CAPTAIN ATOM Creators Get To the Core of The Character

As “Rebirth” scales back some of the elements from the New 52 — getting characters back to their “core,” as the publisher describes it — a new DC miniseries is taking that transition to a new level. Not only will The Fall and Rise of Captain Atom see the rebirth of the character, but the two writers who were originally responsible for his modern “core” will be the ones doing it.

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Cary Bates and Greg Weisman, the two writers responsible for the 1980’s revamp of the Charlton Comics hero, will reunite for the six-issue miniseries, working with artist Will Conrad.

The two will also revamp fan-favorite Captain Atom-related characters, including General Eiling and Dr. Magala.

Weisman is more recently known for his work as a producer on animated series like Gargoyles and Star Wars Rebels. Bates, who has also dabbled in animation, is probably best known for his work on Superman, along with many other DC characters in various comic books over the years.

Newsarama talked to the pair to find out more about their plans for Captain Atom, what “core” they’re hoping to bring back to the character, and whether there might be more Captain Atom stories to come.

Newsarama: Greg and Cary, how does this miniseries fit into “Rebirth?” Or does it?

Greg Weisman: It’s sort of “Rebirth” adjacent, if that makes any sense.

Nrama: So does it revamp the character? Because that’s what the description seems to be saying.

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Cary Bates: When the project first came up back in the summer of 2015, believe it or not, what [DC Co-Publisher] Dan DiDio said he was looking for was a way to get the character back to what he called the core concepts of what Greg and I did in the ’80s.

But it had the stipulation that the starting point had to be the New 52 version of the character.

So with that in mind, what we set out to do was to not only introduce our character, but to give the J.T. Krul/Freddy Williams version a spectacular send-off. You could almost look at our first issue as the undiscovered, last issue — the unknown 13th issue of the previous run.

So it’s sort of a beginning and an end, or an end and a beginning.

It’s almost an epilogue to the previous run, because if you remember, that series ended with Captain Atom kind of despondent and in self-exile on the moon.

Ours picks up, chronologically, not long after that.

Nrama: Greg, what brought you back to this character? What interested you in teaming up with Cary again on this?

Weisman: We both have tremendous affection for Cap, and his whole supporting cast that we created around him. So it was the chance to get back to Captain Atom and General Eiling and Dr. Magala, that was really appealing to both of us.

Nrama: Did you feel like the character had gotten a little too far away from what you guys did in the ’80s?

Bates: I think both of us would agree with that, but maybe for different reasons.

I felt like the New 52 version, rightly or wrongly, was perceived by some people as being too Dr. Manhattan-ish, for lack of a better word.

Of course, the irony is that Alan Moore’s Dr. Manhattan was his riff on the Charlton Captain Atom. So the characters are inextricably linked. But that said, I think Greg and I both prefer our version from the ’80s to some of the things that followed.

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Weisman: Yeah, I don’t know how politic it is for me to sort of go off on stuff that was done after Cary and I left the book, but we were happy to bring him back to the core personality and the core aspects of the character that had made it fun for us, and we think fun for readers way back in those dark ages of the ’80s.

We sort of leapt at the opportunity. I think any creator who works on something for as long as we did work on Captain Atom, you build up this tremendous affection for the character almost as if they’re real people. So the chance to go hang out with old friends is not just nostalgia, it’s generally appealing.

Cary and I were writing partners back in the day, and we’ve both gone off and done other things and worked together occasionally, so it was also great, frankly, to just be working with Cary again.

Bates: Believe it or not, within a couple of months, when this #1 hits in January, it will be within two or three months of being exactly 30 years since the Silver version back in the ’80s, which I find it hard to believe, but it’s true.

It’s very rare to get an opportunity to come back to something after 30 years – I mean, it doesn’t really happen all that often.

Nrama: You mentioned the “core” of the character, and that’s a familiar phrase for readers who have been following the events of “Rebirth.” How would you describe what you two believe is the core of the character, and what you hope to bring back to him by the end of this series?

Bates: There are two or three that come to mind. One thing is the military conspiracy angle, which Greg and I developed. Back in the ’80s, the military conspiracy stuff, with regard to superheroes or pop culture, was really in its infancy. It was even pre-X-Files.

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And I think a big element that was always a factor was, Nathaniel Adam was always on a personal quest to rebuild his family, which had been shattered by what happened to him when he got his quantum powers. That was the big factor.

And there was a big time travel element in our original version as well. Long-time readers remember how the original Captain Atom was catapulted 18 years into the future. And we brought back that as well, but in a totally different context — I don’t want to give it away.

I guess the last thing that’s true to our version was, with regard to quantum powers, although our Cap was powerful, he didn’t have godlike power, like in the Dr. Manhattan sense. And I think Dan wanted us to put a new take on that.

Weisman: I think, also, I wanted to bring back the general feeling that we had created. Eiling’s gone on to have his own career as a character. You know, Clancy Brown has played him on The Flash on television.

We felt like the character of Eiling has gotten away from who he was in the ’80s, who was this master manipulator. We thought of him as Captain Kirk gone bad. Instead, I feel like he’s become this blustering, angry general determined to save the country at all cost. So he’d become more of a Thunderbolt Ross kind of character. And I actually like Thunderbolt Ross in the Hulk, but it wasn’t ever who Eiling was.

So this allowed us to nuance Eiling back to the kind of character he was.

And Will Conrad, who drew the series, has done a great job with the new Eiling. For me, he’s one of the high points of working on the series, because Cap finally has a worthy adversary — not just a guy who’s yelling at him all the time. And that was a lot of fun for me specifically.

Bates: Yeah, Will Conrad did an amazing job. I mean, his faces are spectacular, his action’s great, and his layouts just blew me away. You could give him a sequence of the guy sitting on a park bench reading a phone book — not that anybody reads phone books anymore — but Will would find a way to make it an absolutely riveting sequence.

His ability to make visuals compelling is really amazing. I wasn’t that familiar with his work before this, but I’m really glad we lucked out getting him as the artist.

Nrama: You mentioned General Eiling. Did you say Dr. Magala? Are there any other characters you can tell us that show up in your miniseries?

Bates: Yes, Dr. Magala is a co-conspirator. He’s a major player. And we’ve given some new twists to his character as well.

And as I said before, one of the elements of the first Captain Atom had to do with his lost family, and I can’t really address how that element is reflected in the new version without giving stuff away that I don’t want to do. So I guess the other half of the answer is that there will be some new characters that the readers have never seen before that will add to this.

Also, there’s a new villain that is sort of an outgrowth of our Captain Atom. And there’s a new set-up regarding how he’s being controlled. The New 52 version, you might recall, had this thing called the Continuum, in which Dr. Magala was an officer and Eiling was involved as well. All of that’s gone now and replace by a new infrastructure that is going to put a new spin on things.

We might have also brought back a couple other side characters from our ’80s run, but pretty much everything else is new in this series.

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Weisman: There are some Easter eggs for people who read Captain Atom back in the day. This is a miniseries, but we’re hoping it leads to something more. We’d love DC to come back and say it did so well that they have to do this as a monthly title.

So we planted little seeds throughout the series and Easter eggs that reference the old stuff.

If you’re new to Captain Atom, this stuff probably won’t even register. You don’t have to have read the old ’80s Captain Atom to enjoy this series.

You don’t even have to have read New 52 to enjoy this series.

You can start fresh with the character right here in issue #1 without any problem whatsoever.

But yeah, if you’ve got that background from the ’80s, you’ll notice a few treats here and there.

Bates: And for fans of the New 52 version, I don’t think they’ll be disappointed in what we’ve done, because we started off by looking at the 12 issues of the New 52 run. And the way we saw it, what happens to Captain Atom going forward is sort of a logical outgrowth of all the plot threads that were introduced back in the New 52 run.


So if anything, our Captain Atom is sort of the next step of evolution. Our Captain Atom today could not exist without the New 52 Captain Atom preceding it.

Nrama: So although this is a “Rebirth,” it spins directly out of the New 52 version of the character?

Bates: It’s not like a strict rebirth where, editorially, they decided to recreate the character. With our story, it’s totally organic. The rebirth takes place in the context of the story.

Nrama: And you’re hoping there’s room for the character to have his own series?

Bates: We’d love this to continue. Back in the ’80s, most people don’t know this, but the ’80s Captain Atom was originally intended to just be a miniseries. They weren’t sure about it — they were bringing back some Charlton characters.

But sure enough, it got enough of a following that it was ongoing for what? Fifty? Sixty issues? So hopefully it will repeat itself. By Vaneta Rogers