For some odd reason, I've always found the character Magnus to be absolutely fascinating, yet I cannot for the life of me put a finger on the exact reason why. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that the mental image of some dude karate-ing (my word) the f**k outta robots brings the same type of smile to my face today that it did when I first discovered the character in question at the age of probably 7 or 8. It's the same type of smile one sees when a child first takes notice of the concept of dinosaurs,(specifically the T-Rex)....that is, the first recognition of the abstract concept of "bad-ass".
I mean, c'mon...what's more bad-ass than a guy punching friggin' robots bare-knuckle style?
If you're looking for more depth than that, or some sort of radical character development and evolution outta the various incarnations of the comic book, then look elsewhere. I think one-time Magnus writer Keith Giffen summed it up the best when he said: "The title of the book is self-explanatory. It's about a guy named Magnus, and he fights robots."
Magnus, Robot Fighter is a fictional character created by writer/artist Russ Manning in 1963, based primarily on Tarzan. Magnus first appeared in Magnus Robot Fighter 4000 A.D. #1, published by Gold Key Comics in February 1963. The character was subsequently published by Valiant Comics and Acclaim Comics in the 1990s. In every incarnation, Magnus was a human who battled rogue robots in the year 4000. While the concept remained the same throughout the years, the way it was approached changed depending on the publisher.
By the year 4000, humanity has become dependent on robots. H8, the Pol-Rob chief of the civic sector of North Am, a continent-spanning mega-city, was damaged in a radiation accident. It sought to promote the human dependency on robots and gradually impose totalitarian rule in the area under its control.
Magnus was raised by a robot known as 1A, a name which implies that he was the very first robot of his type ever manufactured. 1A seemed to be self-aware and possess emotions. A firm believer in the Three Laws of Robotics, 1A recognized the threat represented by the dependency of humans on robots in general, and the developments in North Am due to H8 in particular. Therefore, 1A trained Magnus as a warrior to protect humans against both rogue robots, and humans who used normal robots for evil purposes. Magnus was trained from infancy by 1A in an under-sea domed house, using advanced techniques, to become a skilled martial artist who could break steel with his bare hands. In addition, 1A equipped his charge with a device that would allow him to "hear" robot-to-robot radio communications.
Magnus' girlfriend was named Leeja. Robots that served as police were called "Pol-Robs" (as in police robots); they were painted black and white like city police cars. All robots had identifying numbers painted on their chest and backs. Other robots, such as taxi drivers, could be nothing more than a torso with arms and head attached to a flying automobile.
Both the Gold Key and Valiant versions take place in North Am, a gigantic megalopolis that encompassed the entire North American continent. The city consists of several "levels." The higher levels are populated by wealthier individuals, often regarded as "soft" and complacent. The lowest level, the Goph Level, is populated by a hardier and less educated class known as "gophs."
By AD 4000, the nation of Japan is home to 50 billion people. The major islands of Japan are covered by a single, contiguous structure known as the Host. Grandmother, a Freewill electronic network, controls virtually every facet of daily life.
Aside from North Am, Earth also features a city on the continent of Antarctica named Antarcto. The city consists of several transparent domes, inside each of which the climate is carefully controlled. Construction of these habitats was fiercely opposed, for fear of ecological damage to the fragile Antarctic system. As well, there is the area known as Himalhina, which apparently includes at least all of India and China.
The original series, titled Magnus, Robot Fighter, 4000 AD, premiered in 1963. It was written and drawn by Russ Manning. For the duration of the title's original run, Magnus battled rogue robots, aliens, space pirates and other threats. He fell in love with Leeja Clane, the daughter of one of North Am's senators. Leeja developed limited telepathic abilities after training by M'Ree and other humans who had acquired them as a result of their minds being linked together while imprisoned in suspended animation by H8. The series was popular in the 1960s. As the '70s approached, sales began to decline. The last issue (#46) was published in January 1977. However, Manning only completed 21 issues; the rest were reprints of previous issues or new stories by others (#23-28). The inferior quality of the non-Manning stories was the main reason for the decline of popularity.
The original concept is a deliberate inversion or update of the Tarzan mythos, the syndicated comic strip of which Russ Manning had previously illustrated. Where Tarzan was a human raised as a noble savage feral child by African great apes who saw the world through his naturalistic upbringing and opposition to the rules and limits of civilization, Magnus was a human raised by a benevolent robot named I-A, who saw mankind becoming ever more decadent and complacent human civilization doomed by its ever-increasing dependence on robots. In one case, the hero is a throwback to a hardier and more naturalistic time. In the other, he is a creation of science sent to carry the message to the rest of humanity that Man must control his own destiny and carve out his own path, rather than become little more than an overfed herd of cattle tended by robots. Both heroes live and operate according to their own set of rules and are, because of this, considered outsiders and something of a threat to the established order of things.
In 1991, Jim Shooter obtained rights to three Gold Key characters: Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom; Turok, Son of Stone; and Magnus, Robot Fighter. He intended to use those characters to launch his new comic book line, Valiant Comics. Several months later, the company launched Magnus, Robot Fighter.
The series began where the original one left off. The artists took great care to replicate the setting and trappings of the original stories. But as the new series progressed, it began to deviate from the original concept. The term "Freewills" appeared in the Valiant run, introducing the concept that the rogue robots seen previously were not simply the product of random malfunctions, but were the result of a common phenomenon which allowed robots to become sentient. While some of them were malevolent, others merely wanted to be free. It was also learned that 1A was also a freewill. With Magnus's help, a colony of benevolent Freewills was established called the "Steel Nation." At the same time, Magnus became disgusted with North Am's elite. He journeyed to the lower levels of North Am and befriended a group of social outcasts known as Gophs.
As the series progressed, it was used to introduce other heroes to the Valiant Universe. In issue #5, a Japanese hero known as Rai began appearing in Magnus's title, and would eventually move on into his own series. In the sixth issue, the future version of Solar made his debut. The issue also introduced the spider aliens, who became a recurring threat throughout the Valiant Universe. In the 12th issue, modern readers were reintroduced to Turok, Son of Stone.
During the Unity crossover, it was revealed that Magnus was actually born during the Unity conflict. He was a child of a harbinger named Torque and a woman named Kris Hathaway. Geomancer Geoff McHenry sensed that someone like Magnus was needed in the future, so Solar transported the baby Magnus to the future, where he was picked up by the Solar from that time period and delivered to 1A. It was also revealed that Magnus's strength wasn't solely due to his martial arts training; rather, it was a harbinger ability inherited from his father.
The Malev War
Shortly after the Unity crossover, the future Earth was invaded by alien robots called Malevs directed by the giant brain, introduced in the original series, that encompassed the planet of Malev 6. This invasion forced all of the future heroes to band together. Their adventures were showcased in a spin-off title, Rai and the Future Force.
After the Malev War ended, all future titles jumped twenty years forward. Magnus became the leader of North Am. He married Leeja (his love interest since the original series) and had a son, whom he named Torque. Magnus spent the rest of the series battling various threats. During the Chaos Effect crossover, he was transported to the 20th century, but he eventually returned to the future.
Valiant Magnus Robot Fighter complete series: