[[caption-width-right:300:Pratt (left) and Palmer (right)]]

'''The''' [[IncredibleShrinkingMan Shrinking Superhero]].

The Atom is a Creator/DCComics superhero character, best known for being "the tiny one in the Justice League" (because of his [[SizeShifter shrinking powers]]- he's usually 6 inches tall.) He has starred in his own series many times. (Should not be confused with ComicBook/CaptainAtom. Or Atom Smasher. Or [[UsefulNotes/NuclearGlossary an actual atom]].)

Actually, there have been three superheroes named The Atom. The first was '''Al Pratt'''. He first appeared in ''"All-American Comics''" #19 (October, 1940), created by Ben Flinton and Bill O'Conner. Pratt was a short guy who got a boost in confidence after being trained in boxing, so he became the masked hero The Atom ([[DontExplainTheJoke because he was small but powerful, get it?]]) He had no actual superpowers, but was instead a BadassNormal. (It was later [[RetCon retconned]] that exposure to radiation gave him super strength.) His series continued appearing in ''"All-American Comics''" until its 72nd issue (April, 1946). He was a founding member of the ComicBook/{{Justice Society|OfAmerica}}, appearing in most of its adventures between 1940 and to 1951. He got a second series of his own in the back pages of ''"Flash Comics''", lasting from issues #80 to #104 (February, 1947-February, 1949). The character went into hiatus in 1953, but was revived in 1963 along with other Justice Society members. He became the father of the superhero Damage and the godfather of the superhero Nuklon.

The second Atom was introduced during the UsefulNotes/TheSilverAgeOfComicBooks and had nothing in common with the first other than the name. He first appeared in ''"Showcase''" #34 (September, 1961), created by Gardner Fox and Gil Kane. '''Ray Palmer''' was a physicist who found a meteor made of "[[AppliedPhlebotinum white dwarf star matter]]" that he fashioned into a lens capable of shrinking and expanding objects although the latter process would cause said objects to explode. After getting trapped in a cave with his girlfriend Jean Loring and a group of students, Ray uses the lens to shrink himself to create an escape route knowing full well [[HeroicSacrifice he will die in the process of regaining normal size]]. Much to his shock, he does not explode, which he attributes to a unique energy inside his body (eventually this was retconned into Ray having discovered and incorporated a "compression matrix" into his costume that allowed him to change size at will, in order to explain the later several instances of people using his costume and powers with no problems). Ray incorporates the lens in a costume that allows him to shrink (all the way to subatomic size!) and also change his weight. Despite these unlikely powers he became a successful hero and joined the Justice League. Palmer is also known for having one of the worst romantic lives of any superhero: Jean Loring, his long-time girlfriend (then wife) not only cheated on him, she later [[ComicBook/IdentityCrisis went insane]] and even later became a [[ComicBook/InfiniteCrisis supervillain]]. At one point Palmer had a series of LowFantasy adventures in the Amazon Jungle involving a tribe of really tiny aliens (in the "Sword of the Atom" miniseries.)

The Palmer Atom got a regular series, named ''"Atom"'', in July, 1962. It lasted in its original format to issue #38 (August, 1968). He was then paired up with ComicBook/{{Hawkman}}, for the remaining issues of his series. ''"Atom and Hawkman"'' lasted from issue #39 to #45 (October, 1968-October, 1969). Then the series was cancelled. Palmer got a 4-issue mini-series called ''"Sword of the Atom''" (September - December, 1983). Three ''"Sword of the Atom''" special issues appeared between 1984 and 1988. Palmer then got a regular series, ''"Power of the Atom''", which lasted 18 issues, from August, 1988 to November, 1989. After that the character mostly had regular appearances in team books and crossovers.

The third Atom was '''Ryan Choi''', an Asian American scientist who inherited Palmer's costume after he disappeared following the events of ''Identity Crisis''. He first appeared in the one-shot ''"DCU: Brave New World''" (2006), created by Creator/GailSimone and Grant Morrison. He starred in his own series for 25 issues (September, 2006-September, 2008). He was then unceremoniously killed off, to the chagrin of his fans (and Gail Simone). Being one of the few superheroes of color, Choi's death sparked a major controversy.

Following ''ComicBook/{{Flashpoint}}'' and the ComicBook/{{New 52}}, Palmer appeared as a major supporting character in Jeff Lemire's ''ComicBook/FrankensteinAgentOfSHADE'', without the Atom identity. Also in the ComicBook/{{New 52}}, Al Pratt was moved with the rest of the Golden Age [[ComicBook/JusticeSocietyOfAmerica JSA]] members to the ComicBook/{{Earth 2}} series, written by James Robinson, and given Nuklon's power set.

The ''[[ComicBook/JusticeLeagueOfAmerica Justice League]]'' series of the ComicBook/{{New 52}} introduced a new character with the Atom mantle in issue 18. Her name was Rhonda Pineda, a Latina college student at Ivy University. She initially made a few cameos during the ''ComicBook/ThroneOfAtlantis'' arc, where Cyborg signalled her and several other heroes to help the League stop an Atlantean invasion. Rhonda formally met the League in issue 18 and was recruited along with ComicBook/{{Firestorm}} and Element Woman. Issue 23 revealed that her real name was Atomica and she was essentially the Atom's evil counterpart from Earth-3. She spent her time with the Justice League so she could incapacitate them just before the evil Earth-3 Justice League arrived on Earth, allowing them to take over the world unopposed. She eventually got killed by Lex Luthor at the end of ''ComicBook/ForeverEvil''.

''[[ComicBook/DCRebirth DC Universe: Rebirth]]'' #1 introduced Ryan Choi to the post-''ComicBook/{{Flashpoint}}'' continuity, now several years younger, as an assistant to Palmer at Ivy University. Palmer by this point had taken up the Atom identity and costume, and Choi inherited a copy of the costume after he went missing, similarly to his original version. He subsequently got a one-shot written by Steve Orlando, ''Justice League of America: The Atom - Rebirth'', explaining how he had become Palmer's assistant and helped him in his adventures as the Atom before he took up the mantle himself, as a prelude to joining the Orlando-written ComicBook/{{Justice League of America| Rebirth}}.

The Ryan Choi Atom was the most often seen in the ''WesternAnimation/BatmanTheBraveAndTheBold'' show, though Palmer also appeared in one episode (that was based on ''Sword Of The Atom''). Ray Palmer was the one in ''[[WesternAnimation/JusticeLeague Justice League Unlimited]],'' and referenced in Justice League (regular). Prior to that, a future version of the Atom known as Micron appeared in ''WesternAnimation/BatmanBeyond'' as a member of the future Justice League. Additionally, a series of shorts dubbed ''Sword of the Atom'' were aired on the WesternAnimation/DCNation block on Creator/CartoonNetwork. Ray Palmer also had a minor recurring role in ''[[WesternAnimation/YoungJustice Young Justice: Invasion]]'' as the mentor of Bumblebee. The first appearance for the Atom in other media was in the late 60's ''Superman/Aquaman Hour'' Creator/{{Filmation}} series (other DC heroes also took part in rotating segments). Palmer appears in live-action, played by Creator/BrandonRouth in the CW series ''Series/{{Arrow}}'', though his role was originally intended to be filled by the Blue Beetle, and bears rather more similarities to him than the comics' Atom. However, Palmer's shrinking abilities feature in the spinoff, ''Series/LegendsOfTomorrow''.

For completeness, we should mention Adam Cray, a senator's son who temporarily used Ray Palmer's belt and Atom codename in the ''ComicBook/SuicideSquad'' series. He too was killed off.
!!The Atom(s) display examples of the following:
* AffirmativeActionLegacy: Choi.
* BackFromTheDead: Ryan Choi in ''[[Comicbook/{{Convergence}} Convergence]]: The Atom'', when it turns out the voice in Ray Palmer's head ''is actually Ryan''. After a fight with Barracuda, [[ItMakesSenseInContext Ryan makes himself a new body from Ray's severed hand]], before the two Atoms face down Deathstroke, who's come back to finish the job. In the end [[spoiler: Ryan steals mass from his hands rather than kill him in revenge, leaving him with ''teeny little baby hands!'']]
* BadassBookworm: Palmer and Choi.
* BreakoutVillain: Chronos the Time Thief, who quickly became UsefulNotes/{{the Silver Age|of Comic Books}} version's ArchNemesis, returns as a major villain in every subsequent ''Atom'' series, and is popular enough that he keeps appearing in various other heroes' comics whenever the Atom doesn't have one.
* ChickMagnet: Ryan Choi is so weirded out by the female attention he receives upon arriving at Ivy Town that he thinks it's part of the town's paranormal activity.
* CityOfWeirdos: Ivytown is a bit like this in Choi's series. Basically, the locals - even the scientists at the university - have learnt to accept the laws of the universe are just ''broken'' here.
** In this case "a bit like this" means that there's a neighborhood in which the people have reverted to 18th-century puritanism, and worship the local cancer-god who lives in the sewers by watching cheesy [[BMovie B-movies]] movies at the drive-in theater.
** The floating heads that only talk in the future tense and plan to TakeOverTheWorld might be worth mentioning, too.
* ClothesMakeTheSuperman: Palmer, Choi, and Pineda
* DatingCatwoman: Choi was in a relationship with Franchise/WonderWoman villainess Giganta.
* {{Determinator}}: Ray Palmer works on problems with single-minded pursuit.
* DownerBeginning: The first issue of the ''Power of the Atom'' series began with the Morlaidhan tribe Ray was living with throughout the ''Sword of the Atom'' storyline killed by government agents posing as loggers. Ray escaped, but ended up trapped at three feet tall for a time.
* EvilCounterpart: Ryan Choi's archenemy was Dwarfstar. Then came Atomica, a.k.a. [[spoiler: Rhonda Pineda, who for over a year was billed as the new Atom in the Justice League, before she revealed herself as TheMole in both the Justice League and the Justice League of America. Rhonda was actually a native of Earth-3 and a member of the Crime Syndicate, essentially making her the evil alternate universe counterpart to the Atom.]]
* HeartIsAnAwesomePower: Shrinking and changing your weight.
* HeightAngst: Al Pratt. He was only five feet and one inch tall, constantly being taunted for his size. Even after a boxing coach helps him become stronger, Pratt continues to get teased at his college over his size.
** A variation occurred with the Ray Palmer version during UsefulNotes/{{the Bronze Age|OfComicBooks}}, where the fact that his power to shrink caused him to be ignored at times by his normal-sized teammates gave him an inferiority complex for a while.
* HeterosexualLifePartners: Ray Palmer and Hawkman (both Katar Hol and the retconned version of Carter Hall) are often portrayed this way. They even shared Ray's comic for a while in the late 1960s.
* ILoveNuclearPower: Pratt
* InNameOnly: Atom's reimagining in the Silver Age. He went from a short and BadassNormal boxer to a physicist who could shrink by using the power of white dwarf star.
* IncredibleShrinkingMan: No kidding.
* KilledOffForReal: Played with in ''The All-New Atom'' where, searching for Ray Palmer, the heroes find themselves in what appears to be heaven and are greeted by the spirit of former ComicBook/BlueBeetle Ted Kord. Ted lampshades the uneven reversibility of comics death, lamenting that he and Batman's parents are the "only people with a permanent parking spot" in the afterlife. (It turns out not really to be heaven, in fact, and not really to be Ted, but the dude has a point; it took the CosmicRetcon of ''Flashpoint'' to bring him back in the end.)
* LegacyCharacter: Choi and Cray to Palmer.
** Also, the Atom's ArchNemesis Chronos has two legacies in the AntiHero Gabriel Walker and the simply evil [[DistaffCounterpart Lady Chronos]].
* MissingMom: Pre-''ComicBook/{{Flashpoint}}'', Ryan's mother died shortly before he became the Atom; post-''Flashpoint'', she's still alive.
* MissionControl: Ryan's role for Ray in the ''Rebirth'' one-shot before taking up the mantle himself.
* MouseWorld: Often invoked, but only really applied in ''Sword Of The Atom'' (where Palmer was ''stuck'' at six inches tall.)
* MythologyGag: From the ''Rebirth'' one-shot:
** The comic opens with Ryan [[ImagineSpot fantasising]] about having adventures in a CivvieSpandex version of Ray's ''Sword of the Atom''-era costume, complete with sword.
** Ivy University has a Gardner Hall, possibly a reference to Ray's co-creator Gardner Fox.
** Ryan's roommate is Adam Cray, the short-lived ''Suicide Squad'' Atom, and the two of them become friends.
* NaturalizedName: ''Rebirth'' has 'Lun' as Choi's original name and 'Ryan' as his naturalized one.
* NerdGlasses: ''Rebirth''-era Ryan wears chunky black plastic glasses to help with his nearsightedness.
* RetCanon: Ryan's ''Rebirth'' Atom suit being PoweredArmor is imported from ''Legends of Tomorrow'', where Ray's ATOM suit is PoweredArmor.
* SecretKeeper: In ''Rebirth'' continuity, Ryan was the first person Ray told about being the Atom.
* SizeShifter
* SquareCubeLaw: Explained away by the "miraculous" effects of white-dwarf star matter.
* SquashedFlat: The focus of a [[UsefulNotes/TheSilverAgeOfComicBooks Silver Age]] story, Fate of The Flattened Out Atom.
* StarterVillain: Al Pratt's was an unnamed crime boss who held his girlfriend as ransom against her rich father. He's clobbered and arrested at the end of his first appearance.
* TelephoneTeleport: The Atom could shrink himself down to a size where he could travel along phone lines, propelled by soundwaves. He would leave a metronome ticking at his end of the phone to provide propulsion. However, he found out the hard way that phoning using satellite hookups results in a very rough ride for him.
** By ''Rebirth'', Choi had started surfing on [=WiFi=] signals.
* TinyGuyHugeGirl: Choi had a relationship with [[AttackOfTheFiftyFootWhatever Giganta]].
* TokenMinority: Choi was seen as this at first by some. The fact that they killed him off as soon as his series failed doesn't help. That said, they did bring him back subsequently, in cartoons and comics.
* UnrequitedLove: Ray's assistant Enrichetta Negrini has a crush on Ray during the ''Power of the Atom'' series.