Retro Scan Special Edition: Atari Force #1 In-Depth Extravaganza!

July 31st, 2006 by Benj Edwards
Atari Force

WANTED: People of ethnicity to fill out pandering, tangentially video-game-related comic book “superhero” team. Must be comfortable wearing skin-tight crotch-grabbing uniforms and fixing ridiculously unrealistic spaceships. Extremely perky breasts and indelible toothy smiles a big plus.

Today we’ll be looking at Atari Force #1, which is a mini comic book (5″x7″) that came as a free pack-in with the game Defender for the Atari 2600 in 1982. Much more after the jump!

Atari Force

It’s the year 2005 and the Atari Technology and Research Institute‘s Fuji symbol-shaped headquarters looms high on the horizon. The world is in absolute crisis, but people with hover ships seem to be getting along quite nicely.

Much of what we know about this mysterious “Atari Institute” comes from the following ultra-futuristic paper telegram…

Atari Force

“Dear Dr. Orion: As the world lies smouldering in ruins, we’ve decided to take this opportunity to become a paramilitary research organization with dictatorial-like control of the region formerly known as California. Oh, and we would like to offer you a position as…medical research. Bring your skivvies.”

Atari Force

Meanwhile, in the Orwellian control center of the Atari Institute, overconfident coffee-sipping security personnel with post-apocalyptic-authoritarian matching colored uniforms exchange meaningless quips as they sharpen up on their bureaucratic ineptitude skills.

Atari Force

…And their practice pays off. On the next page, some wonderful Atari people get their asses kicked by an intruder. I’m starting to think this comic book was commissioned by Coleco.

Atari Force

In the first of many flashbacks, we meet the hero, Commander Martin “Poster Boy of the Aryan Master Race” Champion, and his love interest, Lydia “I Represent Red-Headed Latinos” Perez.

The vacuous dialogue here is absolutely delightful. I could stick my whole head through this panel without tearing any paper.

Atari Force

Shortly after returning to Earth, Mr. Champion and his badass-looking token black guy body guard/research colleague flirt with Lydia. If you haven’t guessed yet, Commander Champion has the superhuman ability to be extremely white.

At this point in the story, I fell asleep and ruined half of the comic book with my drool.

Atari Force

When I woke up, I thought I was reading Sgt. Rock.

Apparently, the writers of Atari Force wedged some sort of “UN Peacekeeping Mission” story (whatever that is) into the script, but the artist only knew how to draw flashbacks from ‘Nam.

Need I remind you that, at this point, nine-year-olds across America reading this book for the first time in 1982 were still trying to figure out how exactly all this related to Pac-Man. Soon after, they shrugged and got back to melting green army men with Bic lighters on the back patio.

Atari Force

Just when it might have gotten interesting, they leave you hanging with a teaser that the next issue will be included with Berzerk. Luckily, Berzerk was good enough of a game to offset the potential disaster that was Atari Force #2.

Atari Force

So what have we learned?

Boring characters, trite dialogue, and the fact that it has absolutely nothing to do with video games makes this the most disappointing and ill-conceived comic book series ever. The group might as well have been called the Supercream Choo-Choo Force. Nobody would have cared either way.

But who the heck am I kidding? It’s just a freebie video game pack-in mag made by D.C. Comics, pioneer of the famous “world’s crappiest comic books” formula. In this case, their reputation remains unscathed.

If you use these images on your site, please support “Retro Scan of the Week” by giving us obvious credit for the original scan and entry. Thanks.

14 Responses to “Retro Scan Special Edition: Atari Force #1 In-Depth Extravaganza!”

  1. gnome Says:

    Impressive. Most impressive. Apparently Obi taught you well…

  2. Tristan Says:

    Apparently this actually brings back memories more of the games then the comics. then again it could be the fact i still own all the games. and yes even the comics.

  3. Sharktar Says:

    I just ran across some of these at a yard sale. I was indifferent to my adult cynicism. I bought all of them, and stand by it. Sure is fun to look back at ’05 through the eyes of my disaffected atari youth. Sure DC sucks, they always have, but what if, one day, they did something right? Reminds me of the Bush administration…

  4. Jakanden Says:

    Your commentary is far more enjoyable than the subject it is on, that is for sure.

  5. RedWolf Says:

    Thanks for the comments, guys. If somebody sends me Atari Force #2 (I only have #1 and #5, I think), I’ll review that one as well.

  6. TheArchon Says:

    (Trips over site.) Ow, that hurt. (Wonder if anyone will read this…?)

    Love the review. Man, did we really like this stuff as kids, or did we think it was cliche even back then? I can’t remember.

    Anyway, I can’t send you the comics, as I lack them, but I can send a link – they’ve got them scanned at . Except there’s two pages missing – and I LOVE this – the big climactic splash panel in issue five! It’s almost as if to say, “Okay, you have the stock setup with the stock Ultimate Bad Guy and the stock hero’s stock method of beating the stock Bad Guy, along with the stock pacifist trapped with the stock traitor. You don’t really need to see precisely how they win. Just guess. You’re probably right.”

    Still, it’s amusing pulp, and ripe for poking fun at. Hope to see more in the future.:)

  7. Mr. KnowitAll Says:

    Brings back a lot of memories. I remenber playing the game and reading the comic book.

    You have to remenber that this was intended for a younger audience not your typical 30 year old video game guys.

    Quite frankly, I find you to be rather arrogant and quite pompus.

    “world’s crappiest comic books”

    Just this comment alone leads me to believe you either A) A complete Idiot. B) A person who NEVER in his life read comic books.

    DC Comics have given us great excellent stories. Do please don’t make stupid analysis base on your puny knowledge.

  8. Benj Edwards Says:

    Glad you enjoyed the piece. I stand by my analysis of D.C.’s pioneering work.

  9. MartyMan Says:

    No arguments about the original, but I must say the sequel Atari Force series, that picked up on the story 20 years later, was quite awesome, as I recall. It had some great aliens, ships, guns, fonts!, cool characters and an impressive story arc to boot.
    Believe it or not!

  10. Andrew Says:

    Hahaha, neat stuff 🙂

    I liked how the name “Atari” was (perhaps unintentionally) spelled out to be a recursive acronym: Atari Technology and Research Institute, unless that is actually what Atari stood for, which is even more funny to me 🙂

  11. FLC Says:

    @Mr. KnowitAll:

    Actually, DC was making the worlds crappiest comic books. Then Marvel arrived and usurped DC of such dubious honor.

    Well, I guess we still have the indies, and some manga is OK, right?

  12. Dr. HotCoffee Says:

    Marvel>DC>DC&Atari Monstrosities

  13. sarah Says:

    can i buy mario toys from here

  14. Adam Lloyd Cook Says:

    Thanks for the great images, you can check out my painting
    “don’t pee your spacesuit” based on panel #6 it is on facebook and other sites.

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