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Atari Force: DC May Have Resurrected Its WEIRDEST Video Game Super-Team

The most recent volume of Shazam, written by Geoff Johns and illustrated by Scott Kolins and Dale Eaglesham, has taken Billy Batson and his family across the various realms known as the Magiclands, seven dimensions known as the Darklands, the Earthlands, the Funlands, the Gamelands, the Monsterlands, the Wildlands, and the Wozenderlands. Each of these dimensions is unique and deadly in their own way, but in Shazam #14, the last issue in the series, Billy and his family return to the Magiclands to help sort out the various problems plaguing them. In a passing text about their time in the Gamelands, Billy mentions that he helped the Atari Force overthrown the Game Master. This may have seemed like a throwaway comment, a cool little connection to the theme of the Gamelands, but in actuality the Atari Force is a super-team decades old in DC lore. But who exactly are the Atari Force?

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Created by Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas, Atari Force #1 was first published in 1982 and designed to tell stories related to home console games developed by Atari Inc. The very first publication, running for five issues, followed the adventures of a team of humans from different nations selected by an organization named, appropriately, A.T.A.R.I. Otherwise known as the Advanced Technology and Research Institute. The Atari Force traveled across the multiverse to find a new planet for humanity to inhabit due to Earth nearing ecological collapse, clearly indicating an eco-friendly outlook by the writers even way back then.

The team was comprised of five individuals: Martin Champion, mission commander, Lydia Perez, pilot and executive officer, Li-San O'Rourke, security officer, Mohandas Singh, the flight engineer, And Dr. Lucas Orion, medical officer. The team later included a mascot named Hukka, after the noise he kept making. Hukka would later prove his popularity when he made a reappearance in Adventures of the Super Sons #6.

After the series' first run, a second monthly series ran from January 1984 to August 1985, running for twenty issues. Initially written once again by Gerry Conway, the series was later taken over by Mike Baron from issue #14 and onward. The series had José Luis García-López illustrating the series, however Ross Andru did illustrate issues #4 and #5. This series once again follows the adventures of Martin Champion as he searched for the Dark Destroyer, the original Atari Force's greatest enemy, who Martin still believed was alive and a threat to New Earth.

This team line up only included Martin and Hukka from the original series with the rest of the team being the children of the first Atari Force or newcomers from outer space. These members included Christopher "Tempest" Champion, son of Martin and Lydia; Erin "Dart" Bia O'Rourke, daughter of Mohandas and Li-San; Morphea, an insectoid empath; Babe, a massive alien toddler with super strength; and Pakrat, a humanoid rat thief.

Even though the main series ended, the comic still found readers in later years. In 1986 a special issue of Atari Force was released with work done by several different creators, some who actually worked on the backstories included in the second run of Atari Force. The final issue's backup story "Hukka vs. Bob!" by Keith Griffen, Robert Loren Fleming, and Karl Kesel, was reprinted in the Best of DC digest, which ran the Year's Best Comic Stories. In April 1986, "Hukka vs Bob!" was voted as one of the best comic book stories of the year by Comics Buyers Guide magazine, revealing a surprising depth and story crafting for one of DC's oddest series.

And more recently, in June 2015 Dynamite Entertainment announced they would reprint Atari Force along with new comics based on Atari games such as Asteroids, Centipede, Crystal Castles, Missile Command, Tempest, and Yars' Revenge.

Mentioning Atari Force in Shazam #14 may very well have been just an Easter egg to wax nostalgia for the 80's, but with all the recent hints of Atari Force found in other comics, it may be possible that readers will get to see a modern version of the super-team. Or at the very least, a cameo by them should DC decide to visit Shazam's adventures in bringing peace to the Magiclands.

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