Who's the Atomic Skull?

Who's This? My bizarro namesake.
The facts: Introduced as a jerky S.T.A.R. Labs scientist in Superman #303 (September 1976), Albert Michaels was transformed into the Atomic Skull by Martin Pasko and Curt Swan (and S.K.U.L.L.'s radium implant) a couple years later in Superman #323 (May 1978). He faced the Man of Steel a number of times through the Bronze Age. Post-Crisis, though Michaels did have a few appearances in the late 2000s, a new (and dare I say much more interesting) Atomic Skull was created by Roger Stern and Bob McLeod. But we're not talking about him today.
How you could have heard of him: The Atomic Skull shows up in Rebirth: Superwoman #1 and Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #45 where he is almost killed by Hector Hammond. He also appeared on TV in the Young Justice cartoon.
Example story: The Flash #293 (January 1981) "The Deadliest Man Alive!" by Gerry Conway, George Perez and Rodin Rodriguez
The question I asked myself here is whether the Atomic Skull could have had a more profitable career as a utility villain who wasn't just in Superman's world, but DC's at large. Gerry Conway teamed the Flash up with his creation Firestorm in a back-up story that might just yield answers (one of a series as part of Conway's bid to resurrect the character, which also included having him join the JLA). I guess Conway thought of the Atomic Skull because Nuclear/Atomic.

Now at this point, the Atomic Skull is an inmate of Superman's Island, a prison for the Metropolis' most dangerous criminals floating above the city. What could go wrong? Well, how about the Flash doing a sonic boom right under the thing? He realizes he might have disturbed something so he hops on a plane to check it out. Like, literally hops on a plane.
Ok, ok, Skull. We read your Who's Who entry, not need to get into all that. But yeah, the sonic boom did disrupt the Island's sensitive security systems and the man with a radioactive brain is out of his cage. Next stop, increasing the power of his brain blasts so they can kill Superman. More radium is what's required! He leaves the Flash behind to slowly die of radiation - and you know how much Barry Allen hates to do anything slowly. Only one thing for it, he calls on the radiation master, Firestorm!
I really like this, but given the Flash is dying from radiation poisoning, wouldn't it have been easier to use a JLA signal device? Anyway, Firestorm absorbs the brain blast radiation, which makes him DRUNK! It's "overloaded his nervous system - like too much liquor". Uhm, yes, that's exactly how that works. So now, the Flash has to find the Atomic Skull so send the radiation back where it came from, it's the only way. (Is it?) But will the Skull want to be used like a toilet for radioactive puke? Right now, he's too busy extracting uranium from the Colorado mountains to think about that.
Flash ambushes the Atomic Skull, but stoned Firestorm is a bit of a liability.
So Barry taunts Ronnie (because Professor Stein has just shut down by this point, so it really just drunk Ronnie) into shooting him with the excess rads, angling it so he can dodge the blast just as the Atomic Skull comes into view.
Well played, Flash. And have a nice hangover Ronnie. But what this story, and every Atomic Skull (original flavor) tale, has told me, is that "devastating brain blast" isn't a very interesting power. Even if it does turn Firestorm a dope fiend. Roger Stern had the right idea completely reinventing the Atomic Skull as a cross between Ghost Rider and Silverblade...

Who's Next? Not the Silver Surfer, I swear.



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