Just three months after first proposing a “Bargain Bin Cinematic Universe” filled with quirky, ancient superheroes whose rights had fallen into the public domain, filmmaker and YouTube personality Austin McConnell is set to begin production on Atlas, an animated feature that will launch this bizarre and ambitious project if all goes well. Like with Iron Man before that, Atlas: the animated film will focus on a single character and their adventure, but introduce another member of the shared universe in a post-credits scene. Since the project is crowdfunded via Kickstarter, backers will vote on which character will take this moment in the spotlight.
Atlas first appeared in an uncredited story in Daring Adventures #18 from IW Publications. According to the Public Domain Superheroes Wiki, it’s possible he was created by comic book legend George Tuska. The character had a single appearance, in which office worker Jim Randall went from being beaten up by gangsters, to being visited by the Greek god Atlas, who gave him a series of “mysterious exercises” that made it possible to become a superhero endowed with extraordinary strength and agility.
“Atlas: the animated film is kind of a ‘test’ for the overall universe, focusing on Jim Randall’s origin story – but one of the lofty goals of our campaign is a post-credits scene,” McConnell told ComicBook, who said he read about 70 different comics populated by a dozen short-lived, abandoned superhero characters to come up with the final idea.
11 days away from the Kickstarter campaign, the Atlas the film made just under $40,000 – which means it’s going to happen. The original goal was $15,000. McConnell has also made t-shirts and hoodies available to fans who are willing to really invest in a character with one extremely hard-to-buy appearance (although reprints are widely available thanks to its public domain status). ).
This same status, of course, has given rise to other attempts to revitalize or update derelict heroes. Whether Erik Larsen uses them in wild dragon and The project for the next issue or the long duration of Dynamite Project Superpowers, the idea of bringing back these old forgotten heroes is not new. But that’s up to McConnell.
“I hadn’t heard of it before doing my thing, but several comments told me Project Superpowers” McConnell admitted. “I deliberately keep myself in the dark so as not to let their universe influence what I build. What’s great about the public domain is that there are endless character interpretations, and if you can’t find one you like, you can create it yourself! I hope Atlas: the animated film encourages budding writers and artists to dip their toes into the public domain as well. It’s a nice sandbox.”
Currently, the script for the film is around 80 pages, although the total length will depend on the budget (which won’t be set in stone until the crowdfunding campaign ends). McConnell also says he doesn’t have a specific casting in mind yet, as he’ll need to know the budget in order to figure out what the possibilities are. This is all part of a larger philosophy of keeping expectations realistic.
McConnell has turned self-deprecating content into an art form, making popular YouTube videos about the failure of a feature film he wrote and a book he self-published. The success of these videos (and his YouTube channel in general) certainly suggests that he is a voice people want to hear, but he tries to learn some of the lessons from these experiences in Atlas.
“I’m definitely learning to set realistic expectations, and also learning more about what my audience is interested in seeing,” McConnell said. “Mostly, I learned to try things, you know? Don’t let the fear of failure stop you from experimenting and taking creative leaps. Have an idea, try it, learn what worked ( and what didn’t work). ‘t) and then move on to the next thing.”
Atlas was created as the first step into a shared universe, but as fans have seen so many times before, focusing on that big picture at the expense of the film at hand can be a disastrous idea. So what’s the next step? He doesn’t know if the next movie will happen, let alone if it will be crowdfunded or more traditionally funded. McConnell admits that’s not the priority.
“As I say to the fans, ‘let’s start with this one, first,'” McConnell explained. “Distribution plans are still being worked out for this film – if Atlas is well received and audience interest continues to grow, I hope to continue the story. To that end, we have an ambitious goal that will greenlight the next hero, if enough people decide to get on board with the idea Studio superhero movies are usually big-budget, high-risk affairs, which often results in properties and more stereotypical stories. The spirit of the Bargain-Bin project (like its source material) is to avoid too-big-to-fail productions. We want the freedom to be experimental. To try things. These stories are intended to an audience that celebrates rough edges and imperfections – we want to tell unconventional stories with unconventional heroes and maybe, just maybe, do some magic.”