There are many versions of Superman across the DC multiverse, each bringing their own flavor to the legendary Man of Steel. But there’s one version in particular who, on top of being a Superman, is also a pastiche of Captain Atom and one of the characters he directly inspired, Doctor Manhattan from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ seminal Watchmen.
Now, we’re taking a closer look at Captain Adam, the Quantum Superman who may be just as powerful as Doctor Manhattan or anyone else in the DC Multiverse.
Captain Adam first appeared during the events of Grant Morrison and Doug Mahnke’s Final Crisis: Superman Beyond as one of the versions of Superman forced to work together during the crossover. Adam was crucial to the success of the team’s mission, helping guide the damaged Echo of Midnight for a safe landing when the heroes were shot down. He was able to repair the ship thanks to his vast intelligence and understanding of the world around them and showcased just how powerful he was when the Monitor Zillo Valla removed the drugs from his system that dampened his powers. He was able to fuse Superman and Ultraman into a single being – a new Superman who could confront Mandrakk the Dark Monitor and hold his own in a battle. In many ways, he is the DC version of Doctor Manhattan before he ever arrived in the pages of Doomsday Clock.
In the Post-Flashpoint version of the DC Multiverse, Captain Allen Adam was the Captain Atom of Earth-4, a world similar to the Charleston Comics characters. Designed in reference to Watchmen, the Quantum Superman gained his powers when an experimental uranium engine exploded near him. The blast destroyed his body, but empowered his mind and removed him from the conventional perception of reality. After constructing himself a new body, Captain Adam was reborn as one of the most powerful beings in the universe, capable of almost anything he set his mind to. However, the sheer scope of his powers and the effect they have on his psychology not only frighten those around him, but himself as well.
He took drugs from higher-ups at the military to suppress his powers and keep his mind focused. When he’s allowed to ponder and think about the constructs of reality around him, Adam proves capable of seeing from a 4th-dimensional perspective, allowing him to see through time, space, and even the motivations of people around him. All of this firmly makes the character a direct DC analog to Doctor Manhattan, who approached the concepts from a similar appearance and power set. However, Adam proves genuinely saddened by what’s happened to him. At one point observing a beloved dog, he kills the animal in an attempt to understand how it fully works. But after a few moments of disconnected curiosity, he gives in to genuine grief at his actions and asks to be put on more drugs.
Adam was made into a superhero and member of Pax Americana, Earth-4’s premiere American superhero team that was detailed in Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s The Multiversity: Pax Americana. However, his fraying sense of self begins to frighten his superiors, especially when he was revealed to have been able to see into their minds and see their motivations. A desperate group of scientists activated a singularity inside Adam’s head, reasoning that even he couldn’t survive that, which leads Adam to suddenly disappear. However, it’s unlikely this actually killed him. Adam had mentioned elsewhere that he could see through time and was aware of the plot to kill him, but he admits freely that they have no ways of actually killing him.
It’s more likely that Captain Adam has instead just moved through the multiverse, and has been doing so ever since. What makes this incredibly interesting is in the fallout of Doomsday Clock and Flash Forward, the power of the actual Doctor Manhattan is present in the multiverse as well. While Jon Osterman might no longer control it, it’s in the hands of Wally West, the former Flash who was forced to become emotionless when he embraced the power and Metron’s Chair. But Captain Adam could be the key to reach through to the now cosmically indifferent former hero, as Adam shows that it is possible to contend with those god-like powers and still find a way to be a human and a hero.
On one of DC's Infinite Earths, Allen Adam, the Quantum Superman of Earth-4 who possesses many of the same powers as Watchmen's Doctor Manhattan.