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DC Classics.Com S.T.R.I.P.E. Week
Golden Age Atom Review

S.T.R.I.P.E. Week has me taking another trip down memory lane today with a look at the Golden Age Atom! He’s not my favorite Justice Society of America member, but as a JSA Fan that’s been waiting forever for a good Al Pratt figure, I’m happy to report this one doesn’t disappoint.

This is the type of review that needs to start off with a story. No I won’t bore you by talking about my youth spent reading amazing JLA/JSA team-up stories in digest form again. I’m going to flash forward to a decade ago when I was a much more avid DC Direct Collector.

DC Direct kicked their JSA off right away with a decent repaint of the Vertigo Sandman (think Mystery Theatre, not the Endless one) in Golden Age colors in 1998. By 2000, they had added GA versions of Hawkman, Dr. Fate, the Spectre, Green Lantern, and the Flash to their JSA roster. Hourman would be out the following year (along with a majority of the later members). If you’re keeping score, that’s 7 of the 8 founding members of the JSA released in the first two years of DC Direct’s offerings. It would then take DC Direct five more years to get to the last founding member, the Golden Age Atom, and when they did… well, I couldn’t even buy it.

To DC Direct’s credit, they did release both of the Atom’s costumes (in a single-carded 2pk, no less), but the figures were… lacking. Even looking at them in that picture, I still have to laugh at how awful they are (it’s odd too because my shelves feature other, much more amazing work from that very same sculptor). Anyway, waiting five years for the last founding member was bad enough, but to get those monstrosities when it finally arrived? My hopes of a little plastic JSA were dashed hard across the rocks.

Five years later (again), JSA Collectors are seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. Sure, we’re still waiting on Johnny Thunder and Thunderbolt, the original Red Tornado, and some others, but Jay Garrick is just a couple months away while DCUC19 delivered us the GA Sandman, Hawkman, and the Atom!

The Atom is a curious addition to the JSA ranks. The other seven members either possessed super powers or were aided by mysticism or technology. The Atom was just a short dude (clocking in at 5′ 1″) that trained hard and learned to pack a wallop.

Al Pratt was introduced in All-American Comics #19 (Green Lantern’s title) by Bill O’ Connell and Ben Flinton. We first meet Al when he’s trying to get a date with Mary James, a girl that appears to be out of his league. The pair is mugged and Al is unable to do anything about it, costing Mary her purse and jewelry and Al any chance of scoring that date. Undaunted, Al found himself a trainer and became a proficient enough boxer/bodybuilder that he could pull off a superhero act. When Mary was kidnapped some months later, Al was ready to protect her, this time in the guise of the Atom (he’s short, see? Atoms are small? Get it?)

Hey, not everyone with ‘Atom’ in their name can be an atomic hero, okay? (I’m still kicking myself for not getting a Captain Atom pic before handing these guys off to Vault).

Anyway, the key thing about the Atom is that he needs to be shorter than the other figures. Mattel did at least put some effort into this particular aspect of the character. It may be good enough for some, but it won’t be for others. It pretty much depends on where you fall on accuracy versus aesthetics. No matter where that is, we can all agree that he’s not small enough even though Mattel did produce some new shortened calves to reduce the figure’s height. The reason I’m not all that upset about it is because he did come out shorter than the other JSAers. And, honestly, I think if he were properly scaled, that’d be a tad over 5″, he’d look downright out of scale. Check out this first pic from the Young Justice Robin review. That’s about how short Al would have to be to be accurate. Some may disagree, but I wouldn’t be happy if he were that short.

Other than the new shortened calves, the Atom features a new middle torso, gauntlets, and a new head sculpt. The Atom’s costume is essentially an old wrestling outfit so the handful of new pieces is sufficient to get the job done. The new head sculpt is appropriately light on features, but the 4H did a great job of capturing some of the Atom’s attitude all the same. The buckles are nicely sculpted right down to the tension in the fabric around them, though that kind of detail starts making me want to ask for a new upper torso with similar sculpted detail, but I digress. The new pieces work great and when combined with the reused cape and the thicker upper torso, Atom is looking pretty badass on my JSA shelf. So I don’t find myself caring that he can ride all the rides at Six Flags all that much. Continue to Page 2…

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28 comments to DC Classics.Com S.T.R.I.P.E. Week
Golden Age Atom Review

  • Clutch

    By the time of Al’s demise in Zero Hour, his height had been diminished to the point where he was lampooned as being “Puck from Alpha Flight.” So this figure is just fine by me. I wouldn’t mind seeing the 60’s suit variant as well, hopefully in the sub given that his chances of being revisited in the main line are not looking good at all nowadays.

    • I saw a link to a panel of Al talking to two kids, both of which were taller than him. It’s kinda the opposite of Nekron where bad artists drew him bigger than intended and stuck us with a C&C.

      I don’t have much hope for the main line at this point, particularly after the contrast between the sub choices and the retail choices post-NYTF.

      • Brainlock

        I remember in Nekron’s first appearance in the GL Corps mini (c.83?) that he was over 50ft tall, definitely towering over Jordan, Katma, and Chumukk. In Blackest Night, he was shown closer to twenty feet, depending on the issue/artist, but definitely a minimum of 2x larger than the average hero.

        • The old Nekron was definitely huge, but his Blackest Night height just never appeared that big to me (and I read the whole 100+ mess). The two shots that I usually get pointed out to me are the initial appearance (an exceptionally foreshortened shot) and another one in #6 (I think) where he’s standing at a gate and appears vastly taller than the people that are actually really far behind him. Neither convinces me for obvious reasons. The problem is the height is wildly inconsistent in Blackest #4-8. His head and torso is comparable to the average hero, but he is sometimes taller and sometimes not. His head is comparable to the Guardian he slays, his upper body similar in stature to Barry when he gets close, he’s barely taller than the Black Lantern Bart, his heart is the size of a normal human fist, he’s the equivalent size to Sinestro in some panels, but then dwarfing him in others.

          I still don’t have him in hand (I need to get around to shipping that crappy wave out of my BBTS Pile of Loot), but I’m positive that C&C is just too big based Reis’ own artwork. I assume, like Swamp Thing, that Nekron could grow to be that size (the only way to playoff Reis drawing him all funky sizes), but I still don’t want him that big. Swamp Thing, Nekron, STEL, & Rocket Red all have to go on a shelf a few feet behind the other figures. 😛

          • Brainlock

            Reverse Flash comes up to the lower exposed rib on Nekron’s chest/mid-bicep.
            Granted, this is the Blackest Night version and you note that he’s a different height in nearly every panel, so…?

            (huh. just noticed Thawne’s Chinese coding is on the inside of his left foot, and the third line was too low and smeared across his treads. lol)

  • j1h15233

    Great review. I just have to smile at all the JSA goodness in this wave and the group pics are amazing. I do really wish that Jay was coming with two alternate heads though. One young head for him and one older head for Alan. They’re going to be mismatched.

  • Oh hoky cats that picture of the DC Direct figures!! You know the current Old Spice ad where the guy’s brain ejects from his head and then explodes, leaving the spokesmodel unable to speak? Yeah. Like that.

    It’s really too bad Mattel overly relies on the buck system, I’m kinda thinking GA Atom needs to be a bit shorter. But yeah, in an imperfect world, better this than that…that… blablusnnnr bark! Bark! 🙂

    • I wish Mattel had shorter thighs to call on in the buck system. The buck system could be great, but it needs a little more investment.

      When I was trying to find a good pic of the DCD Atoms (I should know to always check CTR first), I ran across some forum posts decrying this figure and telling fans to get the DCD instead!! O.o

  • Zach S.

    As a character known for being short, why shouldn’t that be more of an issue? He doesn’t have to be as tiny as that Young Justice Robin, but he should at least be a full head shorter than the other heroes…

    • If folks want it to be a bigger issue, I wouldn’t object. When I mentioned accuracy vs aesthetics, I meant that sticklers would be stuck with a Robin-size Atom and that wouldn’t look good. There’s definitely room for it being better and still inaccurate though. A full head would be fine, that’s the 5.75″ that I think would be just about ideal.

      I’d be more adamant, but he just looks great in that group shot.

      • Brainlock

        I’d have to go a maximum 5.5″ for Al Pratt to look “right” compared to his teammates. that’s my only complaint about him.

        (altho, if Mattel were to do a line of Minutemen for a Watchmen line to complement the upcoming “prequel” series….this body with a modified Hourman head would make an easy Hooded Justice. just saying. yeah, I’m in “custom mode” again, instead of “writing mode”. lol At least I don’t have the promise of an actual book hanging over my head like a certain large, recuperating friend of mine. 😉 but I digress….)

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  • He’s not short enough. The best modern interpretation in comics was Mike Parobeck’s short-but-muscular, 60ish version in the 1980s JSA.

    But at least he’s around in some version. And great pics and write-up, Daniel!

    • He could definitely use to be a little bit shorter, I just didn’t want to make a… uh, mountain out of a molehill so to speak? I understand if it bugs some more than others. I’ve seen him drawn smaller than kids he’s talking to which kinda bugs me, but I’m happy with him a little taller than too short.

      And thanks!

      • JamesLynch

        How old were the kids? I was over 5 feet by the time I was 8.

        5′ 1″ is really, really short. Wolverine is supposed to be 5′ 2″ and he’s a midget, too (hence the term many villains use for him, “runt”).

  • Chase G.

    Fun fact about Ray Palmer (This ties in with Al, just stay with me.)

    Ray is named after science fiction editor Raymond Palmer, who edited the infamous Shaver’s Hoax, wherein Palmer and Richard Sharpe Shaver published some crazy stories about Shaver meeting a group of miniscule aliens. You might think the aliens are why Gardner Fox named the new Atom with shrinking powers Ray Palmer…

    The real Raymond Palmer was four feet tall and a hunchback. Suddenly, the second Atom seems a lot meaner, eh? It even sort of calls back to Al, who was almost-but-not-quite a midget.

    Anywho, I’m a colossal nerd who knows too much about comics and felt like sharing that bit of trivia. =P

  • tornado

    Hi is it just me or Atom Smasher and Al share the same head sculpt? I have them both and viewing them together they seem the same. Thanks.

  • JamesLynch

    So Big Barda, Starfire, Robin, and Kid Flash all end up way too short, while a guy who’s major physical attribute is his (lack of) height ends up normal sized?

    Honestly, they probably could have gotten away with using the Robin/Kid Flash/Beast Boy body for this guy. Not only was that body really short (too damn short for most of the characters it was used for), but it was also too beefy for the characters it was used for. I think it would have looked much better for GA Atom than for Tim Drake.

    • Brainlock

      Agreed. maybe keep the adult biceps to show off the “atomic guns”? lol

      and I can’t believe you left Sinestro off your “too short!” list! gah!

      ;p

      • JamesLynch

        Well, it wasn’t meant to be a definitive list, just a few examples. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

        Or, it might be that Sinestro shipped in the same wave as the Tim Drake Robin, which somehow makes Sinestro not the most grossly undersized figure in that wave. Also, Mattel has at least made an effort to release a corrected Sinestro. They’ve made no such attempt with most of the other wrongly-scaled figures.

  • Rod Keith

    I’m with you, Noisy. The figure looks so good in every other respect that I don’t care that he’s not short enough (unlike the ridiculously too-small DCD monstrosities). If you’re really concerned about it, one can bend his knees a little, or stand him next to one of the taller JSA figures, like Starman.

    Also, on my path to completing the All-Star Squadron, recently I did make a custom of Al in the later outfit:

    http://www.criticalmess.net/index.php?topic=16374.0

    It’s not rocket science, Mattel! But I’m not sure how they’d get this one out in the current release model.