Alter Ego: Raymond (Ray) Palmer
Occupation: Physics Professor
Marital Status: Divorced
Known Relatives: David (father, deceased), Susan (mother, deceased), Jean Loring-Hoben (ex-wife)
Group Affiliation: Justice League of America
Base of Operations: Ivy Town, Connecticut, Formerly the City of New Morlaidh, Amazon Jungle
Height: 6' (normal) Weight: 180 lbs. (normal)
Eyes: Brown Hair: Auburn
First Appearance: SHOWCASE #34 (Sept. 1961)
Birth, Youth, and Education
Ray Palmer was born and raised in Ivy Town in central Connecticut. His father died in the hospital of a rather painful cancer while Ray was still
young, and Ted Ralston, a close friend of the family, became Ray's Godfather. Ray always enjoyed science and was strongly encouraged by Ted to follow his
dreams. Ray went on to attend the local university, Ivy University, graduating with a doctorate degree. He enjoyed the college atmosphere
so much that when he was offered a job as a professor, he decided to stay and teach. Ray was always fascinated by physics, especially in sub-nuclear
physics, and became an expert in this field. His focus was primarily on unlocking the secrets of the atom. He also specialized in temporal physics as well as
One day, while still a graduate student at the University, Ray observed a meteorite that crashed into a field nearby. As he drove out to examine
it, he hoped that the meteor could hold some scientific import. Finding the crash site, he loaded the heavy rock onto his truck and took it back to the
lab for a closer look. He was able to determine that it was a fragment of a white dwarf star and contained properties that were quite rare in nature. An
accident in the lab reflected ultraviolet light off a polished facet of the fragment and the reflected ray began to shrink the object it had come
into contact with. With the ultra-dense structure of the white dwarf material he began to hypothesize that he could alter the size and mass of an object
using a focus made of this material. He worked long and hard to devise a method of
accomplishing this task, and he was quite successful in a way. He managed to create a lens that did the trick. The only problem was... anything he
shrank down had a tendency to explode. Like any good scientist, he continued to work on the problem and hoped one day to achieve success.
Birth of a Hero
To try to relax a bit and take his mind off his research and graduate studies, he, his girlfriend Jean Loring, and a group of students took off for their first annual expedition into some nearby caverns. During the trip, they became trapped in an accidental cave-in. With their only avenue of escape a small one inch hole in the roof of the cave, Ray felt they had little hope of escape. Somewhat in desperation, he left the others and pulled out the reducing lens that he had taken to carrying with him to prevent others from stealing his research. Hoping that he would have enough time to get help before his body exploded, he exposed himself to the ray from the lens. He shrank to a small enough size to make it up to the opening. Using the engagement ring that he was going to present to Jean, he was able to enlarge the hole enough for the students to escape from the caverns. Collapsing back into the beam from the lens, he miraculously was restored to normal height Because he had survived the experience, he began to realize that he had discovered something utterly unique in this lens. Developing a complete costume with these properties to alter both his size and weight, he adopted the name of the Atom and began his career as a costumed crime-fighter.
The Atom's first costume was completely controlled by a size and weight adjustment dial located on his belt buckle. He would twist it one way or the other and be instantaneously changed in size or weight. At first, he was only able to shift his size from full height to six inches and back. His weight control was similar, in that he could shift from his full 180 lbs to nearly weightless and then back. Future improvements placed the size-weight controls in the palms and allowed him to fluctuate his size and weight in the entire range, even down to the sub-atomic size. Some of the final improvements in the suit design allowed him to cybernetically control his changes.
The Early Years
Ray used the Atom as a way to aid his girlfriend Jean Loring who was an aspiring young lawyer. Jean took on some of the more difficult cases the firm would face, and the Atom would show up like clockwork, ready to save the day. Ray had recently become a hero just prior to the formation of the JLA, and decided to hold himself back from meeting that group, feeling that he wanted more experience before involving himself with other heroes.
Some of the Atom's early foes included Jason Woodrue the Plant-Master, Chronos master of time, and Dr. Light, as well as many henchmen, thugs, crimelords and other criminals of the more mundane type. The Atom even had a few recurring foes like the Bug-Eyed Bandit and the Bat Knights. Ray would often use his changing size and weight, focusing on the element of surprise to take down his enemies. He would also use his head in battle, trying to outthink the villain rather than outfight him. Ray's other cases bordered around strange scientific phenomena, as well as his continuing investigations into white dwarf matter.
It was not long after the formation of the JLA (within a year or so) that the Atom was asked to join. He was the second new recruit, following in the footsteps of Green Arrow who had also recently joined. He enthusiastically accepted, but held some deep misgivings that his powers would not be useful under every situation. In fact, Ray considered himself one of the weaker members of the JLA and suffered through self-doubt in situations where he found himself unable to help his teammates.
The Pursuit of Happiness
Ray was constantly looking to marry his girlfriend Jean Loring, and took any and all opportunities he had to get her to say 'yes'. Jean was adamant that she wanted to establish herself as a top lawyer and would not commit until that time. This was one of Ray's greatest motivations to keep becoming the Atom. Finally, he wore her down and she said yes, but their engagement was to last many, many years before they were finally married. In fact, it took a nervous breakdown from Jean to make her realize just how much she really wanted to be married to Ray. Near the end of their engagement, Ray struggled with his own feelings as to whether or not he should reveal his secret identity to her, and shortly before they were to be married, he decided that he must. Although she was shocked to find out that her husband-to-be was a superhero, she decided to stick it out. In a beautiful ceremony attended by many of the members of the JLA in their civilian guises, the two, Ray Palmer and now Jean Loring-Palmer, were married.
Rebirth? and The Atom's Farewell
Jean continued her successful practice as a lawyer, and Ray continued to help her out. However, it was his almost frequent disappearances in both his career as a scientist and his duties as a member of the JLA that made her angry with his activities, and the thought of his career as a superhero continued to weigh heavily on her mind. Ray was driven by his scientific mind, and often could think of nothing else. Jean eventually succumbed to the charms of another lawyer (Paul Hoben) who was recently hired to work at the same firm as Jean. Ray caught them in each other's arms and after a tense discussion, he decided that a trial seperation would be best. He took on a trip to the Amazon to investigate a white dwarf star fragment and found more than he had bargained. The pilot and co-pilot of the small plane that he had chartered turned out to be drug smugglers. A fight ensued and Ray was thrown from the plane just as lightning struck it. His size-weight controls became fused from the lightning strike and he was stuck at six-inch height and normal six-inch weight. He discovered a race of yellow skinned aliens called the Katarthans who lived in the jungle there. It was their star-drive that was powered by a white dwarf star fragment that had drawn him in the first place. The Katarthans were barbaric, using no technology, and had adopted an almost feudal society. More facts later turned up that revealed their race were actually survivors of an alien penal colony and that they had reverted to their current level of knowledge and technology over many generations. Ray, now calling himself simply Atom, stayed long enough to fall in love with their princess Laethwen, who also felt the same way about him. An evil advisor, Deraegis, killed the King and activated the dangerous star-drive that had lay unused for years. Atom forced the aliens to evacuate their city while he did his best to stop the star-drive. The leaking radiation from the star-drive forced him to normal height, although the star-drive and city were completely destroyed and Atom was rendered unconscious. Ray awoke in a hospital and sadly returned home, not knowing if his princess had managed to escape the explosion.
Jean and Ray continued to drift apart, their marriage simply a matter of convenience or perhaps familiarity more than anything else. Ray finally sat down with Jean and they were able to talk heart to heart about their feelings. Discovering that both of them cared deeply about someone else, they both agreed on a divorce. Shortly after this, Jean married Paul Hoben with Ray's blessing. Ray decided that he needed to put a closing on this chapter of his life, and began collaborating with Jean and an author named Norman Brawler. They called his autobiography "The Atom's Farewell". This novel revealed his secret identity to the world and followed his career as a superhero and scientist.
Ray's body had begun to exhibit signs that proved he was developing an intolerance for the size shifts ever since his absorption of the white dwarf matter radiation from the destruction of the star-drive in Morlaidh. The shifts in size were excruciatingly painful and he felt his superheroic days had come to an end. Deciding to return to the Katarthans, Norman and Ray left for South America. While searching for the Katarthans, they ran into the drug smugglers once again and were captured. Ray managed to shrink one last time, passing out from the effort. Regaining consciousness, he freed them with a little surprise help from the Katarthans, who had survived the destruction of Morlaidh. He told Norman to write a happy ending to his book and wandered off into the jungle with his princess. Atom spent a little over a year in the jungle with the aliens, eventually discovering the white dwarf star fragment that had powered the star-drive. He theorized that these aliens had once been full height but that this fragment had caused their reduction in stature. Atom struggled with the idea of restoring them to full height, but was concerned about their barbaric nature in today's world. He only left the confines of the jungle during one incident, in the Crisis on Infinite Earths. At that time, he had to utilize a shrinking ray to change size in order to effect repairs on the Red Tornado's damaged body.
Some time later, an old friend (Don Brice, CIA Agent) found him, warning him of a group that intended to firebomb the entire jungle. Brice died bringing him this information. The Atom, now virtually powerless since his costume had become damaged in one of his earlier fights in the jungle, sprang into action and did his best to stop them. He was unsuccessful, and all the Katarthans died in the fire. Angry beyond reason, he took the fragment of white dwarf matter (the only thing to survive the fire) and attacked those responsible. He found his powers working once again, albeit not very well and still not without some physical pain to himself. He was nearly captured by the smugglers and local authorities, but was able to find a phone and dialed up Norman Brawler in Ivy Town. He barely managed to escape through the phone lines.
Ray travelled through the telephone lines, somehow becoming changed as he was 'translated' through a sattelite relay. He actually shattered the phone on the other end as he emerged in Ivy Town. For a short time he was stuck at a three foot height, but his ability to alter his density had greatly increased. His hand could become hard enough to shatter a brick fireplace without any damage to himself. He eventually was able to change himself back to normal height and powers with the assistance of Norman Brawler and Alvin Jeffries, Brawler's physician and later with the help of Dr. Enrica Negrini of Ivy University. He also managed to retain this ability to call up this additional mass and developed encephalo-cybernetic circuitry to control his powers. His first case upon his return involved a hostage crisis, where five Quaraci terrorists had seized a hostage and barricaded themselves in the university library. Using his somewhat rusty college Arabic, he convinced them he was a Djinn, and kept them off-balance long enough to save the day. He had planned to return to relative obscurity, but it seemed that after this 'public' incident the press would not leave him alone. With his identity no longer a secret, not even his friends were safe from the hounding of the press.
He went to visit his old friend Professor Hyatt and ended up fighting off a villian named Strobe. About this time, the CIA began to court him, hoping to use his skills as some sort of super-spy for the government. Ray was determined to be his own man, but was willing to aid them if he felt the cause was just. He even got to meet up with all his old friends, including Ted Ralston, his 'godfather'. He encountered several new villians, as well as both allying with and fighting off Chronos during the alien INVASION.
During the INVASION he left with a large group of Earth's heroes to halt the space armada. Eventually they returned from the far reaches of space.
In the end it was the CIA who turned out to be his greatest enemy. Discovering secret documents planning the destruction of the rain forest as a means to lure the Atom into their employ, he devised an appropriate method of punishment for those responsible. Inventing a shrinking ray, he fought and shrank each individual one by one (Mr. Bailey, Ms. Hubbard, Ginsburg, Blacksnake, and Sting) until he had reduced them all to six inches tall. He then turned the tiny people over to his friends and destroyed the ray, effectively trapping them at that height. He then told the director of the CIA what had happened and was thanked for his actions. The plan had been to recruit Ray as a miniature spy and with his actions he had just given him a whole 'micro-squad' of spies. Ray chose to shrink out of sight and left many wondering if he would ever be seen again.
A second "Death" of sorts
Ray continued to be pursued by the tiny group, now calling themselves the Micro/Squad. After Ginsburg was killed during an attempt on Ray's life, Ray decided to fake his own death and go undercover to root out all those responsible. The only one aware of this ruse was Miss Waller of the Suicide Squad. Adam Cray was given information on where to steal the original size-weight control belt from Paul Hoben, Jean Loring's second husband, and became the third Atom (fourth if you count Paul Hoben who very 'briefly' used the size-weight control belt given to him by Ray). Adam became a member of the Suicide Squad and did not confirm or deny that he might be Ray Palmer. He worked with the Suicide Squad on several missions, even saving Waller's life, but soon was discovered by the Micro/Squad. Ray chose to adopt a new identity as Professor Don Shuffler at an obscure university and gave up his life as both Ray Palmer and the Atom for anonymity. After the Micro/Squad began to pursue Atom III (Cray), Ray Palmer went into deep cover, trying to uncover the source of the Cabal behind the Micro/Squad. Adam thought he could help by pretending to turn traitor and joining with the Micro/Squad, but was betrayed as Blacksnake of the Micro/Squad stabbed him in the back with a nail and killed him. Taking the size-weight belt, Blacksnake was able to restore himself to full height and then squeezed the life out of both Mr. Bailey and Ms. Hubbard, two other members of the Micro/Squad. Ray, in disguise as Sting, another member of the Micro/Squad, returned to find the three dead people and a full size Blacksnake towering over them. Discarding his disguise, the Atom angrily attacked and defeated Blacksnake, reducing him to subatomic size and taking back his belt. He later retrieved Blacksnake for trial. As the Atom was delivering Blacksnake, Task Force X II (not Waller's squad, but the Cabal's group) attacked the police station. Metamorpheus killed Blacksnake before he could reveal the Cabal's secrets.
The Return of the Hero?
Some time later, Ray turned up at JLA HQ, covertly testing their security and wondering if he could fit into the new group. After checking out the existing team, he decided that it just wouldn't work out, and left for parts unknown. He returned briefly again as Dr. Destiny perverted Ray's dreams as a plot to destroy the JLA. Destiny was defeated by the actions of a comatose Blue Beetle and an almost mortally wounded Atom, and after healing a bit, Ray left the team once again. He returned briefly in an attempt to aid the Martian Manhunter in freeing himself from the Bloodgem. His powers proved to be no match for the true face behind the Manhunter's imprisonment, and he was captured. Fortunately, the Ray was also able to shrink down and free them all from the Bloodgem, including the villain. After a tremendous battle, the combined powers of the JLA were able to force the villain back into the gem, trapping him there forever. The Atom then left the team once again.
The Atom didn't show up again until Zero Hour, when time was being remade by his once friend Hal Jordan, now calling himself Parallax. Ray tried to stop Hal from this, but was stopped by the chronal villian Extant. Shrinking down to near microscopic size and leaping into Extant's head to disrupt his balance, he discovered that Extant was comprised of chronal energies. His body full of the chronal energies, the Atom was unable to stop Extant from de-aging him, from mid-thirties, to twenties, and was finally stopped as he reached his teens, by Waverider. Losing almost all of his memories and most of his knowledge-based skills, the young Atom continued to aid the heroes and they were successful in restoring time as it should be.
The Teen-age Mighty Mite
The Atom wandered a bit, hitching a ride with Superwoman to take control of Metron's Moebius chair in a futile attempt to correct his condition. He was told by several leading members of the JLA that he should remain to be studied and that maybe a cure could be devised, but that he should take a leave of absence from active duty until his condition could be resolved. He was offended by such a suggestion and left angry with them all. After visiting his parent's graves (he didn't even remember that they had died) and dealing with a Dr. Shrivel who managed to destroy all his journals and papers he had written about the Atom's powers, he realized that he needed to come to grips with losing nearly half his life. He stayed in Ivy Town and tried to find a place to fit in at now unfamiliar Ivy U.
Meeting a teenager whose hands had suddenly burst into flames (Joto) at Ivy U, Ray did his best to aid him in understanding his powers. This conversation was short lived, as they were both teleported aboard a Psion spacecraft and flown off to the moon of Titan for study, along with two others (Risk and Argent). Due to the Atom's small size, he was unnoticed and was able to free the others. After escaping, being recaptured, and eventually freeing Prysm, who had been held on Titan as a prisoner for many years, the Atom and friends returned to Earth and reformed the Teen Titans. By virtue of his previous experience, he reluctantly agreed to become the field leader of the new Teen Titans.
The Tiny Titan as a Teen Titan
The Atom continued as field leader of the Teen Titans. The group was supported financially by Loren Jupiter who had backed previous incarnations of the Titans. A mysterious figure, Omen, accompanied the group on their missions. They fought against several foes including an anti-alien society named the Veil led by the mysterious Pylon and the Veil-hired superpowered team Dark Nemesis.
Jean Loring came back into his life once again, returning now when he least expected it. Time had allowed him to remember bits and pieces of his past and with Jean came back a range of emotions that he simply did not have the capacity to understand. She seemed to be even more interested in him since his de-aging, although Ray wasn't certain how to handle this unusual situation.
It was just prior to the fight with Dark Nemesis that the Atom actually quit the Titans due to an argument with teammates and Loren Jupiter. Only by hearing the news of the Titan's defeat at the hands of Dark Nemesis was he able to shake off his attitude and rejoin the team, helping them to take down their foes. Prysm appeared to be a casualty of the fight as she rapidly flew away from the scene and seemed to explode. The Atom led the team to the Arctic and eventually into Skartaris, home of Travis Morgan the Warlord, to find her body.
Finding Prysm alive and well in Skartaris, the team spent some time there fighting off a sorceress (Motalla) who had stolen Prysm's powers and made her fully human. Eventually they were able to return Prysm to her usual energy-based self and themselves to home. But while they were gone, Loren Jupiter and Omen were kidnapped by a villain known as Haze.
The original Titans assembled to find Jupiter and Omen, and after a brief misunderstanding where the old and new Titans clashed, they teamed up together to battle Haze and his powers over illusion. It was also around this time that the Atom had discovered that his powers had been affected by the Genesis wave, and he could now grow beyond his normal six feet tall. Pairing off, old Titan with new, they managed to free Omen, and discovered that her true identity was that of Lilith, one of the first Titans and Jupiter's daughter. They also discovered that Haze was her brother and Jupiter's son. During the fight, Loren Jupiter was trapped in an inferno and Joto sacrificed himself to save the old man. The Titans had a bittersweet defeat of Haze as they returned home with Joto's body.
As the Titans buried Joto, Jupiter decided to disband them, leaving each of them to go their seperate ways. The Atom returned to Ivy U, hoping to discover a way to use Professor Hyatt's time pool to reverse the effects of his de-aging. Impulse followed and the pair managed to misuse the time pool to de-age the both of them to toddlers. Waverider intervened, taking them to Vanishing Point to determine the cause of the situation. He discovered that the chronal energies in the Atom's body had interacted with the time pool, causing him to revert backwards in age. Impulse had simply been caught up in the effect. Altering time ever so slightly, Waverider allowed Max Mercury to discover the pair just before the accident and prevent it from happening. At the same time, much of the chronal energies were discharged from the Atom.
Argent then headed off to Ivy U to ask Ray to reform the Titans once again. They held a membership drive and at the same time were attacked by members of the Veil. The larger group of new and prospective Titans easily handled the Veil, though their numbers were impossible to control and their teamwork was almost nonexistant. Most of the group declined membership after this, but Captain Marvel, Jr. and Fringe became members. Arsenal also joined and assumed unofficial leadership of the group.
The Atom then went off to the Slab, a maximum security facility for metahumans. His goal was to free Risk as he was being held for breaking into a top secret government installation. With the help of Jean Loring, he managed to convince them to release Risk, but not before Dark Nemesis, who were also being held at the Slab, managed to break free as well. The Atom and Risk fought to hold Dark Nemesis in jail, but they managed to escape anyway.
The team then held a birthday party for now seventeen year old Ray Palmer. Embarassed by the display, he stormed off, angry over the incident. Roy Harper (Arsenal) caught up to him and they discussed the dilemma of Ray's desire for an adult life but feeling trapped in a boy's body and mind. Roy cames upon an idea and managed to secretly gather Ray's old JLA friends in the Watchtower. Blindfolding him, he was led to a room and surprised by Flash, Superwoman, Martian Manhunter, Elongated Man, Zatanna, Black Canary, and Aquaman.
The Titans then were called out to Egypt, to assist against the coming of the Millenium Giants. The Atom pushed his new growing powers to their limits, growing to nearly twice the height of the Great Pyramids of Egypt (over 900'). But force did them no good against the Giant they faced, and they ended up resorting to rescuing people from the tremendous footsteps of the Giant. After the defeat of the Millenium Giants by Superwoman, the Atom and Arsenal talked a bit and performed out some strength tests on Fringe. A problem during testing caused Fringe to go berserk and Roy's daughter became endangered. Ray ended up in charge as a result as Roy left the team, hoping to keep his little girl safe from any harm from being associated with the Titans.
The Titans then came under the onslaught of the Psions and the H'San N'Tal, whose genetic experiments had caused the mutation in Risk, Argent, Prysm, Fringe, Joto, Scorcher (of Dark Nemesis), as well as several others. The H'San N'Tal destroyed the anti-alien hate group known as The Veil, with their leader revealing that he was himself an alien and a member of the H'San N'Tal race. The H'San N'Tal captured all members of their experimentation above (except Scorcher, who had been killed for her hesitation to take a life in a previous fight) and took the other members of the Titans along as well. Although the Titans fought for their freedom, alone they were not strong enough to defeat the H'San N'Tal. To make matters worse, Prysm and Fringe sided with the aliens, since one of them resembled her energy form so closely that she knew it was her parent.
During this time, Ray began to experience problems with aging. After taking a life threatening wound from the Veil's operatives and being flown by Superman to a nearby hospital, he shifted from old to young and back again. Waverider arrived and determined that his condition was a result of all the chronal energies that had been used to age and de-age him since his original de-aging. In the end, he decided to use a 'chronal pattern' from just prior to the original de-aging by Extant, and restored Ray to his thirty-something self. This process also removed the growth powers that Ray had gained as a result of the Genesis wave. As Ray had finally recovered from his aging problems, some of the Titans returned, leaving Ray in charge of a team that was better off disbanded for now. He left, now back to normal and turning the page on the Titans part of his life.
Return to Normal?
Ray Palmer, now back to his usual self, returned at last to his position at Ivy U. Taking a position as the head of the Physics department, he settled in to a rather dull but satisfying life of teaching and research. But Ray was not to leave the superhero scene. During the DC One Million storyline, he came active long enough to offer aid against Solaris. Although his aid in defeating the technology virus came too late, he was able to restore some services to Oracle in the process. Afterwards, he and the other Titans were systematically attacked and captured by Cyberion, who had returned to Earth after his long journey through space. With the help of the Justice League, every hero who had ever been a Titan was rescued and their combined efforts were able to save Vic - who returned to reality and became Cyborg again.