How did the original Atom (who made his DC Comics debut in 1940) become the original Atom? Well, unlike many of his predecessors, he wasn't motivated by a selfless, patriotic interest in eradicating evil, villainy and crime.
He simply found himself in an embarrassing situation his girlfriend happened to witness. And as we all know, man has no fury like an ego scorned.
So Al Pratt, a runty scholar who was unable to protect his girl from a menacing mugger, became an aerobicized, weight-trained, stone-chiseled underdog who called himself "Atom Al."
He eventually became a charter member of the Justice League, appearing in several comic titles including All-American Comics (where he debuted), Sensation Comics and Flash Comics. His initial run lasted nine years.
In 1961, another Atom incarnation arose. However, he hardly resembled our lovably little Al Pratt. This new Atom's superpower was his ability to shrink himself to microscopic size. His human, regular-sized alterego was a scientist named Ray Palmer. Palmer's Atom enjoyed an eight-year run with his own title.
While both Atoms proved to be diminutive and daring, tiny and terrific, we much prefer the backstory on our unlikelier hero, Al Pratt.