Atari Force isn’t the only time DC and Atari worked together for a pack-in minicomic. In the 1980s, at the height of the Atari 2600’s success, the people at Atari at the time (I think this is before the Warner buyout and subsequent destruction) came up with an idea that’s possibly ahead of its time. Four games would be made for a series where the best players would meet in person and compete in a special version of the game for the chance to win actual physical treasures. The games were Earthworld, Fireworld, Waterworld, and Airworld. Sadly the video game crash meant that Airworld never saw the light of day and the gathering that would have happened for the special Waterworld prize never took place. That game would also only have a limited release.

Today we’re looking at the first comic in the series, that was tied to the game Earthworld, also the first in the series. By completing a certain puzzle you could get clues that were hidden in the art of the minicomic. I won’t be posting those panels knowingly because I didn’t play the game and I wouldn’t know where they are. We’re using the posting on the Atari Age website so if you have the game physically or emulated and don’t have the comic here’s your chance to play along. I also don’t know how well the comic matches the game story but I’m guessing there is some connection if not a proper adaptation. So learn more about the mystic world where these games take place.

I’m glad they didn’t stick with the original He-Man and She-Ra character designs.

Swordquest #1

“Earthworld”

DC Comics (1982)

CREATORS/WRITERS: Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway

I’m assuming they mean the comic’s creators and not the game’s. I’ve never heard of them being involved with the Atari games.

VISUAL CONCEPTS/ART: George Pérez and Dick Giordano

DESING: Neal Pozner

COLORIST: Adrienne Roy

LETTERER: John Costanza

EDITOR: Dick Giordano

Our tale begins outside of Darkspire Castle on Mount Mandragor. I’m guessing this isn’t on the Air BnB list. It’s here we meet the thieving twins, brother Torr and sister Tarra. We also get a quick shot of exposition. The evil king Tyrannus, whose parents apparently didn’t have the best destiny planned for him, killed their parents for reasons we’re not yet told and Torr wants revenge, which Tarra warns him is a bad idea for a thief. However, tonight’s raid is the wizard Konjuro…really, guys? Two of you and these are the best names you had? I know actual people names Tarra even if they spell it differently. I’m also guessing that having a male and female protagonist (I’m not one to call thieves “heroes” at this stage) allows gamers of either gender to jump into the role. Not that you need to read the book to play the game outside of the bonus clues, but it’s a nice touch. I don’t know if the player character in the game even has a name, never mind a gender. I haven’t read the manual. This isn’t Free Manual Inside.

Looking at the tower triggers a flashback to the days of their still-breathing parents that they shouldn’t really have considering they were just born. The flashback memories I mean. Obviously you need still-breathing parents if you want to be born. Warrior father Tarr, marshal of King Reullo, arrives to see his new twin children with his wife, Wyla…as in Wyla couldn’t they come up with better names? Later, when King Caramel Candy dies they hope to get the new king’s blessing. That would be king Tyrannus, proving that Reullo had caramel for brains. You don’t name some “Tyrannus” and expect them to be pureness and light. Not surprising he’s not exactly a nice guy. Apparently the wizard Obviousname had a prophecy that when Tyrannus got old blond twins would take his throne, so he orders the babies killed.  Tarr holds the guards off while Wyla escapes with the kids, and he almost wins against the only group of corrupt guards Tyrannus has so Konjuro uses his magic to break Tarr’s sword. You can guess what happens next. Kind of a dark story for a game where you run around rooms seeking treasures with all the graphic capabilities an 8-bit gaming console could muster.

Wyla ends up in the home of a former scout of Tarr’s and for whatever reason current thief Freeman Garth and his wife. She tasks them to care for her children while she tricks the guards away from them. She leaps from a cliff, making the guards think the babies are with her, to keep them safe and to be with her husband in the afterlife. Gee, no wonder Torr holds a grudge…beyond being named Torr. The flashback ends with the foster parents also dying because goodness knows we haven’t had enough death in this book and the twins becoming thieves. You know, one of these days someone’s going to realize all this stuff does is ensure the prophecy is fulfilled. Imagine if he had actually been nice to the kids so they would only take the throne if he didn’t have an heir. That requires smarts that you don’t have when you’re evil.

“How dare you have children! And stop laughing at my stupid helmet!”

Back in the present Torr and Tarra break into Konjuro’s tower and find a whole lot of gold and jewels. Tarra picks up a jewel that causes Konjuro to appear and promise them a quick death if she returns it…until Tarra refers to Torr by name as they escape. Konjuro conjures a demon to chase them but they escape into the water. (No, that’s the third game.) When Torr realizes the jewel is what the demon is tracking he throws it away, but it breaks against a tree, releasing two robed beings from their long imprisonment. These are Reullo’s former sages before Konjuro captured them. I’m starting to think Konjuro is messing with Tyrannus and is the real power behind the throne.

Continuing the bad name train these two call themselves Mentorr and Mentarra. They tell the siblings that they must go on a quest to four worlds to learn and to put revenge aside. The prize is the Sword Of Ultimate Sorcery, a “talisman of truth”. It does resemble the prize won for completing the competition for the Earthworld game winners. The twins are pointed to a pit to reach the first world, and I’m assuming you’re smart enough to know which one. However, as they scale down they’re spotted by another thief, Herminus, who has been searching for that very weapons for some time, so he cuts the rope to cut down on the competition, sending them plummeting to the dome of the building below. Lucky for the twins they weren’t up high enough to get hurt. You suck at murdering rivals, Herminus. I guess having the closest thing to a decent name thus far has disadvantages.

The two split up, with Tarra warning her more impetuous brother to be careful…and then falls into the damaged dome roof trying to collect their climbing hook. I’d make a joke but she already sees the irony…and a woman named Virgo. Torr isn’t so lucky and finds a safer entrance…and a bull man named Taurus because of course he is. They’re going for a Zodiac vibe here. Torr tries to stab him, which of course goes poorly, but he manages to snag Taurus’s key and escapes the chamber, which we learn later he’s actually amused by. Somehow Herminus is also in there and sees it all, preparing to do some harm to this rival. Back in Virgo’s chamber she shows Tarra another way to get through the chambers of Earthworld, a special jewel. Tarra thinks she may have to break the globe it’s in just as a monster appears behind her. Rather than attack she takes the “Star Of Passage”, with the monster reverting to Virgo. She passed the test and nobody had to die. This shows the difference in approaches between the twins. While Tarra suggested having the daggers out she’s not as quick to use them, while her brother is prone to rash action but not without complete thoughtlessness.

In the next chamber Tarra meets Capricorn, who has the form of a satyr. He beckons her to play with him, I’m presuming his pan flute and not his…other flute, but she wants to find her brother, and the Star takes her right to Taurus. Meanwhile Torr finds himself in a mirrored chamber facing off against Gemini, until he ends up on the other side of the mirror and meets Gemini’s good side, who gives him a lantern and lets him go. Torr goes to the next chamber only to find himself in the water and a giant green crab descending on him. I think we can guess who he is. Tarra apparently had a decent conversation with Taurus and goes to the next chamber, finding Ares the ram, believing Taurus lied about where Torr was, and escapes using the Star Of Passage. She ends up in the chamber of the centaur Sagittarius, who is tricked by Herminus into attacking her, giving the thief the opportunity to steal the star from her. What a jerk.

I already did the He-Man/She-Ra joke.

I know I’m jumping back and forth but so is the story and I’m reading along as I review. Torr learns Cancer’s actually a chill dude for a crab and is helped into the next chamber, where Herminus is pulling the same stunt with the lion man King Leo. Torr however goes for Herminus and the Star takes them both away to where Tarra is. Realizing that attacking potential allies is a bad move after hanging out with Cancer, Torr grabs a cloak, planning to throw it over Sagittarius’s head and blinding him but he learns it’s an invisibility cloak. Every good mythology has one, you know. Herminus steals boots that hide the sound of his footsteps and runs off while Torr rescues Tarra. Using the Star they arrive in the chamber with the Sword Of Ultimate Sorcery. There’s also a shield that Tarra realizes is the Talisman Of Truth and they were separate items all along. As they reach for the items they end up with version each of both while the original sword (the prize for winning the final tournament but missing the Atari logo I’ve seen in pictures of it) opens a door to the next world. Torr and Tarra jump in, followed by Herminus…and watched by a concerned Konjuro as the issue ends.

It seems that, just like with Atari Force, we’re getting a full comic story at the size of something that can fit in the regular packaging. Torr and Tarra each have their own personalities and motivations, and they’re open to learning…in this case that violence isn’t always the answer. I’m betting these are tests to serve them well when they take over from Tyrannus, so by trying to kill them Konjuro is basically fulfilling his own prophecy, so good move dumdum. Herminus I’m not so sure about. He seems like an unnecessary antagonist unless he actually is a character from the game. I don’t know enough about it to know if you have an enemy beyond the threats in the chambers. I also don’t know how this works with gameplay. What I can tell you is that this was a very interesting story and I’ll be curious to see what happens when we return to this miniseries in the future.

Next time however it’s time to return to Cybertron and the mini-comics from the Unicron Trilogy. We already finished Armada so join us again in this series for the first mini-comic from Transformers Energon.

About ShadowWing Tronix

A would be comic writer looking to organize his living space as well as his thoughts. So I have a blog for each goal. :)

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