Saturday, December 10, 2005

On the Atom

Today's Spotlight is my favorite comic book Atom. Not Ray "Atom" Palmer, not Atomicus, not the Atomic Knight, not Atom Ant or Atomas or Atom Blake or Atomica or Solar (Man of the Atom) or Tetsuwan Atom or Up And Atom. None of those and certainly not that dreadful Captain Atom.

Just. Plain. Atom. ATOM!

Name: The Atom

Real name: Al Pratt

First appearance: All-American Comics #19 (October, 1940)

Background: Young Al Pratt was just another American college guy in the '30s. One thing set him apart: his small stature. Other, taller people ridiculed him, and worse, he found himself unable to help his best girl Mary when she was mugged. Stinging with the burning shame of the less than macho man, he befriended some old hobo and learned martial arts from him. No, really. You can't make this stuff up.

After a few years of practice, the little Pratt (har!) became a squat, muscular fellow, and donned an... interesting looking costume to fight crime as the Atom (small, but powerful --- it had been a taunt used against him, but he reclaimed the word, as so many oppressed group claim derogatory epithets for their own use). Although he had no special powers (at first, anyway), big gun the Spectre chose the Atom as a founding member of the first super-team (or at least, the first one that mattered) --- the Justice Society. After many years of adventures, he was aged and killed. Oh well. He had a good long run.

Powers and abilities: The Atom was an Olympic-level athlete, with the normal strength of a man who engaged in intensive regular exercise and combat.

A few years into his career, the Atom was exposed to Thorium, an element which sounds completely made up, but isn't. The Thorium's radiation granted him superhuman powers in the form of flowing blond hair, badly mangled Elizabethan-era speech, and the hammer Mjolnir. No, it didn't. I kid. He got super-strength in the form of an "atomic punch." Now, call me a grumpy old curmudgeon set in his ways, but I see that as painting the lily. I likes my Atom a plucky, bull-headed athlete, thankee! Al Pratt didn't need no souped up fists to crack Nazi and Jap heads in Dubya-Dubya-Two! No, it was good old regular-Joe American toughness all the way! Anyway, I see his atomic punch, as well-intentioned an idea as it may be, a blip that doesn't really reflect on what makes the character, much like Booster Gold's "armor by Liefeld" phase (shudder).

Weaknesses: Other than being dead? Well, he's kinda short, so he doesn't get the reach advantage while duking it out.

Team-ups I'd like to see: Puck (they're both short tough guys who talk with their fists); Union Jack (they're both WWII-era human-level heroes).


A brief summary

Another Who's Who type entry

Cute little Atom!!

Custom made Atom figures --- why is Ray's head so freakishly bulbous?

Another custom Al Pratt (ten pictures down --- very nice one, too)

A bio with list of appearances

A sweet left cross!

That is a fine looking cover --- teaming with Wildcat! Boxer duo go!

Toonopedia entry --- Don Markstein's site is a must

The Atom was created by Ben Flinton and Bill O'Connor, two men about whom I know nothing.

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