Never judge someone by their size. Superheroes especially so in this regard. Small just means a concentration of all that power they hold. One of the first superheroes to prove this was Al Pratt, the original Atom. How does a little fella get to bump elbows with superhumans and gods? Let’s find out!
Albert Pratt was a short young man who wasn’t even 100 pounds, full grown. Al was a good person though. He’d meet a homeless man and take him out for dinner. This man turned out to be former boxer and fighting mentor for several superheroes, Joe Morgan. Deciding that Al’s kindness could be repaid in training him to fight crime. One year later, Al would don a yellow and blue costume calling himself The Atom. That’s all you needed back in the day to become a superhero.
Being a scrappy fighter in a mask, he’d eventually find other heroes like himself and soon become a part of the Justice Society of America. Here, he’d protect the home front until the U.S. joined World War 2 at which point he’d join the All-Star Squadron as The Atom and be a tank driver as Al Pratt.
While fighting villains during the war, Al would gain superpowers from supervillain encounters. One such power slowed his aging process, another granted super strength he’d gain from the villain Cyclotron, and finally, immunity to deadly radiation. Returning home, Al would get a PhD in nuclear physics and retire from heroics in the 1950s when the government demand heroes either retire or reveal their identities. Al would marry his girlfriend Mary James and the two would live a relatively normal life for many years.
New heroes began to arrive on the scene, several of them taking up the legacy names of heroes before them, Al was surprised to learn The Atom was one of those names. Teaming up with Ray Palmer, the new shrinking Atom, along with new and old heroes alike, Al would leave retirement to rejoin the JSA. It was also during this time that Al would learn that former villain Cyclotron had made Al the godson of his grandchild, Albert Rothstein who would grow up to be the hero size growing Atom Smasher.
During the Crisis of Infinite Earths, Al and the rest of the JSA would fight to help stop the end of all things. They would get tangled up in a fight to stop Ragnarok from coming, locked away from the rest of reality. Several years passed and the heroes would eventually be brought back to Earth, stopping Ragnarok.
Finally home, Al and Mary were expecting a child soon after his return. Sadly, when the child was born, the villain Vandal Savage would kidnap the child to try and harness its possible powers inherited from Al. Savage would also kill Mary in the process. Al never truly recovered from any of this and would die in battle during the Zero Hour event.
In the New 52, Al Pratt of Earth 2 is a military Sergeant who is granted super strength and size changing powers by an experimental atomic bomb he was transporting that went off by mistake. He would become a Captain in the military and work with other heroes while taking on villains such as Solomon Grundy singlehandedly.
There you have it! The Golden Age Atom is a fun character to bring up to people with how he got into the heroics game. Are you small? Do you want to fight? Get trained for about a year by a world class trainer and you can do it! Gotta love that golden age logic. See you next time!
All-American Comics #19
Justice Society of America