Albert Rothstein as Atom Smasher
Art by Alan Davis
|First appearance||As Nuklon:
All-Star Squadron #25 (September, 1983)
As Atom Smasher:
JSA Secret Files and Origins #1 (August 1999)
|Created by||Roy Thomas
|Alter ego||Albert Julian Rothstein|
|Team affiliations||Suicide Squad
Justice Society of America
|Abilities||Growth, increased strength, stamina, speed and durability. Formerly density control.|
Albert Rothstein (known by the aliases Nuklon and Atom Smasher -- sometimes spelled "Atom-Smasher") is a fictional character, a comic book superhero in the DC Comics universe. Atom Smasher is known for his power of growth and super strength. Created by Roy Thomas and Jerry Ordway, he first appeared in All-Star Squadron #25 (September 1983). Thomas chose his name as a tribute to his friend and fellow comic book fan Alan Rothstein.
Fictional character biography
The godson of Al Pratt, the Golden Age Atom, Albert Rothstein acquired his metahuman powers of super strength and control over his molecular structure (allowing him to alter the size and density of his body) from his grandfather, a reluctant supervillain known as Cyclotron, allowing him to fight crime first as Nuklon, and then, later, as Atom Smasher. As Nuklon, Albert was a charter member of Infinity, Inc. and subsequently served in the Justice League. He was considered a dependable, but rather insecure and indecisive superhero while on Infinity, Inc., despite his mohawk haircut and large size. While in the JLA, he became forged a strong friendship with fellow former Infinity Inc. teammate Obsidian.
The Justice Society
Albert finally gets his dream, and is invited to join the reunited JSA, under his new name and identity, Atom Smasher (he mocks his old mohawk and costume in the meantime). For years, Atom Smasher cherishes his role in upholding Pratt's legacy and constantly seeks to prove himself worthy to his Golden Age idols – especially when many of them became his teammates in the JSA. He looks up to the elder JSA members, but is himself looked up to by young rookie member Stargirl. When Albert's mother is murdered in a plane crash engineered by the terrorist Kobra, he becomes consumed by vengeance, nearly crushing Kobra in his hands before he is talked down by his teammate Jack Knight, who convinces him that he should not taint the memory of his mother by associating it with Kobra's murder. Not long after the fatal crash, Albert – with the aid of Metron of the New Gods – goes back in time and replaces his mother with the weakened villain Extant. This ends up saving her life but makes Albert a murderer, even if there was no other way to contain Extant and stop him from causing further harm.
When Captain Marvel's longtime adversary Black Adam reforms and joins the JSA, he and Rothstein develop a rivalry at first (with Al refusing to believe Adam has reformed), but soon this turns to kinship (after Adam justifies Al's murderous actions towards Extant); indeed, Black Adam comments that he thinks of Atom Smasher as the brother he never had. Encouraged by Adam, Atom Smasher grows frustrated with the JSA's moral boundaries, especially when Kobra blackmails authorities into granting his release. Albert and Adam promptly quit the JSA after Kobra's escape.
Shortly thereafter, the unlikely duo settle each other's personal scores. Adam kills Kobra, while Rothstein kills the dictatorial president of Khandaq, Adam's home country. Atom Smasher helps lead a team of rogue metahumans (including former Infinity Inc. teammates Brainwave and Northwind) in an invasion of Khandaq and overthrow its oppressive regime. Atom Smasher initially fights against his JSA teammates in Khandaq before deciding instead to help forge an uneasy truce—Black Adam and his compatriots can remain in power so long as they never leave the country.
Atom Smasher remains in the Middle Eastern nation for a time, although he eventually begins to question Adam's motives. Rothstein perishes in JSA #75 while fighting against the Spectre, but is revived by Black Adam's lightning, and carried back to JSA headquarters.
He is later put on trial for his actions in Khandaq and pleads guilty to all charges (teammate Stargirl promises to "be there for him" when he gets out). Whilst in jail, he is approached by the founder of the Suicide Squad, Amanda Waller. In 52, he is seen assembling a new Suicide Squad under Waller's orders, instructed to fight Black Adam, and, unbeknownst to Atom Smasher himself, push his family to overreact. They succeed, and Osiris is disgraced and exposed for having killed a Squad member, as Amanda Waller was filming the events, leading to the downfall of the whole Black Marvel Family, and a murderous rampage of Black Adam, dubbed World War III.
He then sides with the Justice Society, trying to apprehend Black Adam, but refuses to condemn him in any way, not even believing him guilty of the genocide in Bialya ("Tell me it wasn't you..."). When Adam is robbed of his powers by Captain Marvel, and is about to plunge to his death, it is Atom Smasher who saves him, though no character ever sees this, and Al keeps it hidden.
In the Black Adam: The Dark Age series, Albert is shown searching for his former friend, who is intent upon resurrecting his dead wife Isis. In Black Adam #5, Albert brings Adam a bone from Isis' remains (unbeknownst to the JSA, with whom he was searching for Adam), and unsuccessfully tries to persuade his friend to go into hiding.
Modern-day JSA issues
In the Justice Society of America: The Kingdom special, Stargirl recruits Atom Smasher to literally knock some sense into Damage, who had become an evangelist of sorts for the Third World god Gog after the cosmic being (temporarily) healed Damage's scarred face. He views Pratt's son as a brother figure, since he was brought up by Pratt in the first place.
Atom Smasher finally returns to the JSA during the "Black Adam and Isis" arc printed in Justice Society of America #23-25. Asking the team for a second chance at honoring the memory of Al Pratt, Atom Smasher joins the Justice Society in battling Black Adam and Isis, who have robbed Captain Marvel of his powers and his throne at the Rock of Eternity. At the conclusion of the story, despite Wildcat's distrust, Atom Smasher is readmitted into the JSA as a full member, along with all the other members of the team who had acted poorly in recent issues. He vanishes for several issues, but has reappeared in the JSA: All-Stars book, being a victim of kidnapping.
Relationships with women
Albert has had complicated relationships with women during his tenure on various super-hero teams. While on Infinity, Inc., he was shown being clearly in love with teammate Fury, despite her being engaged to his friend Silver Scarab. Many other characters make note of this, though none of them begrudge Al, and actually feel sorry for him because he will inevitably have his heart broken. Looking up to her even as children, he eventually proposes when Hector is killed and she is left pregnant, so she will not be alone. She turns him down, saying that she prefers them being friends. He also had a brief flirtation with Yolanda Montez, the second Wildcat, but things never developed between them. During his time with the League, he dated Fire, though he eventually turned her down since she wasn't Jewish (this did not stop his earlier or later crushes).
His relationship with Stargirl is even more complex. While Stargirl has shown some romantic feelings for Atom Smasher in the past, there was never any reciprocation on his part. Later issues clearly establish Stargirl's true feelings, as various friends (Billy Batson, her friend Mary) accuse her of liking Al, and she promises to wait for him upon his return from prison. When Al is temporarily killed by The Spectre, she reveals the depths of her feelings for him, weeping over his dead body. Albert finally acknowledges his own feelings when he rejoins the JSA to fight Black Adam, admitting that Billy "Captain Marvel" Batson deserves her far more than Al himself does, in a regretful tone. His teammates later pick up on their mutual attraction once they start openly fawning over each other in public, and while Power Girl is supportive ("Go rescue your fair maiden"), the elder members force Al to turn Courtney down due to the age difference. This leaves Al melancholy, and Courtney runs off crying. Later issues of JSA: All-Stars reveal the two still love each other, but after Johnny Sorrow mimics Al to force a kiss from the young girl, they both recognize the need for "space".
Powers and abilities
Already super strong at his normal size — 7 ft 6 in, or 2.3 m — (though recently he has been depicted as being of a more normal height when not using his powers), Atom Smasher's strength and density increase proportionately to whatever size he chooses (it was explained in JSA #75 that his muscles and bones actually break and reform as they grow in order to achieve these great heights).
In the DC Encyclopedia, it is stated that he could grow up to 60 feet without problems. Whether there is a limit to the heights he can grow to is unknown. At 60 feet, he was strong enough to knock out Power Girl with one stomp, and easily decimated most of the JSA during "Black Reign", but he is vulnerable to super-strong punches from the likes of Black Adam, being knocked unconscious with one blow several times. During his time as Nuklon, Albert was able to phase through walls; he has not been shown using this power in recent years, but it is unclear whether it has been retconned away. Rothstein is also a skilled pilot and mechanic. In the first few years of JSA, he could be seen piloting the JSA's jet, the Steel Eagle, as well as the Star Rocket Racer in JSA: Our Worlds at War, and earlier being Infinity, Inc.'s primary pilot.
In other media
- Atom Smasher appeared in the DC animated universe series Justice League Unlimited voiced by an uncredited Kevin Conroy. He appears as a member of the expanded Justice League. In "Dark Heart," Atom Smasher helped the Justice League into fighting the aliens that spawned from the Dark Heart where he in large size punched the aliens. In "Task Force X," Atom Smasher fought the Annihilator while Shining Knight and Vigilante fought Task Force X. Atom Smasher had the lower hand during most of the fight and was quickly defeated. As Martian Manhunter soon fought the team, Plastique forced him to stop when she threatened to put a bomb in Atom Smasher's mouth, however Captain Atom arrived and stopped her. In "Panic In The Sky" Atom Smasher is shown fighting a Long Shadow clone and successfully defeating it.
- Atom Smasher makes a cameo appearance at the Hall of Justice stage in Injustice: Gods Among Us. He is seen fighting Giganta in the background.
- Atom Smasher was rendered as an action figure for Mattel's popular Justice League Unlimited toyline in the summer of 2005.
- Jimenez, Phil (2008). "Atom-Smasher". In Dougall, Alastair. The DC Comics Encyclopedia. London: Dorling Kindersley. p. 31. ISBN 0-7566-4119-5
- Manning, Matthew K.; Dolan, Hannah, ed. (2010). "1980s". DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. Dorling Kindersley. p. 203. ISBN 978-0-7566-6742-9. "The children of the original Justice Society of America made their smash debut in this issue by writer Roy Thomas and penciler Jerry Ordway...All-Star Squadron #25 marked the first appearances of future cult-favorite heroes Jade, Obsidian, Fury, Brainwave Jr., the Silver Scarab, Northwind, and Nuklon."
- Thomas, Roy; Jerry Ordway (Spring 1999). "Two Co-Creators Reveal--The Secret Origins of Infinity, Inc.". Alter Ego (Two Morrows Publishing) 3 (1). Retrieved 2008-04-20.
- Justice Society of America (vol. 3) #23-25 (January–April 2009)