Every Wednesday, I focus on a character from adventure fiction (film, comics & prose) that I simply adore. This week we’re talking about: Magnus, Robot Fighter. Originally introduced in 1963 by Russ Manning, Magnus starred in a series published by Gold Key Comics. With Manning’s sleek linework and a fun premise – Magnus lived in the year 4000 where robots controlled nearly all aspects of human existence – the series was fun Silver Age storytelling at its best. As with comics of the period, once the initial setup was established, there wasn’t a lot of variation in the tales but the series managed to last for 46 issues.
I was only vaguely aware of the character until he was revived by Valiant Comics in the 1990s. There, he was written by Jim Shooter and all the old mainstays of the series were revived — Magnus, his robot mentor 1A and the gorgeous Leeja Clane. The Valiant version was pretty successful, running for 64 issues plus some specials. I particularly recommend the Steel Nation arc that ran in issues 1-4, the Magnus/Nexus crossover, the Magnus/Predator crossover and (though it was reviled by many traditionalists) the Keith Giffen run (55-64). Really, though, the entire series is worth picking up.
Magnus then got a big makeover for the Acclaim version of Valiant and the less said about that, the better.
When we next saw Magnus, it was once again written by Jim Shooter, though this time the series had been divorced from Valiant continuity and transplanted over to Dark Horse. This 2009 resurrection didn’t last very long and it’s not hard to see why — it was missing some heart this time around (as was Shooter’s revival of Doctor Solar).
What I loved about Magnus was the sheer pulpiness of the concept — the setting was ripe for adventure and the supporting characters were fun, if somewhat thin in terms of character development. Valiant’s 64-issue run took the hero and his friends into some odd but interesting directions and it’s one of my favorite books from the Nineties. I’ve also gone back and read a good bit of the original Manning stuff.
I miss Magnus… with Valiant having been revived and doing so well, it’s strange not having this character (along with Solar and Turok) in the mix.
Until he and Leeja return, I still have my back issues.