Everyone that knows me knows that I'm a big Silver/Bronze Age junkie. There's just something about those 4 color wonders of the good ol' days that I just can't get enough of. Sure, every era has it's low points.... but the Bronze Age had so much going for it entertainment wise. We got to revel in the glory of the original Star Wars trilogy, kick back on the couch and watch Mork and Mindy or play our Atari 2600 for the first time!
Speaking of the Atari 2600, there was a certain comic that was based on one of the games for the system called Star Raiders. That comic was called ATARI FORCE! Admittedly, the comic series was already off to a bad start, because, even by todays standards, fans rarely give love to toy-based comics. It was always seen as a cheap marketing ploy which caused a lot of dislike from the hard core comics geeks. (Of course, there were always exceptions, such as Marvel's Micronauts series....more on that in the future!)
Atari Force was one of those comics that had a plethora of massively talented creators working on it. Atari Force #1 was published by DC Comics back in 1983 following the release of the graphic novel Star Raiders which came out a year earlier. Written by the legendary Gerry Conway and drawn by the incomparable Jose Luis Garcia Lopez for the first 12 issues of the 20 issue series, Atari Force highlighted talents from other great such as Mike Baron, Eduardo Barreto, Ed Hannigan, Marshall Rogers, and John Byrne.... not a single piker in the bunch!
The story was a sci-fi mash up which featured disgraced team leader Martin Champion and his son Chris Champion (code name: Tempest), who had the mutant power to teleport thru discus shaped portals. Martin was considered a madman by the authorities because he was convinced the universe was in peril due to a villainous entity known as the Destroyer. While no one would believe his story of the universe destroying entity, Martin was bound and determined to end the threat of the Destroyer..with or without help from anyone else.
The cast of characters was a geekasm for sci-fi fans. Besides the grumpy, cantankerous Martin Champion and Chris, there was "bad to the bone" female mercenary Dart, her sometimes traitorous lover Blackjak, the feral mouse-like thief known as Packrat, and the empathic Dr. Morphea. Rounding off the crew was the giant sized baby like creature called b, the short albino alien known as Taz, and comedic side kick to the group, The Hukka.
This book was so full of terrific characterization and spell binding artwork that of course it only lasted 20 issues plus an extra length special.. 21 in all. Both Gerry Conway and Mike Baron showed their range as writers with this series. There were so many scenes in this series that made you just fall into the characters lives and really feel connected to them...there are few writers that can make you do that in comics.
As an artist, all I can say is that I can only aspire to be half as capable as the artists on this series. Along with Lopez's and Barreto's near perfect stylings, there were a couple of fill in's by the amazing Ross Andru. Sadly, none of these artists achieved the fame level of guys like Jim Lee or even Rob Liefeld. But ask any artist or any art lover with an eye that goes beyond the fancy stylings of speed lines and hatch marks, and you'll see some of the finest and most professional panels ever put in a comic.
True, honest to goodness, great art!
For roughly two years, the comics world had a nice little shining beacon of greatness that was snuffed out too soon.
So go out, loyal ones...and hunt down those 21 issues of rockin' Atari coolness! I've seen some of these issues at conventions and they certainly won't hurt your wallet, as dealers aren't charging much for them.
Thrill to the exploits of Martin and Christopher Champion and their merry bands of alien misfits.....you'll be glad you did!