BONUS BOOK – Atari Force (1983)

BONUS BOOK – Atari Force, Code Name: Liberator (January, 1983)
“Liberator Mission: Freedom–or Death!”
Writer – Gerry Conway
Pencils – Ross Andru
Inks & Edits – Dick Giordano
Letters – John Costanza
Colors – Adrienne Roy

Hmm… we don’t get much of a “cover” this time out… which is a tad bothersome… but, just in case it’s not clear… today we’re going to be closing out 2019 with the Insert Preview of Atari Force (Code Name: Liberator).

This was yet another preview to originate in the pages of New Teen Titans… however, since it was a licensed book (Atari being a registered whatchacallit of whoeverthehell), it actually shows up in two comics bearing the January, 1983 cover-date!

  • DC Comics Presents #53
  • New Teen Titans #27

There are gonna be a couple more Insert Previews that appear in more than one book that we’ll be getting to over the next few days.  Believe it or not, we’re already about halfway through ’em!  Perhaps even more than halfway through, since I just discovered I don’t own ’em all!  We might need a Vartox-Week size miracle for me to track ’em down in time!  I guess time, and the next handfulla days, will tell!

Let’s get to it!

Our story actually begins on the “cover” page (seen above)… where an Atari Force pilot named David is in the middle of a firefight with, uh… the bad guys.  He’s on a comm-link sort of thing with a very blonde man named Martin who is trying to guide him through the process.  Unfortunately for big Dave, it looks like his story has already been written… and he is sploded into many many bits.  Ya know, at this point, I was sure this was going to be revealed as being a “VR Simulation”.  Ya know, it’s based off a video game, named after a video game system… stands to reason that this might just be more of that… but, No!  David’s actually dead… dead-dead.  Martin laments the loss of his pal.

Ready for some table-setting exposition?  I sure hope so, cuz we’re getting a big heaping dollop of it.  This story is occurring in the far-flung year of… 2005.  Wow, the future was such a long time ago!  We move into a conference room of sorts where we get the lay of the land.  The Atari Force is engaged in something called Mission: Liberator… and, as such are using a Star-Fighter called… the Liberator.  A handy screen shot shows us that this here Liberator really puts a lot of stock into… well, fuel, from the looks of it.

The bad guys are revealed as being aliens called the Malaglow.  Wow, try saying that three times fast.  Looks like the baddies have taken over many planets and enslaved many’a people… and it’s up to the Atari Force to end their reign of terror.

Martin reveals that their next mission volunteer will be drawn from a lottery of sorts… and a fishbowl full’a poker chips begins to levitate.  From the bowl, Marty picks a chip… and we learn that the Liberator will be piloted by Bob Marcus, who just so happens to be the brother of dead-David!  He is more than a little bit jazzed to get the opportunity to get his pound of flesh outta the green guys!

And so, next thing we know Bob’s about to take off.  He decides to leave before getting all of his instructions… realizing full-well that this might just be a suicide mission!  Looks like he’s not exactly planning to walk away from this one…

From here, we jump to Malaglow territory, and the Liberator releases a trio of remote drones to ward off the “welcoming committee”.  Whattayaknow, Bob’s able to take ’em down with ease!

Next stop, a Malaglow Slave Planet… which just so happens to be launching missiles!  Hmm, that’s somewhat familiar… it’s almost like their Defense is Missiles!  Bob maneuvers around the onslaught and knocks the artillery out of the sky.

In freeing the slaves… well, I guess they’re free… the Malaglow realizes the Ataris aren’t screwing around… and so, they launch a massive saucer-craft.  For all the pomp and circumstance of its introduction, Bob takes it out in like two panels.

Back on Earth, Martin and Company have received a delayed transmission from the Liberator… so, they have a pretty good idea that Bob is still alive… or at least, he was… somewhat recently.  The message is optimistic that the worst is behind them… which, we in the biz call “famous last words”.  Not sure why we needed a full page to recap the last half-dozen, but… whattayagonnado?

Back to Bob, who’s still blowin’ stuff up in space.  He approaches the Malaglow Master Base… however, any time he fires at it, the planet appears to change rotation.  Not sure how helpful a defensive tactic this is… but, it’s really got ol’ Bob thrown for a loop.

We get two more pages of Bob trying to figure out this riddle… it doesn’t matter where he blasts the planet… the darn thing just keeps a’spinnin’.  Ultimately, our man realizes that… hey, I’ve got more than one laser on this rig… and so, he fires at two different locations on the planet.

This does the trick, halts the frog-faced Malaglow’s celebration… and frees the slaves?  I mean, there’s a prrrretty big explosion here, not sure how any of the slaves survived it!

We wrap up with Bob Marcus reporting his successful mission into the Atari Force… and preparing to leave a newly-liberated planet.  Our “next issue” blurb doesn’t promote the ongoing Atari Force series… but the trio of mini-comics that came packed with assorted Atari 2600 games.

Just like I said during our recent Captain Carrot discussion, I feel, as a self-proclaimed fake-ass comics historian that I ought to have more of an affinity for Atari Force.  I mean, I love comics and I love video games… so, it stands to reason that I’d love this, right?

Well, truth be told, I’ve tried covering Atari Force here at the blog before… and have never been able to get through the first issue!  I didn’t think it was bad or anything, I just couldn’t connect to it.  One of my (very) few rules about “content creation” (that I wish other content creators would also adhere to) is that the person creating said content must be passionate about what they’re talking about… at least a little bit.  I wasn’t, so I didn’t.

I almost got excited enough to “press through” about a year and a half ago, when I had been given access to the back-room of a local comic shop.  While back there, I found a bunch of stuff that the casual comic shop patron wouldn’t care less about… old fanzine stuff, catalogs, retailer-exclusive magazines from the 80’s and 90’s… and, as luck would have it… one of the Atari Force mini-comics that had been packed in with a 2600 game!  I snagged it (for a buck) and figured it might be a neat thing to include on the blog.

Then, I tried reading it… and, man… again, I just couldn’t get into it.  Rather than do the book and its fandom a disservice, I decided just to file it away.  Asamattafact, I filed it away so well… I couldn’t even tell ya what room in my house it’s currently in!  Oh well.  I guess I won’t be including a picture of it here today!

So, with all’a my nonsense out of the way… what’d I think of this story?  Well, it wasn’t bad… but, again, I didn’t feel any stakes or investment in the characters.  I will say that I was about 95% sure that Bob Marcus was going to bite it in the end… so, his survival was a bit of a surprise.  Art was solid… dialogue was decent… really, just another inoffensive insert!  If you’re a fan of the Atari Force concept, well, this is where it all began!

With that, I wanna wish everyone a Safe and Happy New Year’s Eve!  Be careful out there… and I’ll see ya next year (don’tcha just hate when people say that?)!

8 thoughts on “BONUS BOOK – Atari Force (1983)

  • Dave-El

    And now, a scene from an unpublished Atari Force comic book!
    "Base to Liberator! What is your status?"
    "Liberator to Base! We're stuck!"
    "What do you mean, stuck?"
    "We're…oh, this is so embarrassing…we're out of gas."
    "Out of gas? With all of those fuel compartments?"
    "Well, that's what makes this so embarrassing."
    "But the Liberator is like 85% fuel compartments!"
    "I know. To be honest, the Liberator gets lousy gas mileage."
    And it goes on from there. Pretty much why that Atari Force comic book was unpublished.

    • Chris

      Ha! They could've written an entire issue of the Atari Forcers standing around waiting for their tanks to fill!

  • Chris U

    Interesting fact: This is the only Insert Prevue that is a REPRINT. This story first saw the light of day as the 5th Atari Force mini comic included with Atari 2600 game cartridges. I should know since I own all 5 of them.
    This story was originally titled Operation: Phoenix, and came with the Phoenix video game cartridges. Maybe DC didn't want any trouble with Marvel over the use of the name Phoenix so they changed the name of the ship and Operation to Liberator.

    • Chris

      That is interesting! I just dug through my Excel Spreadsheet to see if that was the mini-comic I added to my collection last year, but that one was Galaxian!

  • Charlton Hero

    So…Atari Force. This ain't it. DC knew it too. The 5 issue mini comics bear zero resemblance to the main ongoing.

    Unlike you I was what I would call an Atari Force fan! I enjoyed the system and had me a very nice Atari 2600 and a stack of games! The mini comics were great as well…as a kid. These things looking at them now are like watching paint dry. With your white bread baby face heroes to the now "ginchy" Sci-Fi plot points this was one issue that just fell dead flat reading it today.

    I enjoyed this post because it's one that I never read as a kid despite having both of the mentioned issues!

    The Atari Force series is another thing. I enjoyed the heck out of that book.

    Thats all brother.

    • Chris

      This did seem very different from my recent attempts at reading the actual Atari Force series… and boy, it was kinda dull! Maybe one'a these days I'll get around to giving the series another try!

  • Grant Kitchen

    Hmm you say you don't have all of the preview inserts? Do you at least have the ones for All-Star Squadron and Batman and the Outsiders? Those were from Justice League of America 193 and Brave and the Bold 200, respectively. I'm actually tempted to send them to you if you don't.

    • Chris

      Heyy Grant, that's so funny you mention that! All-Star and the Outsiders Preview Inserts *WERE* the two I was missing! I appreciate the offer, but I actually managed to find 'em today for a few bucks a'piece!

      Gotta say, I was a bit worried when I saw the going-rate for Brave and the Bold #200! MyComicShop.com is selling it for like $60 because it's the first appearance of Katana!


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