With the series premiere of [DC's Legends of Tomorrow](tag:2937021) just around the corner on The CW, I thought I'd take some time and break down the characters who will be making up this new team of heroes and villains alike. 7 days, 7 articles, with a new character in the spotlight each day.
Yesterday's character, and the third of our series, was White Canary, the former Canary who died and was resurrected in the Lazarus Pit with a little help from John Constantine.
Today we're taking a look at The Atom, the incredible shrinking superhero and CEO of Palmer Industries.
The Origin Story
Raymond "Ray" Palmer, a.k.a. The Atom, was created by Julius Schwartz, Gardner Fox, and Gil Kane. He first appeared in Showcase #34 in October 1961 during the Silver Age of comics. Palmer was an update of Al Pratt, the Golden Age Atom, patterned after the updated versions of The Flash and Green Lantern. Palmer is a brilliant university physicist and lecturer who fashions a lens that enables him to shrink matter to whatever size he wants - but they tend to explode. After he and his students and girlfriend become trapped in a cave, Palmer successfully uses the lens to shrink himself for the first time in order to save them, discovering that his body naturally has an unknown chemical that enables him to shrink without exploding. In The Atom's Brightest Day storyline, this explanation was retconned and his ability to shrink without exploding was explained as him having discovered a "compression matrix," which later becomes his costume.
As The Atom once said to Superman, "I'm no superhero. I'm just a scientist. This is simply a tactical field uniform." With the retcon, Ray Palmer truly does owe his Atom powers to his uniform and its special compression matrix. With his exosuit, he can shrink himself down to the atomic level, as well as withstanding a certain level of damage. It also enables him to shift his mass so he can glide through air and increase his strength exponentially. Along with the suit, he is at peak human physical condition and is a solid hand-to-hand combatant. He also has genius-level intellect and is a master engineer, which aids him in his career as a superhero and crime fighter.
The Live Action Version
The live action version of Ray Palmer/The Atom is played by actor Brandon Routh, who has already had a recurring role on Arrow. To this point, the Arrowverse Ray Palmer hasn't yet figured out a way to successfully shrink himself, though from the promotional material for Legends, it appears he'll have successfully and permanently solved the problem and can now shrink.
In Arrow, Ray Palmer is assumed to be dead when he is caught in an explosion; his friends and allies don't realize that he shrank down enough to escape unharmed. However, he is captured by Damien Darhk and held hostage in order for Darhk to use the exosuit for his own evil purposes. The Arrow team eventually tracks down Ray's whereabouts and rescues him, but to this point, Palmer has chosen to remain legally dead to the public until he figures out his next step.
The Indomitable Will
The team that will become the Legends of Tomorrow face no easy time of it. They're tasked with hunting down one of the most powerful and dangerous enemies history has ever known and saving the world from being wiped out. As with any team facing a daunting task, we can expect that there will be dark times ahead for the team.
That's where The Atom comes in. While his enormous wealth and intellect will help the team, and his shrinking ability will come in handy, the reality is that Palmer is the least experienced of everyone on the team - in fact, he's still not entirely sure how his suit works. In a fight, he will be the weakest link, at least until he gains more experience and figures out how to work symbiotically with the exosuit.
But Ray Palmer's real strength is in his unbreakable spirit. He is the eternal optimist, and neither his force of will or positive outlook have bent or broken, not even when he suffered at the hands of Darhk for half a year, or when his fiancee was murdered. It may not seem like much, but every team needs a person capable of holding it together and being a light when all seems dark, and Ray Palmer is that light. We can expect him to have a perfectly-timed quip or a pep talk right when it's needed most as the one guy who can keep the team from killing each other.
So that was The Atom! Check back tomorrow when I take a look at Heat Wave and Captain Cold!