Tuesday, October 13, 2020
Atari Force #15 (March, 1985)
You may recall that J'onn J'onzz only returned to mainstream comics in 1984, so it's curious that less than a year later, he was offered a cameo in a licensed comic copyrighted by the gaming company Atari. It was a DC license, at least, in the brief time period that Warner Communications also owned Atari.
Atari Force started as a series of relatively self-contained episodes in the adventures of near-future space explorers featured in "mini" comics packaged with certain Atari game cartridges. The comics were closer to digests than what we generally consider mini-comics today, running 48 pages on high quality paper with dimensions similar to a thin TV Guide. The ongoing Atari Force standard edition comic book series launched a couple of years later, set a couple decades later. It featured a ragtag second generation team drawn together by circumstance and the original team leader's obsession with the mini-comics' main villain, the Dark Destroyer. It was a fun book by talented creators who bailed after about a year and whose overarching story was carried meekly across the finish line by lesser hands. The book limped along less than a year before getting the ax, and most of that second year was handicapped by truncated lead stories and filler back-ups of varying degrees of amusement value.
For instance, a three-parter was dedicated to a prequel story for Pakrat, a reluctant Atari Force member that was a cross between Rocket Raccoon and... actually, pretty much just a toned down and cowardly Rocket, as depicted by Marvel Studios. Pakrat is arguably cuter, with more mouse and monkey-like features (he's an alien, not Splinter.) Pakrat's whole species likes to steal, which is how he ends up pulling a high stakes burglary of one world's crown jewels with the rodent equivalent of Paris Hilton. This occurs at a sort of royal ball, and Martian Manhunter can be seen in one panel, hobnobbing at the party.
"To Catch a Pakrat" was by Andrew Helfer, Mike Chen, & Joe DelBeato. I'm not familiar with the art team, but I was amazed by their similarity to early Longshot period Arthur Adams as inked by Whilce Portacio. Most of the inker's other credits was over Herb Trimpe on G.I. Joe Order of Battle, which was... nah. So I assume the spark came from Chen, but he didn't have much of a career beyond some Robotech and Elementals material. A shame, based on the effort put into this three-parter.