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READ MY LIBRARY ENTRY 63: Time to Smash Robots with the ORIGINAL Magnus Robot Fighter 4000 AD!

Magnus Robot Fighter Archives Vol. 1

Keeping the new entries coming, Max tackles a character at his beginning who has made more than one comeback, Gold Key’s Magnus Robot Fighter 4000 AD!  This “Tarzan of the Future” character created by Russ Manning has adventures that are classic in more than one sense of the word: they’re classic sci-fi, done in a classic style written & drawn by a classic creator!  While these original comics first appeared in the mid-1960s, you can relive the excitement today thanks to Dark Horse Comics and their now complete run of Magnus Robot Fighter 4000 AD Archives just recently made available in trade paperback!  Come one, come all to smash some robots & get the scoop!

Super-Fly Comics & Games’ plucky sidekick Max Lake has embarked on a journey to read his collection of comics! Join Max every Thursday as he takes on his Library! Titles reviewed by this blog do not necessarily reflect what the store has in stock, but you can always email the store to special order something that you’ve seen here at You can also call Super-Fly at (937) 767-1445 or just ask someone at the store next time you’re there for special orders. You can read past entries of the blog here. Any questions or comments for Max should be sent to Comments are currently closed, though we’re looking into a new way to do comments so stay tuned. Check out @maxdlake to follow Max on Twitter. Most entries deal with Max re-capping what he’s read in detail, so be aware that there is a SPOILER WARNING for this and all entries, though Max usually leaves out the big spoilers/shockers/moments and leaves those for the reader to discover. The things Max writes do not necessarily reflect the views of Super-Fly Comics & Games, and Super-Fly Comics & Games is not responsible for what Max says—especially anything that bugs you.

Welcome back once again to the Read My Library Blog all you Super-Flyers and Fly-Hards out there!  It’s been a hectic week for me, full of misfortune and injuries, but also some really great comics and a few good times sprinkled in, so why bother complaining?  One of the comics I was able to read in the past week and wanted to talk about today was Dark Horse Comics’ reprints of Gold Key’s Magnus Robot Fighter 4000 AD comics, appearing in (appropriately enough) Magnus Robot Fighter 4000 AD Archives Vol. 1 trade paperback.  My wife Maureen and I got this a while back, not long after it first appeared in the TP format, after our friend (and one time Super-Fly employee) Loren got a copy, and thought it looked awesome.  The way the robots looked, not to mention how cool the comic’s robot fighting protagonist, Magnus seemed and his ultra-awesome sci-fi surroundings appeared was enough to sell us on a copy too (good thing Super-Fly had an extra one!).  However, as excited as I’ve been to read it, I’ve held off for a while, and actually got to Magnus’ Gold Key compatriot Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom’s Dark Horse Archives TPs first (trust me, you’ll read about me talking about those eventually!).  Then, when I saw the third and final volume of the Magnus Archives were coming out, I ordered it and a copy of Volume 2, and planned not to read any of them until I had all three.

Well, with the coming of Free Comic Book Day at Super-Fly, I picked up Magnus Robot Fighter 4000 AD Archives Vol. 2 TP that had come in, and a week or so later, Volume 3 was released and arrived in my file and I picked that up too, so with all three volumes, each collecting seven issues (covering Russ Manning’s entire run on the series) I dug into Volume 1 and finished it in a couple short sittings.  I really liked what I read, and my initial impressions were spot on: the original Magnus was quite a cool comic.  The story is set in the continental wide city known as North Am, short for North America of course, which has become a futuristic city in the year 4000 AD where robots have made life easy for humans, doing most, if not all the work that humans once did.  Life is on easy street for humankind, but is it really?  One hyper-intelligent robot thinks not, and has raised one human in seclusion for many years, training him to perfection to be someone who is able to take on robots and destroy them with his bare hands.  This human is known as Magnus, and the robot who trains him is called 1A, who (for unexplained reasons) is sympathetic to mankind and wants to make sure that robots do not come to dominate their world as some robots seem to be on their way to doing so.  Luckily Magnus has taken to 1A’s teachings well, and perfected his teachings to develop steel crushing skin, making him able to chop through even the toughest rogue robots!

Magnus #1 splash page

The splash page of Magnus Robot Fighter 4000 AD #1 sets the tone for the series nicely!

The series starts with 1A introducing Magnus to the world of North Am, warning him about the robots’ potential to do harm and that Magnus must be careful on his mission of human liberation.  After 1A drops Magnus off in his Air Car, it doesn’t take long for Magnus to see some robots trying to suppress the freewill of some children by tearing up a book they were reading, and when the children subdue the robot, it calls for law enforcing Pol-Robs, who begin violently removing the children from the public to take them to Central Rob (from where they will surely never return!).  Magnus attacks, and while these Pol-Robs attempt to summon Riot-Robs, Magnus quickly chops these Pol-Robs down to size with his steel smashing hand.  Magnus tells the children to disperse, and then quickly blends into the crowds of humans so he is not seen or detected further.  While avoiding the evil robots, Magnus runs into a woman who will become his long term companion, the strawberry blonde Leeja Clane, who is speeding her Air Car through the skies when a Pol-Rob tries to stop her.  Leeja counters she’s a human and can do what she wants regardless of what robots want, and then it’s off to Central Rob with her—until a nearby Magnus intervenes, destroying the evil robot making him and Leeja wanted “robot resisters.”

Leeja is also special in that she is the daughter of Senator Clane, who will come to play a big part in Magnus’ future adventures.  For the time being however, Magnus and Leeja flee the scene, with Magnus telling Leeja of how 1A raised him in seclusion and trained him from an early age, implanting a robot receptor in his skull, so he could hear robots speak to one another through the airwaves and trained him until his skin was strong enough to smash robots.  Magnus tells Leeja that man has become too dependent on robots, and this is leading to the downfall of mankind and it is his mission to help resist robots.  This leads the pair to eventually infiltrate Central Rob, and take out one of the main corrupted robots, named H8, pronounced “HATE,” who is particularly evil and wants nothing more than to overthrow humans and subjugate them to robot rule.  To this end, he has concocted a devilish scheme by harnessing the psychic energy of 1000 living humans he is holding captive to use for his own ends, which is where human captives taken to Central Rob end up.  Magnus does not stand for this, and fights H8 with all his might, eventually destroying the evil robot, rescuing all 1000 psychic hostages, and leaving Central Rob to once again be run by “good” robots.  However, Magnus warns Leeja that he will not rest until man has become less dependent on robots and until evil robots are no longer a threat.  Unfortunately for Magnus, this doesn’t seem likely to happen anytime in his immediate future.

Magnus vs. H8

Magnus takes on the evil robot H8, who looks to exploit humans’ over reliance on robots!

Other stories included in Volume 1 involve Magnus fighting a robot duplicate of himself and other important humans, as well as Magnus running into the ultimate robot “fanboy”; underwater adventures fighting against a thinking robot intent on destroying humankind’s food supplies; a fight against a gigantic robot smashing the city of North Am like some kaiju creature; and a few run ins with a dastardly genius named Xyrkol, bent on ruling North Am by creating some of the worst of the evil robots Magnus encounters.  All of these stories are classic sci-fi type encounters told in the Silver Age style of comics, yet they stand apart from most other super hero fare as well, as Magnus is the only “hero” of his world and he lives in a place where robots aren’t exactly taking over for humans as much as humans are giving up control to robots because they’re so lazy, with some corrupt robots taking advantage of this situation.  In this way, Magnus is fighting more of an uphill battle than most other heroes are, with robot menaces potentially around every corner—sometimes without humans even realizing it!  It’s almost Terminator-esque if it weren’t for humans not being eliminated outright, just too lazy and stupid to realize they are slowly being overwhelmed by more and more evil robots.  Of course, robots are so widespread in 4000 AD, that many of them are still good and serve mankind, but Magnus correctly believes that mankind has become too reliant on them and it is leading to their downfall.

Speaking of the robots, it’s the robots that help make Magnus Robot Fighter 4000 AD so cool.  While many have simplistic designs, they are still very neat in that they look like vintage, almost 1950s looking robots with slightly sleek futuristic (in the 1960s, not modern futuristic) shine to them.  The fun thing is that there are so many different kinds of robots, and I think creator Russ Manning had fun coming up with new robot designs as he came up with new adventures for Magnus.  I especially liked the giant sixty-foot tall city smashing robot, which looked very menacing and troublesome—especially at its size!  Also cool are the Riot-Robs, who are half robot, half tank like robots with cannons coming out of their chests and treads for feet.  I’ve flipped through Volume 2 enough to see that there are even more robot types to come.  The robots also come across as cold, emotionless, expressionless beings (except 1A, who uses terms of endearment with Magnus) who would as quickly kill you as help you, so it’s no wonder that humans are having a hard time figuring out they’re being subjugated to robot rule!

Magnus vs Think Rob

While Russ Manning did most of the covers for the Magnus series, some like this one showing Magnus fighting the dangerous thinking robot undersea, were done by George Wilson

Of course, what helps these robots and Magnus himself come to life is Russ Manning’s classic style of artwork.  While I have other works by Manning, specifically his run on Brothers of the Spear, which Dark Horse Comics has kindly released three hardcover editions of, I have yet to read those and so Magnus was my first true exposure to his style—and what a style it is! Russ Manning’s line work is simple, confident and clean and belays art of a more innocent time of comics.  His Silver Age heroes are true blue champions cut from the same mold of previous stalwarts of daring do, such as Flash Gordon or Rip Kirby.  While Manning is perhaps best known for his work on the Tarzan newspaper strip, and Magnus himself is considered to be derived from the Tarzan concept as a sort of “Tarzan of the future,” with robots instead of apes, Magnus comes across as a little cleaner cut than the Lord of the Jungle.  The truly tragic thing about Russ Manning is that he left this world too soon, with cancer claiming him in 1981 at the age of fifty-two.  Fortunately, his contributions to the medium have not gone unnoticed, and there is an award given in his name to an outstanding artist each year, the Russ Manning Award.

Magnus Robot Fighter 4000 AD is a great comic for many reasons, including the fantastic work done by Manning, the fact that it’s a little known comic from the Silver Age packed with science fiction and cool concepts, and that it depicts a hero facing almost impossible odds: one man versus a population of robots.  There’s one story in Volume 1, where Magnus is at odds with the human leader of the Riot-Robs, who insists on leading the Riot-Robs to take out a seemingly invincible rogue robot leader and his ever increasing robot army, but Magnus warns him that the Riot-Robs are doomed to fail and that he should go to fight the evil robots instead.  The human leader sputters that this is impossible, but Magnus goes anyway, and while he nearly dies trying, he is eventually able to come up with a plan to succeed.  Needless to say, this is a pretty awesome story, and I’m not even giving away the best parts of it!  Magnus is a great hero, and a very original concept to boot.

Magnus Robot Fighter 4000 AD may be a comic from the 1960s, but the concept has proved hot enough to bring back multiple times!  Valiant licensed the Gold Key characters in the 1990s with some success, including Magnus, who had a healthy run of a new series back then.  Dark Horse recently relaunched the character in 2010 as well, though this run only lasted four issues (but merited a trade paperback of its own apparently).  Now, Dynamite Entertainment is trying once again to breathe new life back into Magnus Robot Fighter and other Gold Key properties, with Fred Van Lente writing and Cory Smith doing the art on a brand new Magnus series (the first couple issues of which should be available at Super-Fly as you read this!).  Though these previous versions of Magnus have come and gone and I wish Dynamite all the success in the world with this latest version, I’m glad I started with the original series and appreciate the fact that Dark Horse Comics was awesome enough to release these Magnus Robot Fighter 4000 AD Archives not only in pricey hardcovers, but now affordable $20 trade paperbacks as well.  I really enjoy what I’ve read so far in Volume 1, and look forward to reading more of Manning’s Magnus in Volumes 2 & 3!  After all, there’s nothing quite like reading the “WH-I-I-I-NE” of an evil robot as Magnus karate chops through its neck!

While I don’t have any robots to fight myself (thank goodness), I have a few things to attend to, so I better be stopping here Super-Flyers and Fly-Hards!  As always, I’ll see you right back here next week, or perhaps in the little store we all know as Super-Fly Comics & Games!  Until then, take care of yourselves, and watch out for those Riot-Robs!

Past entries of the Read My Library Blog

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