Bearing the Weight Well: Parker talks "Agents of Atlas"

"Agents of Atlas" is proving to be the little comic book series that could. When the series was announced, many people didn't think a series starring a cast of mostly unknown and non spandex clad characters would go far, but issue #3 of "Agents of Atlas" hits stores on Wednesday and the series continues to generate buzz based on great word of mouth and positive reviews. With the six issue mini-series reaching its halfway point, CBR News checked in with "Agents of Atlas" writer Jeff Parker.

Parker is floored by the sheer amount of positive feedback he's received from readers who've picked up "Agents of Atlas." "I love how much readers have gotten into the book so far! Many have written either me, Leonard [series artist Leonard Kirk] or the editors, and we've been hearing from lots of fellow professionals who like 'AoA' too, it's very rewarding," Parker told CBR News. "They're responding mostly to the characters, which is a nice payoff because we spent a lot of time fleshing them out. None of us wanted typical group dynamics- 'here's the clown, here's the genius, etc.'"

The Agents of Atlas also differ from the usual superhero groups in that all of the characters are from the Golden Age of Marvel Comics and none of them are traditional superheroes. When "Agents of Atlas" was announced, many fans were surprised to see a book from Marvel featuring Golden Age characters. They expected that type of book from the "Distinguished Competition," not Marvel. "You have to understand that the whole Marvel machine is built to handle superhero stories, and mostly the ones that grow out of their rebirth as a company in the '60s," Parker explained. "Dealing with other eras and genres just isn't in their model, and retailers who want those alternatives typically don't come to them for that. So, they were being generous in greenlighting this series. Now I'd like to thank them by delivering them a new readership, so it's a matter of getting the word out to people who don't expect this corner of the Marvel U. to exist."

Parker has been working overtime to get the word out to people about "Agents of Atlas." "I 'transcribe' the FBI documents of their '50s adventures for the 'Temple of Atlas'" blog at Marvel.com - which by the way, has been unbelievably helpful with the characterization," Parker stated. "It's a lot of extra work, but it often takes a while to find the right voice for a character when you only have 22 pages a month and the online story sped that up immensely. I also set up agentsofatlas.com and will be expanding that soon. There you can find icons to use in forums and info, and I hope to make it more interactive for readers. It takes time to establish something like this, but it would be so worth it for me if The Agents can build a fan base. I've got lots of story ideas that just won't fit with other Marvel characters, and our odd group is exactly right for telling them."

Those that have visited the "Temple of Atlas" blog may have noticed it was hosted by the enigmatic Mr. Lao. Lao plays a role in upcoming issues of "Agents of Atlas," but the identity of the man behind his online communications remains a mystery even to Parker. "Ah, the mysterious Mr. Lao. He won't be so mysterious come Book 6!" Parker said. "While I of course know who he is in the scheme of things as far as the story is concerned, I don't know who Marvel uses to voice him at 'The Temple of Atlas' blog or any of the places he magically appears online. They say they'll tell me when this series is done."

One ongoing mystery that is tackled in issue #3 of "Agents of Atlas" is what happened to former Quantum Bands wielder Bob Grayson AKA Marvel Boy that drove him insane and lead to his death? And what is the secret of his apparent resurrection? This has caused some fans of the most recent Quantum Bands wielder, the seemingly deceased Wendell Vaughn AKA Quasar, to worry. "I see a lot of Quasar readers online wondering if we're tampering with the stories they followed, so I can definitively say this, 'No! Nothing in 'Agents of Atlas' undoes that whole White Room thing,'" Parker explained. "We do differ on the Quasar explanation for how the Uranian Colony died, and you can go with whichever

one you feel makes more internal sense. But I have to pose the question - come on, do you really believe everything someone named Deathurge tells you? It seems some other precepts that go with the Quantum Bands have been challenged lately too, as Annihilus seems to wear them pretty well at the moment.

"My concern was answering why our Marvel Boy, Bob Grayson, couldn't seem to do as much with those wristbands as Quasar- he was certainly a worthy hero, and accomplished in science," Parker continued. "It seems there's always going to be someone bearing the name Marvel Boy, and Bob is a bit old and wise to be accorded Boy status now. He'd be fine with being the Hero Formerly Known As Marvel Boy, and is often referred to in our series at The Uranian. But mostly as just Bob."

Issue #3 of "Agents of Atlas" will also provide readers with some insight into another enigmatic character, The Human Robot AKA M-11. "I'm getting a lot of questions from people intrigued with M-11's agenda," Parker said. "Pretty hard-to-read guy, what with his face never changing. As the team is ready to tackle the Atlas Foundation head on, the robot diverts them for a bit with a mission of his own. But good luck getting him to talk about it. He's not one of those androids that yearns to be a real boy, he's old-school and mysterious."

Many questions are answered in "Agents of Atlas" #3, but in upcoming issues new questions are posed and the team suffers its first tragedy. "In issue # 4, Jimmy sees something in one of their Atlas raids that pertains directly to him," Parker explained. "Anyone out there read Cantonese? Also, since we've used every trick in the book to bring back some great old characters, we're going to have to restore balance to the universe and give one a send off. Not by falling into a chasm either - it's a pretty definitive end that would be really hard to refute later."

With the release of issue #3 the "Agents of Atlas" mini-series is half way over, but it's not too early to start thinking about the future. Parker urges readers who want more "Agents of Atlas" stories to talk the series up to everybody: perspective fans, retailers, Marvel, etc. "We're selling as well as you can hope with a bunch of unknowns in a book coming out when all attention is focused on 'Civil War,' but the positive critical response is being noticed at Marvel. If any of you out there can help us get the word out (positively, no pressure tactics or fisticuffs, please) we'll bring you more bizarre adventures from Marvel's strangest team!"

Parker and the other creators behind "Agents of Atlas" are immensely appreciative of the growing number of readers who are already out there and singing the praises of "AoA." "Thanks so much for those of you who have joined the Atlas camp so far," he said. "This has been a rare experience for the creative team and we truly appreciate your support!"

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