Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Atlas Update 1.5

While we were up along the North Shore of Lake Superior for our five-year anniversary, we spent a few pleasant hours in Duluth.  We took a walk along Superior and discovered a nice antique/rock shop called Fragments of History, split a yummy lake trout appetizer with some local beer at the Dubh Linn Irish Pub, and spent a couple of hours digging through the comics-bins at two of the local comic shops.  Dragon Port Games was having a twenty-five-cent sale in their backroom and we were able to scrounge-up a few issues of Magnus (mostly the Valiant version) and some other things that we seemed to have missed the first-time around like the Warren Ellis-scripted and very subversively odd Doktor Sleepless.  Dragon Port Games was advertising their upcoming RPG Auction, which might be fun.  We have a bunch of older RPG-stuff we're interested in unloading, like a first-edition boxed-set of Striker miniatures rules for Traveler, as well as a few other tid-bits.  It was a nice shop, very roomy and spacious and well set-up for running miniatures games, which they do regularly and often.  The other Comics Shop was called Collector's Connection, and it was also very nice, clean and well-lit...not at all like some such establishments.  The staff were friendly, helpful, and very knowledgeable...and able to handle obnoxious kids better than most school bus drivers.  We were able to find a nice copy of Wulf: The Barbarian (Atlas Comics), and some back issues of Dynamite's Buck Rogers and Project Superpowers which looks fantastic, but then how do you go wrong with Alex Ross doing the covers and re-design of these older, obscure public domain super heroes?

Speaking of Wulf The Barbarian of old Atlas Comics fame, apparently Wulf is going to be the third Atlas character to get re-imagined/revised/re-booted from Ardden Entertainment.  CBR has an updated article on Atlas at the New York Comic Con, and their plans for Phoenix from which I quote:
"We're rebooting it," Deneen said of the series inspired by the original Atlas title. "It's the same central premise where this guy is abducted by aliens, experimented on and then finds out their plot. The story is what happens from there. We're not changing that premise, but we take it to the next level. 35 years later we've seen a lot of these movies and comics – 'Independence Day' and 'War of the Worlds' and any number of alien comics since the original 'Phoenix.' So how do we take the original concept and twist it? We've added things we feel have never been done before. It's a new twist on the abducted by aliens and on the run story that Jim and I are really excited about."
Nicely done.  In 75 words or less Mr. Deneen manages to put most reservations about how they're approaching this character to rest and sparks a bit of much-needed interest at the same time.  As I said previously, the older version of Phoenix is a real train-wreck of a title that was in dire need of a re-boot before it appeared the first-time.  We're looking forward to finally seeing the 12-page Zero-Issue, perhaps sometime this coming weekend.  I still think that Jack Hawksmoor of Stormwatch / The Authority was/is about as great a re-boot of the core premise of the Phoenix, that of the alien abduction and cyber/nano-modification of their bodies, but of course, Phoenix wasn't ever made into The God of Cities.  He was more like an astronaut suffering PTSD with issues surrounding the source of his powers...and some nasty benefactors who wanted to destroy humanity.  That part could be really played around with quite a bit, and it is encouraging that they're sticking to that aspect of the character.  What he needs is a sidekick like R. Lee Ermery: a drill sargeant type to cut down the emo-detours into mamby-pamby land.

It is interesting that when I first heard about the re-launch of Phoenix and Grim Ghost, that it was emphatically stated that this was not a re-launch of Atlas, just a testing of the waters to see if these two characters would still have any traction in the marketplace.  Well, now it's a full-fledged relaunch, of sorts.  Again, CBR has an article on the Relaunch of Atlas, which they're characterizing as a Come Back.  Newsarama also has a rather nice in-depth interview with Brendan Deneen and Jason Goodman of Ardden Entertainment that clears the air and sets things straight fairly clearly. 

Like Mr. Goodman says:
“We have 28 titles and hundreds of characters imagined by some of the greatest minds in the industry," Goodman said in the release. "They will now find a new life in comics, television, and movies. We are thrilled to finally bring these great characters back for the world to enjoy."
Scoop, a free newsletter for collectors, offers a whole bunch of Atlas material that is well worth checking out.

It's a nice blend of nostalgia and marketability, untapped commercial potential and a bucket-load of fun, weird and vaguely familiar characters that could migrate into other media, say video/console games or movies.  Having worked with J. M. DeMatteis to revive and re-imagine Phoenix, Grim Ghost and Wulf, the new and improved Atlas (in partnership with Ardden Entertainment) is in a fairly interesting position regarding the legacy IP of the former Atlas Comics.  They did a wonderful job with Flash Gordon, they brought back Casper and the Spectrals, and it sounds like they have a real plan for how best to revive the Atlas universe.  Too bad DeMatteis has left Ardden Entertainment.  Hopefully this won't kill the momentum, but one has to wonder about 'different visions of how to proceed.'  Maybe they argued over doing Planet of the Vampires versus the Destructor next.  Whatever.  That's between them.  I'm curious how Wulf will do, and what, if anything, will be coming next.  I know that I don't get a vote, but I'm also not the only one who is clammering for a Planet of the Vampires re-boot, even if I don't get to write it.

Once we pick-up our copies of the Phoenix and Grim Ghost Zero-Issues from our local comics shop (we're not planning on going back to Duluth for a while), we'll post a review.

If you are at all interested in the older, deader Atlas Comics, then you really ought to download the Atlas/Seaboard Downunder pdf by Daniel Best.  Very interesting reading, for someone who is into old, obscure, once-defunct comicsbook publishing companies and all that sort of thing.

There is also a Message Board/Forum over at the Atlas Archives site if you want to dig into the facts, rumors or weirdness surrounding either the old or the new version of Atlas Comics.

Hmmm...old obscure comicbooks.  Characters relegated to the dustbin of pop culture, remaindered and buried amongst the dross and debris of the cheap-bins and known only to a few stalwart aficionados of the strange, the unusual, the mostly forgotten...

The stories and history surrounding the older, deader Atlas Comics is perfect fodder for a Lovecraftian occult conspiracy horror tale in their own right, either in fiction or in a game sceanrio.  The opportunity to blur the edges and bring the versimilitude up a few notches is also very appealing, so using the old Atlas as a springboard of inspiration, it's not hard to see how to develop some fun and unique plots, hooks or a whole campaign based off of a fictional doppleganger of the defunct Atlas.  Imagine, if you will, a comic book company started as an act of vengeance, one that makes a big splash and burns out in less than two years.  Then the whispering begins.  Strange tales of bizarre rites, secret wisdom encoded or encrypted into some of the issues of certain titles, possibly a set of macabre clues to some mystery, weird prophecies, even whole missing issues written entirely in constructed languages similar to Shaver's Mantong or Stanislaw Szukalski's Protong...but such things as these are for another post, when the stars are right and we have time to go down the ConLang Rabbithole a bit more in-depth.  For the moment, consider the implications of Cthulhoid Comics, not in terms of content, but in terms of the production of such things, the creation of comic book representations of cultic images and grimoiric passages to corrupt the youth of the world in ways that even Ed Gein's comic-hating lawyer couldn't have imagined...


  1. Atlas was an odd mixture of interesting ideas with so-so execution, to so-so ideas with bad execution. Still, I'm interested in what they do with the reboots.

  2. Steve Niles writing the reboot of Wulf is a pretty interesting development, and it brings back both Wulf and Lomax, so it could be cool. But, yeah, in general, the old Atlas stuff was mostly so-so where it wasn't blatantly derivative, but even the most obvious 'homages' had an off beat feel to them that made the Atlas stuff feel more subversive, more peculiar than the mainstream stuff it competed with...and it is this weirdness factor that I hope to see brought back into the new mix more than any of the specific characters, most of which might have a really hard time emerging successfully from oblivion. Except for the Destructor. That character still reeks of untapped potential and just needs a chance to succeed...and of course, Plant of the Vampires, the best thing that Atlas ever did (IMHO)...even though it was terribly written and the dialogue is excruciatingly bad even now with the benefit of nostalgia...
    I wish Mr. Deneen and Mr. Goodman all the best of luck in reviving this stuff, and hope that they are open to taking risks, reveling in the gonzo possibilities and ready to knock peoples' socks off with a radical new approach. Like how Dynamite, Boom, Moonstone and others are doing with the revised/rebooted characters that they are working with already.


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