In the coming age of heroes that premieres in May at Marvel, one of the heroic teams steeped in the secret history of Marvel is getting another shot at immortality with a new ongoing series. After years of miniseries and crossovers and a short lived series, the Agents of Atlas takes root in a new ongoing series simply titled Atlas. What’s led Marvel to say “all in” and give Atlas another go this May?Atlas #1 “To begin with, the team has had more exposure thanks to having several minis with heavy hitters as co-stars,” said series editor Mark Paniccia. “They now have powerful alliances with the X-Men, Avengers and other key players, and the team is more entrenched in the Marvel Universe than ever before.”
As Paniccia suggested, the Agents of Atlas have been crisscrossing the Marvel U as of late, with two miniseries tying in with the X-Men and the Avengers, and guest-appearances in Incredible Hercules (plus a backup strip) and Thunderbolts. That’s a lot of sky miles for a team that has only been prominent for the past few years, but their history runs much deeper than you might think.
The team that would be the Agents of Atlas first came together way back in 1977’s What If #9 and later in Avengers Forever. The team was established as a covert team operating in the 1950s under the auspices of the FBI. Their first mission: save President Eisenhower from the Yellow Claw, as seen in the 2006 miniseries Agents of Atlas. But the team is quickly mothballed for being too ahead of its time, and it’s only in recent years that the team reunited when aging leader Jimmy Woo got the reigns of a criminal organization and got de-aged to his 1950s self in the process. Woo and his newly reunited agents seek to turn the criminal organization around under the auspicious of the name ‘Atlas’.
“Atlas- as the book will be called now- brings a number of good things to the table,” said series writer Jeff Parker, who has helmed all of the team’s adventures since 2006. “It expands the kind of stories we can tell as it's a multi-genre book. We're starting off with a murder mystery this time, but Atlas easily jumps from sci-fi to horror to spy thriller, even romance. And it makes a clear link to largely uncharted seas of Marvel's past. “
Parker was hand-picked by Marvel back in early 2006 to bring these characters out of the history books and into the modern era, and he has written their adventures in all their iterations – one-shots, miniseries, and guest appearances, since. With all that, we asked about his passion for the book.
“Maybe my favorite aspect of Atlas,” said Parker,” is that it gives us characters with a long history magically unsaddled with huge bags of continuity to drag around. I also really like meeting the readership that has joined us when I go to shows. They seem really grateful that there's a book like this and that justifies a lot of the extra work it took to make it happen. We're expanding the borders of the Marvel Universe.”
And in this new series, Atlas continues to mine the weirder and fantastical sides of the Marvel U that they’ve become known for.
“[In Atlas,] Jimmy Woo's team will be delving into even stranger waters,” explained Parker,” but many of the things readers like will still be in place. The dragon advisor Mr. Lao will still be manipulating. Venus will still be meddling. Gorilla-Man Ken Hale will still be shooting people.”
This new ongoing series starts off with a mystery about the 3-D Man, which happens to be a character that almost joined the original line-up years ago – so don’t think he’s jumping on the success of Avatar.
“I hadn’t actively been trying to get him in, but I did have a germ of an idea of how to bring the 3-D Man into things with the set-up we have now,” explained the writer. “When he came up in discussion again, I took that kernel of a story idea to artist Gabriel Hardman and we started brainstorming just how this could go down in the most interesting way possible. Not surprisingly, Gabe is very good at working out an exciting plot.”
“And the 3-D Man is actually not the most bizarre return you'll see!” promised Parker. “We'll also find there is more to our core cast, we haven't unearthed all of their secrets just yet.”
Of all the secrets that the agents of Atlas uncover, one secret’s out --- people love Gorilla Man Ken Hale. He’s become one of the most talked about characters since the team was brought back in 2006, and he’s become a poster boy – literally – in several of the recent Heroic Age advertisements Marvel has released. And if you’ve learned Hale’s disposition from reading the series, you’d know he’d be eating it up. But what does writer Jeff Parker think?
“Yes, I do appreciate Marvel high-fiving me in front of the world, though I'm not sure of how I like being meta-represented by a gorilla,” said Parker. ”Oh who am I kidding, it's perfect symbolism!”
“The funny thing is, Gorilla-Man appears on covers no matter how much he's involved in a story,” he continued. “We can tell cover artists "this focuses mainly on Namora," and there will still be a gorilla on that cover. Artists like drawing apes, and who am I to stop them?”
With the ensuing popularity, Parker did want to go on record about just what kind of gorilla he is: “For the record everyone: Ken Hale is a Western Lowland Gorilla,” said Parker straight-faced.
Although such prominent placement of an Atlas character in Marvel’s big line-wide initiative of 2010 can’t be anything but good news for the title, Marvel is still remaining mum on how Gorilla-Man specifically factors into the equation.
“While I can’t reveal too much in the way of what’s coming up for our favorite talking ape with a big gun,” Said editor Mark Paniccia,” I think readers will see that Gorilla Man and Heroic Age are like chocolate and peanut butter.”
Chocolate and Peanut Butter, folks. Chocolate and Peanut Butter.
Speaking of two things that go good together, the creative team is one of them. In this new ongoing series, long-time scribe Jeff Parker returns with another familiar face – artist Gabriel Hardman, who has been a key part of the Atlas stories in recent months.
“You can't imagine the confidence it gives us all to have Gabe drawing from the start here,” said Parker. “For one, I know I can blue-sky as high as I want with ideas, and Gabe can make that happen- there is nothing he can't draw and draw extremely well.”
Editor Mark Paniccia, who has been shepherding the team since their modern debut, echoes Parker’s sentiments.
“We couldn’t be happier with Gabe,” said the editor. “He brings a style that’s both modern and nostalgic in just the right mix. That and a touch of noir give it a very cool edge and sense of excitement that really makes the book stand out. Gabe’s also an absolutely brilliant storyteller and you can tell how much he’s enjoying his work just by looking at the energy in his pages.”
“And Elizabeth Breitweiser is coloring,” added Jeff Parker,” and I feel they have gelled like a classic art team. Together they give it a feel that makes it really stand out when you're flipping through the books on Wednesday at the comics shop. It really inspires me to make the best use of their time, so I put a lot into this book. Pick up number one and I think you'll find we're doing something well worth your time.”
Atlas #1 is out May, 2010. The first issue will be 40 pages for $3.99More on the HEROIC AGE: