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.
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 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.
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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