May the Atari Force Be With You

by Robert Greenberger

From Video Games magazine, volume 1, number 5, pp. 13-14

The scene: post-holocaust Earth. Civilzation has been decimated, and food sources are rapidly disappearing. Over at the Atari Institute in Northcal ("that part of the North American continent that used to be known as California before the 'breakup'..."), a five-member superteam has been assembled. Its mission: to traverse the "Multiverse" in search of "an uninhabited world of fertile fields, green hills, blue skies, untouched by war."

Welcome to Atari Force, a series of mini-comic books produced for Atari by DC Comics--the same folks who bring you Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. The first three issues came along with the Defender, Berzerk, and Star Raiders cartridges, and at least five more are slated for 1983. Each, however, will have little or nothing to do with the accompanying game.

The Atari Force is a multi-ethnic quintet of incredible characters beginning with a blonde and blue-eyed hunk named Martin "Commander" Champion and his competitive lady sidekick, brunette Lydia Perez. ("You're a woman," he lectures at one point. "So was my mother," she shoots back.) Then there's a black physician (Lucas Orion), an Indian scientist (Mohandas Singh), and a female security director of Oriental and Irish persuasion named Li San O'Rourke. Yow!

Dick Giordano, DC's Managing Editor, expected a set of guidelines concerning story content and use of violence to follow, but he says that Atari has remained silent. "We understand each other right from the business level on down to the level at which I operate," says Giordano. "They consider us comic book people. They don't pretend to know anything about it, and they don't want to get in our way."

Atari Force will also be used to promote other Atari products. For example, the January edition of DC's New Teen Titans includes a 16-page AF insert about Atari's latest coin-op game, Liberator. The story of the game, which is more or less a sequel to Missile Command, is explained without reference to the actual game. On the other hand, Atari's four-game series Swordquest, also developed by DC and Atari, requires the player to read the comic book enclosed with the cartridges in order to compete for the $150,000 in prizes Atari is offering.

Another outgrowth of the meetings between these sister companies (both are owned by Warner Communications) are the plans to retail comics based directly on Atari's most popular cartridges. Originally, it was agreed upon to publish three bi-monthly magazine-size books with three or four series per title. But Atari has since reevaluated its involvement in this project. It now seems DC will either share expenses with Atari or take over the entire project itself.

Meanwhile, a few web swings across Manhattan at Marvel Comics, Spider-Man has finally taken the video game plunge, thanks to Parker Brothers. In this VCS-compatible game, Spidey must find and defuse the deadly bombs planted throughout Gotham by the nefarious Green Goblin. He does this by using his web fluid to shoot lines of webs up the sides of buildings. Parker Brothers' Vice-President of Consumer Marketing Rich Stearns says the game is primarily targeted for the six-to-12-years olds, the same audience that reads Spider-Man. "In our testing process, we found the older kids were not as excited about Spider-Man as they are about Raiders of the Lost Ark, or something more to their age."

If this proves successful, no doubt a legion of costumed heros or heroines will soon find its way onto our video game screens. To the Bat-Monitor, Robin!

Copyright 1983 by Pumpkin Press, Inc.

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ATARI FORCE is an expired registered trademark of the original Atari, Inc. Copyright on ATARI FORCE material belongs to either Atari, Inc. (formerly known as Infogrames) or DC Comics, depending on which issue's indica you examine. This web site, its operators, and any content contained on this site relating to ATARI FORCE are not authorized by DC Comics or Atari.

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Created: 6 May 1999; Last Modified: 6 May 1999