Agents of Atlas #1 by
Jeff Parker - Writer (Plot/Script)
Leonard Kirk - Penciler (also redesigned/reinterpreted the characters’ appearances/costumes/color schemes)
Kris Justice - Inker
Michelle Madsen - Colorist
Dave Lanphear - Letterer
Tomm Coker - Cover Artist
Nathan Cosby - Assistant Editor
Mark Paniccia - Editor
How Long I Had Been An Editor:
1 year, 2 months
Basics Of My Editorial Responsibilities On This Issue:
-Read Script, gave notes, got Editor’s notes, compiled & sent to writer
-Moved digital pencil pages to Production for resizing. Distributed files to colorist & letterer
-Did balloon guides for letterer
-Created Ad Lineup
-Gave color notes
-Ran initial & final lettering to proofing, collected notes & sent to letterer
It was supposed to be called “Secret Avengers.”
JIMMY WOO - Is described pretty well in the synopsis. I can find you the Kirby reference on the character. A good looking Chinese American, and he has cool hair, a big swoop of 50’s style hair. I’ll do a sketch showing the size relations of the characters soon, if you’d like.
A group of characters from a pretty-much-forgotten What If? comic. Basically…What If a group of 1950s characters, each one of them a different genre convention, were assembled to rescue the President Eisenhower, then disbanded for half a century, when they had to band together to defeat an old foe?
GORILLA MAN - He looks like… a gorilla. A mountain silverback, to be more specific. To be consistent with the various ways he’s been drawn, he should be larger than an actual gorilla, literally the 900-pound kind people mention in rhetoric instead of the actual 400 pound kind in real life. He has a history of people drawing him without checking out any reference whatsoever, so it would be nice to finally make him resemble the real thing. Though he does knucklewalk, he can stand all the way up like a human. I’m thinkin’ he’d be brown rather than black, but I go back and forth on it. You wrestle with it.
Jeff Parker, an artist by trade, had gotten some good buzz as a writer around 2005. That buzz translated into an issue of Marvel Adventures Spider-Man and taking over on Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four when the original writer dropped out. Senior Editor Mark Paniccia (my boss) liked Parker, wanted him to try something else, something in-continuity, something…weird.
HUMAN ROBOT (M-11) - So, he first appeared in a short story, with no intent of ever bringing him back again. That’s okay, we’re not strictly bound by the way characters were portrayed. Because he’s essentially a predecessor for Bender from Futurama, if you’ve ever seen that cartoon.
I’d seen Peter Snejbjerg’s art online somewhere, got him to do some sketches of the characters. Then he dropped out. After a few other options fell through, Leonard Kirk became available. Thank God.
VENUS - Still blonde, very shapely, and very tan. She is sex incarnate. You could alter her costume so that it’s very revealing, but she keeps a lot of herself covered with the cape until she wants to break out her power. She’s so hot…
Mr. Parker, unaccustomed to the in-continuity process of script approval, became somewhat dubious of the notes he was receiving from Mark and myself, as well as other editors. He showed his passive-aggressiveness by giving the drafts titles like “Issue One/THIRD freaking Draft”. (which is, c’mon, funny)
MARVEL BOY - Ground control to Major Tom…The Bowie song really is a good theme for Bob, our tragic spaceman. Here’s a lot of backstory on him you didn’t ask for, but we have to repair his continuity later. Still blonde, but not strapping and muscular now. He’s tall and lanky, and the only remnant of his former costume is the thin headband across his forehead. He wears a very retro spacesuit, silver with rubber gloves and ridges at the shoulders, elbows and knees. He also has a bubble around his head which looks like solid glass, but it’s actually a small containment field that holds in his environment. It keeps him at a temperature of -300 degrees Fahrenheit and provides the methane-rich air he needs to breath. Because of the gas inside he always looks cast in a blue-green light. Were you to look close up you’d see that his pupils are actually a yellow hue. When he speaks, he often lapses into a bunch of alien glyphs that mean nothing to the people he’s talking to. He’s simply weird, the weirdest one of the group.
I was a fan of the Marvel Adventures stuff he’d written, but I didn’t always understand Parker’s plots, especially Secret Avengers. He had a tendency to under-explain complicated things, then get frustrated when you asked him to clarify. (I’m sure this had a lot to do with me being young and stupid.) But when he sent the descriptions for the Secret Avengers members, I was not confused. I realized Jeff Parker was a friggin’ genius.
NAMORA - Namora’s original version looks not unlike Venus’ original version, so we need to change her a bit. And we have a good excuse to, because she comes back from the dead, essentially. I’m thinking she’s taller and leaner than Venus, and her skin has gotten paler. Her hair can be blue-green, more Atlantean. Her Namoresque ankle-wings I think would be neat to change into translucent fins, like those little directional fins fish have near their tail. She still could have some kind of headpiece, but we can make it a bit more smooth and artistic than the wing head piece she used to have. I’m thinking it might be cool to give her a skin tight black scuba suit.
Parker wasn’t making characters for a story. He was becoming friends with the team. He CARES about them like he cares about family. His descriptions read like he had a long chat with each person, got their opinions on how they should be updated, what should be kept, what could be discarded. You want to hang out with the team Parker describes. They sound like real people (or real people from Uranus).
Once Parker figured out who the characters were and got it down on paper, I think it got easier for me (and Mark) to understand what was going on in the story. But it still wasn’t a breezy read. There were multiple eras, locations, lies on top of double-lies, new and old supporting characters to introduce (all of which had to be name-checked). And the plot…the PLOT. The plot had to be run by all of the high-level editors, notes were given, Parker would change the plot, I would rewrite some of it (to clarify), we’d turn it back in, MORE notes, notes about not understanding who everyone was, why stuff was randomly happening, why Spider-Man or Captain America weren’t in it…lots of valid notes, lots of superfluous ones. And the BIGGEST note received after the project was approved? That the title had to change.
It was a WEIRD book. Nothing else was like it at Marvel. This was an FBI agent, a sea creature, a robot, an alien, a goddess and a gorilla…solving crimes from the 1950s in the present day. How in the HELL did it get approved?
After going through 4 or 5 or 6 or 7 different versions of the plot, Parker turned in a new version that was still pretty complicated and convoluted. Mark and I were already in love with the characters and story Parker wanted to tell, but we just couldn’t get it past the big guys and Parker was tired of re-re-re-re-retweaking. So I called Mr. Parker and asked if he’d mind if I adjusted the latest plot, in an effort to massively simplify things. He approved, and so I stopped doing everything else and spent several hours making the pitch seem as paint-by-numbers as I could. I smoothed over time-jumps, origin convolution, pseudo science. I deleted any of unique or interesting characterization that would distract from the nuts and bolts, so that no tedium could be picked apart. I made the pitch safe and clean. I lied.
The pitch was approved. I’m not sure if Parker ever read the thing I wrote.
Pleaaaaaaase understand, I’m not saying I’m the reason Agents of Atlas exists. Mark’s the one that brought the characters to Parker’s attention, Parker crafted genius scripts and updated all the characters, Leonard Kirk/Kris Justice/Michelle Madsen breathed them to brilliant life. I just like to think that my contribution was ensuring that the book would keep the pulse and flavor that made it so interesting, and not get noted to submission. So technically I guess I didn’t lie…I just showed certain people what they wanted to see.
Rereading the first issue, it’s fantastic. Colorful, vibrant, REALLY busy, smart, fun. Everyone that worked on it had a ball. I remember Mark, Parker and myself reading the black-and-white lettering over and over and over and over…it was a special book to all of us, it was Parker’s baby, with Mark as its godfather and me as its annoying brother. We wanted it to be just right. We thought we were starting an all-new franchise. And we were…a reaaaaally small one.
We think that I’m the one that came up with Agents of Atlas, but I’m not sure. After we were told we couldn’t call it Secret Avengers (the concept was kinda approved on the coolness of the name), all three of us were throwing every possible name up against the wall. I think on one of my lists I wrote “Atlas Agents,” then flipped it at some point. I dunno. Doesn’t matter. It worked, then got shortened to Atlas later.
Atlas will always be one of my favorite books to be a part of. Parker will always be one of my favorite writers. He’s one of the few that instinctively understands it doesn’t always need to be about a vast conspiracy or making sure there’s story linkage between events or saving up for the HOLY SHIT last page ending. It’s about the character on the current page, smiling when you get to see them, and wondering what they’re going to do next. You want to hang out with them.
I always want to hang out with Parker’s characters.
-When Leonard Kirk sent in penciled pages, he also sent versions of the pages with balloon placements drawn in (where the dialogue needs to go). I told him he didn’t need to, because so much dialogue was going to change. But he kept doing it. Bless his Canadian heart.
-Talking to Jeff Parker on the phone is pretty similar to talking to Gorilla-Man on the phone (trust me).
-Michelle Madsen, the great colorist on the original Atlas series, is married to uber-colorist Dave Stewart. Colorists of a feather hire flatters together.
-I was INCREDIBLY hung over the day Agents of Atlas #5 went to the printer. Couldn’t even keep GUM down. But that’s a story for another time.
-Parker designed the original ATLAS logo, and several of the logos after that. He also had a big hand in the design of recap and backpage elements. Dang good designer, that boy.
-As I read AOA #1 again this week, I kept asking “Who the hell is Jake Oh?” Then I remembered: There was some sort of initiative to make this SHIELD agent Jake Oh pop up several places, to heighten his profile. I think at one point he was gonna be suspected as the Red Hulk, but that never happened. RIP Jake Oh. Unless you’re still alive and about to become the new Doctor Strange or something.
-It was Mark’s idea to use Derek Khanata as the audience’s “eyes.” He was the normal guy that was gonna introduce us to the team. Later on, we had to fight to make sure Khanata (a Wakandan) could talk on the phone to T’Challa (Black Panther). We won.
-Mr. Lao (the dragon!) originally didn’t speak. He was just a firebreather. Neat how stuff changes organically when y’let it breathe.
-Thanks for reading! Again, these posts are still new to me. If you have any criticisms or feel like you want to know more about something, let me know! It’s still pretty free-form to me right now. Or heck, let me know if you’re enjoying ‘em. I like feeling pretty.
Next Wednesday: WORLD WAR HULK #1
Week 4: MARVEL ADVENTURES THE AVENGERS #9
Week 5: INCREDIBLE HULK/HERCULES #112