Saturday, November 19, 2005


Atari Comics

Sweet baby jesus, I love the internet. I'm just sitting here on my couch, surfing on the laptop while my daughter watches Baby Einstein for a few minutes before taking her afternoon nap, when I strike gold. Following that kind of strange associative process that aimless afternoon websurfing engenders, following links to blogs and sites I've never visited, and then following their links, and so on, I finally stumbled upon this.

When I was in junior high school, the controller to my Atari 2600 was practically embedded in my hands. I wasted countless, long hours on Combat, and Missile Command, and Asteroids, and god knows how many others. And then, when I was twelve, the games started arriving in stores with these swell little comic books in the boxes, done by the same folks responsible for the DC comics I bought every week (Gerry Conway, Roy Thomas, George Perez, Ross Andru, et al.). The games themselves were no better than the ones I'd been playing (and were worse, in many cases), but these came with free comics! And the comics themselves weren't half bad.

There was Atari Force, all about a group of multi-ethnic explorers who travel the multiverse in a vessel called Scanner One, controlled by the Atari 8000, "the most advanced cybernetic 'brain' ever designed." Or something like that. And there was SwordQuest, which was a full-on sword and sorcery plot-coupon quest, with gorgeous art by George Perez and Dick Giordano, that somehow tied into a larger puzzle competition and sweepstakes that I never really understood (though I used to covet the gold, jewel-encrusted prizes pictured on the contest entry forms, hungrily).

I used to have a couple of those old mini-comics, that had somehow survived the years and any number of cross country moves, but I dont' think I've seen them since several moves back. I'd all but forgotten about them entirely, to be honest, until I stumbled across that link this morning.

Now, thanks to the wonders of the internet (thank you, o internet), I get to read all of those comics again. (And read the installments packaged with games my parents never bought!) I suppose, if I really wanted to do so, I could track down an Atari PC emulator and the roms for all of those old games, too. But I somehow doubt that the games will have stood the test of time as well as the comics might have done.

Check out this site for everything you would ever want to know about SwordQuest in exhaustive detail. And here is a FAQ about the ongoing DC series which spun out of the Atari Force minicomics, written by Gerry Conway and with art by Jose Garcia-Lopez (which I seem to recall was a pretty good science fiction series, at least for its time).

Me, I'm off to read some twenty-three year old Atari comics!

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