The Odinson is on vacation this week, so here is One from the Vault.
Greetings from the Odinson,
The birth of the Atom Bomb marked the beginning of the Atomic Age. This sparked a renaissance of creativity for comics, movies, and television, especially in the genre of science fiction. In the early days of the Atomic Age, the long term effects of radiation were virtually unknown. This sparked a plethora of creations, from the monstrous – Godzilla – to the implausible – Planet of the Apes. One of the all time best sci/fi movies is Them. This movie from 1954 sees regular ants enlarged to monstrous size after the earliest Atomic Bomb tests in New Mexico. These new irradiated ants go on to plague mankind and threaten life as we know it. This is a truly monstrous tale born out of the fears of the Atomic Age.
In the 1960s the origins of Marvel Comics owe a great deal to the imagination spawned by the Atomic Age. The Incredible Hulk was created by a Gamma Bomb, a thinly veiled counterpart to the Atomic Bomb. Peter Parker was bitten by a “radioactive” spider, giving him the powers to become Spider-Man. A young Matt Murdock lost his eyesight when “radioactive” chemicals splashed his eyes. The chemicals took away his vision but heightened his other senses a hundred-fold, and he used his new gifts to become the crime fighter Daredevil. The X-Men were all born mutants. Mutants were thought to be byproducts of living in an Atomic Age.
Atomic power is the strongest weapon mankind has in its arsenal. Whether it’s attempting to repel invading aliens in Independence Day or stopping an oncoming Doomsday Class asteroid in Armageddon, nuclear missiles seem to be mankind’s last line of defense. So it should come as no surprise that Atomic Heroes are among the most powerful heroes around.
Top 5 Atomic Heroes
5 – Doctor Solar – Due to a nuclear accident Dr. Raymond Solar was inexplicably endowed with super human powers and became The Man of the Atom. Able to absorb, generate, and control all kinds of energy, Doctor Solar is one of the most powerful heroes around. He can fly at tremendous speeds and even teleport. Solar is so powerful in fact that he actually recreated planet Earth after its seeming destruction and spawned the Valiant Age of Heroes.
4 – The Sentry – Empowered by a mysterious drug, Robert Reynolds is said to have the power of a million exploding suns. Now I don’t know what that means exactly, but it’s a good bet that he’s pretty strong. His super human abilities seem without limit. He has super strength, speed, nigh invulnerability, sight, the ability to fly, and apparently the ability to recreate himself after his body has been completely destroyed (see Dark Avengers). So strong, in fact, is the Sentry that his battle with the Hulk nearly tore the planet apart. His biggest downside though is he’s a loony tune. Within the Sentry lives an alternate ego, a malevolent creature of pure evil known as the Void. Every time Robert takes on this persona the world itself is in danger. During the Siege on Asgard the Sentry was able to murder Ares, the God of War, and it took the combined efforts of the entire roster of the Avengers to stop him once the Void emerged. This tragic guy started out as a hero, but due to his unstable mental faculties, he may be the biggest threat the Marvel Universe has ever known.
3 – Dr. Manhattan – During an Atomic experiment physicist Dr. Jon Osterman was disintegrated. Miraculously, through sheer force of will, he was able to reconstruct himself as a blue-skinned nearly godlike being. Now known as the super hero Dr. Manhattan, a name given to him by the government and a reference to the Project that created the Atomic Bomb that was supposed to strike fear in the hearts of America’s enemies overseas, Osterman fought alongside his fellow Watchmen to make a quickly degenerating world a better place. His powers seem without limit. He can teleport, fly, walk through walls, create duplicates of himself, rearrange matter, and see atoms. Dr. Manhattan exists on a level of consciousness normal human beings cannot begin to understand. He sees the past, present, and future as if they are happening simultaneously. He is able to exist without food or water and in multiple places at once. He can travel unprotected through the void of outer space. Dr, Manhattan is easily one of the most powerful heroes to ever walk the earth.
2 – Firestorm – Ronnie Raymond, the quintessential everyman, and Professor Martin Stein, a brilliant Nobel Prize-winning nuclear physicist, are polar opposites and have next to nothing in common. So naturally, fate saw fit to use a nuclear accident to merge them into one body and create the hero Firestorm. Referred to as the Nuclear Man, Firestorm is arguably one of the most powerful heroes in the DCU. Firestorm has the ability to manipulate matter. He’s strong, can fly, walk through walls, and transmute objects into something else. He can even create substances out of thin air. Firestorm has stood his ground against powerhouses like Captain Atom and Green Lantern, and even fought the entire Justice League to a standstill. The only thing that probably keeps him from being the greatest hero in the world is his lack of confidence, not to mention the voices constantly at odds inside his head. When merged, Raymond controls the body, but Stein is still conscious inside his head and uses his vast scientific knowledge to advise Raymond. Sometimes Raymond listens and sometimes, to his detriment, he doesn’t. Over the years, due to injuries and deaths, there have been several incarnations of Firestorm. After the events of Blackest Night, Firestorm has taken on a new incarnation. Raymond, back from the dead, has merged with Jason Rusch, the current Firestorm, creating a new dynamic, a new Nuclear Man.
1 – Captain Atom – In 1968, during the height of the Vietnam War, United States Officer Nathan Adam was convicted of a crime he did not commit. Rather than face a firing squad, Adam participated in a government experiment that involved an alien spacecraft and a nuclear bomb. This unorthodox experiment blasted him into the future (a Post-Crisis DCU) and endowed him with amazing powers. His body is now covered head-to-toe in a protective metallic substance that makes him nearly invulnerable to injury. He possesses super human strength, speed, and can manipulate the Quantum energy field. This allows him to project energy blasts of immense destructive power and absorb great amounts of energy within himself. Captain Atom has battled Firestorm to a standstill and is on a power level on par with that of Superman. Captain Atom was the template for which Dr. Manhattan, another Atomic Hero on this list, was loosely based. It’s Atom’s death that sparks the events in DC’s dystopian Kingdom Come. So much Atomic energy is stored within Captain Atom’s body that when his nigh indestructible skin is penetrated, it causes a nuclear explosion so severe that the state of Kansas is cast in ruin.
Not all Atomic Heroes are planet-movers and god-like heroes. Take the Atom, for instance. He’s the smallest hero in the DCU, able to shrink down to the size of his namesake. He’s not the strongest hero around but this little guy, with a little help from Connor Hawk, was able to defeat Darkseid when all others had failed. The Atomic Knights are a band of armored heroes that ride into battle atop giant dogs in a post-Apocalyptic future that has been ravaged by nuclear war. And, Nuke was a tragic hero that accidentally met his end at the hands of Doctor Spectrum, Nuke’s teammate in the JLA-inspired Squadron Supreme.
Without the Atomic Age there would be no Marvel Comics, or at least not the one we know today. Atomic Heroes are powerful, there’s no doubt, and it’s a good thing they fight for justice. So, thank you to the Age that gave us Godzilla for providing such a mighty, stalwart bunch of heroes.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell
NOTE: This column is from 2010.