As the age of the superhero movie and series has taken over the airwaves, you can bet that some heroes will be getting the spotlight that haven’t had it before. Green Arrow comes to mind, whose show has also (re)introduced The Atom (not to be confused with the subject of this post, CAPTAIN Atom) to many people. And of course, everyone knows the Flash. With 2016 and Dawn of Justice just around the corner, Troll Magazine wanted a look at all the Superheroes (and villains) who, until now, haven’t received much of the spotlight just yet, despite being just as cool (or even more so) than the heroes who do. We’ll be looking at DC’s 5 most underrated and under-utilized heroes! Without any further ado,
No. 5: Captain Atom
Captain Atom is perhaps DC’s most underused superpowered hero – a guy probably able to take out the entire Justice League on his own . It took Alan Moore’s Watchmen to remind/show people what a man with his abilities is capable of.
Real Name: Nathaniel Adam
Quantam Field Manipulation
Nathaniel Adam was a captain in the USAF, court-martialled for a crime he didn’t commit. He was given a choice: a death sentence, or participation in a potentially fatal experiment — sitting at ground zero of a nuclear explosion encased in an alien metal, in the hope of testing the metal’s properties. Survival would mean freedom. Nathaniel chose the experiment. The explosion didn’t kill him; what it did do was bond the alien metal to his flesh, giving him superpowers, and throwing him twenty-odd years forward into the present day. He found himself able to access the ‘quantum field’ that underpins reality to produce a variety of effects.
Initially, he pretended to be a superhero working for the common good, but was secretly working for the government as a deep-cover agent. But in time, he became the mask he wore, genuinely becoming the hero he pretended to be. His strength and powers eventually saw him join the Justice League International team.
Perhaps one of the big reasons why we don’t see much of Captain Atom is because his power level is way above everyone who isn’t named Superman (Shazam, and Martian Manhunter), and his powers manifest in far more useful ways than the other heavy hitters that its hard to see him having much trouble except against villains who have similar story-breaking powers. Chronokinesis enables him to alter time, to either travel forward or back (though his control is rather limited). And a guy who can match punches with Superman AND TELEPORT is as broken as it sounds. He is virtually impossible to destroy, as one of his powers is to DISINTEGRATE and REFORM himself from base atoms (That’s Dragon Ball Z villain invincibility)
The fights that he gets in has rather less tension, as manipulating the Quantam Field to produce the effects he does, he is able to generate energy of virtually every kind – he is able to produce energy on the same wavelengths of a red sun… or to emit radiation of the kind produced by kryptonite, thus able to render even Superman weak. As a result of his abilities, he was temporarily made a villain, (named Monarch), to go up against the Justice League. This didn’t stick, naturally, and Captain Atom remains one of DC’s most under-utilized ultra-powered heroes, as writers don’t often know how to use some one with his broken abilities. In this way he might be seen as the alternate company equivalent to Marvel’s Silver Surfer – another guy so powerful that writers often don’t know what to do with him.
- Doctor Manhattan, from Alan Moore’s acclaimed Watchmen, is based on Captain Atom. In fact, in the early draft of Watchmen, Alan Moore was offered the chance to use existing DC characters or create originals. Alan Moore opted for a middle ground, creating original characters and basing several’s abilities on existing characters. Most of the characters tend to come off pretty cleanly, but Dr Manhattan is, in terms of appearance and ability at the very least, Captain Atom.
- Captain Atom married the terrorist, Bette Sans Souci, aka ‘Plastique’ who was a member of the Suicide Squad.
*Images courtesy of DC Comics.