The Marvel Universe is home to many different teams of heroes, not all of them super-powered, spandex-clad champions of justice. Take the Agents of Atlas, for instance. Their membership includes: Jimmy Woo, a former FBI agent and master spy; Ken Hale AKA Gorilla Man, a soldier of fortune cursed with the body of a gorilla; M-11, a human like robot; Namora, a princess of Atlantis whose physical power rivals that of her cousin, Prince Namor, Bob Grayson AKA The Uranian, a human raised by aliens and armed with fantastic technology; and Venus, one of the mythical sirens.
Readers were introduced to the "Agents of Atlas" in a 2006 mini-series by writer Jeff Parker and Leonard Kirk. The series documented how the team, which first worked together in the 1950s, reunited in the present to help Jimmy Woo gain control of his legacy. That legacy was the Atlas Foundation, a secret criminal organization dedicated to reestablishing the empire of Genghis Khan. At the end of the mini-series, Jimmy and his friends decided to try and turn Atlas into a force for good.
In 20009 the "Agents of Atlas" graduated to their own ongoing series, which was written by Parker and featured art by Gabriel Hardman and Carlo Pagulayan.. It lasted 11 issues and found the Agents posing as criminals in order to solidify their control over the Atlas Empire's various holdings and conduct an undercover sting on Norman Osborn. The series final arc found the team and their adviser, an ancient dragon named Mr. Lao, going up against a rival secret society known as the Great Wall. It was a conflict which they emerged victorious from.
This May, Jimmy Woo and friends welcome in the new "Heroic Age" of the Marvel Universe with a new ongoing series, "Atlas", which will be written by Parker and features art by Gabriel Hardman and Chris Samnee. CBR News spoke with Parker about his plans for the series.
CBR News: Jeff, let's kick things off by talking about the title, which has been changed to simply "Atlas." Why the name change?
Jeff Parker: A natural progression to what most people call the book and the team. Also I like the fact that it's shorter, and I can make a small logo that will leave more space to work with for the cover artists, in this case, Terry Dodson!
And yes, I am so much a control freak that I design the Atlas logos. I'm trying now to figure out how to top the Dragon/World icon.
Jimmy Woo and friends are currently without an ongoing series, but you're still keeping them very busy. Right now, they're appearing in the "Avengers Vs. Atlas" miniseries and in a back-up feature in "Incredible Hercules." So how would you describe the team's condition when "Atlas" #1 begins?
They're starting to assert themselves, let the world know they exist. Of course, they're still tied to all the corrupt arms of the Atlas Foundation that was run for years by The Yellow Claw, so with that visibility comes trouble. But they won't be revealing the existence of the Hidden City where they live or anything like that. Or that they have a Dragon adviser who still expects them to return the greatness of Genghis Khan's Mongol empire.
Is there anything you can say about what the Heroic Age means for the status quo of the cast of "Atlas?" Are they still trying to solidify their control over the Atlas Group? And are they still posing as villains?
They are not keeping up the cover as criminals, they're actively shedding it. The conundrum is that they don't look like the modern version of a superhero team. It's really unlikely a manufacturer will try to make Uranian or M-11 The Killer Robot action figures like we know happens with Iron Man and the Fantastic Four.
The cast of "Atlas" recently rubbed elbows with both the X-Men, and the Thunderbolts, and currently they're having an encounter with both the new and classic Avengers, so it seems like they're becoming a vital part of the larger Marvel U. Will this continue into the Heroic Age?
I think their main role is to break down the Great Wall of Continuity and expand the borders of the Marvel Universe so we're not reading the same ten heroes doing everything. We've got more options of types of characters and types of stories. That's the meta-answer, anyway.
The idea for forging the various characters of "Atlas" into a team first came in 1978's "What If?" #9, a book that featured 3-D Man. However, when you brought those characters into the current continuity with "Agents of Atlas" #1, you left 3-D Man out because he was a character created in the '70s and not from books published by Marvel Comics' predecessor, Atlas. Now it appears as though the current 3-D Man is going to play a large role in May's "Atlas" #1. What made you want to look at him now, and is this the original 3-D Man or the new one who adopted the identity during "Secret Invasion?"
He kept coming up, and Gabe Hardman and I came up with a neat way to build a story around him. This is Delroy, the current 3-D Man, formerly Triathlon [from Kurt Busiek's run on "Avengers"]. He has a kind of convoluted personal history, but don't worry, you won't need to know it. And you will also be seeing Chuck, the original 3-D Man.
Again, don't fret over the continuity of the character; it will be told in a way that is very easy to get into, yet work with what has come before. Gorilla-Man will not tolerate having to listen to someone's wending origin story.
Is there anything you can share about the first arc in terms of plot or themes? Will you be picking up any plot threads from the previous "Agents of Atlas" ongoing, like the story of Mr. Lao and his counterpart from the Great Wall?
There is a lot more Mr. Lao involvement coming. That dragon never stops scheming. And we'll be keeping track of other recent developments, like the fact that Venus has recently been accepted into the pantheon of the Olympians.
Currently the rogues gallery for the cast of "Atlas" consists of Norman Osborn and the forces of the Great Wall. Can we expect their list of adversaries to grow in 2010? What types of villains are you interested in throwing at your cast?
The rogues gallery grows right away, and they're very strange. We are rarely going to have traditional villains in "Atlas", and you'll see that from the get-go
In their previous appearances, Jimmy Woo and Company's adventures from the 1950s played a prominent role. Will that continue with "Atlas?"
The past matters in a big way with "Atlas". Those stories will have ramifications on the present. Also, I think much of what makes "Atlas" special is its roots in the past, so we need to see that.
You're working with an artist who has drawn these characters before, Gabriel Hardman. What can people expect from his work on "Atlas?"
Readers can expect excellence. Gabe is simply a powerhouse, and the kinds of artist other artists make sure to follow. Speaking of, why not follow him on Twitter if you keep up with that? It's @gabrielhardman. And should you want to go even further, @jeffparker .
We have our favorite colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser back too! It's going to be an incredible looking book- just go pick up "Avengers Vs. Atlas" for an idea of what's in store.