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  • MENACE FROM SPACE part one

    In 2006 The Agents of Atlas miniseries was approved and my editors and I immediately saw the uphill battle we would have in getting the book noticed. Not only was it full of characters who hadn’t seen the light of day in decades, but the Marvel Machine was gearing up completely to push the big event of the year, Civil War. My big idea was to run an Alternate Reality Game which would revolve around “leaked FBI documents” that comprised a pulp-style serial Agents story. Lots of comics related websites, forums and stores did us a solid and hid clues that readers could look for and solve to release each chapter of the story. Ultimately we still got buried by big events, but those who participated seemed to have a good time that summer.

    It began with an anagram puzzle in a fake press release that sent people to the Temple of Atlas blog at the new Marvel website. There you were greeted by the enigmatic Mr. Lao, who as you may now know turned up in the series. Originally he wasn’t going to be in the book, that’s just one of the contributions running the game had- once I figured out how to speak in the voice of Lao I couldn’t resist working him in, and then he became very important to the series. So here’s the first chapter. You’ll notice as the chapters go on (and I was racing against the weekly deadline) that the pulp narrative style comes and goes, but in the beginning I was trying to ape the Doc Savage and Shadow novels. Return with us now to the years 2006 and 1958…

    * * * * *

    Welcome. As you have found this site, you are clearly one of those rare people who realize there’s more to the world than what you see on the surface. You may qualify for membership in an organization of which I am involved. My name, at least one that you can pronounce, is Mr. Lao.
    Some of you were promised a “decoder ring”, yet you will receive something of more worth than a mere plastic decrypting toy. No, the Decoder Ring of which I speak is all of YOU- working together as a whole. If you are the first to reach the Temple, do sign in now.

    What you’ll receive are classified FBI documents, on a weekly schedule. (Needless to say, anyone who feels they should reveal this to the Bureau, will find themselves in a very wet climate lacking in oxygen) These records we’ve retrieved for you concern a mission from 1959, headed by a young firebrand named James “Jimmy” Woo. With special powers given him by your government, Special Agent Woo assembled a very unusual team that worked together for just more than six months. It is of relevance because this team has recently reunited. This is a team with which my organization is quite concerned. Our destinies are intertwined, and I believe will be coming to a resolution in the near future.

    The story is broken up in separate entries, transcribed years ago by Federal Agent Angela Wellington, a young woman who clearly had a fondness for the old pulp magazines, as you’ll see by her writing style. She left the agency in 1960 and became a full time science fiction writer. While she did take liberties in detailing the facts at hand, it does make the file a bit less dry than most government documents. Much of the information is reliable as it was taken from recordings made regularly by one of Woo’s agents.

    Now I shall leave you to the lost art of reading for a few minutes. After you’ve reviewed the excerpt, more direction will be offered. Enjoy.

    Glowing embers pulsed and hoarded their heat in the large fireplace. The metal hand telescoped in to turn the logs over, then the other placed two more large chunks of pine on top. With a casual squeeze the hands split open the new timbers so that they might catch aflame faster. Within minutes a sizable conflagration roared steady like an engine, warming the old Federal drawing room and all the agents inside. The tender of the fire stepped to the side of the mantle and resumed a vigilant position. A brandy snifter smashed suddenly against the crackling wood fueling a bright flare, and the unmoving figure spun its head around to rest a cyclopic gaze on the gorilla, who winced.
    “Watch where you’re pointing that death ray, Howdy Doody! Throwing the glass in the fire is an old custom. Hey, when’s Golden Boy showing up? I’m ready for dinner.” Ken Hale loped over to the chair next to Jimmy Woo’s desk to pore through a stack of betting forms.

    The reclining figure on the couch stretched and pushed back a thick drape of shining hair to let more of the fire’s heat warm her perfect face. She didn’t open her eyes, but smiled as she answered her teammate.
    “I believe Bob is in Huntsville, Alabama consulting Dr. Von Braun and the new space agency on stellar travel. He should be back soon. He gets so frustrated when Earth scientists can’t follow his directions.”

    Though the young woman’s response was brief and factual, her speech had a profound effect on the visiting government agents in the room. Both went into a slight stupor as the ethereal locution wound through the men, like a ghostly serpent coursing through their bodies. The man seated at the large oaken desk kept his fingers against his temples, calm and unaffected. Some have supposed that his ability to retain his wits at these instances was the result of having mastered ancient Chinese disciplines of meditation and concentration. In fact, a careful observer would notice that the fingers against his temples was not a gesture of focus, but a convenient way to put his thumbs in his ears whenever the woman began to speak.

    The taller man, Oglethorpe, shook his head quickly as if to revive. “Ahem… so, ah, those are the ships that disappeared last week. None of the cargo has been reported turning up yet, at least not at the ports we can rely on to admit it.”

    “If this is all part of the same operation, it’s one heck of an operation, I’ll say. So why are you guys coming to us in particular with this? Because one of the ships was docked out here at Hunter’s Point?”

    “Actually, Mr. Woo,” the shorter man volunteered,”because it does look to be so large an effort, Washington suggested that it’s probably the work of someone you know best. The eastern mastermind known as-”

    “YELLOW CLAW?!?” roared Gorilla-Man. The visiting agents both crouched a bit, bracing themselves against Jimmy Woo’s desk. The pencil he held with his toes snapped in two. Jimmy Woo held up his hand to indicate that calm and order was called for. Disturbed from her firewatching, Venus sat up and rested her head and arms on the plush back of the leather couch.

    “I seriously doubt The Yellow Claw is behind this,”said Jimmy Woo.”My team and I delivered a major setback to his organization just over a month ago.”

    “There’s a great big hole in Outer Mongolia where a fortress used to be,” Gorilla-Man added smugly.

    “Well sure,” Agent Dirsken rejoined,”there’s no arguing your outfit is top dog since that big rescue mission. Don’t think the rest of us back in D.C aren’t green all over- I mean, the fact that you can run a team like this out of San Francisco proves you don’t really answer to J. Edgar!”

    “We completely respect the Director’s wishes,” Jimmy assured the man.

    “Well sure. I didn’t mean to- anyway, what I’m getting at is that–Yellow Claw or no- whoever’s behind this thing has a major network behind him.” Gorilla Man lost interest in the visiting agent and picked up the newspaper.

    “Or her.” Venus added. Normally a reminder to consider female prowess rubbed Agent Dirsken the wrong way, as it usually came from his wife or her sister. Instead of offering his glare in such cases, Dirsken made a grateful smile to let Venus know that he would never think her as intruding, and in fact her help was very, very welcome.

    A flash reflected on the glass of the grandfather clock near Woo’s desk, catching the eye of Agent Oglethorpe. He looked out the large french windows for the source. Over the buildings in the distance hung layers of cloud banks trapping a citywide cache of fog that kept the sky gray and visibility to a minimum. As the cumulonimbus lit up, the agent thought he was seeing a lightning storm. Then he remembered that the west coast rarely gets such electrical activity, and the flashes were coming closer. They seemed to be forming a trail. Agents Oglethorpe and Dirsken quickly stepped away from the window while Jimmy Woo simply raised his hand to shield his eyes. An aurous glow flooded the opening and bathed half of the room in shimmering warm light that looked to have the consistency of water. The lithe figure of a young man gracefully described an arc through the window and glided to a stop before the office door. Rather than switch off when the man stopped, the light seemed to retreat into the thick bands around his wrists.

    That is all for now. You may respond in the Comments section of this web log, which will be at this website unless matters of urgency force us to relocate. Pick a code name and keep using it that I may track your progress. Please observe some decorum with name selection. We may be murderers, smugglers, dictators and charlatans, but we frown on vulgarity and will ignore such missives. You may be asked to solve a small problem and report back, and I will need your code name to distinguish your actions. A list of exceptional agents will likely be printed in the AGENTS OF ATLAS “comic book” later. We often pass on coded information through these fantastic periodicals, so I suggest you purchase them if you wish to stay abreast of our current machinations.


    Comment from jack marlowe
    Time: March 10, 2008, 10:07 am

    good memories of this story. I read all after Agents of Atlas and before article.

    I think that i read again because in marvel blog the order was changed when a person wrote a commentary.

    I think that Marvel must publish the complete story in a future Agents of Atlas ongoing or limited series. Also can publish in format of word and small illustration of Leonard Kirk or you. Do you think that is a good idea?.

    Comment from Parker
    Time: March 10, 2008, 10:12 am

    I agree!