EXCLUSIVE: Atlas Comics, the short-lived 1970s imprint founded by Marvel Comics founder Martin Goodman, is rising from the ashes. Goodman’s grandson, Jason, has dusted off the original titles and the characters will relaunch with new story lines that begin with the release of The Grim Ghost and Phoenix. The first two titles will be unveiled at New York Comic-Con next month. According to comic book lore, Martin Goodman sold Marvel to Cadence Industries in 1970 for millions of dollars and the promise that his son Chip would stay on as editorial director. When Stan Lee — Martin’s nephew by marriage — instead showed Chip the door, Martin and Chip hatched Atlas with the goal of vanquishing its rival. It created a battle for some of the era’s top artists, and launched such Marvel-esque Atlas heroes as The Scorpion, The Cougar, Planet of Vampires, Ironjaw and The Grim Ghost. The rivalry dissipated shortly after and Atlas folded, but Goodman is remembered not only for giving Marvel and DC a run, but creating an ownership/profit sharing concept and return of original artwork. These things have become important, particularly as superheroes became huge Hollywood currency.

“Although my grandfather eventually sold Marvel, he insisted on keeping Atlas Comics in the family,” Jason said. “As a result of his vision, Atlas Comics is the largest individually-held library of comic book heroes and villains on the planet. We have 28 titles and hundreds of characters imagined by some of the greatest minds in the industry.”

What’s potentially intriguing about Atlas is that film, TV and video game rights that are available for all the characters. Considering that Disney paid $4 billion to exploit the Marvel Comics library, the Atlas relaunch will reveal soon whether there are any make-able gems in there. Phoenix is a sci-fi saga about one man fighting an alien invasion; The Grim Ghost is a supernatural horror/thriller about a man who arrives on the fringe, the world between life and death that the living can’t see.

Spearheading the relaunch is Brendan Deneen, a former development exec for Scott Rudin and Harvey Weinstein who by day is a mild-mannered editor for the St. Martin’s Press/Macmillan imprint Thomas Dunne Books. By night, he’s a comics nut who with Rich Emms operates Ardden Entertainment, a comic book imprint which relaunched Flash Gordon and Casper the Friendly Ghost. Vet comic writer J.M. DeMatteis will be editor-in-chief.