Hey Kids!! Comics: ATARI FORCE

Thanks to TV shows like The Goldbergs and Stranger Things there have been wicked good nostalgia for all things 1980’s; or as many may call it: my childhood. Amazingly there hasn’t been much nostalgia burn going on.

“Nostalgia Burn” equates to going back and trying to revisit your fondness for anything Past that not only not doesn’t measure up but soils the memory of the beloved whatever it is.

Not so with ATARI FORCE.

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This silly sounding 80s era DC comic book series is remembered fondly by many and
with good reason… it was good, really good, ahead of its time good.  It started with promotional comics that were inserted into ATARI video game cartridge packages: Defender, Berzerk, Star Raiders, Phoenix and Galaxian. The plots to each were based, somewhat loosely, on the game title that the comic book was inserted with. These could have just been any old comic books but DC got creators like Gerry Conway, Roy Thomas, Ross Andru, Gil Kane, Dick Giordano and Mike DeCarlo.

These giveaway mini-comics told the story of a group of diverse persons who form, of course, the ATARI Force; ATARI being an acronym for Advanced Technology And Research Institute. A sort of pseudo government something or other as many organizations were in 80s toys and comics such as MASK, G.I. Joe and MegaForce.

MegaForce?!

They are tasked with finding a new habitable world as Earth has been spent from overpopulation, environmental shenanigans, wars and more wars. The first issue was inserted into the packaging for the video game: DEFENDER and was titled in three parts; “Intruder Alert!”, “Deadly Orbit,” and “Final Approach.”

The ongoing series was based on these promo comics; the characters in the ongoing were realized and believable, the science in the fiction was the right tone for adventure, the villains tapped into the Star Wars zeitgeist as Return of the Jedi was still a year away, the art was gorgeous and the plots drew the reader in. All of this was brought to us by Gerry Conway, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez (Really, what can’t that guy draw? Badly, he can’t draw badly.), Ross Andru, Eduardo Barreto, Mike Baron, Ricardo Villagran (a personal favorite) and a series of back-ups by Keith Giffen. The backstory to all of that were the promo comics.

That first mini-comic with flashback set in 1998 had a mysterious purple ninja woman, more ATARI logos than hidden Mickeys at Walt Disney Anywhere, a team of heroes as diverse as Original Series Star Trek lead by a Captain Kirk type: Commander Martin Champion, a multiversal spaceship named Scanner One shaped like the ATARI logo which takes off at the end like a TARDIS into the multiverse.

These promo comic books (there are three more in the series) and D.C. Comics Graphic Novel Number One Star Raiders by Elliot S! Maggin and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez served as the beginnings of the 1982 ongoing monthly ATARI Force comic book which was one of the first maxi-series with a Beginning, Middle and End.

If you like good science fiction comics seek this series out; you shouldn’t pay more
than $1 for each issue, the Star Raiders graphic novel should be found for not much more as it had a very large print run, and there is a Special that is harder to find but still shouldn’t be pricey. There were previews of the book offered in D.C. Comics Presents #53 and New Teen Titans #27, those might be a touch more pricey but really shouldn’t be more than the cost of a modern comic book. Not many of those promo comics survived but AtariAge.com hosts scans of all of the issues and the non-ATARI Force inserts and a big thank you to them for doing so if you do find them they shouldn’t cost more than a modern comic book.

This book has so much in common with great SF like Babylon 5 and Asimov’s Foundation series, just solid, fun space adventure goodness.

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