EXCLUSIVE: Richardson's "Atomic Legion" Barrels Through Sci-Fi History

As if his day job as the founder and publisher of Dark Horse Comics didn't keep Mike Richardson busy enough, he's also found time to write acclaimed titles like "47 Ronin" and "Star Wars: Crimson Empire." More recently he's been hard at work on a new long form graphic novel, "The Atomic Legion," with longtime Disney artist Bruce Zick.

"The Atomic Legion" follows the adventures of a young boy, Robby, who finds himself suddenly leading a motley crew of esoteric superheroes against a mysterious foe. Richardson, who has been working on the project over the last three years, built "The Atomic Legion," to some degree, around the talents of his artist, Zick. In order to best highlight Zick's work, the projected will be presented as a single oversized volume on April 30, weighing in at a hefty 224 pages of classic Golden Age-style heroes, sci-fi movie tropes and pop-culture Easter eggs.

Comic Book Resources spoke recently with Richardson about "The Atomic Legion," unlikely heroes and nostalgia for the early days of science fiction. Plus, Richardson lays down a special challenge which could net you a cool $1000!

CBR News: What can you tell us about the story of "The Atomic Legion?"

Mike Richardson: "Atomic Legion" is the story of a young boy who gets the chance to be a hero. In fact, through a fantastic set of circumstances, he ends up leading a group of forgotten heroes into the modern world, since he is the only one capable of navigating it. At the time the project was started, I was in the middle of three horror series ("Cut," "The Secret" and "Living With the Dead"), and I wanted to do something completely different. I also wanted to work with Bruce Zick, who is an amazing artist. I pitched him the story with the intent of really having some fun with the project and he jumped on the idea. We deal with themes of self-esteem and self-image in a fantasy setting, using numerous pop-culture touchstones throughout.

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Who comprises the cast of characters in this story? We have someone referred to as "The Professor," a young boy and some golden age heroes?

The Professor is a genius who long ago discovered scientific secrets that were so dangerous in the wrong hands that he went into hiding and erased his own name. One of his experiments creates a catastrophic event that pulls a young boy named Robby into the story. Robby meets a group of amazing characters [that] became obsolete long ago and, though a mere boy, he leads them into an adventure in which he turns out to be the hero. Along the way there is time travel, Dimension X, UFOs, skyscraper-climbing apes, rocket ships, submarines, atomic bombs, and lots of science fiction and fantasy movie references. Most of all, there is Bruce's fantastic art.

In what ways is Robby pushed to become the unlikely hero of the story?

"Atomic Legion" is the tale of a young boy who doesn't give himself much credit, but must rise up and be more than the "super" characters around him if he is to save someone he cares about. In the process, proves that there is a bit of a hero in all of us, if we are willing to make the sacrifice necessary.

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Is "The Atomic Legion" an all-ages story? If so, are there particular challenges in crafting a story for a younger reader?

I think it can be enjoyed by young and old, though the references are aimed at someone who might be familiar with "Earth Versus the Flying Saucers," or "Robot Monster." We had a lot of fun loading the book with those classic references.

Where do your interests in Golden Age-style heroes and classic sci-fi stem from? Do you have a sense of nostalgia for that era?

I've enjoyed comics since my earliest days. I think there was a mystique to those books and films that came before. You have to remember that it was nearly impossible to find a "golden age" book when I was growing up, and comic fandom hadn't quite "organized" yet. With films, they came and went. There were no DVDs or VHS tapes. You could read about a science fiction film in "Famous Monsters" and then you waited until it showed up on television. The fact [was] that watching or acquiring one of those classic films or comics caused them to gain importance, at least in the mind of a young fan.
What led to you and Zick working together, and what are you seeing him bring to the project?

Bruce and I have known each other since the early '90s. He is an exceptional artist and I wrote this book with an eye toward showing the world just how fantastic his work is. Looking at the finished product, I think that the mission was accomplished -- Bruce has a unique style that, in my mind, he never had exactly the right project to really show off. I tried to write a story that I thought would really play to his ability.

"The Atomic Legion" goes on sale from Dark Horse on April 30.

Plus, Mike Richardson is offering $1000 to the first person to e-mail Dark Horse and correctly name the most comics & pop culture references found inside "Atomic Legion." There's a TON!

ALSO, Dark Horse will give $1000 of merchandise to the winner's favorite comics retailer of choice.

Entrants can send emails to atomiclegion@darkhorse.com.


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