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Superhero Origins: Captain Atom

VO: Dan Paradis
In his original 1960s incarnation, Captain Allen Adam was a physics-minded soldier who was accidentally sent into space – and then blasted apart by a nuclear explosion. Surviving the incident, he gained atomic powers – and a nifty costume. In his later DC incarnation, he started out as Captain Nathaniel Adam. Accused of being a traitor, he cut a deal by participating in a mysterious secret government project, codenamed the Captain Atom Project, which would earn him a pardon – if he survived. Join as we explore the comic book origin of Captain Atom. Special thanks to our users Mr.T-Bone and Austin Devine for submitting the idea on our WatchMojo.comsuggest page!

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*Written by Craig Butler

Superhero Origins: Captain Atom

Getting blasted by a nuclear bomb might be a bit much for some guys – but not for a certain DC superhero. Welcome to and today we will explore the comic book origin of Captain Atom.

As with most comic book characters, there are often re-imaginations and different versions to a character's past. We have chosen primarily to follow the storyline which unfolded in Captain Atom Vol.1, #1 and was expanded upon in Captain Atom Vol. 2, #2.

Although Captain Atom was one of the multitude of heroes in the Crisis on Infinite Earths series, DC readers didn't really get to know him until the first issue of his own comic in 1987 – and he had undergone some changes since his first appearance.

That's because Captain Atom was originally one of a handful of superheroes originally published by Charlton Comics in the 1960s. Over at Charlton, Captain Atom was originally Captain Allen Adam, a physics-minded soldier who was accidentally sent into space – and then blasted apart by a nuclear explosion. Captain Adam survived the little incident and gained cool atomic powers – and a nifty costume - in the process.

When the good Captain got his own DC comic, things were changed a bit. Now our hero started out as Captain Nathaniel Adam – and when we first met him, he didn't seem all that heroic. According to an air force officer by the name of Colonel Wade Eiling, Nathaniel Adam was a traitor to his country. He cut a deal to participate in a mysterious secret government project, codenamed the Captain Atom Project, which would earn him a pardon – if he survived.

For the project, Captain Adam was enclosed in a metallic egg-like structure which was of alien origin. To determine if this structure was indestructible, a nuclear bomb was detonated under it. After which Captain Adam seemed to have been obliterated.

Jump ahead almost two decades – when all of a sudden a strange figure appeared out of thin air and attacked the air force base. Eventually the figure was revealed to be none other than Captain Adam. The nuclear explosion had someone molded the alien metal to his skin while at the same time flinging him into the future. It also gave him incredible new powers.

Dr. Megala, the mastermind of the Captain Atom Project, was thrilled at the Captain's return – but Wade Eiling – now a General – was not. Eiling had a grudge against the Captain from the start; and after his presumed death, the General married the Captain's wife. When she herself died tragically young, he then raised Captain Adam's two children as his own. Wanting to rid himself forever of Captain Adam, Eiling imprisoned him in a rocket and shot shim into space, but the Captain escaped.

Meeting up with Dr. Megala, the Captain learned that his powers come from an ability to tap into the quantum field itself and to use and convert massive amounts of energy in new and impressive ways.

Although General Eiling's plot to destroy Captain Atom failed, he still had a plan to control his enemy. As his conviction for treason was still in effect, and as the General controlled any access to the Captain's family, he blackmailed the Captain into assuming a new life as both a military agent and a superhero. And thus Captain Atom was born.

Over the years, there have been some modifications to Captain Atom's origin. The most recent occurred as part of DC's "New 52" relaunch. In this new continuity, Nathaniel Adam was again an air force pilot, but he was not forced into an experiment due to his treason conviction. Instead, he readily volunteered for an experiment of Dr. Megala's. In this retelling, the Doctor was researching dimensional theory involving the quantum field. Too focused on getting his results, Dr. Megala ignored protocol and let Captain Adam be caught in a nuclear explosion – with results similar to what we have seen in previous explanations of Captain Atom's origin.

Captain Atom crossed over into television several times on animated series such as "Justice League Unlimited" and "Young Justice." His sleek visual appearance and awesome powers make him a welcome addition to any tale, whether on the page or on screen.

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