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A hero originally published by Charlton Comics and later by DC Comics. Captain Atom first appeared in Space Adventures #33 in 1960.

Captain Atom has multiple origins that have been intertwined over the years by different publishing houses and different writers. Originally, Nathaniel Adam was an U.S. Air Force officer working with the U.S. space program during the early 1960's. Just prior to the launch of a new rocket, Adam was making the final adjustments to the rocket, when he dropped one of the tools he was using and it fell into the heart of the rocket. Climbing down after it, Adam found himself aboard the rocket as it blasted off into the atmosphere. Either because of his presence or due to a problem with the rocket's configuration, the missile exploded, vaporizing Adam in the process. Amazingly, Adam was able to reform himself through strength of will, and found that he now possessed atomic powers such as flight and the ability to project energy blasts.

Captain Atom was part of the Charlton Comics publishing house group of characters and was popular for a time. In the 1980's, the characters were bought by DC Comics and were incorporated in minor roles in the Crisis on Infinite Earths. When the Crisis was over, a number of characters from Charlton were introduced into the mainstream DC Universe, including the Question, Blue Beetle, Peacemaker, and Captain Atom. Captain Atom was given his own comic and a new origin as well.

In the new origin, Nathaniel Adam was a former soldier in Vietnam who was accused of murdering his commanding officer and sentenced to death. Adam was offered a chance to be part of a secret experiment with a small chance of survival. Lowered into a deep hole outside of a small air base, Adam was surrounded with by a shield made of an extraterrestrial metal and an atomic bomb was set off under him. To those observing, Adam was seemingly vaporized along with the metal, and the case was closed.

In actuality, Adam was coated in the melting metal, which allowed him access to the quantum field. Because of the huge influx of energy, Adam was shunted into time and appeared 20 years later at the same air field, disoriented and covered by a metallic shell. The head of the project, a general named Wade Eiling, was brought in and offered Adam a deal: he would be allowed to operate as a government agent in exchange for his freedom and the opportunity to clear his name. Adma agreed and became a government sponsored superhero called Captain Atom.

To cover up his actual origin, Captain Atom was given an origin very similar to his Charlton Origin, but changed to cover up any holes in the story. Atom became an active member of the Justice League and eventually the head of the European branch of that team. He eventually cleared his name from the original charges brought against him and was reunited with his now grown son and daughter.

When DC Comics decided to introduce the Armageddon 2000 cross-over event, they needed a hero-gone-bad villain and tapped Captain Atom to be the hero that becomes Monarch. However, as the series progressed, the writers decided to change that and make Hawk of Hawk and Dove Monarch, despite the fact that all of the clues and all of the information pointed to Captain Atom. This made the ending of this crossover event odd though Atom did battle Monarch and fought him through time, before returning to our time.

For a while, Captain Atom was the leader of the Justice League splinter group Extreme Justice. During this time, two life changing events took place. First he married the former villain Plastique and secondly, he found out that he was not in fact Nathaniel Adam. Rather like the origin of the hero Swamp Thing who found out years later that he was not Alec Holland, but a plant that thought he was Alec Holland, Captain Atom discovered that during the event that gave him his power, the alien metal actually created a "quantum duplicate," a being that was in every way Nathaniel Adam but was not Nathaniel Adam. Captain Atom turned out to be that creation, and the real Nathaniel Adam had been trapped in time for years until he escaped. His imprisonment caused Adam to lose his mind and he took the armor of the villain Monarch and became that villain, fulfilling the original idea for the Armageddon 2000 storyline in a sort of cock-eyed way.

Captain Atom is still a member of the JLA reserves and has been seen on a number of ocassions including during the Our World at War event.

In the now famous Kingdom Come mini-series, that portrays a dark future for the DC Universe, Captain Atom is the cause of a massive nuclear explosion in Kansas, when he and other heroes, lead by Magog attempt to capture the Parasite. A blow by the Parasite splits open the metal shell encasing Captain Atom, setting lose the energy contained in it.

Thanks to amib for the reminder about the Kingdom Come events.

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