The Agents of Atlas were first assembled in 1958 by F.B.I. agent Jimmy Woo to help free President Eisenhower from the clutches of the villainous Yellow Claw. After liberating the President, they continued to act as a team together for 6 months on various missions on behalf of the Government. They were eventually forced to disband out of fear of their very existence becoming public knowledge and inciting fear and paranoia across the country.
The Agents of Atlas (as the Avengers of the 1950s) were created by Roy Thomas, Don Glut and Jack Kirby and first appeared in What If? #9 in a loosely canon tale which depicts their origin.
The founding members of the Avengers of the 1950s were the super-spy and leader Jimmy Woo, the every-man super-hero 3-D Man, the no-nonsense merc Gorilla-Man, M-11 the Human Robot, the alien Marvel Boy and the Olympian Goddess Venus. Despite a lot of hope from writers Roy Thomas and Don Glut, the team didn't catch on or evoke enough enthusiasm and weren't revived.
In the 90s, writer Kurt Busiek and editor Tom Brevoort decided to retcon the team from existence - finding the notion of them calling themselves "Avengers" detrimental to the Avengers. In Avengers Forever, it was revealed the team were definitely never ever canon and they were erased from ever having existed by Immortus. Ironically, Tom Brevoort later championed Brian Michael Bendis' exact same concept years later with Avengers 1959.
In 2006, writer Jeff Parker wrote a mini-series that re-inserted the Avengers of the 1950s back into continuity, albeit avoiding calling themselves Avengers. The series, set in modern times, saw the team reform - albeit with the Sub-Mariner's cousin Namora in place of 3-D Man - and by the story's end they were given a significantly different modus operandi when Jimmy Woo became the ruler of an evil and secret empire known as the Atlas Foundation.
The team became known as Agents of Atlas (sometimes shortened to simply Atlas) and have since starred in two ongoing titles, crossovers like Chaos War and Fear Itself and made guest appearances in other books. The core team line-up introduced in Jeff Parker's first series has remained throughout, with several other characters such as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Derek Khanata, former Iron Man villain Temujin, the enigmatic dragon Mr. Lao and the current 3-D Man joining their ranks.
Major Story Arcs
The Coming of the Avengers of the 1950s
F.B.I. agent Jimmy Woo was tasked with acting as a bodyguard to President Eisenhower, when the Yellow Claw had made several attempts to kidnap the President. Seeing the need for assistance, the Government tasked Woo with forming a group of super-powered agents to help protect the President from Yellow Claw. Unable to hand-pick a roster from the countless heroes he had the pick of, Woo settled on a line-up which came to him in a dream.
Starting with Marvel Boy, Woo arranged to meet the hero and when waiting he was attacked by a motorcycle gang who served Yellow Claw known as the Black Dragons. A super-hero known as 3-D Man was in the area and upon witnessing the attack intervened and helped Woo fight the gang. Marvel Boy arrived and the three of them finished off the Black Dragons, and a grateful Woo invited 3-D Man in on the super-team he was setting up.
With both heroes agreeing to join, Woo sent Marvel Boy to Africa to meet Jann of the Jungle who knew the whereabouts of another one of Woo's desired recruits; Gorilla-Man. Meanwhile, Woo and 3-D Man went in search of Namora who declined the offer to join the team but gave to them the damaged robot known as M-11 whom she had found at the bottom of the Ocean. Woo and 3-D Man were then joined by Venus whom Woo had contacted earlier. When Marvel Boy returned from Africa with Gorilla-Man, he set set about repairing M-11 who he managed to reprogram to follow Woo's orders. With that, the team were together for the first time.
Not long afterwards, the Yellow Claw launched his next attack on the President, forming a sinister team of villains known as the Super-Slaves (Cold Warrior, Electro, The Great Video and Skull-Face). The Super-Slaves succeeded in capturing the President when he was playing golf and were pursued by Woo who was present when the kidnapping happened. After managing to alert his team, Woo attempted to intervene and was captured himself.
Despite frictions between the rest of the group, particularly with regards to M-11's robotic nature, the team banded together in the hour of need and rushed to the rescue of the President and their leader. The team were able to defeat the Super-Slaves and free the captives, but Yellow Claw managed to escape. Although grateful for their rescue, the President requested that the team disband immediately as if their existence was made public it would cause hysteria and panic to see aliens, Goddesses and robots exist and are among them. The team obliged but continued to operate on behalf of the Government in times of need and in the continued battle against Yellow Claw. They eventually were forced to cease all operations at the behest of J. Edgar Hoover who saw them as having outlived their usefulness.
Getting the Band Back Together
Decades later, the team-mates had fallen apart dramatically. 3-D Man retired, M-11 was deactivated, Marvel Boy returned to Uranus and Venus spend a lot of time spreading love across the planet. Although both Jimmy Woo and Gorilla-Man worked for S.H.I.E.L.D., they rarely were in contact and were fore-sworn to secrecy about their past super-team.
In recent years, Woo had become obsessed with a vast criminal empire known as the Atlas Foundation of which the Yellow Claw was in charge of. While most of his superiors in S.H.I.E.L.D. shrugged his claims off as the conspiracies of an old has-been agent, Woo managed to convince a few agents to accompany him on an unsanctioned strike on what he had deduced was their base of operations. The assault was ill-fated with all the agents being killed in action, except Woo who was spared but barely alive.
A S.H.I.E.L.D. agent known as Derek Khanata was appointed by Dum Dum Dugan to be in charge of investigating Woo's activities which led to the incident and he unearthed the existence of Woo's super-team. After questioning Gorilla-Man (the only team-mate they could find), Gorilla-Man was allowed to see Woo on his deathbed.
That evening, Gorilla-Man and a re-activated M-11 assaulted the S.H.I.E.L.D. base and fought through S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to reach Woo who they took with them as they were beamed up onto a flying saucer piloted by the Marvel Boy (now calling himself Uranian). Using the technology of the Uranians, Uranian was able to revitalize Jimmy Woo and restore him back to health and his body to it's peak (that of his 1958 self) - albeit only with the memories of himself in 1958.
The four team-mates tried to unravel the mystery of the Atlas Foundation and to that end went to Jimmy Woo's apartment to see if Woo could make any sense of his own investigation. They were then confronted by Khanata who they initially kidnapped but then took into their confidence about their belief that Woo was onto something. Still spurious, Khanata nevertheless agrees to let them see things through and directs them to the Congo where he knows that Venus is currently operating as a missionary.
After they met up with Venus and the team were back together, the joy was short-lived as they were hastily attacked by the Yellow Claw and a group of ninjas. The team managed to overcome the villain and his henchmen, but were only reminded of the need to continue their investigation into the Atlas Foundation. The team departed Congo together again after 40 years apart and with each one of them having changed quite a bit since the last time they saw each other.
The Problem With Bob
After investigating the Temple, but being unable to gain access due to Woo no longer remembering the failsafe password to gain access, the team opted to do some catching up. While Woo, Gorilla-Man, Venus and even Khanata seemed to fall into an old comfort, Uranian remained cold and a mystery to his former friends.
Although Venus was happy to leave her friend to his own privacy, the rest of the team wished to know what exactly had happened to Uranian when he was on Uranus which left him so closed off and dark. Linking all of their minds together with his Uranian headband, Uranian revealed to his team-mates exactly what had happened to him - allowing them to live out his traumas through their own eyes.
When Marvel Boy returned to Uranus, not only did he witness the mass genocide of the race by the Eternals, he discovered they were not as benevolent a race as he had believed them to be. Due to his human nature, the Uranians never truly trusted him and had even attempted to mould an Uranian known as Thelius into replacing Marvel Boy and help them enforce themselves on Earth.
Despite the revelations, Marvel Boy opted to join the Uranian membrane to ensure that he would forever be considered a Uranian. As the years went by, Marvel Boy slowly became less human and more Uranian and was willing to live out his existence as part of the Membrane. When M-11 contacted him about getting the team back together, Uranian elected to leave the Membrane, despite being unable to ever return to it and forever being considered a human by the Uranians, and return to Earth to help his friend Jimmy Woo.
Return of the Queen
While left to analyze and guard the Temple of Atlas, M-11 had discovered that Namora was actually alive (she was believed killed by Llyra). Upon learning this, Woo redirected the team to locate her "tomb" under the sea. Woo told the rest of the team of how he chose them after they came to him in his dreams and that when Namora originally rejected his offer, he believed that that is why the team had never worked out.
Finding Namora's tomb, the team were attacked by a variety of sea creatures. Completely unequipped to deal with them, and overpowered by their enormous size, the team would've perished if not for M-11 being able to awaken Namora from her stupor who rushed to aid her saviors from the attacking monsters. Out of respect for the heroes, and for the fact they were the only people who bothered to seek her out, Namora agreed to join the team and aid them in their investigation of the Atlas Foundation.
Arriving in Fiji, the team were again confronted by Yellow Claw who unleashed his Clay Soldiers onto them. After defeating the Yellow Claw's minions, Woo confided in Khanata that he believed someone on his team was a double agent secretly working for the Yellow Claw.
Song of the Siren
The team finally together the way Woo had originally intended, they wasted no time in attacking and shutting down various fronts set up by the Atlas Foundation including such diverse fronts as florists, mortuaries and nurseries. When the team fought against a band of pirates sponsored by the Atlas Foundation, Venus used her powers to control the wills of the pirates which scared Namora who recognized what she was seeing.
After avoiding Venus for a while, Namora eventually had an outburst in which she revealed to the rest of the team that Venus wasn't the Olympian Goddess of Love like they all believed, but she was in fact a Siren who used to lead sailors into their deaths with her beautiful voice. Knowing the team had learnt her secret, Venus had a breakdown and began crying - the result putting each and every one of them through their worst imagined pains.
During this Uranian discovered that Woo believed one of them was a double agent and correctly deduced that it was M-11, who had been re-activated and programmed to get the team back together. Angered that he abandoned his life in the Uranian membrane to answer M-11's call, Uranian attacked M-11 which incited Namora who defended M-11 for having awakened her. An enormous fight broke out between the team, except for Venus who was hiding away ashamed that her friends knew who she really was.
Woo approached Venus and asked for her help in calming down the rest of the team, and reassured Venus that no matter what her past says, she has the grace and nature of a real Goddess. Inspired by Woo's kind words, Venus stepped up and let loose a powerful song which calmed the entire team down and allowed each and every one of them to live one of their happiest moments.
The team regrouped, forgave each other and resolved to use M-11's nature as a double agent to help them gain the upper-hand on Yellow Claw and the Atlas Foundation once and for all.
The Master Plan
The team arrived at the Temple of Atlas once again, and this time Woo was able to gain entry for them now that he had realized the nature of the machinations of Yellow Claw. Confronted with Yellow Claw and a dragon known as Mr. Lao, the team discovered that the Atlas Foundation is a Mongul empire and all these years Yellow Claw's schemes were just a means to strengthen Woo (a descendent of Genghis Khan) to the point where Woo would be fit to lead the Atlas Foundation as it's new Khan.
Woo decided that using the Atlas Foundation's resources and reach, together they could be a force to bring about some real good in the world. The rest of the team believed in his vision and agreed to join him in his takeover of Atlas. Yellow Claw wished his successor luck as he was devoured by Mr. Lao as all former Khans are. Woo and his team set about leading the Atlas Foundation into a new age, as Khanata reported back to S.H.I.E.L.D. and claimed that the team had all died upon entering the temple.
For more information see: Secret Invasion
During the Skrulls attempted invasion of Earth, the Agents of Atlas defended Oregon from the invading Skrulls. After battling Super-Skrull Alpha, a Skrull with the combined powers of Alpha Flight, Namora was captured by the aliens. Gorilla-Man and M-11 were able to free her and capture a Skrull soldier who they brought back to Uranian for study.
Uranian then dissected their captive Skrull and used his vocal cords to make a special amplifier for Venus which would translate her irresistible voice so that it would affect the Skrulls. Venus ultimately couldn't go through with forcing the invading Skrulls to drown themselves as it brought back memories of her past tricking sailors into doing the same. Both Uranian and Venus realized that the Skrulls bare no real malice towards humanity and only want to absorb them into their Empire and bring their life of no war or injustice. Despite Uranian and Venus' protests, Woo showed no remorse and commanded M-11 to incinerate all the Skrulls present with his death ray.
In 1958, when the team are still together, they are approached by Kang the Conqueror who directs them to the frozen body of Captain America. The team unthaw Captain America years before he was meant to be unthawed and as a result the timeline is altered. The Agents of Atlas (Jimmy Woo, Gorilla-Man, M-11, Marvel Boy, Namora and Venus) are all later destroyed by Kang who sends them into a blackhole so that he can become ruler of the Earth without conflict. This reality was eventually prevented by the combined forces of the then modern day Avengers (Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Storm, Wasp and Wolverine) and the Agents of Atlas of Earth-20051.
Earth-9904's iteration of the team mirrors the team featured in What If? #9, although Jimmy Woo is no longer with the team. The Avengers of the 1950s (3-D Man, Gorilla-Man, M-11, Marvel Boy and led by Venus) are working security detail for Richard Nixon when they encounter two time-displaced Avengers from modern times (Captain Marvel and Wasp). The two teams fight before uniting against a common threat in Immortus. Unfortunately, Immortus responds by erasing the Avengers of the 1950s and Earth-9904 from all of existence.
The Agents of Atlas share most of their history with their mainstream counterparts, except with Namora in place of 3-D Man when they were active in 1958. They were manipulated by Kang the Conqueror into altering history, but were eventually able to prevent this by contacting their past selves.
In Other Media
Iron Man 3 (2013)
Although none of the team or related characters are featured in Iron Man 3, the nature of Iron Man's arch-nemesis the Mandarin is based on the nature of Yellow Claw as revealed in the original Agents of Atlas miniseries.