Agents of Atlas
Benton Jew drew the “Wolverine: Agent of Atlas” story in the back of Agents of Atlas #1 (from the ongoing series, not the original miniseries), and began this drawing shortly after as a sample piece to get some cover work from Marvel. Busyness got in the way of his finishing it at the time, but he pulled out the piece recently, inked it, colored it and posted it on Facebook as a reminder of a truly great comic that was gone too soon.
Welcome once again to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy based on certain spending limits — $15, $30 to spend and if we had extra money to spend on what we call the “Splurge” item. Check out Diamond’s release list for this week if you’d like to play along in our comments section.
It’s a weird week for new releases, with everyone but Marvel taking it easy and pulling back on massive hauls in order to give our wallets a nice holiday break (unless you’re a Marvel completest, in which case, yowza. Look out). That said, if I had $15, I’d put it towards the special 200th issue of What If? ($4.99), the first issue of event tie-in Chaos War: X-Men ($3.99) because I’m curious how Chris Claremont and Louise Simonson handle Marvel’s version of Blackest Night, and the second issue of Scott Snyder and Jock’s Detective Comics run (#872, $3.99), because I was really happily surprised by how much I enjoyed the first.
If I had $30, I’d put Chaos War and What If? back on the shelf, and get Emitown ($24.99) instead. I’ve heard really great things about this print collection of Emi Lenox’s autobio webcomic, and I like the idea of seeing 2011 in by discovering a new cartoonist to love.
Splurging, I’d go back to Marvel, with the brand new Ka-Zar collection by Mark Waid and Andy Kubert ($19.99). I missed out on this series back in the 1990s, but as a fan of both fish-out-of-water stories and Mark Waid stories, something tells me that this might be right up my street.
Welcome to another installment of “Food or Comics?” Every week we set certain hypothetical spending limits on ourselves and go through the agony of trying to determine what comics come home and which ones stay on the shelves. So join us as we run down what comics we’d buy if they only had $15 and $30 to spend, as well as what we’d get if we had some “mad money” to splurge with.
Check out Diamond’s release list for this week if you’d like to play along in our comments section.
If I had $15, I’d spend the first $2.99 on the last King City, which definitely appears on this week’s list. Yay! Then I’d split the remaining $13 between two DC Comics: Paul Cornell’s Action Comics Annual #13 ($4.99), in which a young Lex Luthor meets Darkseid (Editor Wil Moss promised me on Twitter the other week that this will fulfill my sick, sick desire for more comics like Jack Kirby’s Super Powers toy tie-ins from the 1980s, so I’m entirely sold) and Vertigo Resurrected: Winter’s Edge #1 ($7.99), a collection of long out-of-print seasonal tales starring Vertigo favorites and forgotten ghost characters from Christmas Past. Be warned: I’m a sucker for Holiday comics, so expect to see me picking those a lot in the next few weeks. It’s the Most Wonderful Time Of The Year, after all.
As I’m writing this, folks are arriving in San Diego and getting settled for the big show. It’s going to be a busy weekend as comics fight with movies and TV for convention-goers’ attention. And as SDCC continues to diversify – adding bigger and bigger names to its attractions – I figured that maybe it would be appropriate to do the same thing here this week. We’re typically focused on creator-owned adventure comics, but at the risk of stepping on Tom and Carla’s toes, I’d like to discuss something this week that’s mostly an issue only for big-time, corporate-owned, super-hero comics.
We’re talking of course about retroactive continuity – retcons – that controversial thing that happens when a character’s adventures have gone on long enough that they include embarrassing things that need fixing. Or at least someone thinks they need fixing. People of course disagree about these things and that’s where the controversy comes in.
What reminded me of all this is Marvel Boy: The Uranian. Marvel Boy’s a fellow who’s been through a lot of continuity changes, most of which are documented in the collected edition of Jeff Parker and Felix Ruiz’s mini-series. It’s an excellent place to get a snapshot of both the positive and negative aspects of retconning.
Retcons: Hero or Menace? Or, Who Crusades for the Crusader? After the break.
Sounds like the little series that could finally couldn’t. In an interview with Comics Alliance’s Chris Sims, writer Jeff Parker has revealed that Atlas, the very recently relaunched series starring a motley crew of 1950s superheroes from the Marvel/Atlas/Timely stable, will end with #5 — largely at Parker’s own discretion. “I’m killing ‘Atlas’ at issue 5….But at least it was me who went out back and shot Lenny while he looked for bunnies, not Marvel,” Parker said.
According to Parker, the series’ first issues sales, in the 20K range, put it on the potential chopping block right away. “Atlas has actually always sold better than a lot of books that get to go on much longer- a good bit of DC’s line. But the Marvel danger zone is 20k more or less, and since books tend to trend downward, that always sets off alarms,” he told Sims. Parker notes that Marvel editorial suggested he “tie the book into another crossover mini-event” to keep it going, but having done that several times in the past with everything from Dark Reign to the X-Men to the Avengers to Hercules, he didn’t feel like going back to the well once again.
Parker’s optimistic about the future for some of the Atlas team: Venus will be appearing in Hercules’ God Squad, while Gorilla Man — who’s the subject of the bulk of Sims’ “interview” — is the star of his own miniseries. But collectively, Jimmy Woo’s team has seen its last stand-alone adventure.
Honestly? I really applaud Marvel for working as hard as they did to ensure the Agents of Atlas stuck around as long as they have. A team of largely forgotten pulp-ish superhero-esque characters from Marvel’s most fallow period as a publisher, tonally reconceived as sort of Marvel’s answer to the B.P.R.D., was always gonna be a tough sell. But Marvel clearly believed in the concept, in Parker, and in the rock-solid line-up of artists he assembled for the team over the years. By my count, the Agents starred in the Agents of Atlas miniseries, which received an impressive collection stuffed with back-up material and reprints from the team members’ golden years; came back a couple years later to launch an ongoing series by the same name; were the beneficiaries of a Dark Reign tie-in; made cameos in Thunderbolts and Deadpool Team-Up; saw their main series cancelled only to co-star in crossover miniseries with the X-Men and the Avengers; briefly shifted over to back-up strips in an Incredible Hercules storyline that culminated in the title character’s semi-death; generated spin-off minis starring team members Marvel Boy and Gorilla Man; and got relaunched yet again as Atlas with the dawn of “The Heroic Age,” the promotional images for which prominently featured Gorilla Man. As always, I think we need to look long and hard at a publishing and retailing model that works relentlessly to pump up the top sellers but can’t sustain a book that even its biggest publisher so clearly believes in, but that said, Marvel and Parker showed a sticktuitiveness here that’s nothing but praiseworthy.
Getting to talk to Jeff Parker and Steve Lieber about their upcoming Underground project, I discovered one shocking revelation: Lieber is immensely funnier than Parker. I learned a great deal more than that in our email interview. Before starting the interview, here are the book’s vitals: “UNDERGROUND is a five-issue color series beginning in September from IMAGE COMICS. Written by Jeff Parker, drawn by Steve Lieber, and colored by Ron Chan, the story follows Park Ranger Wesley Fischer as she tries to save Stillwater Cave– and then has to save herself.” My thanks to Parker and Lieber for the interview.
Tim O’Shea: At what point did you pitch this to Image, had an issue already been drawn or was it still in proposal mode?
Jeff Parker: We showed the complete black and white art for the first issue to Eric Stephenson this year at Emerald City Comicon.
Steve Lieber: They said yes and we were off and running.
O’Shea: How much did the two of you enjoy the flexibility of revision, given that you work in the same studio?
Lieber: It’s a very natural collaboration. Everything’s done in the same room — script, line art, letters, and color. I love the sense of freedom that comes from being able to tweak things at any step.
Parker: And I love changing what Steve thought was right. On a whim!