News Team Current issue History Online Support Download Forum @Pouet

01 - 02 - SE - 03 - 04 - 05 - 06 - 07 - 08 - 09 - 10 - 11 - 12 - 13 - 14

Alive 2
        The Making of Atari Force
From Atari Age magazine, volume 1, number 4, pp. 8-9

They burst onto the scene with Defender--came together as a team in
Berzerk--and soared into the multi-dimensional cosmos in Star Raiders.
They are the Atari Force, a daring team of adventurers traveling through
time and space, carrying the excitement of Atari into the thrill-a-minute
world of comic books.

Led by Commander Martin Champion, the heroic Atari Force team has already
appeared in three free comic books packed with Atari cartridges--and the
adventure is just beginning! Even now, Atari and DC Comics are working on
more free comics, each taking the crew of Scanner One to a new world of
alien wonder.

But while it takes Scanner One, the mind-boggling multi-dimensional warp
cruiser, only seconds to slip into strange alternate realities, it took
more than a year of intense effort to turn the Atari Force itself from an
idea into a reality.

Most people don't realize the amount of work that goes into producing a
single comic book. From start to finish, an issue of Superman, for
example, can take six months to produce. And for Superman, all the
characters and situations have been firmly established over more than 40
years of publication. With Atari Force, everything from the characters to
the world around them to the sounds of their futuristic laserguns had to
be designed from scratch--and fast!

In a flash, a DC creative team was organized. Writers Roy Thomas and Gerry
Conway (creators of DC comics bestsellers including Captain Carrot and
Firestorm) and well-known superhero artist Ross Andru were called in to
design a group of space adventurers and a whole new universe for these
characters to inhabit! Dick Giordano, Managing Editor at DC Comics, took
charge of the project.

In the beginning there were a few false starts. The group was originally
going to be called the "Atarians." They would be an independent group of
adventurers who roamed through the galaxy, meeting a variety of
interesting aliens. Each adventure would be linked with the type of game
the comic would accompany. The comic packed with a strategy game like
Concentration would feature the Atarians meeting a small, green,
intellectually superior alien called "Braincase." A game of chance like
Casino would contain a comic featuring a beautiful female alien superhero
called "Ms. Fortune."

After a while, though, the concept began to sound a little weak. First the
name "Atarians" was discarded. "It didn't have enough power associated
with it," editor Giordano recalled.

Then the concept of the group itself changed. "It began to seem to
gimmicky," Giordano said. "The ideas for the alien characters themselves
were interesting enough, but they seemed too much like the usual superhero
comic book alien types. With the Atarians we were aiming for a more
believable science fiction version."

After lengthy brainstorming sessions, the name "Atari Force" became the
group's permanent title. And when the name changed, the concept for the
comic changed with it. Overnight the project was transformed. The Atari
Force became a team of highly specialized astronauts who worked for Atari
on Earth in the year 2005 AD. This earth is quite different from ours,
though. Here, the worst has already happend. A five-day nuclear war has
all but obliterated civilization. The region once known as the Grand
Canyon has become a highly radioactive wasteland, where horribly mutated
life forms battle for survival. Cities are in ruins. And the Earth itself
is dying. After centuries of abuse, the planet's vast resources have
finally run out, to the point where Earth can no longer sustain the human
lives that inhabit it.

This is the world that the Atari Institute inherits. But rather than sit
back and watch the planet slowly die, the institute makes use of its
tremendous technological resources to build Scanner One--the first stage
of Project Multiverse. This amazing starship is not only able to travel
through space, but through time and into alternate dimensions as well.
Somewhere in the infinite multiverse, the Atari scientists reason, there
must be some planet capable of sustaining human life--and, as the crew of
Scanner One, it is the mission of the Atari Force to find this new

Now it was up to Conway and Thomas to write the first two Atari Force
adventures. They didn't prepare a complete script, though. Instead, they
gave artist Ross Andru "breakdowns," precise, panel-by-panel and
page-by-page descriptions of the artwork required. Working from breakdowns
gave Andru more freedom as he sketched his pages, and let Conway and
Thomas match the dialogue precisely with the finished art.

In the comics trade, Andru is known as a penciler. He does all the initial
drawings and visualizations for a project, but not the finished
artwork--many peoples' efforts have to combine before the final art is

When the penciler and the writers had complated their parts of the
project, the artwork was sent to John Costanza for lettering. Costanza
carefully gave each lettered word or sound effect the proper emphasis by
thickening up the key words in each sentence. Look closely at Costanza's
work on Atari Force and you will realize how important lettering is in
communicating the excitement of the story.

With the lettering complete, the first two issues of Atari Force are
returned to Dick Giordano who, in addition to being Managing Editor of DC
Comics, is one of the top "inkers" in the comics industry. The inker goes
over the pencil artist's drawing in India ink, making the final art
photographable for engraving and printing. It's a difficult job, requiring
a complete knowledge of character design and other nuances that the pencil
artist might overlook. Giordano decided to tackle the inking for the Atari
Force himself. "Why not?" he said. "I practically lived with these
characters for a year--I know them better than anyone else."

When the black and white artwork was inked, all that remained was the
coloring, a task handled by colorist Adrienne Roy. In comics, colorists
paint on photostatic copies of the artwork to create a guide for the
engraver, who must match each color on the color printing plates. Every
area, no matter how small, must be indicated by the colorist, both with
color dyes and a complex written color code system. Even something as
seemingly insignificant as the color of a fingernail must be indicated
with dye and code.

At this point, the first issues of Atari Force were ready for the printer.
The completed comics were shipped to Atari packaging plants in El Paso and
Puerto Rico, and within weeks, Atari Force #1 was available in Defender
cartridge boxes.

But the story doesn't end there--not by a long shot. The saga of the Atari
Force will continue--and expand with every issue. Atari Force #3, "Star
Raiders," is an example of this growth. Here the Atari Force lands on a
desolate planet, where they encounter a little alien character called a
"hukka." "It was a throwaway character, actually," Giordano says, "but
when the drawings came in, it looked so cute we had to keep it." The end
of the story was adjusted to show the Atari Force taking the hukka back
home with them, and now the little orange critter will be featured in all
future Atari Force comics.

The Atari Force is scheduled to appear in at least four new books to be
released with cartridges in 1983. And the space adventures will also
appear in their very own comic magazine! Aptly titled Atari Force, this
full-size color giant size magazine will herald the coming of Atari
Comics, a complete line of bimonthly magazines available wherever Atari
cartridges are sold. Atari Force Magazine #1 will feature a new Atari
Force adventure that promises to be a knockout. So sit back and fasten
your seatbelts, fans--the Atari Force is really taking off!

Alive 2