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Comic Book / 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 Eldritch Abomination 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.

The arcade game Liberator (essentially, Missile Command in reverse) is based on this series (hence the marquee reading "Atari Force: Liberator"). Specifically, it's based on a special insert preview comic called "Codename: Liberator".


Atari Force shouldn't be confused with the Atarians.

The various Atari Force series provide examples of:

  • 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.
  • Aura Vision: Blackjak temporarily had this ability with the organic eye that the Tazlings had given him.
  • 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. Blackjak combines his with Perma-Stubble.
  • Berserk Button: Never trap Pakrat in a corner, because he'll come out of it fighting!!!
  • Big Bad: The Dark Destroyer, natch.
  • Bounty Hunter: Dart and Blackjak.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: In the second series, the Scanner One was actually a museum piece, and it was still functional and fully stocked!
  • The Cameo: J'onn J'onzz and E.T. make cameo appearances in Pakrat's three-part side-story arc.
    • The Hukka puts in an appearance in an issue of Ambush Bug.
  • Carpet of Virility: Blackjak.
  • Chronic Villainy: After humanity was given a second chance to live in peace by joining a federation of worlds in order to resettle on New Earth, about twenty years later they are now back to building war weapons, as seen in the penultimate issue of the second series. This drives the disillusioned Martin Champion to transport himself and his second Atari Force team back to Old Earth to resettle there.
  • Cigar Chomper: Professor Venture (a female example) and Captain Hunter.
  • Continuity Snarl: The final second Atari Force team story that appeared in the Atari Force Special #1 in 1986, "Second Skin", where the Scanner One had to settle down on a planet due to Babe's shedding scales causing problems with the ship's engines, is rather difficult to place within the continuity of the main series. Ideally, it should be placed between the story where Babe and Hukka found Taz and the story where Tempest went back to New Earth to find out the history of the first team's encounter with the Dark Destroyer, except that in the main series' continuity, Tempest was still recovering from injuries that he sustained from the Dark Destroyer at that point, whereas in the Atari Force Special story he appears to be in full health.
  • 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...
  • Creepy Centipedes: In the first series, Martin Champion fights with a giant alien centipede-like creature. It's a rather subtle Shout-Out to Atari's arcade game Centipede. (As an interesting side note, there's a DC Comics pack-in comic book that came with the Atari 2600 Centipede cartridge, where the titular centipede is much less creepy-looking.)
  • 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.
  • Don't Celebrate Just Yet: In the second series, when Martin Champion felled the Dark Destroyer in the human form of Champion, Dart tells him something to this effect, saying that she was unable to stop the Dark Destroyer's anti-matter bomb from detonating due to her tampering with the device.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Dart gets precognitive dreams of Blackjak's death. She also dreams of the Atari Force relocating to Old Earth at the end of the second series.
  • 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.
  • Enemy Mine: In a Taz side story, Taz is forced to fight her way to the surface with the help of a member of the opposing alien species that she is trapped with. Once they get topside, though, Taz recognizes the alien as the one who killed her mate and ends up killing him.
  • Evil Knockoff: The Dark Destroyer creates a clone of Martin Champion to serve as a host for itself.
  • Exposed Extraterrestrials: Babe.
  • Express Delivery: The Dark Destroyer pulls this on a backwater planet creature that he enters into to become born in the form of Martin Champion, speeding up the process to the point where it ends up killing the mother.
  • 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.
  • Facial Markings: Dart and her previous mercenary partner Dalia not only have markings on the left side of their faces, but also all over the left side of their bodies. Like her father Mohandas Singh, Dart has a red tilak on her forehead.
  • 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.
  • Flat Scare: Christopher Champion (Tempest) pulls this on a guard at a museum where the Scanner One spaceship was stored.
  • Food Slap: In a Pakrat side story, his female friend Ferra dumps a whole bowl of Draconian loose juice on Pakrat before she leaves the party, looking insulted.
  • Fun with Flushing: Hukka attempts to flush the robotic Bob down the toilet in a side story. However, he ends up awakening Bob's evil side.
  • Gentle Giant: Babe. Justified as he's an infant from a species that grow into mountains.
  • Happiness Is Mandatory: In the second series, we see in Psyklops' invasion of Morphea's mind that Canopean society, which emphasizes being in a collective hive mind, enforces each being to live without concern for their own personal needs — a situation which Morphea is constantly punished for by the Hive Mother due to her feeling of loneliness.
  • 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.
  • Inspector Javert: Rident Oly, though his pursuit of his brother Tukla is justified as he disgraced the Oly family name by becoming a criminal.
  • 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.
  • Knockout Gas: The second Atari Force team attempts to get the advantage of the Dark Destroyer's team of mercenaries by having Tempest phase on board the ship and knock them out with sleeping gas. Unfortunately, the Dark Destroyer somehow redirects Tempest so that his phasing power directs him into the Big Bad's personal chamber, leaving Dart and Pakrat in a guns-out battle with the Dark Destroyer's crew.
  • Loveable Rogue: Pakrat.
  • Maternal Death? Blame the Child!: Christopher Champion was believed to be blamed by his father Martin for his mother Lydia's death at birth. It was only years later that Dr. Lucas Orion, the physician present at the birth, realized that Martin blamed the Dark Destroyer for Lydia's death, as the Dark Destroyer's life force entered into Lydia, killed her, then entered into Martin while he was unaware due to grief, in order to know his unique genetic makeup so that he could be born as an Evil Knockoff of Martin.
  • 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.
  • Mistaken for Thief: In Mohandas Singh's origin, he and his childhood friend were accused as thieves when a tourist accidentally dropped his wallet and had the police chase after them, only to realize his error, which cost Mohandas his friend's life. Fortunately, the tourist gave Mohandas a chance to leave his peasant life, which resulted in him becoming a brilliant engineer.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Blackjak.
  • 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.
  • Murderous Malfunctioning Machine: The friendly toy robot, Bob, who could only say his name cheerfully, went evil after one too many flushes down the toilet. It could still say nothing more than "Bob", but it said it in a much more menacing voice.
  • 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.
  • Parental Substitute: Morphea is this for Babe after he was taken from his homeworld, and Professor Venture became the substitute mother for Christopher Champion.
  • Perma-Stubble: Blackjak, with only a full-grown mustache amid all the stubble.
  • Pregnant Badass: Taz, with the surprising bit being that nobody knew that Taz was female until Morphea found that out from a telepathic scan.
  • Puppeteer Parasite: The Dark Destroyer, who used portions of himself implanted in Blackjak and Kargg to manipulate them. Both these parasites were removed from their hosts, though Morphea had to go inside Kargg's mind to mentally battle the Dark Destroyer himself.
  • Recursive Acronym: According to canon, "Atari" stands for the "Atari Technology and Research Institute".
  • Remix Comic: "Mission: Phoenix" (pack-in comic #4) was originally written as a story for the spin-off arcade video game Liberator, with the Malaglon originally resembling frogs.
  • Samus Is a Girl: Taz was referred to as being male up until Morphea discovered Taz was pregnant.
  • Screaming Birth: The backwater planet creature screams as it gives birth to the Dark Destroyer's humanoid form.
  • Shooting Gallery: In a Hukka side story, Bob zaps Hukka with his antenna in the same manner as with a bear target in a shooting gallery, with Hukka going back and forth between zaps.
  • 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.
  • Silicon-Based Life: Babe's species. Even as big as he is, he's an infant. He'll become a mountain when he grows up.
  • 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.
  • Suicidal Pacifist: Lucas Orion of the first team. When he and his comrades were being attacked by the Zylons, he refused to even pick up a gun to help his friends fight off the attackers. Fortunately, a Cool Ship emerges to save the day, piloted by Lucas' allies.
  • Thinking Up Portals: Tempest can create portals through which he can travel through different planes of the Multiverse, although he can only carry inanimate objects through the portals; living creatures end up destroyed through the portals.
  • 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!"
  • Torture Technician: Psyklops, a psychic vampire working for the Dark Destroyer who feeds off pain.
  • Use Your Head: Both Martin and Christopher Champion used head-butts when physically fighting the Dark Destroyer in his humanoid form.
  • 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.


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