SDCC: Taylor Pits Battleworld's "Agents of Atlas" Against Zemo & SHIELD

Groups like the Avengers, X-Men and Fantastic Four have featured some interesting lineups over the years, but none have been as eclectic or steeped in legacy as the "Agents of Atlas."

Among their ranks are super spy Jimmy Woo; soldier of fortune turned immortal simian Ken Hale AKA Gorilla-Man; Atlantean powerhouse Namora; Marvel Boy (AKA Robert Grayson), a human raised by an advanced alien race; M-11, a robot implanted with the consciousness of its deceased creator; and Venus, a mythical siren turned super hero. Each character was first introduced when Marvel Comics was still known as Atlas Comics and first assembled in their modern incarnation for Jeff Parker & Leonard Kirk's 2006 "Agents of Atlas" miniseries.

SDCC: Hickman, Brevoort And More Reveal Truth Behind "Secret Wars"

That series turned the "Agents of Atlas" into fan-favorites and spawned two ongoing series with the second ending in 2010. Since then, the group has made a handful of appearances but have flown largely under the radar. This October, the team will return in "Secret Wars: Agents of Atlas," an all-new one-shot by writer Tom Taylor and artist Steve Pugh, putting them firmly back on the Marvel U map -- even if that map is now Battleworld. They will function as a resistance movement in a dystopian Battleworld domain where Baron Zemo and the forces of S.H.I.E.L.D. rule with an iron fist.

First announced by Marvel yesterday during their "Secret Wars" panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego, CBR News spoke with Taylor about the book and his love for the title characters, the nature of their Battleworld domain and the role Phil Coulson will play in the one-shot.

CBR News: The Agents of Atlas have a pretty dedicated fanbase, but they haven't appeared much in recent years. What made this assignment appealing to you? Were you a fan of the work writer Jeff Parker and his collaborators like Leonard Kirk and Gabriel Hardman did on the original "Agents of Atlas" miniseries and later ongoings?

Tom Taylor: Yeah, I absolutely am, and we were all so happy to get that brilliant cover from the original series artist, Leonard Kirk. It's actually been my phone's lock screen for a month. Jeff Parker is always a fantastic writer and there's something so very, very appealing about these characters. I know in particular, Mark Paniccia, my editor on "All-New Wolverine" and "Superior Iron Man," is an enormous fan and a big part of bringing them back in the first place. He offered this to me and I said, "Yeah! Let's go for it!"
There were some books I haven't read and I loved reading the stuff I had missed. It was fantastic. I had read that original hardcover that you have articles in, and I got to read some of the really old stuff as well. There's so much to love about these characters. They look fantastic as well. There's a guy who is literally a gorilla! There's nothing better than that. [Laughs]

Are there any members of the team that you especially enjoy writing?

I think Gorilla-Man became a favorite straight away. I think that's going to come through in the comic for everybody. I had a note from my artist saying, "Oh my god! Gorilla-Man gets all the best lines." So he has to be.

I like all of them though. I like Marvel Boy and I really like M-11. I got to play with him a little bit. They're all such great characters.

Now for this series, you're bringing the Agents of Atlas to the "Secret Wars" Battleworld. What can you tell us about the Battleworld domain they inhabit? What's life like there and who controls it?

It's sort of a 1950s feeling city called Metropolitia, and it's just all around nasty. It's a really downtrodden, horrible place full of factories where the workers are essentially enslaved by Baron Zemo who rules on high from a castle behind the scenes. Everybody is monitored. Anybody who isn't doing their job is taken away by Zemo, experimented on, and turned into something that will actually work.

Serving as Zemo's foot soldiers on the ground in Metropolitia is S.H.I.E.L.D., so that will be an interesting thing. It also means that the only group actually working for the people is the Agents of Atlas. They're working behind the scenes and trying to be a force for good on a hideously oppressive world.

So the Agents of Atlas are sort of a resistance army battling Zemo's storm trooper's, which is what S.H.I.E.L.D. is on this section of Battleworld?

Yes, Zemo has his own agents as well, but he's got Coulson and S.H.I.E.L.D. wrapped around his finger. They're the guys who come and take the workers from their families and friends in the middle of the day, put them on trains, and ship them off to be experimented on.

The core cast of "Agents of Atlas" was always Jimmy Woo, Venus, M-11, Marvel Boy, Namora and Gorilla-Man. In later issues of the ongoing series the cast grew even larger when characters like Mandarin's son Temugin joined up. Who's on your version of the team?

We're dealing with the classic lineup. The cast did get bigger later, but because this is a one-shot and the team hasn't been seen for awhile we wanted to refamiliarize people with the core team.

In the Marvel Universe AoA team leader Jimmy Woo and Phil Coulson share a connection in that Jimmy was once an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Will that come into play here?

We do mention that Jimmy and Coulson do have a connection, but we don't delve into it. Fans of the characters will know though.

What's it like bouncing Coulson off the Agents of Atlas? And what kind of role will he play in the story? With Phil being a member of S.H.I.E.L.D. in this reality it sounds like he'll be a central antagonist.

I don't want to say too much about what role he plays. He is heavily involved in the story though. Whether he's on the side of good or evil? You'll just have to wait and see.

Bringing to life the Agents' conflict with S.H.I.E.L.D. and Zemo is an artist who recently showed his great grasp of the pulp sci-fi and fantasy that defines these characters during his run on "All-New Invaders," Steve Pugh. What's it been like working together on this story?

I've always loved Steve's work. We've sort of just begun so I haven't seen too much here, but I've loved his "Hellblazer" stuff, and there's so much. He's a very, very good artist and he loves the script, which is always a good thing. I think he's going to play all the laughs right and play all the action amazingly. It's always great when you get to work with an artist of this caliber.

Finally, if "Secret Wars: Agents of Atlas" resonates with readers would you be interested in reintroducing the AoA into the post-"Secret Wars" Marvel Universe?

Quite possibly. As you said they do have a large fan base and I think that fan base should be triple the size. There's something so appealing about these characters. At one point I got to put a jetpack on a Gorilla-Man! Everybody wants more of that in their lives, right? [Laughs]

"Secret Wars: Agents of Atlas" goes on sale in October from Marvel Comics.

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