Atari Force

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Atari Force v.2: Less Dorky Than Our Parents

Atari Force is the name for several comic book series developed and published by DC Comics.

The original series was first published in 1982 as a set of promotional giveaways with selected Atari 2600 video games. It covered the efforts of the Atari Force as they participate in "Project Multiverse", a mission to travel across dimensions and find a new planet for humanity to inhabit after the current Earth is pushed to the brink of collapse by global warfare. While most of the stories were standalone, the team repeatedly clashed with the Dark Destroyer, an interdimensional monster out to conquer the multiverse. The stories were written by Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas, with art by Ross Andru and Gil Kane.

The DC graphic novel Star Raiders is a Spin-Off of issue #3. The pack-in comics can be read here.

The second series was first published in 1984 as a regular monthly comic under the DC label. Set 25 years after humanity's resettlement, it centered on the adventures of the children of the original crew. Their lives are disrupted by the return of the Dark Destroyer, who has discovered the dimension where humanity has relocated and is preparing to avenge his earlier defeats by humiliating Martin Champion and then destroying the universe. The writers were Gerry Conway and Mike Baron, with art primarily by Jose Garcia-Lopez; later issues featured backup stories by Keith Giffen, Paul Kupperberg, Klaus Janson, James Fry and others.

Tropes used in Atari Force include:
  • Ace Pilot: Martin Champion, who's been to the Moon four times, commanded two lunar missions, and saved a team of lunar colonists with an emergency rescue flight complete with crash landing.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Mostly subverted with some exceptions; Taz will only speak one word of (barely intelligible) English at the end of a word balloon.
  • Badass Beard: Lucas Orion, though his character is mostly a pacifist that won't fight.
  • Badass Mustache: Captain Hunter, security chief of Atari Station in the second series.
  • Berserk Button: Never trap Pakrat in a corner, because he'll come out of it fighting!!!
  • Black Best Friend: Lucas is this to Martin.
  • Big Bad: The Dark Destroyer, natch.
  • Bounty Hunter: Dart and Blackjak.
  • Cain and Abel: Pakrat the thief and his brother Rident Oly the intergalactic police officer.
  • Carpet of Virility: Blackjak.
  • Crapsack World: The backstory establishes Earth as one of these, ravaged by endless war and terror attacks. The United States has been shattered, the United Nations is dead, famine and disease are rampant, billions have already died, and a hemispheric drought has reduced the planet's arable land by a million acres. It's desperate enough that humanity's last hope is to travel across dimensions to find a new planet for everyone to colonize...
  • Death by Childbirth: Lydia Champion, at the birth of Christopher. It's later revealed that this was due to the Dark Destroyer stealing her life force.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Dart gets precognitive dreams of Blackjak's death.
  • Eldritch Abomination: In its original form, the Dark Destroyer is a planet-sized tentacular monstrosity.
  • The Empath: Morphea
  • Emotion Eater: The Dark Destroyer feeds on the torment, fear, and pain of others. It uses its telepathic powers to conquer weaker races and provoke wars to sustain itself. He also has a torturer named Psyklops who locks his victims into reliving painful past memories, as in the case with Morphea.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Blackjak.
  • Evil Knockoff: The Dark Destroyer creates a clone of Martin Champion to serve as a host for itself.
  • Exposed Extraterrestrials: Babe.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Blackjak has a cybernetic camera eye attached to his left eye socket that can detach itself and fly around to allow its owner to see other places.
  • Face Heel Turn: Blackjak.
  • Fake Kill Scare: Done in the second series with an entire dimension. After the Dark Destroyer has detonated his antimatter bomb, the heroes believe their home universe has been destroyed. It isn't until later that they learn otherwise.
  • Five-Man Band
  • Five-Token Band: Egregiously so in the first series. Li San O'Rourke is even Chinese/Irish, just to squeeze in an extra ethnicity.
  • Gentle Giant: Babe. Justified as he's an infant from a species that grow into mountains.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The Dark Destroyer intended to destroy Martin Champion's New Earth universe with an anti-matter bomb, but instead ended up dying in the explosion of his own bomb when Dart accidentally deactivated the fail-safe mechanism.
  • Kangaroo Court: The second Atari Force faces one of these after returning to New Earth. Ostensibly, the team is on trial for the theft of Scanner One, but it's part of a larger plan to imprison Tempest and weaponize his powers.
  • Loveable Rogue: Pakrat.
  • Merchandise-Driven: Played very straight with the first series, as an overt promotional campaign (both Atari Corp. and DC Comics were owned by Warner Communications at the time). Averted by the second series, however, which was a straightforward science fiction comic.
  • Multiethnic Name: Li San O'Rourke.
  • The Multiverse: Not only can Scanner One travel to different dimensions, Tempest was born with the ability as well.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Played with; Martin Champion thinks he's inadvertently informed the Dark Destroyer as to what dimension humanity has resettled on, and assembles a new team to retrieve the probe to resolve the problem. In actuality, the Dark Destroyer already knew where they were, and faked the incident as part of his plan to humiliate Champion before destroying the dimension.
  • Not Quite Dead: Blackjak.
  • Parental Neglect: Martin Champion does this to his son Tempest, largely because he blames him for the death of his wife.
  • Puppeteer Parasite
  • Recursive Acronym: According to canon, "Atari" stands for the "Atari Technology and Research Institute".
  • Samus Is a Girl: Taz was referred to as being male up until Morphea discovered Taz was pregnant.
  • Sigil Spam: The Atari "fuji" logo gets incorporated nearly everywhere, especially in the first series. Even the design of the Scanner One spaceship is a variation of the logo.
  • Solid Gold Poop: Babe sheds skin scales that turn into crystals, which Pakrat thinks may be valuable, only to find out that after a while they turn into dust.
  • Spin Offspring: In the second series, Tempest is Martin and Lydia's son, while Dart is Mohandas and Li San's daughter.
  • Steven Ulysses Perhero: Martin Champion, leader of the Atari Force.
  • Title Drop: Many Atari video games and properties have their names dropped throughout the series.
    • The main computer for Scanner One is the Atari 8000.
    • Issue #4 of the first series features "Mission: Phoenix"
    • Galaxians was mentioned in issue #5 of the first series. Also an alien vaguely resembling a centipede appears in the same issue.
    • Martin and Lydia's son, Christopher, is codenamed "Tempest".
    • In the second series, one member of the team is a diminutive alien nicknamed Taz.
    • When the Scanner One re-enters normal space, the pilot of the ship says "Breakout!"
  • What Do You Mean It's for Kids?: Imagine being a kid in 1983, buying a video game, and getting a free comic book about a series of global wars and disasters that have brought everyone to a world-destroying apocalypse that has reduced humanity to a desperate mission of sending a dimension-traveling team to try and find a new universe to inhabit. Right...
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The first series briefly mentions The Co-Op, a collection of government-owned multinational corporations. Though they are presented as a threat to Atari and Project Multiverse, they are never referenced again.