Recently as part of the 1983 Project I stumbled upon shared ideas between comic books and movies. Frequently a new series is launched based on a popular, or assumed to be popular, idea in movies. Savage barbarians, vigilantes, and here – video games.
In 1983 the video game industry was not only experiencing growth (before the infamous E.T. crash) but was also targeted more to adults than children. As the multi part Joysticks series pointed out, arcades were the domain of 18 and up crowd that isn’t interested in the bar scene.
(Hey, and if you haven’t, read the entire Joysticks posts. The deepest dive ever done on the movie in any forum.)
Thus it makes sense that video game companies would look into ways to get more money out of their fans, or I mean, look for ways to extend the story into other formats. Atari came up with a way to get these stories directly into the hands of those who would be most interested. By inserting them into the video game boxes.
Five mini comics were included in five different video game boxes from Atari:
Atari Force #1: Defender
Atari Force #2: Berzerk
Atari Force #3: Star Raiders
Atari Force #4: Phoenix
Atari Force #5: Galaxian
Not only were these comics sold directly to gamers, but because games remain on the shelf until sold they were not subject to monthly schedules most comics have to deal with. As long as those games were on the shelf weeks or months later if not longer, the comics were still inside.
In this first series, the ATARI Force (Atari Technology And Research Institute, nothing like your acronym having the same word within) is formed in the far off future of 2005. Earth is uninhabitable and the Atari Force constructs Scanner One as part of Project: Multiverse to find alternate worlds where humanity can move to for a new and safe colonization.
The five person crew is a diverse group of humans. No aliens, nothing funky. Just people exploring the unknown. A great way to take the reader or game player and put themselves right into the story. Plus this multiverse idea gives an in story reason for these characters to jump from game to game. Anything that could be conceived in a video game from aliens to Pac-Man could show up and make sense as an alternate world. While a team of five the two that matter for the continuing regular comic series are executive officer and space pilot Lydia Perez and commander Martin Champion.
Their story lasted for the five mini comic issues in 1982 but shortly after in 1983 this new series debuted and lasted 20 issues. The new series takes place 25 years after the original, in the still future to us year of 2030. Much has changed in the 25 years most importantly – fully fleshed out well rounded characters from a variety of worlds.
(I have only been able to find the first two issues of Atari Force and finances are currently spoken for. If you are a loyal reader and have some cheap comics taking up space that you would like to donate, please e-mail me for address and receive a crazy amount of public thanks as this series continues.)