Atomic Skull
The Albert Michaels incarnation of Atomic Skull as depicted in Who's Who in the DC Universe #1 (March 1985). Art by Curt Swan.
Publication information
PublisherDC Comics
First appearance(Michaels)
Superman #303 (September 1976)
(Michaels as the Atomic Skull)
Superman #323 (May 1978)
The Adventures of Superman #483 (October 1991)
(Martin as the Atomic Skull)
Action Comics #670 (October 1991)
Created by(Michaels)
Gerry Conway
Curt Swan
Roger Stern
Bob McLeod
In-story information
Alter egoAlbert Michaels
Joseph Martin
Team affiliations(Michaels)
S.T.A.R. Labs
Secret Society of Super Villains
Injustice League
Secret Society of Super Villains
Notable aliases(Martin)


  • Resurrection
  • Genius-level intellect


  • Power augmentation

The Atomic Skull is a supervillain in American comic books published by DC Comics, commonly as an enemy of Superman.[1] The character first appeared in 1978.

Publication history

The Albert Michaels version of the Atomic Skull first appeared in Superman #323 (May 1978), and was created by Martin Pasko and Curt Swan.[2]

The Joseph Martin version of the Atomic Skull first appeared in The Adventures of Superman #483, and was created by Roger Stern and Bob McLeod.

Fictional character biography

Albert Michaels

Albert Michaels was a brilliant, but unfriendly scientist-administrator at S.T.A.R. Labs with a rare nervous system disorder that short-circuited the electrical impulses in his brain, creating painful and uncontrollable seizures. When he could not find a cure, he secretly contacted the criminal organization SKULL, and they implanted him with a radium-powered device designed to harness his neural disorder into deadly atomic "brain-blasts" in exchange for him becoming their agent.[3] However, these mental blasts were difficult to control and only made his condition worse, a situation that he blamed on Superman after the Man of Steel captured the only SKULL scientists who could have cured him. Swearing revenge, the evil genius donned his distinctive yellow and green costume with its visored, cowl-topped skull mask, called himself the Atomic Skull, and eventually became the organization's leader, flying around in a sleek skull-shaped hovercraft of his own design and assisted by his similarly costumed lover Felicia, who was a panther that he had artificially evolved into a human form.

Following Crisis on Infinite Earths, Michaels made one appearance, battling Thunder and Lightning in Teen Titans Spotlight. It is assumed that his background has not changed, although instead of being diagnosed with a nervous disorder, it was said that his powers came because he sought immortality and presumably mutated himself. It is not known if he ever fought the post-Crisis version of Superman before, as his first (Post-Crisis) appearance was in Captain Atom, yet his history with S.T.A.R. Labs and SKULL remained as established in The DC Comics Encyclopedia.

Michaels returned in 2007 in Birds of Prey.[4] He also appeared in the miniseries Villains United, where he joined Luthor's Society.[5]

Joseph Martin

Student Joseph Martin was at S.T.A.R. Labs for a routine check-up when it was struck by an intense blast of energy from the Dominators' gene-bomb that gave him superhuman strength and caused his flesh to become invisible. Later attacked by some thugs, the resulting brain damage caused insanity, and he took on the guise of "the Atomic Skull" who was a hero from an old movie serial that he loved. He also emitted dangerous amounts of radiation, later gaining the ability to project it as energy blasts. He has plagued Superman, whom he believed to be the serial's villain Doctor Electron (particularly when Superman had currently acquired electricity-based powers), and Lois Lane, whom he saw as the Skull's love interest, Zelda Wentworth.[6]

He was later given enhanced powers by the demon Neron in exchange for his soul.[7] Cured of his delusions, he at first intended to follow the character's example for real as a superhero, but has since appeared as a more conventional supervillain.

He is killed in battle by the Maximums,[8] an alternate reality superhero team, but is later seen alive in the pages of Action Comics,[9] assuming that Mister Mxyzptlk reversed his death, along with other events having to do with the Maximums.

Recently, Martin crashed a movie premiere in Hollywood, having become obsessed with an actress who was in the film. He was defeated by Manhunter.[10]

Martin was among the villains in the ambush of the JSA led by the Tapeworm.[11]

While Superman is off-world, Martin attempts to cause trouble in downtown Metropolis, but is defeated by Mon-El.[12]

The New 52

In The New 52 reboot launched in 2011, the Joseph Martin version of the Atomic Skull is re-introduced in Action Comics vol. 2 Annual #1, penned by Chronicle writer Max Landis.[13]

When a S.T.A.R. Labs submarine crashes far below the surface of the ocean, one of its scientists is exposed to experimental radiation. He is washed to shore, with memories of the life he had, and the woman he loved and lost. Alone on a desert island, he fights to survive, eating the local, tropical vegetation. When a leopard finds and attacks him, he unexpectedly emits a blast of radiation that vaporizes its body. Eventually, he learns to use this power to his benefit, killing animals for food, and blasting away holes in the rock faces for shelter. The radiation soon takes its toll on him, as he remembers how he had caught his wife flirting with someone at a dance club and murdered her in a jealous rage. In anger, he destroys most of the island. His face, meanwhile, practically melts away, revealing his radioactive skull.[14][15]

DC Rebirth

In DC Rebirth, the Atomic Skull is seen imprisoned in Kamen Maximum Security Prison in Superwoman #1.[16]

In Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #45, the Atomic Skull is shown trying to make amends by being the warden at Stryker's Island Penitentiary. When Hal Jordan tried to break out Hector Hammond, the Atomic Skull fought him, but before he could do anything else, Hector Hammond renders him temporarily brain dead using his psychic powers and Hal Jordan convinces him to let the Atomic Skull live.[17]

Powers and abilities

Albert Michaels can deliver powerful energy bolts through the visor of his mask. These blasts have been described as unique brainwaves, heat vision, and radioactive energy throughout the years. Beside from his energy attacks, Michaels is an experienced leader of the SKULL organization and a brilliant scientist.[18]

Joseph Martin has immense strength, stamina, and durability, comparable to that of Superboy (Kon-El), Superman, and Lar Gand. He can also project blasts of purple atomic energy from his hands or mouth for long-range attacks and use the same one to power himself up in a higher degree.[19]

Other versions

Dominus' reality

In a story featuring the reality-altering villain Dominus recreating various pre-Crisis Superman continuities, the supposed Golden Age Atomic Skull was first introduced. He was Lawrence Dennis, an actor and Nazi sympathizer who used his reputation as the hero of the serial Curse of the Atomic Skull as a platform to promote Nazism.


In the alternate timeline of the Flashpoint event, a version of the Atomic Skull is imprisoned in the military Doom prison and is working to keep the other prisoners in, as he recognizes that he is a bigger fish in jail than he would ever be in the real world.[20]

Movie serial

The Atomic Skull is the name of Joseph Martin's favorite hero from a (fictional) 12-episode movie serial made by National Film Studios in 1936. The serial stars Lawrence Dennis (according to Superman Villains Secret Files and Origins #1) as the titular character. This Atomic Skull was originally government agent Joe Martin who investigated the evil Doctor Electron and was transformed into the hideous Atomic Skull by one of Electron's inventions. Despite this, he and Zelda Wentworth, Electron's daughter (played by actress Eleanor Hart, whom Lois Lane has a passing resemblance to[21]), fell in love. Battling Electron and his minions (such as Rocketman) with his heat ray eye-blasts, the Atomic Skull eventually destroyed the mad scientist's plans and returned to normal. The fictional character from the serial is visually identical to Albert Michaels, the Pre-Crisis version of the Atomic Skull.

Superman: Red Son

The Atomic Skull is featured in the alternate reality Superman: Red Son as one of Lex Luthor's experiments.[22]

In other media



Video games

The Joseph Martin incarnation of the Atomic Skull appears as a character summon in Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure.[26]


The Albert Michaels incarnation of the Atomic Skull appears in a special one-shot for the Young Justice tie-in comic book published for Free Comic Book Day.[27]

See also


  1. ^ Greenberger, Robert; Pasko, Martin (2010). The Essential Superman Encyclopedia. Del Rey. p. 18. ISBN 978-0-345-50108-0.
  2. ^ Eury, Michael (2006). "Martin Pasko Interview". The Krypton Companion. TwoMorrows Publishing. p. 158. ISBN 9781893905610.
  3. ^ Rovin, Jeff (1987). The Encyclopedia of Supervillains. New York: Facts on File. p. 11. ISBN 0-8160-1356-X.
  4. ^ Birds of Prey #110
  5. ^ Villains United #5
  6. ^ Greenberger, Robert (2008), "Atomic Skull", in Dougall, Alastair (ed.), The DC Comics Encyclopedia, London: Dorling Kindersley, p. 31, ISBN 978-0-7566-4119-1
  7. ^ Underworld Unleashed #1
  8. ^ Superman/Batman #21
  9. ^ Action Comics #853
  10. ^ Manhunter vol. 2 #31
  11. ^ Justice Society of America vol. 3 #29
  12. ^ Justice League of America vol. 2 #41
  13. ^ Guerrero, Tony (2012-10-25). "Interview: 'Chronicle' Writer Max Landis Talks Superman, Atomic Skull and His Passion for Comics". Comic Vine. Retrieved 2016-09-23.
  14. ^ Action Comics vol. 2 Annual #1
  15. ^ Cowsill, Alan; Irvine, Alex; Korte, Steve; Manning, Matt; Wiacek, Win; Wilson, Sven (2016). The DC Comics Encyclopedia: The Definitive Guide to the Characters of the DC Universe. DK Publishing. p. 22. ISBN 978-1-4654-5357-0.
  16. ^ Deathstroke #4
  17. ^ Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #45
  18. ^ Superman Vol. 1 #323 (May 1978)
  19. ^ Action Comics Vol. 1 #670 (October 1991)
  20. ^ Flashpoint: Legion of Doom #1 (June 2011)
  21. ^ Superman: The Essential Guide to the Man of Steel, p. 100
  22. ^ Superman: Red Son #3
  23. ^ a b "Atomic Skull Voices (DC Universe)". Behind The Voice Actors. Retrieved May 1, 2024. A green check mark indicates that a role has been confirmed using a screenshot (or collage of screenshots) of a title's list of voice actors and their respective characters found in its opening and/or closing credits and/or other reliable sources of information.
  24. ^ Milligan, Mercedes (April 30, 2024). "Trailer: 'My Adventures with Superman' Renews the Fight for Justice on May 25". Retrieved May 1, 2024.
  25. ^ ""My Adventures with Superman" Season 2 Double-Episode Premiere Review". Superman Homepage. May 26, 2024. Retrieved May 26, 2024.
  26. ^ Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure - A look at every character in the game (over 2000!!), 25 September 2013, archived from the original on December 21, 2021, retrieved September 8, 2019
  27. ^ "FCBD 2011 Young Justice Batman BB Super Sampler #1 - Face Your Fears; Let Me Tell You About Bruce Wayne... (Issue)". Comic Vine. Retrieved May 1, 2024.