Cover of DC's first Captain Atom issue.


Medium: Comic Books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1986
Creators: Cary Bates (writer) and Pat Broderick (artist)
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When DC Comics bought the superhero characters published by Charlton in the late 1960s, Captain Atom posed a problem. They had to use him, because as a creation of Steve Ditko (Spider-Man, Speedball), he was among Charlton's most popular. But he was a pre-Vietnam military officer, thoroughly steeped in the …

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… Cold War, and where in the modern DC Universe is there a place for a character like that? They worked it out by coming up with a new version.

Captain Atom #1 (March, 1987) was written by Cary Bates (who had served a long stint writing The Flash) and drawn by Pat Broderick (who had done the same for Marvel's Captain Marvel). It told the story of Captain Nathaniel Adam, USAF, wrongly convicted of treason in 1968 and offered a pardon for acting as guinea pig in a dangerous experiment. The experiment had the unforeseen result of sending him 18 years into the future, where he'd long been thought dead, and gave him tremendous energy powers. He was immediately coerced into doing clandestine work for the U.S. military while maintaining a public superhero persona. The 1960s adventures of Captain Atom were transformed into a cover story, giving him a fake past for the years of his non-existence.

The DC version of Captain Atom was just a typical 1980s or early '90s DC superhero — had a soap opera for a private life, joined the current incarnation of the Justice League for a while, held down a monthly comic for a few years (final issue dated September, 1991), then faded into the background. Entertaining enough as those things go, but not a stand-out. He's there to use as a guest star if a story requires a real powerhouse, but otherwise doesn't turn up very often.

He probably wouldn't have attracted much notice, if not for his connection with the Steve Ditko version. And except for the name and that phoney "cover story", the connection is a very tenuous one.


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Text ©2000-08 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Charlton Comics.