CCI EXCLUSIVE: Parker and Paniccia on "Agents of Atlas"

They are: Jimmy Woo, the Spy; Venus, the Goddess; Bob Grayson, the Uranian; M-11, the Human Robot; Namora, the Atlantean; and Ken Hale AKA Gorilla-Man. Collectively they make up the "Agents of Atlas," one of the Marvel Universe's most unusual and eclectic super teams. In 2006, writer Jeff Parker reintroduced the world to the Agents in a critically acclaimed mini-series and in early 2009; the team will become major players in the Marvel Universe when the "Agents of Atlas" ongoing series begins. CBR News spoke with Parker and his editor Mark Paniccia about the series, which finds the team up against both the villains and heroes of the Marvel Universe.

The Agents of Atlas' most recent appearance was in the "Secret Invasion: Who Do You Trust" anthology, the 2nd printing of which hit stores last week. In an eight page short story titled "The Resistance," writer Jeff Parker and artist Leonard Kirk, who penciled the original "Agents of Atlas" mini, chronicled how the Agents began using guerilla tactics and subterfuge to fight the Skrull invaders attacking Earth. "That subversive fighting during the Invasion is carried over into their series debut, as you'll see," Jeff Parker told CBR News. "They've become believers in the underground approach to fighting evil."

"And they'll be dealing with a Marvel U that's different from what we saw last time they surfaced," Mark Paniccia added. "So some of their methods might be even more extreme."

In the "Agents of Atlas" mini-series, the team, which originally fought together in the 1950s, reassembled to help Jimmy Woo embrace his destiny and take control of the Atlas Foundation, a vast criminal empire created by the descendants of the followers of Genghis Khan and dedicated to conquering the world. When the "Agents of Atlas" ongoing series begins Jimmy Woo and his team will make active use of both the resources and reputation of the Atlas Foundation. "While most everyone else is fighting for credibility and trust from the public, the Agents will be going in the opposite direction. They're going to rely heavily on the history of the Atlas Foundation under the criminal rule of Master Plan (publicly known as Yellow Claw)," Parker explained. "Unfortunately, this is going to bring them in the crosshairs of some of Marvel's biggest heroes."

"What makes them different from other teams is that these guys are doing evil for the sake of good," Paniccia said. "They are literally running a criminal organization with the end game of saving humanity."

At the end of the "Agents of Atlas" mini-series, few people were aware of the team's existence and in the post "Secret Invasion" Marvel U the team will still operate covertly, just in a different way. "More people are going to learn about them, but it's not going to be the truth," Parker remarked. "But that's what is going to get them the farthest in their goals of world saving. And it's going to be hard on Jimmy and Venus in particular, who have a hard time burying their noble natures. Ken Hale (Gorilla- Man) couldn't care less."

The Atlas Foundation is a many headed hydra composed of criminal front companies. In the "Agents of Atlas" mini-series, Jimmy Woo and his friends brought many of these front companies under their control and they continued their campaign to take over the Foundation's many fronts right up till the outbreak of the Skrull invasion. "They still have some to go, but in a weird turn of events, it may benefit them to let some do business as usual," Parker said.

Paniccia added. "'Weird turn of events' is something readers should get used to with this book. Jeff's got quite a few 'Oh &%$@#!' moments planned."

The "Agents of Atlas" may control a global empire, but their main base of operations is currently under a California city that's quickly becoming a Mecca for Marvel heroes. "At the moment the Agents still work from the underground city below San Francisco. But the surface there just became the home to a lot of nosy mutants!" Parker explained. "So they may find it necessary to relocate soon to function without interference."

Parker wants the stories in "Agents of Atlas" to be carefully crafted genre cocktails. "I want to keep up the 'modern pulp' approach we used in the mini, where sometimes you're in an espionage story, sometimes it's sci-fi, and it can easily go into mystery and horror very quickly. And we have much inner space of our cast to explore," the writer stated. "The Uranian (Bob Grayson formerly known as Marvel Boy) is still having trouble adjusting to the idea of being human again. He looks human, but inside he's really not even close anymore. And Namora still has big personal issues; she's returned to the world after decades only to find that her daughter died just before she was brought back. It doesn't matter if you are a powerhouse in the league of the Sub-Mariner, that's debilitating."

In the recent "Sub-Mariner" mini-series, the title character was forced to destroy the undersea kingdom of Atlantis and ordered his people to disperse across the planet, which is another thing that will weigh heavily on Namora's mind. "She is going to use her pull to get the team to focus on her people, no doubt," Parker said. "And there are worse things than having the sympathies of the Atlanteans."

When he's not thinking about consolidating his power within the Atlas Foundation or simply bettering the world, chances are Jimmy Woo is thinking about his long lost love, Su Wan. At the end of the "Agents of Atlas" mini-series, it was hinted that Jimmy would soon be briefed on the whereabouts and status quo of the woman he loves. And Parker plans for Su Wan to appear early on in the ongoing series. "I can't wait for readers to meet Su Wan! Jimmy is in for a shock," the writer remarked. "Not like a 'Crying Game' shock, though."

Parker also has plans for some of the supporting cast from the "Agents of Atlas" mini, like Mr. Lao, a dragon that serves as royal advisor to the Khan of the Atlas Foundation and Derek Khanata, a Wakandan agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. who befriended the team. "Mr. Lao will have an appropriately HUGE role in the series, as befits someone of his size. He wants to keep the Empire of Genghis Khan on task- they're supposed to be conquering the world. While Jimmy is in charge of the empire now, Lao has a lot of influence and thousands of years of practice manipulating people," Parker explained. "Derek Khanata will be popping in too, but not playing as heavy a part as he did in the mini, which is kind of too bad, because I really like that character. But now when he shows up it's going to be special."

It's not just friends and supporting cast members that Parker and Paniccia have plans for. The duo is also assembling a host of characters to test the mettle of the Agents of Atlas. "They're a weird team, and they deserve weird villains," Parker remarked. "But they're also going to take on problems that they've just discovered like internet crime. They don't have to go through any protocols to stop someone from being swindled through an offshore server base. They go after the whole range of evils from tiny crimes to national threats."

"They'll be facing some familiar faces of the Marvel U. As well--both villain and hero," Paniccia said. "An important thing to point out is that Marvel's heroes will see the Agents as bad guys. What's it going to mean to Jimmy and Company when they wind up on the heroes' hit list?"

The tone of the "Agents of Atlas" ongoing will be similar to the mini-series, which Parker described as ranging from "deadly serious to humorous to headtrip, often all in the same issue." Another element from the mini-series that Parker plans to carry over into the ongoing is the presence of text pages. "We love the text pages. They give us a chance to really fill out the world of the Agents," he said. "And in a way it also feels like an old Atlas comic where you always had narrative pages to qualify for magazine shipping rates!"

One way in which in the "Agents of Atlas" ongoing series will differ from the original mini is that artist Leonard Kirk is currently busy as the regular penciller of Marvel's "Captain Britain and MI-13" series. Parker and Paniccia couldn't yet reveal the name of the new artist taking Kirk's place but an announcement is coming soon. "We're hoping Leonard might be able to step in for a special occasion here and there," Paniccia said. "While we're bummed he can't work on the monthly, the brilliant work he's doing on 'Captain Britain' lessens the sting."

While he was writing the original "Agents of Atlas" mini-series Parker was also penning and planning "The Temple of Atlas," an online game where a special blog on Marvel.com sent players on an online scavenger hunt for things like special codes. Parker currently has no plans for a new online game but he isn't ruling another one out. "That was A LOT of work," he said. "Maybe not in the same manner as that last one."

Both Parker and Paniccia want to extend a heartfelt thanks to "Agents of Atlas" fans for helping to make the ongoing series a reality. The duo and their collaborators are working to insure the ongoing "Agents" series is a book with important ties to both the past and the present of the Marvel U. "We will be revisiting some past adventures that readers don't know about, so we're not done with their 50's version yet!" Parker said. "And I think a lot of people have wondered how much they're going to connect to the rest of the Marvel Universe. The short answer is PLENTY. Upcoming events make this the perfect time for the Agents of Atlas to start operating in full."

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