A Secret History of Super Heroes
One of the most inscrutable, pervasive, and enduring secret societies on Earth, the Atlas Foundation traditionally pursued world domination but currently uses its covert power and influence for humanity’s greater good. Steeped in advanced science and sorcery, the society regards itself as a perpetuation of the ancient Mongol Empire. In each era, they select a new leader as their revered Khan, the most worthy descendant of and rightful successor to legendary 13th Century warlord Temujin, AKA Genghis Khan. Their most sacred talisman is the Spirit Banner of Temujin, woven from the hair of Temujin’s loyal horse. Only the true Khan can pluck the Banner from its flaming resting place, confirming his worthiness as their leader. As he grows ancient, each Khan seeks a successor.
The immortal Lung Dragon called Mr. Lao has served as royal advisor to each Khan for generations—and when a new Khan is acclaimed as ruler, Lao ceremonially devours the previous Khan. Over 700 years ago, Lao fought a mighty genie in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, inspiring the current name of the Mongols’ secret society. Lao usurped the genie’s magical power but also took the genie’s place inside his lamp, trapped for 600 years. In the late 19th Century, the society mounted a rescue mission led by that era’s Khan, Plan Tzu, aka Master Plan. Aided by master sorcerer the Ancient One, Plan freed Lao. During the mission, a beautiful, hypnotic-voiced naiad (siren) nearly destroyed Plan’s entire crew by luring them to a sea monster, but the Ancient One neutralized the naiad by endowing her with human consciousness. Now aware of her monstrous nature, the repentant naiad changed her ways and later became humanity’s defender in the 1950s as the adventurer Venus. Also, during the 1950s, Lao (in human guise) helped cause soldier of fortune Ken Hale’s mystical transformation into the Gorilla Man, and the Atlas Foundation commissioned the creation of unique mechanoid M-11, the Human Robot.
Plan had long since selected his potential successor, Woo Yen Jet; however, Jet’s parents wanted no part of Khan’s legacy and fled to America, encouraging their son to pursue law enforcement. Renamed Jimmy Woo, Jet became one of the top West Coast FBI agents. Secretly monitoring Woo, the Atlas Foundation decided to help him advance his career and hone his skills by creating a super-menace for Woo to defeat. Playing on 1950s America’s anti-communist fears and thinly veiled racism, Plan adopted a new identity as Chinese criminal mastermind the Golden Claw, known derisively in the USA as the Yellow Claw. Wearing Lao’s clawed crest as his emblem, the Claw clashed with Woo repeatedly.
In the spring of 1958, the Claw kidnapped United States President Eisenhower. Authorized to assemble a special rescue team, Woo reviewed his files on active super-beings and instinctively selected a roster that came to him in a dream. The dream team included Gorilla Man (whom Jann of the Jungle located at Woo’s request), Venus, futuristic adventurer Bob Grayson, AKA Marvel Boy, and aquatic heroine Namora. Namora declined to join the mission but found a replacement by helping Woo salvage the lost Human Robot. Meshing smoothly as a team, Woo’s “G-Men” rescued Eisenhower and accomplished various other missions, repeatedly clashing with Atlas Foundation agents and pawns, such as the mutated canine cosmonaut Laika; however, U.S. authorities ultimately decided the world was not ready for such bizarre heroes and disbanded the group, declaring their missions classified. Atlas secretly reclaimed and progressively upgraded Human Robot.
Promoted to an obscure FBI desk job, Woo eventually transferred to elite intelligence agency S.H.I.E.L.D. to assist them against the Claw (actually a robot imposter), but ultimately wound up doing administrative work there as well. Craving action, the aging Woo recently renewed his investigations of the Atlas Foundation alongside a team of rogue S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, but his team was killed and Woo himself nearly slain while invading the Temple of Atlas. Kept alive by Plan and his men until help arrived, Woo was taken into S.H.I.E.L.D. custody and maintained on life support. Urged on by Plan, Human Robot recruited Hale and Grayson to liberate Woo and rejuvenate him using Uranian science. Tracking down the fugitives, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Derek Khanata proved unable to restrain them and soon began to assist them in exchange for letting S.H.I.E.L.D. monitor their activity through him. Khanata helped Woo’s team locate the missing Venus, and Human Robot found and revived the supposedly long-dead Namora, who joined Woo’s group. The heroes subsequently exposed and shut down many subversive Atlas operations operating under various legitimate business fronts, finally invading the Temple of Atlas itself.
The heroes confronted Master Plan and Mr. Lao, who revealed Woo’s true heritage and the Atlas Foundation’s plans for him. Seeing a chance to use the Atlas Foundation’s immense resources for good, Woo accepted his new post as Khan of the Eternal Empire and CEO of the Atlas Foundation with the blessing of Plan, whom Lao promptly consumed. Allowing the world to believe them slain by the Claw, Jimmy Woo’s heroic team has remained together as the core Agents of Atlas, the foundation’s primary covert super-operatives. Derek Khanata has concealed their continued existence from his S.H.I.E.L.D. superiors, though Namora has since been publicly active.