PlayStation, Xbox and Steam may be the video game platforms of choice these days, but for many Atari holds a valued place for many. Earlier this month, Dynamite announced a deal with Atari for a series of projects looking back and looking ahead at the storied game company.
“There’s certainly a lot of nostalgia involved with Atari,” said Rich Young, Dynamite’s Director of Business Development. “It was how most people were first exposed to video games, whether on a console or on arcade machines. But if you go and look at those original games, they are about as basic graphics-wise as you can get. And in our day and age now of the PS4 and Xbox One, where graphics have come to be so advanced, I think you have to consider the times and the audience. So for the comics, I think we need to try to bridge the gap and update the titles with some art and story and that pays respect to the original games, but makes it fun and interesting for today’s crowd.”
The first step in those plans is for Dynamite to release a comprehensive retrospective of the storied company, with various concept and production artwork, photographs, and insights from various people involved in the company’s long history.
“It’s going to be a hardcover coffee table format book filled with all kinds of interesting stuff…art, photos, interviews, behind the scenes info,” Young explained. “It will be part history of Atari and its games...part art book...100% cool. One of the things I’m excited about is including a lot of the great art that was used to sell and market the games, including some of their fun advertising. Atari were masters of marketing, and got such amazing art created that helped spark imaginations. Some of the art used around the games is so iconic, that if you see just the cabinet or packaging art without the title, you immediately know the game. And if you played the game, it can stir up memories to the time when you remember discovering it, and the awe involved when video games first arrived. You mean I can use this joystick and it moves a character up on the screen? Mind blown!”
This partnership has actually been several years in the making, delayed somewhat by Atari's Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in 2013. But after the company became solvent again in 2014, the two companies reconnected to work out the final details.
“We actually started talking with Atari back in December of 2012, via Hilco Brands, when we saw an announcement that they were representing Atari for licensing,” Young revealed. “It got our wheels turning around the brand and its games, so I reached out to them and got a hit back pretty immediately, and we began discussing what might be possible. The conversation continued over several months, and then was sidelined for a bit while Atari was going through some business re-organization and investment activities. We picked the dialogue back up in June of 2014, and I began working directly with Casandra Brown, Senior Licensing Manager at Atari, who has been instrumental in getting the deal together with us. Casandra was able to meet with our Senior Editor Joe Rybandt at Comic-Con International: San Diego last year, which helped cement things. From there it was a matter of getting all deal points mutually agreed to, and then a contract signed.”
Although Atari itself is best known as a video game brand, comic book fans of a certain age had their interest piqued when Dynamite announced that the long out-of-print DC licensed book Atari Force would be brought back as part of this deal. Originally published in the mid-1980s, Atari Force was sold both in stores and as part of Atari’s various video games of the time, and was well-received by comic book fans at the time with creators such as Gerry Conway, Roy Thomas, Gil Kane, Ross Andru and others involved. Due to the nature of licensed books however, Atari Force was never reprinted or collected by DC – much like Marvel’s Micronauts and Rom: Spaceknight series.
According to Young however, Atari Force was a big impetus for Dynamite’s deal with Atari.
“Our CEO Nick Barrucci was a strong proponent of Atari Force, and re-printing the work. The list of writers and artists involved in creating those books is very impressive…all guys at the top of their game,” said Young. “It was all very fun and high quality material they produced. We’re quite excited at the opportunity!”
Dynamite plans to reprint the Atari Force series in 2016, although details on the format have not been decided.
In addition to reprinting older material with Atari Force and the Atari art book, Dynamite also has plans for new series based on several of the game company’s classic games. For Young personally, one is at the top of his list to develop.
“Personally, top of my list is Crystal Castles…and seeing Bentley Bear’s gem collecting adventures in a comic book,” said Young. “There’s also Centipede, Asteroids, Yar’s Revenge, Tempest and some others.”