The challenge of Captain Atom

Since DC Comics grabbed a hold of the Charlton Comics characters, there’s been several attempts at making Captain Atom a character into something. He held on to his own title for a while. He was a feature character in “the funny Justice League.” He lead the Justice League Task Force. He was nearly transformed into the supervillain Monarch in “Armageddon 2001.” He crossed over into the Wildstorm Universe a while back. In the “Justice League Unlimited” cartoon, and in many recent comics, he serves the federal government’s or U.S. military’s heavy.
But the lingering question is … what should DC do with him?
By many accounts, he’s one of the DCU’s most powerful earthlings. In that group, he’s easily among the most powerful of heroes.
To the average reader, Cap is pretty easy to sum up: Ex-Air Force guy with a metal shell over his skin that makes him invulnerable, super strong, able to fly and fire energy blasts.
It’s a fairly generic power set, but then you add his “quantum powers” to the mix: He’s able to absorb energy, which can cause him to randomly time jump into the past or the future.”
That certainly makes him a little bit more interesting, but by fixing him to the modern world, it’s a power tough for writers to use very often.

If I were tackling a new Captain Atom series, it could easily hook in with current continuity, but it would be baselined in the late 1940s. In the series, the capture of the liquid-alien technology dubbed Dilustel would have happened shortly after World War II. That material was what ultimately covered Nathaniel Adam, and gave him his Captain Atom powers and looks.
Following a devastating battle in modern times, Atom is once again time-shifted, and. he ultimately arrives at Dilustel storage facility in the 1940s.
He stays in that time for many years, and grows to thoroughly enjoy it. During this era, he again works with the U.S. government and signs up to work for “The American Committee,” which fervently works to keep American ideals, morals and institutions.
Having seen Captain Atom at work, the committee expands its reach beyond the present time (and even among the multiple earths), and charges Atom with secretly protecting these ideals through ALL time and across every dimension.
From there, the 1940s Earth-1-based Committee dedicates its time, power and resources to help Captain Atom. First off, they build a “time beacon” which Captain Atom can opt to use as his end point during any time- or dimensional-jump. This lets him always come back home when and if he wants too. It also serves as his true base of operations.
With this group backing him, Captain Atom vaults through time and the multiverse facing all varieties of threats, from Vandal Savage to aliens to the villians of the alternate earths to simply “correcting” wayward supers.
This sounds a lot like the set up to the current Booster Gold series, but here’s the big difference: From the the dawn of America’s founding, The American Committee exists, often in secret as it carefully orchestrates its activities and prepares for Captain Atom’s arrival. In some eras and on some earths, the committee is powerful and influencial, often able to manipulate the military and even the entire country. In other times, the committee is fractured and cult-like. But no matter what, through each time period and subdivision of the multiverse, people believe in Captain Atom’s ability to change the world. They are just waiting for him to arrive.
To some, he is a messiah. To others he is a tool.
As he rockets through time, hitting one hot-spot after another, it’s up to Captain Atom to determine if the American Committee is operating with the country’s best intentions in mind. This struggle is Captain Atom’s internal conflcit within the series. Should he trust this person? Should he follow orders of this person? Should he join up with these ones?
Some of his jumps take minutes to clean up problems, while others can take months. Whatever the duration, committee members seek him out and offer their assistance and advice as to the current problems of the day, and in the DC Universe, you always know it’s going to be something strange, adventrous or sinister.

  • In one story arc, he might fight alongside the Justice Society in World War II.
  • In the DCU proper, he might leap in to help in the latest company crossover, only to have his “handlers” point him in a completely unexpected direction.
  • In another, he’s helping the Earth-S Captain Marvel crush Doctor Sivana.
  • Another time, he’s tasked with destroying the Red Son Superman.
  • One more jump, and he’s side-by-side with the Gotham By Gaslight Batman.

And in every time, on every Earth, the committee is there backing him up. Sometimes, it’s the whole military. Other times, it’s a network of secret agents. And other times, his only support is from those who attent a secret meeting at the Grange Hall.

Ultimately it’s all about America believing in Captain Atom, a myth and legend as vibrant as Paul Bunyon, but as real as the person sitting next to you. Why? Because unlike Paul Bunyon, or even Superman himself, Captain Atom keeps showing up.

He’s more than a legend, or some guy you see on the news or read about in a history book.
He’s a hero of the people, all the people.
His work is apparent across all of America’s history. 
And he’s known in every corner of the multiverse.


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