Monday, August 29, 2011

ATARI FORCE #1 by Zack Soto

Zack Soto is a cartoonist and printmaker who lives in Portland, OR. He's the creator of the comic THE SECRET VOICE and the editor and publisher of the Ignatz and Stumptown Comic Art Fest Award winning anthology STUDYGROUP12. Zack's done work for Adhouse Books, Avodah, SLG, & Dark Horse Comics. You can follow him at or , whichever floats your boat.

Much more below the cut ...

Zack says: ATARI FORCE #1 (of 12)
2063: A.T.A.R.I. (Advanced Technology And Research Institute) combs an infinite number of realities in order to find a suitable new world for the population of a dying Earth. In their travels through the Multiverse, one of the expeditionary forces does battle with and ultimately kills the ultimate evil - a lovecraftian devourer of dimensions they dub the DARK DESTROYER. In the course of this battle, they find a perfect, empty world in a universe teeming with advanced civilizations. After some false starts both the recolonization of New Earth and the socialization of the New Earthlings with the rest of their new neighbors is a success.

2088: THE ATARI FOUNDATION, now the de facto governing party of New Earth, has ushered in a new era of utopian prosperity. After the Old Earth was brought to the brink of destruction by gross negligence and mismanagement, the people of New Earth are only too happy to put themselves in the guiding hands of ATARI. All live in relative prosperity and happiness..

Except for MARTIN CHAMPION, brilliant Multiversal scientist and the leader of the original expedition that battled the Destroyer. Martin is haunted by the death of his wife in childbirth, and is convinced that the Dark Destroyer somehow caused it. Instead of going about his life and picking up the pieces, Martin sits in his lab sending probes out in to the Multiverse, in hopes of finding proof of the existence of the Dark Destroyer. Martin has, over the years, become a laughingstock of ATARI, as well as driven his now adult son out of his life, due to misplaced anger about the death of his wife. All he has left is his obsession..

Until one of his probes goes missing after sending back readings of energy very similar to the kind the Destroyer radiates. Worried that he's given the Dark Destroyer a direct route back to New Earth in the lost probe, Martin hijacks his now antique Multiversal scout ship

SCANNER ONE and heads out to stop the Destroyer once and for all. To help him on this mission, he enlists:

ERIN BIA O'ROURKE-SINGH, aka DART - A telepathic mercenary, as well as his goddaughter. She's one of the deadliest, sexiest beings in the universe, and she has a precognitive "second sight" that comes in handy.

MORPHEA - An alien empath, forced on Champion by the ATARI FOUNDATION to serve as his psychiatrist. Ostensibly she's there to help him with his "delusions", but her connection to Martin's deepest convictions gives her reason to think he's actually right about the danger facing the Multiverse.

CHRIS CHAMPION, aka TEMPEST - Martin's estranged son. A professional fighting champion who's anger management issues and freakish teleportation abilities have made him a star in the Mega-Brawl circuit.

Wanted by the government of New Earth, and pursued by the ATARI Security Squad, Champion has to outwit them all and defeat the ultimate expression of evil all over again. Luckily this time he has the new, improved, ATARI FORCE!

Over the course of their adventure, their rag tag team grows in size as they pick up new members:

BABE - The hulking, freakishly strong infant from a world of rock-like creatures.

TUKLA OLY, aka PAKRAT - An impish, self-absorbed master thief who goes into berserker rages when cornered.

TAZ - A master soldier, last of her race, who carries deep anger and sadness within her.

MOSES FISK, aka BLACKJAK - Dart's lover, a roguish mercenary once thought dead, secretly brainwashed to do the Dark Destroyer's bidding.
I loved AF as a kid, so when Jon asked me what book I'd reboot if I got the chance, it was one of a handful of titles I considered. I loved Garcia-Lopez' designs and storytelling, and Gerry Conway did a really good job weaving all these plot threads together in an exciting way.

My reboot of the book would condense it down to a 12 issue mini series (or maxi series, as it would have been called back then), and really play up some of the hard sci fi elements at the fringes of the concept, as well as inject a sort of european sense of storytelling to the character bits.

The only character I would really change that much is Chris, who in the original is pretty lame/bland/whiney and was quickly overshadowed by Dart. I thought giving him the MMA-style fighting league to be a part of would be something interesting for him to use to try and cope with being crapped on by his dad all his life, as well as ground him more than in the original series, where he's really sort of a cypher-brat.

Another wrinkle I would explore is the sexual tension between him and his "sister", Dart. It's hinted at in the original series, but I think that I'd have it bloom fully in my version on these long weeks and months stuck on Scanner One - Chris always having had a thing for Dart since they were kids, and Dart being rather depressed and lovesick because of Blackjak's apparent death early in the series. Things would, of course get rather sticky when Blackjak reappears.

Needless to say, the ATARI FORCE gang eventually wins out against the new iteration of the Dark Destroyer, but not without some serious losses, and they limp off still wanted by the ATARI FOUNDATION and use the failing Multiversal drive on Scanner One to take them into unknown space..

I had my friend Brandon Graham color this piece, because the whole time I was drawing it, I was sort of imagining it colored like a King City or Multiple Warheads cover, so I just thought "why not get Brandon to actually color it??" and luckily enough he indulged me.

What a fun project!

Atari Force was created by Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas. Read more...


  1. Man I thought my background description was long. Great stuff, very in-depth.

  2. Looks good. I just wonder if there would ever be an Atari Force #2.

  3. Very nice.

    Also, in the split-second before my eyes first focused on the image, I thought "Those look like Brandon Graham colours. Did Brandon do a piece?"

  4. thanks guys.

    Steve- Yeah we need to get Brandon's name above the cut, his colors added a lot to the piece.

  5. Wow awesome. I never got around to read Atari Force, and have been meaning to for years. You just gave me the bug again.

    Would read? In one for or another, I think I will.

  6. A perfect collaboration! Two beautiful men making beautiful artwork.

  7. Would Hukka be part of your reimagined Atari Force? Hard to imagine it without him, though maybe that's just because I have such fond memories of that loopy Keith Giffin story, "Hukka vs. the Bob."

  8. Atari Force hit me at the exact right age to be one of my Golden Comic Book Memories. Except for BlackJak. I still hate that guy.

    He's no good for you, Dart!

  9. I was jealous when I saw you'd signed up to do this one- it didn't even enter my mind. Lovely work!

  10. Ah, that explains why Brandon was blogging about Atari Force recently! When I heard about this project, Atari Force was what instantly came to mind as what I'd do if I was in it.

  11. Wow, that brings back memories. I had the original little Atari Force comic that came with one of the Atari cartridges my parents bought for me (I can't remember which game it was, though I do remember that "Yar's Revenge" also came with a mini-comic...). I never saw any other issues beyond the first one with everyone's origin stories, but I loved that one...