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Review: Magnus: Robot Fighter #2

After you have read Magnus #2, you will realize how important the book’s sub-title, “Robot Fighter,” really is.

Russell Magnus is wondering if the mechanoids holding him captive are correct, that his memories of teaching and coaching in Maury’s Peak are just the stuff of dreams as he withers before his captors’ interrogations here in the fantastic world of North Am.

But his memories ARE intact, and he knows that he does have something to fight FOR. And, in this issue, Magnus becomes more familiar with his “abilities,” as it were, as a labeled “Robot Fighter” (think Auschwitz): invisibility shields, super-strength … others?

Russell realizes even robotoids cannot keep Superman in prison, so — bam! — out of confinement he goes and the Fugitive-like hunt is on, with Leeja (she is the one who shot our hero in #1, remember?) playing Gerard to Magnus’ Dr. Richard Kimble.

The tip of the hat writer Fred Van Lente gives to various versions of Magnuses past is awesome, and yes, FVL’s wry wit from Hercules is deftly packaged within this action-packed, diplomatic script.

Bringing FVL’s words to life are the continuing sensational and imaginative panels thrown down by artist Cory Smith. Smith proves not only a great artist, but a wonderful storyteller as well, and them ain’t talents found in a combo order much these days!

I have good feelings about the future of Magnus: Robot Fighter. I hope you as a reader are on board too. Now’s the time (but don’t tell Russell Magnus; just confuse him),

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Advanced Review: Magnus: Robot Fighter #1

The return of the Gold Key Universe continues Wednesday with the coming of Magnus: Robot Fighter #1 from Dynamite. And again, there is more to this first issue than you would ever expect. Need proof? Look no further than Turok.

As first revealed in my exclusive interview for Cosmic Book News with writer Fred Van Lente, chief protagonist Russell Magnus is a bit confused at first. He isn’t sure what he knows about himself is true. He thinks he grew up in a secluded mountain enclave where humans and robots live in perfect harmony, raised by an artificial intelligence called 1A. But soon Magnus awakes in the sprawling mega-city of North Am, where he’s told 1A is a dangerous terrorist and he is an illegal robot fighter.

What’s true, what’s not? Magnus does not know and neither do we, the readers. One thing we know for sure about this character, though, is that he can instantly spot the weak spot in any robot and dismember it with a well-placed strike. It is a skill that is going to be extremely useful if this first issue is setting him on the course I suspect.

There is much about cybernetics and robotics in this magazine here and going forward, as inspired by the Russ Manning Gold Key stories, but Van Lente also offers some kung fu action and lots of explosions. Take it from me, it is bad-ass and no where near boring.

Artist Corey Smith is amazing in these pages, creating a unique world in which Magnus will react and suffer and triumph. There is a great variety to the robots and those Ricky Steamboat-like chops of Magnus look awesome. Cannot wait to see #2!

This particular book is fascinating to me because there are layers of truth under layers of lies and no one, especially not Magnus, knows one layer from the other. A great tribute to the Gold Key books of yore, and a treasure for readers of today. 

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Brew’s Crew: Magnus, Robot Fighter

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No necessity for long boxes this time around. I am gonna discuss a hero I have never read about in my 55 years but soon will: Magnus, Robot Fighter!

Continuing with its relaunch of the Gold Key universe, Dynamite Entertainment in March will add Magnus: Robot Fighter to its line. Written by Fred Van Lente (G.I. Joe, Brain Boy, Archer & Armstrong) and drawn by Corey Smith (Fathom), the book will follow the life and times of Russell Magnus.

Magnus was 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 a number of companies. In every incarnation, Magnus is a human who battles rogue robots, though some aspects of the concept have varied with each publisher.

In the books, humanity has become dependent on robots. H8, the Pol-Rob chief of the civic sector of North Am, a continent-spanning mega-city, is damaged in a radiation accident. It seeks 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 is the very first robot of his type ever manufactured. 1A seems to be self-aware and possesses 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.

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Therefore, 1A trained Magnus 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 undersea domed house (shades of Blue Marvel!), 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.

Leeja is Magnus’ girlfriend. Robots that served as police are called “Pol-Robs” (as in “police robots,” duh) and are painted black and white like city police cars. All robots have 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.

Van Lente will be exploring his own versions of these concepts, as he discusses in my exclusive interview with the scribe.

I am not as familiar with Magnus as I am some sci-fi comics characters, but I look forward to following his adventures beginning in March.

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Exclusive: Fred Van Lente dishes on comeback of Magnus: Robot Fighter

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Continuing with its relaunch of the Gold Key universe, Dynamite will soon add Magnus: Robot Fighter to its line. Written by Fred Van Lente (G.I. Joe, Brain Boy, Archer & Armstrong) and drawn by Corey Smith (Fathom), the book will follow the life and times of Russell Magnus.

To get the real nitty-gritty on this nostalgic move, Cosmic Book News Managing Editor Byron Brewer exclusively met with FVL. Here is what he found out.

Cosmic Book News: Fred, how nostalgic does it feel to bring back the Gold Key universe?

Fred Van Lente: I am old enough to have bought Gold Key books off the rack — when Western Publishing had the license and reprinted those classic Russ Manning robot fighter stories, which still hold up, in their own, fun way, to this day. They sold them in this thick newsprint proto-graphic novel format you could buy at the magazine stands in grocery stores. I got some Solar and Dr. Spektor then too. But it’s funny, that hadn’t really occurred to me until I started working on our book itself. 

CBN: So how did Fred Van Lente come to Robot Fighter?

Fred Van Lente: I happened to be going out with my buddy, editor Nate Cosby — we did Incredible Hercules, Wolverine First Class and a lot of Marvel books together — the night he was discussing Gold Key with Dynamite for the first time. He knew I wrote for Valiant, which had the GK license in the 90s, and asked me what I knew about the characters — which wasn’t a lot, but still more than he did. So as I was describing them I started pitching out ideas kind of inadvertently for Magnus, in the vein of “Hey, it’d be really cool if you did this … and that … and what about this?” and by the end of the evening we had the basic structure for what became this version pretty well sketched out! It came out very organically, which was cool. 

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CBN: Tell us about Russell Magnus.

Fred Van Lente: Well, Magnus, at first, isn’t sure that what he knows about himself is true. He thinks he grew up in a secluded mountain enclave where humans and robots live in perfect harmony, raised by an artificial intelligence called 1A. But he soon awakes in the sprawling mega-city of North Am, where he’s told 1A is a dangerous terrorist and he is an illegal robot fighter. 

At least this much is true: He can instantly spot the weak spot in any robot and dismember it with a well-placed strike. A skill that is going to be extremely useful as he tries to find his way back home — if there is a home to go back to.  

CBN: Can you tell us a little bit about his world and the first arc in the magazine?

Fred Van Lente: North Am is a robot theocracy run by a Synod, a religious council on which the father of one of our other main characters, Leeja Clane, sits. Robots have taken over humanity for what they claim is humanity’s own good. They worship the Singularity, a merging of humans and machines that supposedly combined and left Earth (and left Earth devastated) centuries ago. The Church of the Singularity believes that if robots emulate humans perfectly — in effect, become more humans than humans themselves — the Singularity will return and “rapture” them up to some kind of synthetic nirvana. 

How true or untrue this dogma is is one of things Magnus must explore, and battle — and perhaps he’ll even come face to face with the Singularity itself.  

CBN: What makes this “Robot Fighter” different from most of the sci-fi heroes out there these days?

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Fred Van Lente: I’m biased, of course, but the North Am world is a very unique place that people are going to be excited to explore along with Magnus. In his previous life, Magnus was a schoolteacher and a martial arts instructor, married, with a pregnant wife he’s trying to get back to, and so he’s a very hopeful and idealistic character, a source of light in an otherwise dark world. I think he bucks the antihero mold of a lot of recent series in comics and out, and people are going to want to spend time with him. I know I do.  

CBN: What is your inspiration? The Russ Manning original takes, variations by other publishers, something else?

Fred Van Lente: I got a lot of inspiration from Manning’s Gold Key stories — I read the whole series, all 30-odd issues — and reading about the recent advances in cybernetics and robotics, which really has progressed by leaps and bounds even from the 90s when Valiant did its Magnus series. 

CBN: Why do you enjoy books like this?

Fred Van Lente: I enjoy fantasy as metaphor, and the best science fiction and super hero stories take inner lives and philosophical concepts and “out” them where the characters can grapple with them in real space and time. Magnus Robot Fighter is about what makes us human, what the difference between a copy and an original is — if any — and if one is better than the other. 

Oh, and there’s a lot of kung fu and explosions. It’s bad-ass! 

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CBN: Tell us about the art of Corey Smith.

Fred Van Lente: He is absolutely amazing. He has created a distinct world with North Am and a variety of robots and the Magnus karate chopping the heads off robots has never looked so awesome. He is going to be one of the breakout stars of 2014, you heard it here first, kids.   

CBN: Fred, are there any projects present or future you would like to discuss?

Fred Van Lente: A lot of fun stuff is coming out from me in 2014 — I have a very cool announcement shortly at the Image Expo in January. I hope people dig it!

Cosmic Book News would like to thank Fred Van Lente for taking time out on these holidays to answer our nosy M.E. We would also like to thank Dynamite’s own Nick Barrucci who helped make this interview possible.

“Magnus: Robot Fighter” #1 hits stores March 12th!

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NYCC: Pak On Turok; Van Lente On Magnus; Barbiere On Solar & Waid On Doctor Spektor!

Dynamite Entertainment has unleashed their big news for the NYCC, and it’s the Gold Key titles!

Greg Pak and Mirko Colak are on a new Turok: Dinosaur Hunter series!

Fred Van Lente and Cory Smith are on the new Magnus: Robot Fighter!

Frank Barbiere is on the new Solar!

And Mark Waid is on the new The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor!

Look for the new series to start in February of next year edited by former Marvel Comics editor Nate Cosby.

Updated with full press release below.

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Press Release

Dynamite Entertainment Signs Gold Key License with DreamWorks Classics

Welcomes All-Star Writers Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente,
Frank Barbiere, and Mark Waid to Reimagine Fan-Favorite Series
Turok, Solar, Magnus: Robot Fighter, and Doctor Spektor

October 11, 2013, Mt. Laurel, NJ – New York Comic-Con Announcement:  Dynamite Entertainment proudly announces the return of four fan-favorite comic series — Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, Solar: Man of the Atom, Magnus: Robot Fighter, and Doctor Spektor — through a new licensing agreement with DreamWorks Classics.  The publishing company has signed four of today’s most sought-after writers: Greg Pak on Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, Frank Barbiere on Solar: Man of the Atom, Fred Van Lente on Magnus: Robot Fighter, and Mark Waid on the long-lost hero Doctor Spektor.  Contributing artists will include Mirko Colak, Cory Smith, and more to be announced.  Dynamite will launch the bold new universe of name-brand titles beginning in February 2014.

“These are super-bold, all-new takes on awesome characters by some of the best creators working in comics today,” says Nate Cosby, editor of the new line.  “I couldn’t be more jazzed to oversee the revamping and re-imagining of the Gold Key line, especially when the incredible stories are coming from Greg, Fred, Mark, and Frank, with beautiful art by Mirko, Cory, and more.  It’s a treat to work with these guys to dig down and find the core of each character, what makes them tick and why they’ve lasted for so many decades.  We can’t wait to show you what we’ve been cooking up!”

Originally published throughout the 1950s and 1960s as part of the Gold Key Comics imprint and followed by the monumentally successful run from Valiant Comics in the early 1990s, the titles Turok, Solar, and Magnus: Robot Fighter are immediately recognizable to the modern comic-reading audience.  Doktor Spektor, a title launched in the 1970s, rejoins its contemporaries for the first time in decades as part of Dynamite’s reimagined line.

Each contributing writer has shared their thoughts on the bold initiative:

Greg Pak, whose innovating writing style has propelled Batman/Superman to the top of sales charts, says, “When Nate Cosby told me the character he had in mind for me, I couldn’t stop grinning.  The original Turok, Son of Stone series featured a Native American warrior fighting for survival in a lost valley populated by dinosaurs.  I’m just going to go on the record and say that every single element in that description is solid gold.  I want to write stories with a Native American hero.  I want to write stories about fighting for survival. And you bet your boots I want to write stories about a world populated by dinosaurs.  And now you’re telling me I get to do all three?  For sheer thrills and adventure, this book is going to be a blast to work on.  And I’m always drawn to stories that feature diverse casts, so I love that a Native American hero headlines the book.  I’m also loving the worldbuilding we’re doing. We’re exploring the reasons why dinosaurs walk the earth and all of the social, historical, ecological, and political ramifications that follow.  This is huge adventure combined with mind-bending alternate history, and I couldn’t be happier.”

Fred Van Lente, a New York Times bestselling author and fan-favorite writer of Marvel Zombies, says, “I’m thrilled and honored to be reviving such a beloved series.  I loved the original Russ Manning book as a kid, and am looking forward to bringing science fiction action to the new series in a thought-provoking way.  The very nature of robotics questions what it means to be human — that’s ultimately what Magnus: Robot Fighter will be about.  That, and punching robots until they explode.  There will be a lot that old-time fans will find familiar, but the science of robotics and cybernetics has advanced considerably even since the last time Magnus had a title, and you’ll be seeing a lot of those reflected here.”

Frank Barbiere, a rising star whose work includes Blackout and Five Ghosts, says, “Dynamite has lined up some of the top talent in the business for the new universe of books, and I am both excited and flattered to be part of it.  I think fans are going to be thrilled by the new directions we’re taking with many of the properties, Solar included.  I’m a huge fan of the character and will be putting a unique spin on the mythology with an emphasis on family and character.  I’m hoping my take will resonate strongly across the readership, new and old alike, and I’ll certainly be bringing a lot of new and exciting things to the table.”

Mark Waid, one of the most celebrated comic writers of the modern era thanks to bestselling titles like Kingdom Come, Daredevil, Amazing Spider-Man, and Indestructible Hulk, says, “Launching a publishing event like this is an exciting opportunity to show how it can be done well, stylishly, and cohesively. The key (no pun intended), as far as I’m concerned, is to get to the core of these characters so we can, with dynamism and confidence, tell the readers who they are, what they want, and why fans will invest in that. For Doctor Spektor, the challenge comes in figuring out how a professional skeptic, a famous investigator who debunks and exposes the extra-normal and keeps himself grounded, can function in a world that suddenly hosts superheroes and supervillains. What do you choose to believe in when your lifelong belief system is swept away?”

Nick Barrucci, the CEO and Publisher of Dynamite Entertainment, adds, “Longtime fans can rest assured — their beloved heroes are in capable hands.  I can’t believe the dream team of creators bringing these fantastic characters back, and with a vengeance!  I’m honored that Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente, Frank Barbiere, and Mark Waid are at the helm.  It’s new, it’s fresh, it’s mind-blowing — look for Turok, Solar, Magnus, and Spektor to win the hearts of dedicated fans and curious newcomers alike!”

The new line of titles will be solicited in Diamond Comic Distributors’ Previews catalog, the premiere source of merchandise for the comic book specialty market, slated for release beginning in February 2014.  Comic book fans are encouraged to reserve copies of Turok, Solar, Magnus: Robot Fighter, and Doctor Spektor with their local comic book shop or hobby specialty store.  The entire line will also be available for individual customer purchase through digital platforms courtesy of Comixology, iVerse, and Dark Horse Digital.

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