By Scott A. Cupp
This is the 166th in my series of Forgotten Books.
Sorry for missing you all last week. I had many things going on and nothing specific to review, so rather than trying to fake it, I decided to pass. This week I had another book, but I have not finished reading it, so I went with something fast and furious.
When I was younger I loved comics and bought them. I bought a lot of comics. They were mainly DC and Marvel but not all. I loved Classics Illustrated books and bought more than a few of them. I was there at the beginning of the Silver Age of comics and had a number of those early key issues. But I was limited by whatever passed through the revolving rack at my local 7-11 or TG&Y. Marvel and DC controlled a lot of those slots. Occasionally, though, another company would land a few. I looked at Harvey comics and the rare Gold Key and Dell. I would see the rare Tarzan, Dr. Solar or Space Family Robinson — and even rarer was Magnus, Robot Fighter.
Magnus is a comic I would have loved. It was science fiction. It was Russ Manning, whom I loved for his work on Sea Devils, a comic I cherish to this day, and his work on Tarzan. But I never saw enough of these to make an impression. If the choice was an odd issue of Magnus or an issue of The Avengers, the superheroes were going to win.
So, let’s talk a little about this title. Magnus is a young man, raised by the robot 1A to be a free-thinker and to fight for the rights of people. Mankind has developed a number of different robot types and taken up a life of leisure. The robots have attained some sentience and have begun to start repressing any thoughts of individuality and rebellion. Mankind has to do whatever the robots tell them or suffer the consequences.
At the time this comic started up in 1962, Russ Manning approached the editors at Gold Key with the idea of a future science fiction Tarzan. A young man raised by a robot rather than an ape. He fights against despotic robots rather than some of the great apes. Manning had been doing the Tarzan newspaper strip for a while and he had the stories and ideas down pat.
Magnus has a transmitter in his head that allows him to receive robot transmissions. In his first issue, he incites a riot and meets up with Leeja Clane, a beautiful woman with ideas of her own and a wardrobe that was amazing to my pre-teen eyes. Magnus has been trained in martial arts and can damage a robot with his bare hands. Pretty heady stuff in the pre-Bruce Lee days.
Issue one introduces the main characters of Magnus, Leeja and 1A. Leeja’s father, Senator Clane, is introduced in Issue 2, and he aids in the war against robot oppression. The stories have some, but not a lot of originality. Issue 2 introduces a robot Magnus that fools some. Issue 3 has alien invaders; Issue 4 has an underwater menace. With Issue 5 there is the “immortal robot” that has tyrannical aspirations. Issue 6, we have a concentration camp/brainwashing issue and Issue 7 features the return of Xyrkol, the alien from Issue 3.
These are comics and the stories are not great, but some of the ideas are. And the art is always fun.
Dark Horse re-issued Magnus in two formats. There was a nice hardback edition at about $50, and later, there were some paperback ones at $20. I had the first hardback collection prior to my big book sale in 2007, so now I have the paperback collections. The art is in color, and there are seven issues here, encompassing 204 pages plus a few pages of extras. I think it’s a great value.
And, of course, depending on your love of the character, Russ Manning, Gold Key comics and other factors, your mileage will definitely vary.
Is this as impactful as the first seven issues of Spider-Man? Oh, absolutely not. Or how about The Defenders? Yeah, I like this better than that one. And, if the idea of a futuristic Tarzan in robotland doesn’t appeal to you, I can only ask that you do a self examination and figure out what is wrong with you. Or, maybe me.
Have a great week, and remember Thanksgiving will be here very soon. Enjoy the season no matter how you celebrate.
Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.