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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Superhero Sunday: Magnus, Robot Fighter

When I was a kid, we didn't always have the money to spend on comic books, so often I would borrow comics from my friends in order to enjoy stories of Spider-Man, Batman, and my other big-name favorites. One cheaper alternative in satisfying my comic book jones was Gold Key Comics. These came three to a bag - usually for the price of one Marvel or DC comic. two of the comics were turned facing outward, but you never knew what the third one in the middle was, which added to the fun.They were typically bagged according to two unofficial categories: cartoons (Baby Snoots, Scrooge McDuck, The Beagle Boys, Looney Tunes) and indie superheroes (Dr. Solar, Buck Rogers, Turok: Son of Stone). I gravitated toward the latter, but my mom would sometimes bring home the former for me and my brother to share.
One of my favorites in the superhero category was Magnus, Robot Fighter.
First created in 1963 by Russ Manning, Magnus's story takes place over two thousand years in the future - 4000 A.D. to be precise. The world has become over-reliant upon robots and technology, and every once in a while this technology develops a mind of its own and becomes evil. Enter Magnus, Robot Fighter.
Magnus had been raised away from society by a sentient robot named A1 and trained (a la Kung Fu) to battle rogue robots and make his hands as hard as their steel skin. A1 believed adamantly in the three laws of robotics (as created decades earlier by Isaac Asimov) and was convinced that humanity had become too reliant upon robots. He had taken the infant Magnus with the intention of creating a perfect combatant against his own kind, even installing a device in Magnus's brain that allowed him to hear the otherwise inaudible robot-to-robot communication.
I loved these stories. The futuristic setting opened the door to some pretty imaginative and elaborate artwork. Magnus's world is the city of North-Am, a single metropolis that spans the entire North American continent. The robots are pretty cool, too, and coolest of all is a hero who battles evil with only his bare hands.
The original stories had stopped in 1977, so my introduction to Magnus was in backup stories at the end of the Dr. Solar comics in the eighties, but I would often find old back-issues of Magnus, Robot Fighter at garage sales and in thrift shops.
The character of Magnus, Robot Fighter would be bought by Valiant Comics with new stories created and published in the early nineties with some major and minor alterations to the character and philosophical tone, even making Magnus something of a technophobe at times.
Personally, I prefer the earlier, simpler stories, but, then, maybe I'm just being nostalgic.

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