Minorities in cartoons: The Atom (Ryan Choi)

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This week’s entry is on Ryan Choi, an incarnation of the superhero known as the Atom. Ryan first appeared in “DCU: Brave New World” in 2006. He was created by Gail Simone (“Birds of Prey”) and Grant Morrison (“All Star Superman”).

Background

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Ryan is a scientist at Ivy University in the fictional New England town of Ivy Town. A longtime protégé of Ray Palmer (the traditional Silver Age Atom), Ryan took up the Mighty Mite’s mantle when Ray disappeared. Fortunately, Ray left his size-and-weight-controlling equipment behind (with apparent blessing) for Ryan to use. While Ryan fights crime as a superhero, he still greatly values his background and work as a scientist.

The late 2000s storyline “Brightest Day” saw Ryan killed in a degrading manner: his corpse was found stuffed inside a matchbox. This was apparently to make room to bring Ray Palmer back into the Atom role. Ryan’s death was heavily criticized as one of several prominent examples of DC Comics being tone-deaf toward diversity issues. Ryan’s since “gotten better,” thanks to the temporary nature of superhero comic deaths.

Like Ray, Ryan’s powers as the Atom include the ability to change his size (shrinking to the subatomic level) and weight at will.

Other media

Ryan was the Atom of choice on “Batman: The Brave and the Bold.”

The episode “Journey to the Center of the Bat” sees Ryan team up with Aquaman. The two heroes shrink in size and go inside Batman to save his life.

Ryan and the Sea King also team up in “Sword of the Atom,” another fun story. The episode’s an adaption of the 80s Atom storyline of the same name.

(Updated 11/14/16)

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