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Magnus Robot Fighter Archives Volume 1


By Hervé St-Louis
August 11, 2020 - 01:35

Magnus Robot Fighter is a modern-day Tarzan raised from infancy by a benevolent self-aware robot named 1A to push humanity out of its reliance and complacency with the servant robots that perform every mundane task while humans enjoy life blissfully. As many robots are going rogue, magnus has to fight them and convince his fellow humans to detach from their omnipresent and controlling creations. Will Magnus succeed in his task or will evil robots enslave humans first?

Magnus is a classic comic book series published by Gold Key Comics in 1963 and created by cartoonist Russ manning as an inversion of the concept of the savage man raised by gorillas who later joins civilized society. Here, instead, Magnus is again a child raised by an advanced artificial intelligence weary of the degeneration of human society overtly reliant on a technology-dependent society. According to collaborator Mike Royer who inked many of the comics and helped illustrate backgrounds, Manning created Magnus Robot Fighter following suggestions that editor Chase Craig had given him about the reversal of the Tarzan theme. A frequent freelancer at Gold Key, Manning was one of the few creators allowed to sign his own name in the comic he had created.

Magnus and his Gold Key associates were of course, used as the inception of the launch of the 1990s Valiant Comics superhero universe spearheaded by Jim Shooter. Magnus and other Gold Key characters such as Solar Man of the Atom have always remained popular even though their appearances in comics and other media such as games tends to be sporadic and dependent on whoever owns the licence to generate new contents. Here, in 2004, after having acquired the Gold key properties, publisher Random House tasked Darkhorse Comics to publish archives of the original comics which had never been reprinted is 40 years. The current volume is one of three collecting the original stories by Manning.

At the time of Magnus’s release, Manning had had a long tenure on the Tarzan comic strip and a polished and clean art style which echoed the slick 1950s and 1960s. Magnus was another superhero launch in the Silver Age of comic book produced by a smaller publisher competing against the likes of the Flash and the Fantastic Four. Manning’s line work is as clean as Murphy Anderson but much more dynamic.

The design of robots in Magnus Robot Fighter was a simplified humanoid shape with cylinder-like limbs made of coils holding rounded rectangular bodies and simple heads without features. This design and other Manning signatures designs have influenced popular culture ever since. Bender, the wacky robot in the popular Matt Groening cartoon series Futurama is a direct inspiration from the Manning robot-type. But more than that, Magnus himself was used as the design Zapp Brannigan who also wears a red skirt with lily white boots. Magnus’s girlfriend’s name, Leeja is very similar to Leela, the one-eye female protagonist of Futurama.

In his quest to convince humans that robots have taken too much place in humans’ lives, Magnus often seems tone deft and inflexible. Manning plays with this character flaw subtly showing how the hero has no nuances about his position while others often do have nuances or are incredulous. Because it is a comic from the 1960s, the plots are kept simple with Magnus often reacting to a threat that resolving the problem by the end of the comic. Yet, there are strong indications of continuity throughout the first seven stories featured here.

On a personal level, I am most interested in what Manning had to say about human-robot interaction, a field of research that is close to my professional research at the university in my capacity as a professor, but it is something best explored in future reviews of the subsequent volumes of this series. Magnus Robot Fighter is a great comic that entertained me very much. Unfortunately, the archives have long been out of print and you will have to hunt the secondary market with often exorbitant prices if you want to collect the entire series. Perhaps Darkhorse should release a new edition of these archives, of they can get the licence for just the classic comics. There is a modern cartoon project being developed about Magnus Robot Fighter, but very little public information has been released about this project.

Rating: 9 /10

Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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