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The Atom is Professor Raymond "Ray" Palmer; an Ivy University physics professor who discovered the ability to shrink and/or increase an object's physical mass at will.

One of the world's top scientific minds, Professor Palmer uses his shrinking ability to explore the subatomic world in the pursuit of furthering scientific discoveries in the field of physics.


Raymond Palmer grew up in Ivy Town, Connecticut, where he studied physics at Ivy University, under renowned scientists such as Alpheus P. Hyatt. During his time at the university, he began dating law student Jean Loring and the pair eventually become exclusive. After they both graduated and began working in their chosen professions (Jean as a lawyer and Palmer as a physics professor), Palmer would frequently ask Jean to marry him, but she would always decline; wanting to establish herself as a lawyer before getting married and settling down.

Specializing in the study of matter compression as a means to fight overpopulation, famine and other world problems, Palmer discovers a tiny fragment of white dwarf star material that had fallen to Earth. Theorizing that if he were to grind a lens from this fragment and focus ultraviolet light through it, he could shrink anything struck by the light down to a fraction of its original size, Palmer fashions the lens and is initially successful in his experiment, however, the compression destabilizes the object's molecular structure, causing it to explode moments after it is shrunk. Disillusioned with his failure, during a spelunking expedition some days later, Palmer, his students, and Jean, find themselves trapped in a cave. In desperation, Palmer uses the lens to shrink himself in order to climb through an opening in the rocks sealing the cave. Using a diamond engagement ring, Palmer enlarges the hole and, while trying to alert the others of the escape route, he finds himself able to return to normal size without the danger of exploding.
After subsequent experiments still resulted in objects exploding, Palmer concluded that some unknown force in his own body was what allowed him to safely size-shift. Deciding to use this effect to become a superhero, Palmer creates a belt to control his miniaturization, with an emergency backup mechanism in his gloves, and develops a costume that only becomes visible when he shrinks significantly.

Dubbing himself "The Atom", Palmer began a career of crime fighting in Ivy Town, where he often helps Jean win her cases by tracking clues and/or confronting suspects.
His adventures soon escalated, however, after becoming a trusted hero in the community and establishing a great working relationship with the local police, Palmer's heroics made him an ally of the C.I.A.; who sent him overseas to rescue a Professor from foreign spies, and Palmer soon become involved in a plot by Amos Fortune and other villains to destroy the Justice League of America; using a de-memorizor ray to pit the Atom against the League. However, with the aid of the Atom, the team of heroes defeated Fortune and elected the Atom as a new member of their group.
When preventing an alien invasion, Palmer teamed up with extraterrestrial lawman Hawkman and his partner Hawkgirl, forming a long lasting partnership between the trio. As time would go on, Ray would eventually get involved in less frequent solo adventures, often teaming up with either Hawkman or getting involved in many of the Justice League's cases.
During an adventure, Jean finally accepts Palmer's proposal for marriage in fear that he would eventually become too absorbed in his work to ask her anymore. When Jean is kidnapped by the people of Jimberen; a microscopic populace that believed she was the descendant of their ruler, Palmer and Hawkman team-up to rescue her. However, due to the radiation the people of Jimberen expose Jean to, she is driven insane from the ordeal. With technology on Thanagar making it possible to cure Jean, Palmer entrusts her to the care of Hawkgirl, who embarks to Thanagar with Jean only for both of their souls to be stolen by Norch Lor, a scientist from Thanagar who intended to save the universe by collecting the souls of all living beings. With the help of Tomar-Re of the Green Lantern Corps, Palmer and the Justice League restored Hawkgirl and Jean's souls to their bodies, however Jean still remained insane. In a second attempt to get Jean to Thanagar, Palmer and Hawkman travel together and this time encounters the Jest-Master, who leaves all those in his path completely mad. With the help of the Justice League, the duo defeat the villain and in the aftermath of the battle, Jean's exposure to Jest-Master's insanity rays seemed to restore her sanity.

Palmer and Jean's marriage would become strained over time as Jean's law practice and Palmer's devotion to both science and super-heroics took precedent over their romance and soon, Jean would begin an affair with fellow lawyer Paul Hoben, which Palmer would stumble upon one night.
Realizing their marriage was on the rocks, Palmer decided to investigate a source of White Dwarf star radiation in South America without Jean. Taking a flight with some drug runners, Palmer was forced to abandon the plane while it was flying and shrunk down to survive the landing; getting struck by lightning in the process.
Trapped at a height of six inches, Palmer is captured by a race of six inch aliens known as the Katarthans. Forced into gladiator battles, Palmer would learn the Katarthans' language and befriend a revolutionary named "Taren", who hoped to overthrow their barbaric leader, Caellich, and marry princess Laethwen. Taren, Palmer, and Laethwen would eventually escape the arena and flee into the jungles where they would reunite with Taren's rebel sect. Fatally wounded during the escape, Taren turned over leadership of the sect to Palmer. Palmer and Laethwen would soon fall in love with each other and Palmer would lead the rebels on to launch a revolution against Caellich. In the final battle, Caellich was slain, but not before he activated an old star drive (powered by the white dwarf star fragment that had led Palmer to South America to begin with) to self destruct.
Attempting to save his adopted people, Palmer dives into the star drive to try and stop the reactor from exploding, however, the white star radiation causes him to grow and return to normal size. Passing out, Palmer is found by rescuers. Waking up in the hospital, Palmer would come to realize that he no longer had any interest in returning to his old life and that he had moved on from Jean. Having learned that Jean had come to South America looking for him, he decided to finalize their divorce and embarked to find Laethwen again. Taking writer Norman Brawler along with him to chronicle the experience, the pair run afoul of drug dealers and Palmer shrinks down again to help destroy their drug operation. Finding the Katarthans again and reunited with Laethwen, Palmer leaves Norman; who returns to Ivy Town and publishes the adventure in a book called "The Atom's Farewell", which would become a best seller; although also revealing Palmer's identity as the Atom.

In time, Palmer leads Laethwen's people in rebuilding their society and he and Laethwen are wed. However, the Katarthans and their village were soon wiped out by a fire, despite Palmer's attempt to save it, and Palmer is forced to escape via a telephone line to Ivy Town. Eventually, Palmer learned that a US Government agency had engineered the destruction of the Katarthans as part of a mission known as Operation: Fireball enacted to induce Palmer's return to the United States and become a tool for the Cabal. Tracking down the agents, Palmer avenged the Katarthans by permanently reducing the agents responsible for the massacre to six inches in height before going into hiding.
The shrunken agents, now calling themselves the Micro Squad, vowed revenge on Palmer and the hero approached Amanda Waller for a solution, who convinced him to fake his own death and join the Suicide Squad. As a part of the deal, Palmer went undercover and a man named "Adam Cray" served as the Atom on the Squad to lure out the agents. However, Adam was killed by one of the agents and Ray resumed the role of the Atom; with the Cabal using the Suicide Squad to kill the remaining members of the Micro Squad to cover any evidence of their involvement.

During the "Zero Hour" event brought on by Parallax (Hal Jordan), Palmer is hit by a chrono-energy blast and regressed to a seventeen year-old state; developing the ability to grow in height in addition to his previous abilities, all of which he was now capable of controlling without the use his white dwarf star-based equipment.
Becoming the field leader of a new group of Teen Titans, Palmer viewed his affiliation with the Teen Titans as a step backward from his time as a member the Justice League.
The group primarily battled the Veil; an anti-alien organization that employed Deathstroke and Dark Nemesis. Palmer's new growth powers were instrumental in battle but he eventually regains his original age and loses his new powers. As the Teen Titans group disbands, Palmer returns to his teaching job at Ivy University, acting as a reserve member for the JLA when required.

After practicing in a small firm in Calvin City with her husband for several years, Jean eventually returns to Ivy Town and becomes a senior partner at Grabemann, Loring and Ross. However, after suffering another mental breakdown possibly due to stress, she becomes desperate to get back together with Palmer.
Noting that, in moments of crisis the members of the hero community turned to be with their loved ones, she hoped that if an incident occurred that would cause the heroes to turn to their loved ones, Palmer would return to her and the two would become close again.
Devising a plan to endanger Sue Dibny; wife of Elongated Man (Ralph Dibny), by pretending to attack her while Ralph was absent solving a custom-tailored mystery devised by Sue for his birthday, Jean bypassed the Dibnys' house security by using Palmer's technology to shrink down and enter the premises via the phone lines. However, while traveling the phone line Jean became disorientated and accidentally entered Sue's ear. While returning to normal size, Jean accidentally reforms within Sue's skull; inadvertently standing on Sue's brain and forcing her to have a minor stroke.
Escaping Sue's body in a panic, Jean uses one of the weapons she had intended to threaten Sue with; a flame thrower, to cover what she had done by incinerating Sue's body, escaping back through the phone line. As the community scrambled to find Sue's murderer, Jean furthered her plan by threatening other family members in the community, first faking an attempt on her own life before sending threatening letters to other family members such as Lois Lane.
As the community began turning to protect their loved ones from the threats, Palmer returned to Jean as she had hoped he would. However, when she hired Captain Boomerang (George Harkness) to kill Timothy Drake's father (supplying Mr Drake with a gun to defend himself), she had incorrectly assumed that the villain would fail. Inadvertently revealing her knowledge of the threats and both murders to Palmer, Jean admits her guilt to her ex-husband. Deeming her insane, Palmer sends Jean to Arkham Asylum before falling into despair, shrinking continuously until he vanished from the world.

Having now returned after a year long hiatus, Palmer continues his studies at Ivy University while lending his abilities as the Atom when required.

Combat Statistics[]

  • The Atom (Prison Break)


Associated Equipment[]


  • Ray Palmer first appeared in Showcase #34 (October 1961).
  • Once Ray starts working on a problem or puzzle, there is absolutely no stopping him. This single-minded pursuit of his goals is more than a little responsible for Ray's shattered marriage.
  • After finding himself in frequent situations where physical violence became necessary, Ray took to learning Judo as a means to defend himself; utilizing his size changing abilities to throw his opponents off balance. While living among the Katarthans, Ray also gained considerable skill in the use of the long sword.
  • As Ray shrinks his body, his excess mass is stored in a pocket dimension. Due to this, Ray can assume any size from his normal six-foot stature down to sub-microscopic (although he seems to find a height of six inches as most functional). He is also able to alter his molecular density to whatever degree he desires and assume any weight (up to his full 180 pounds) regardless of his physical size. Due to this he is able to become light enough to glide on air currents and stiff breezes if he so chooses.
  • A favorite travel method of Ray's is to call a location on the telephone and, when the phone is answered, he can shrink to subatomic size, latch onto the electrical transmissions and travel through the phone lines to emerge out the answering phone.
  • The Atom is a member of several incarnations of the Justice League of America, and the team is gracious enough to supply a special chair scaled to his default size (6 inches) which can elevate to whatever height needed so he can easily partake in team meetings without having to go out of costume.
  • The Atom once had a loyal "steed" known as "Major Mynah". Major Mynah was a Mynah bird that Palmer encountered during one of his adventures. As the bird was injured and unable to fly, Palmer brought it home with him and, with help from Hawkman, gave the bird new mechanical wings that would enhance his flying speeds.
  • Reconnecting with Professor Hyatt, Palmer would learn of Hyatt's experiments with the "Time Pool"; a device of Hyatt's creation that allows him to "fish" for items through a tiny time portal. Shrinking his size, Palmer can use the portal to travel back in time and retrieve mementos to bring back to Hyatt.


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