The first Atari comic in 30 years is nostalgic and meta! Dynamite Entertainment is incorporating the infamous Atari Classics: Swordquest real-world contest into the storyline of a brand new comic written by Chad Bowers and Chris Sims, creators who know how to make comics retro-cool. Read this interview with both writers, and prepare to be taken back to the year 1982.
Atari Classics: Swordquest (978-1-5241-0403-0, $15.99) is scheduled to release August 2017.
Vince Brusio: You're launching the first ATARI comic book project from Dynamite, the first ATARI comics in thirty years. What are your thoughts on this landmark, and contributing to the legacy of ATARI?
Chad Bowers: It's exciting, for sure. We definitely had a 2600 growing up, and I can remember playing a few games like Jaws and Tank Commander, but I was really too young to catch ATARI fever, which is kind of a shame. For that reason, though, ATARl 's always been much more of a pop culture touchstone for me than a video game system , and that's what probably influences our storytelling on Swordquest more than anything else — the overall ATARI aesthetic , and its impact on American popular culture as a whole.
Chris Sims: Chad can confirm this, but when I was a teenager, I had this ATARI shirt that I would wear pretty much every day. I've been obsessed with that stuff forever, and getting to kick the door open for comics is a pretty amazing opportunity.
Vince Brusio: Fans love your recent work on the X-Men '92 comic book series. How did working on this Marvel project influence the way that you approached Swordquest in terms of its retro revival?
Chad Bowers: Working on X-Men '92 was a tremendous experience, and I still can't believe we got to do half of what we did on that book! I loved every minute of it, and with Swordquest, yeah, there's the temptation to just fall face first into the same kind of retro-tinged comfort food, for sure, but I'd hesitate to say we're doing another retro book. You'll definitely see some stuff set in the 80s and maybe even the 90s, but beyond that, really the only thing we're reviving with Swordquest is the name.
Chris Sims: I think the thing we learned on '92 that's really coming through here is how fun it is to take an existing property and go wild with it in ways that people might not expect. We always tried to push the envelope in that book in terms of the stakes we were creating, and with Swordquest we're looking to do the same thing, just maybe not in the way that people expect.
Vince Brusio: There's a very meta context to this new series, incorporating the infamous real-world Swordquest contest into the story. What inspired this innovative take?
Chris Sims: I mean, have you read the history of that stuff? Actual golden chalices and swords that gamers had to take a quest for? How could we not go right for that stuff?
Chad Bowers: It's funny, but as we were brainstorming, Chris and I just kept coming across aspects of this game and the contest stuff that was even more bizarre than anything we were trying to come up with. Finally, when we found out the winner of Fireworld was from South Carolina and we were getting to work with our Down Set Fight! collaborator Scott Kowalchuk again, I think we knew it was meant to be!
Vince Brusio: Without giving too much away, what can you tell us about the heroes of Swordquest, Peter Case and the Perez siblings? Who are they, and what drives them?
Chris Sims: Did you ever have those friends when you were a kid that you bonded over playing video games? They had the console but you had the magazines, and maybe you had another friend with the skills to actually play the game? That was Peter, Alvin, and Amy back in '83. In the years since, they've drifted apart, but when Peter... well, you'll have to read it to see.
Vince Brusio: Why should fans of the classic ATARI games pick up the comic? What's the appeal for newcomers that, perhaps, are unfamiliar with the Swordquest game?
Chris Sims: One of the great things about those early video games is how much they relied on players to create their own stories. It was a limit of the technology, sure, but even if you were reading the original pack-in comics next to the video game, you had to create that bridge between them in your mind. That's the idea that we want to really explore here, getting into what it meant to put yourself into those blank-slate games, and how much it meant to get invested in them.