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Atoman, the original Nuclear Man?

There are tons of Golden Age characters from comics and pulp fiction that most of us have never heard of.  Several bear striking resemblances to heroes that came later.  For example, if you’ve never heard of Philip Wylie’s Gladiator and the similarities to Superman, check it out.  Along those same lines, in 1946 Spark Publications introduced a new superhero called Atoman.  His powers were nuclear-based and he was adorned in yellow and red.

Atoman #1 from Sparks Publications

While working as a nuclear scientist at the “Atomic Institute”, Barry Dale absorbs the “power of the atom” through unconscious exposure to nuclear materials and gains superpowers as a result. As described by Barry himself: “Evidently my body is so geared as a result of working on radium and uranium that it can explode atoms and give me atomic strength.” He uses his new abilities — such as super strength, flight, speed, invulnerability, “atomic vision”, and the ability to heat his body so that he can weld metal with his hands — to fight crime.

Atoman #2 from Sparks Publications

Atoman was created by Golden Age writer Jerry Robinson and artists Mort Meskin for Spark Publications in 1946.  He managed to last a whole two issues in his own series before vanishing.  He reappeared in 1950 as the recolored Atomaster in one issue of New World Comics from Metropolitan Publishing Company.

Atomaster from New World Comics

After reading through this you gotta ask yourself, was the creation of Firestorm influenced by Atoman?  Personally, I think not.  If you listen to Gerry Conway’s thoughts on creating Firestorm, there is really no connection to a character like Atoman.  Firestorm’s ancestry lies more with Spider-Man than it does with a forgotten Golden Age hero. Also, Atoman is just one of a large number of atomic-based heroes from the Golden Age (i.e. Atomic Man, Atomic Thunderbolt, etc).

In regard to the costume, I think it’s the same as the similarities between Firestorm’s and Iron Man’s costume.  Given that red and yellow are primary colors, it’s not surprising to find costumes using these colors in similar ways. There are only so many combinations and in comics it’s quite common to see the torso piece of a superhero suit contrast with the leggings and sleeves.  Interestingly enough yellow and red was apparently the standard uniform for nuclear-powered heroes back in the day: Atoman, Firestorm, Captain Atom (during his original Charlton years), Doctor Solar: Man of the Atom (from Gold Key in the 1960s), and  Nukla (from Dell comics in the 1960s).

In conclusion, I think this is an interesting coincidence but nothing more.  We Firestorm Fans should honor Atoman as an atomic hero that came before, but not as a direct ancestor of our favorite nuclear man.  My thanks to Bob from UnderMountain for sending me information recently on Atoman.

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  1. Hi,

    Atoman was created by Jerry Robinson without Mort Meskin. They worked together on other features for Spark, Fighting Yank and Black Terror among them. However, Atoman is all Jerry’s.

  2. outburst says:

    I think they’re just characters of their time.
    In 1945 the atom bomb was the most powerful thing in the world so it makes sense that a year later Atoman would arrive on the scene.
    The ’70s were the nuclear age and America faced the threat of a nuclear attack from behind the iron curtain.
    Even in 1987 when Superman IV featured a nuclear-powered foe, it was a matter of playing up on concerns of the day.
    The big difference to me was that Firestorm was a very cleverly created character and it was very easy to get attached to the people who comprised him. Nuclear power is all about fusion and fission and the fact that Flamehead and Multiplex are opposites of the same process and were created in the same explosion, was a huge draw for me. I thought it was a really well-written origin.
    And the good news for Firestorm is that nuclear power is still prominent and still very powerful.

  3. Frank says:

    Free Legal Public Domain Download of the second issue:

  4. Shag says:

    Steven – Thanks for the correction. That’s what I get for trusting what I read on the internet. :)

    Outburst – I think you’re exactly correct about them being products of their time.

    Frank – Thanks for the link!

  5. Martin Stein RIP says:

    Atoman may not have influenced Gerry Conway. Al Milgrom, however….

  6. dan says:

    I am an Artist. And I can tell how influences work. In this case the first image is what inspired the artist to design the costume. Firestorm was my favorite character when I cameout. For me the rough lineage lineup runs like this, Atoman, firestorm and Heatblast And I am so happy to find atoman through challenger comics viewer splash ads.

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