[[quoteright:300:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/The_Atom_7069.jpg]]
[[caption-width-right:300:Pratt (left) and Palmer (right)]]

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 [[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 is a short guy who gets a boost in confidence after being trained in boxing, so he becomes the masked hero, The Atom ([[DontExplainTheJoke because he's 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 ''"All-American Comics''" until its 72nd issue (April, 1946). He was a founding member of the JusticeSociety, appearing in most of its adventures between 1940 and to 1951. He got a second series of his own in the backpages 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 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 had shrinking powers (white dwarfs are "compressed" stars and so smaller than normal) so he used it to create a costume that gave him the power 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 humans (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 Gail Simone 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. Being one of the few superheroes of color, Choi's death sparked a major controversy. Palmer appears as a major supporting character in ''[[ComicBook/FrankensteinAgentOfSHADE Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E.]]'', without the Atom identity. Also in the {{New 52}}, Al Pratt was moved with the rest of the Golden Age [[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 is Rhonda Pineda, a Latina college student at Ivy University. She initially made a few cameos during the ''ComicBook/ThroneOfAtlantis'' arc, where Cyborg signals her and several other heroes to help the League stop an Atlantean invasion. Rhonda formally meets the League in issue 18 and is recruited along with ComicBook/{{Firestorm}} and Element Woman. Issue 20 reveals [[spoiler:that she is a mole working for Amanda Waller and Steve Trevor's Justice League of America; gaining intel on how to defeat the Justice League]]. However, issue 23 reveals [[spoiler: she was playing both the Justice League and the JLA. Her real name is Atomica and she's been working for the Secret Society all along. She's a native of Earth-3 and essentially the Atom's evil counterpart in the Crime Syndicate.]]

The Ryan Choi Atom is the one most often seen in the ''WesternAnimation/BatmanTheBraveAndTheBold'' show, though Palmer also appeared in one episode (that was in fact based on the Sword Of The Atom series.) 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 has a minor recurring role in ''[[WesternAnimation/YoungJustice Young Justice: Invasion]]'' as the mentor of Bumblebee.

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.
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!!The Atom(s) display examples of the following:
* AffirmativeActionLegacy: Choi.
* BadassBookworm: Palmer and Choi.
* 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.
* ClothesMakeTheSuperman: Palmer, Choi, and Pineda
* DatingCatwoman: Choi was in a relationship with 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. Now, however, there's 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 is 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: He is, in reality 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.
* ILoveNuclearPower: Pratt
* 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 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 (five years dead now and counting!) has a point.)
* LegacyCharacter: Choi and Cray to Palmer.
* MouseWorld: Often invoked, but only really applied in ''Sword Of The Atom'' (where Palmer was ''stuck'' at six inches tall.)
* SizeShifter
* SquareCubeLaw: Explained away by the "miraculous" effects of white-dwarf star matter.
* SquashedFlat: The focus of a SilverAge story, Fate of The Flattened Out Atom.
* 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.
* 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. Of course, they did bring him back in [[WesternAnimation/BatmanTheBraveAndTheBold one of the newer cartoons.]]
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