Albert Gaines was an ordinary worker at a nuclear power plant on Earth-712. One day, he was accidentally exposed to nuclear waste products, and in the most unlikely of origins, gained superhuman powers as a result. Sometime prior to the Squadron Supreme being controlled by Overmind and Null the Living Darkness, Albert was asked to join the Squadron, and happily accepted. For unknown reasons, he chose to keep his identity secret from the rest of his family.
Nuke was created by J.M.DeMatteis and Don Perlin, and first appeared in Defenders #112. Like the majority of the Squadron Supreme, he was based on an existing DC character, in his case Firestorm.
In his initial appearances in Defenders, Nuke was brainwashed alongside the rest of the Squadron, and so not much of his own personality was seen. When the Squadron were granted their own miniseries, Nuke was shown to be very caring of his family, and wasn't shown to speak up much when in the Squadron.
It is highly likely that this was due to depression from his parents' illnesses. However, Nuke was shown to have a near-unstoppable rage when something could provoke his anger. Upon Tom Thumb admitting that he hadn't found a cure for cancer, Nuke snapped, and started shouting threats at Tom, even though Tom had tried his best to help Nuke. He also got into a violent fight with Doctor Spectrum, which only ended when Spectrum accidentally killed Nuke.
Major Story Arcs
Overmind and the Utopia Principle
Sometime after Nuke joined the Squadron Supreme, they were brainwashed and mind-controlled by Overmind, who sought to use them to control their world. Fortunately, Hyperion remained unaffected by Overmind, and managed to enlist the aid of the Defenders to help free the Squadron, and stop Overmind and his ally Null the Living Darkness. However, as a result of Overmind's control, the Earth was devastated. To fix it, Power Princess suggested that the Squadron make a utopia on Earth, within a one-year time limit. With the exceptions of Nighthawk, who quit, and Amphibian, who was outvoted, the Squadron agreed.
Around this time, Nuke found out that his parents had terminal cancer as a result of his powers. Grief stricken, he turned to Tom Thumb in desperation, begging him to find a cure for cancer. After designing and creating a new costume for Nuke which would prevent him from unintentionally giving anyone else cancer, Tom tried his best over several weeks to find the cure for cancer. Unfortunately, in the end he ultimately could not find a cure for cancer. Turning near psychotic at the result of this news, Nuke threatened Tom before quitting the team. It was around this time that Nuke's parents died.
Several weeks later, the Squadron were starting to wonder where Nuke had gone, as he hadn't officially said anything to the team about resigning. As revenge for a practical joke he had played on her, Power Princess recommended that Doctor Spectrum be sent to find Nuke. Upon Spectrum finding him, Nuke went on a rampage, merely wanting to be left alone after his parents had died. Trying only to defend himself, Dr Spectrum tried to hold Nuke back by encasing him in one of his energy constructs, but ended up accidentally killing him when Nuke's use of his own powers burned out the oxygen supply inside it. Shortly afterwards, Doctor Spectrum visited Nuke's younger brother Scott, and apologized for what he had done.
Powers and Abilities
Nuke's powers were rarely shown, but from what could be seen of them, he appeared to have the ability to fly and project blasts of radiation as energy. His physical strength level was unknown. Nuke can focus his radiation into beams, and can also generate pressure and shock-waves that duplicate an atomic explosion.
As he was able to go one-on-one with Doctor Spectrum, one of the more experienced and powerful members of the Squadron Supreme, it is possible that Nuke was one of the most powerful members of the Squadron.
Although Nuke can increase the amount of radiation he emits, he does not have the ability to shut it off completely. Nuke's body continuously gives off small amounts of radiation which contaminates everything and everyone around him. Only the integrity of his specially-designed suit by Tom Thumb allows Nuke to be amongst others without this effect.
In Earth-31916, Nuke is introduced as Mr. Al Gaines, a young, severely depressed man living underground in a fallout shelter alone because his body emits high levels of radiation he cannot control. He is near invulnerable, can fly, and apparently superhumanly strong. General Alexander gives him a suit that will control his radiation output in return for fighting Hyperion.
In a fight with Hyperion the combination of Hyperion's eye-beams, Nuke's radiation blast, and Arcanna's quantum alterations creates a brief and unexplainable skip in reality that sends Gaines, Arcanna Jones, Dr. Emil Burbank and Raleigh Lund two years into the future.
Nuke has recently joined the Government's Squadron Supreme. In the first mission he is high up in the sky to be used as a tactical nuke, the person of last resort.
Earth-616 temporarily gained their own version of Nuke when an imperfect clone was created, alongside the rest of the Squadron, at Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S.. However, due to a mishap with some exotic energy, it was turned into a zombie, and along with the rest of the Squadron, set about eating as many people as it could. Fortunately, the entire Zombie Squadron were eventually stopped.