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The Atom

DC Direct
by yo go re

Since the first series of DC Direct's Justice League figures brought out the big guns, it was right off to the second, third and fourth-stringers for series two. Actually, with the exception of Adam Strange, this four-figure line could have been the Identity Crisis series.

Physicist Ray Palmer used matter from a white dwarf star to create a belt that allowed him to shrink to microscopic size! As the costumed crimefighter The Atom, Palmer served as a stalwart member of the JLA!

The Atom is one of those old DC characters whose biggest personality trait was that they had a power, but of all the DC characters reimagined in the Silver Age, the Atom differed the most from his Golden Age counterpart: the original Atom was just a short guy who liked to punch people.

The new version got a less eye-gouging costume and an actual set of powers. That and he was pussywhipped: his girlfriend, Jean Loring, insisted on becoming a successful lawyer before she'd marry him, so most of the Atom's cases were really to help Jean's legal career. Then she cheated on him, and he retreated to a microscopic life in the Amazon jungle.

Atom's costume is a simple one, just a red and blue bodysuit with a control belt. There have been a few attempts over the years to "modernize" his look - you know, vests, hair, straps and pouches - but none of them have lasted. Ray has a very classic design, and has managed to hold onto it quite well.

Without all those extraneous design elements, the figure's sculpt is nicely reserved. There's the usual superhero musculature, but nothing too wild or exaggerated. The Atom has the usual nine points of DC Direct articulation, and stands about 6" tall, which technically puts him in a 1:1 scale, since that's how big the character got when he shrank.

DC included some perfect accessories with this figure. In addition to the JLA logo base shared by the rest of the line, the package includes two more Atom figures: a 2" version in his "shrinking" pose, and a 1" version sitting in his Justice League chair. Yes, in a condescending move, the JLA didn't let the Atom attend the meetings at full size, but instead made him sit in a tiny chair on the table. Jerks.

The Atom never really caught on as a main character, instead becoming a perennial guest star in other books - the same thing that happened to the original Atom, as well. In fact, his biggest role in recent years was the excellent Identity Crisis story, which managed to give the Justice League second-stringers some real gravitas, and is probably part of why DC Direct made him into an action figure now. At least, being a specialty company, they didn't have to fill the Justice League line with Techno-Armor Batman or anything stupid like that.

-- 12/27/04

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