he had been before, in every way. When he extruded the exo-shell over his skin, he became Captain Atom. He spent a few months getting used to his new abilities while being debriefed and examined by various officers and scientists in military employ, including the now-General Eiling.

Eventually, Nathaniel was given the civilian identity of Cameron Scott, Cap. (Ret.). He then made his public debut as Captain Atom, the latest result of “American Ingenuity applied to American Fighting Spirit !”

Captain Atom joined the JLI soon after his debut. Meanwhile Nathaniel Adam dealt with being in the future, and tried to find evidence regarding a certain crime committed almost three decades ago…

Justice League

Captain Atom was expected to compile information on his JLI compatriots for the government while he was assigned to them. He saw the wisdom of gathering information on various metahumans in the event they became a threat. But he refused to divulge any information regarding his fellow heroes’ private lives or identities.

This angered his superiors, particularly General Eiling, whom had come to see Captain Atom and even metahumans in general in somewhat proprietary terms. Eiling hoped to command an army of metahumans in the 21st Century American Forces, and even to become one himself.

After his first year in the present, Nathaniel had adapted to life in the present. But he had not found any evidence that might exonerate him. It was at this time that Major Force appeared. He was a military convict, as Nathaniel was, and was subjected to the same experiment that Captain Atom had been, only with a greater amount of the alien metal in the shell.

Major Force

Consequently, Major Force had greater physical power and formed simple quantum “blackbody” constructs instead of emitting energy. Seeing this, Captain Atom was inspired to attempt to form similar constructs and eventually taught himself to do so.

Major Force was also a sociopath given to fits of psychotic rage. He was only kept under control by a combination of various medical and explosive implants (placed under his exo-shell immediately after his emergence from the quantum field, before his shell had solidified).

This situation could not last forever, though. A little over a year after Major Force’s emergence (and thus over two years after Captain Atom’s), FBI agents investigating possible secret government experimentation with alien technology uncovered files. These detailed the experiments which produced Captain Atom and Major Force.

They confronted Captain Atom with the information. Nathaniel, tired of living a lie and hoping that exposure might give him some leads toward clearing himself, confirmed everything that he could. He even gave them some extra information to which only he had access.


General Eiling heard of the agents’ discoveries. He called Captain Atom in to his office, at which time he ordered Captain Atom to detain the agents. Nathaniel refused and was dismissed.

Eiling called on Major Force to solve the problem by terminating the agents, which Major Force agreed to readily. Captain Atom had anticipated such an action, however, and intercepted the Major en route.

Major force had tired of Captain Atom’s interference and decided to kill him, too. The Major proceeded to inflict massive collateral damage and would then attack the Captain as he tried to protect the innocent bystanders.

On the Captain’s part, he was hampered by Major Force’s greater physical power and willingness to endanger others. He was also reluctant to blast the Major with large quantities of energy and have him reappear God-only-knew-when and continue his rampage.

Death duel with the destroyer

When Major Force tried pushing a school bus full of children off of a bridge with his quantum constructs the Captain knew the Major had to be stopped immediately. He rammed the Major into the ground with a flying charge and proceeded to pummel him until he stopped moving.

The Captain then encased Major Force in a quantum-bubble and toted him along as he tried to repair the damage the Major had wrought on the city. Nathaniel refused to allow the paramedics to treat Major Force. Since that would mean collapsing the construct and leaving the Major unattended while the Captain was going about the city helping the rescue crews.

By the time Captain Atom was finished helping the emergency crews, Major Force had died from the massive internal injuries inflicted during his beating. The Captain had been injured as well, and was left with a slight, but noticeable, limp when in his human form.

Captain Atom proceeded to Eiling’s office, but the general had already fled. Eiling would resurface later when he engineered his mental transference to the body of the JLA foe dubbed The Shaggy Man, becoming the supervillain known as The General.

Months of congressional hearings followed what was dubbed “The Major Force Incident” (though some publications went for the more lurid “DEADLY FORCE” tag). The Captain was not charged with any crimes for his part in Major Force’s death. Beyond the circumstances, Force’s physiology meant there was little possibility that medical attention could have helped him.

Not a secret any more

Nathaniel Adam’s identity was made public during the hearings, though, as was his conviction… and the fact that Eiling knew it was a set-up all along. Notes from the general’s private files indicated that he influenced the court martial in order to guarantee a conviction that would provide him with the test subject that met his strict medical requirements.

Captain Atom’s service in the military was terminated after the hearings, though. As far as they were concerned, he had embarrassed the government and they wanted nothing to do with him. He was given a generous pension in exchange for a quiet General Discharge, and Adam was glad to leave after the way he had been treated.

Afterwards, the Captain devoted himself to his JLA duties, though relations with his teammates were strained due to his actions regarding Major Force.


About six months ago, Captain Atom went through what may ultimately be the most significant event of his life. Waverider arrived from the future, bearing news of a terrible Monarch who, before killing all of Earth’s heroes, had in fact been a major hero himself.

Waverider touched each of the heroes in turn and “read” their timeline to see if they were Monarch. When Waverider touched Captain Atom, he saw Nathaniel’s future…and inadvertently summoned Monarch into the present. Monarch was, in fact, Captain Atom.

Since encountering his future self, Captain Atom’s demeanor has changed. He is concerned with becoming Monarch. Not just because of Monarch’s horrific deeds, but also because he had seen enough of his future to realize that becoming Monarch might be necessary to preserve the human race.

He also came to the realization that all of Monarch’s strengths, good and bad, exist within him. Thus, he is now trying to live up to his full potential not just as a warrior, but as a leader.

He has stepped down from active duty in the JLA and acts as a tutor to metahumans interested in making a positive difference. In this capacity he is provided with assistance — and monitoring — from the JLA.

Those who can, teach

Nathaniel’s teaching is as much about the ethics of service and duty as they are about combat. He is particularly concerned about attitudes such as “the ends justify the means.” He emphasizes the idea that examples set in the heat of combat can have consequences far beyond the current battle.

As far as the combat training, Nathaniel’s motto is, “If you can’t carry out your mission without superpowers, you shouldn’t be doing it with them.”

He tries to make sure that his students have the tools to operate effectively no matter their condition or the situation. He also encourages them to look at the larger picture and consider the effects of their actions on society as a whole, which is a far cry from the days where he dismissed sociopolitical issues as irrelevant to fighting the enemy.

In addition to training the next generation of heroes to prevent the future he has seen, Nathaniel has a more personal purpose with his “school.” He has seen the way his single-minded dedication to his mission at the expense of his personal life ends: Monarch.

Monarch was trying to prevent a terrible catastrophe. But Captain Atom can’t help but wonder if some of Monarch’s ruthlessness was derived not from necessity, but from his sense of duty isolating from others, and thus from his own humanity. This school is not just for the students, but for the teacher.

On the other hand, Nathaniel is also taking note of his students’ vulnerabilities, just in case he needs the information some day…

While the other heroes appreciate Captain Atom’s contribution to the future with his school, they are still uneasy with him. After all, they know what he may one day become and that he has a malevolent “twin” that could easily take his place.


In his human form Nathaniel Adam is an athletic Caucasian male in his mid-30s. He wears paramilitary fatigues while on duty and is otherwise attired in casual urban blue-collar attire.

In his quantum-powered form Captain Atom is completely chrome-silver except for blue boots, red gloves, and a red atomic-energy symbol on his chest. The boots, gloves and symbol are actually a part of his metal “skin,” having been laser-dyed onto his exo-shell. When angry, Captain Atom’s eyes take on a fiery red glow.


Nathaniel Adam is a basically moral man driven by a sense of commitment to humanity, building a better present as a good foundation for the future. However, he has a dark side, a part of his personality that is driven to accomplish his goals no matter the cost.

At the moment he is also deeply concerned about what he may become in pursuit of his objectives (as embodied by Monarch), though he is too professional to brood upon it in public. He is also working on building better relationships with the people around him, to help him keep a sense of perspective and compassion.

Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG

Tell me more about the game stats

Captain Atom

Dex: 08 Str: 20 Bod: 10 Motivation: Responsibility of Power
Int: 09 Wil: 09 Min: 10 Occupation: JLA Training Officer
Inf: 08 Aur: 08 Spi: 09 Resources {or Wealth}: 04
Init: 027 HP: 150

Bomb: 15, Deflection: 10, Energy Absorption: 12, Energy Blast: 15, Flight: 13, Force Manipulation: 8, Sealed Systems: 20, Skin Armor: 05

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Bomb is automatically activated if Captain Atom takes RAPs of Killing Damage of any kind, Physical, Mental, or Spiritual. When Bomb is activated in this manner it is at full APs plus the RAPs of damage that Captain Atom has taken. This is the only manner in which Captain Atom can use Bomb
  • Energy Absorption has a Range of 3 APs. Captain Atom often uses this do redirect energy beams fired at other targets into his own body, absorbing them harmlessly
  • Energy Absorption is actually unlimited. But if Captain Atom absorbs more than 12 APs of energy at one time he is thrown forward in time a number of APs equal to the total APs of energy that he absorbed (i.e. absorbing a 13 AP Energy Blast throws Captain Atom 13 APs into the future)
  • Force Manipulation is limited to creating simple geometric shapes — spheres, discs, etc.. And so can only put APs into BODY
  • Deflection is limited to Energy only.

Martial Artist*: 08, Military Science*: 09, Thief (Stealth): 06, Vehicles (Air)*: 08, Weaponry (Firearms, Melee)*: 08

Alter Ego (Controllable), Iron Nerves, Leadership, Sharp Eye, Scholar (Military History, Martial Philosophy).

JLA (High).

Mistrust, Public Identity, Uncertainty.

Alter Ego: Nathaniel Adam

Dex: 07 Str: 04 Bod: 05
Int: 09 Wil: 09 Min: 10
Inf: 08 Aur: 08 Spi: 09
Init: 026 HP: Same

Skills, Advantages, Connections, and Drawbacks as above.

Captain Atom after the chronoport

When Captain Atom first appeared in the present, he had Military Credentials (USAF Captain, Medium) , a Dark Secret (Murder Conviction), and a Secret Identity (Cameron Scott). He also had one less AP in all of his Acting Attributes (and thus any linked Skills), an Initiative of 24, and did not have Force Manipulation.

Captain Atom’s DEX and INF went up to their current levels in his first year, and his INT and Force Manipulation went up during the second year.

After the Major Force Incident he lost his Credentials and his Dark Secret, and his Identity became Public. After the arrival of Monarch he gained his current Archenemy, Mistrust, and Uncertainty.

By Roy Cowan.

Source of Character: DC Comics + personal campaign alterations.

Helper(s): Skylord, Hartley Holmberg.