The title character in Magnus, Robot Fighter, 4000 AD and Magnus: Robot Fighter, comic book series produced by Gold Key and Valiant Comics respectively. Magnus first appeared in Magnus, Robot Fighter, 4000 AD #1, February 1963.

1963 was a great year for comic books. Stan Lee was cranking out amazing new heroes at Marvel, DC was busy remarketing its Golden Age characters, and together they began to dominate the comic book industry. Gold Key Comics was in the business of translating popular movies and television shows, like the Jetsons, into comic book form, but saw an opportunity for a new direction. Editor Craig Chase began to look for a new concept and he found it together with Russ Manning, an artist/writer working on other Gold Key licensed titles. The duo developed Magnus as a futuristic freedom fighter, struggling to save mankind from vicious robots in the year 4000. It was groundbreaking for several reasons.

The science fiction comic was a victim of the Comic Code Authority, largely because of the "space girl imperiled by slobbering sexually threatening alien" meme. By bringing a scifi comic back into the fray, Gold Key resurrected the niche previously filled by the likes of Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. The concept of a vision of a possible future, filled with fantastic robots and massive cities thrilled young readers. They had no other contemporary example of this kind of work. The series also featured Manning's fantastic art. Beautifully painted covers, a rarity at the time, along with sprawling vistas of North Am, the giant futuristic city Magnus called home, drew in readers at an amazing rate. Manning had a clean, clear touch to his art that appealed to the masses.

The series quickly became the best selling original title produced by Gold Key. It even outsold DC's Superman at one point. During the heyday of superhero comics, Magnus did very well. Manning's run ended with issue 21 in February, 1968. Dan Spiegle and Paul Norris each did a few issues, after which the series went into reprints, published sporadically. The final issue, #46 was released in January, 1977.

The Magnus of the Gold Key series was an orphan hero, like Tarzan before him, who was raised apart from society by a caring robot called 1A. Young Magnus became a perfect specimen of humanity, trained in deadly martial arts and strong enough to tear up steel robots barehanded. Magnus responded to the cries of a future society that had become overly dependent on robots, some of which had turned evil. 1A implanted a device that allowed Magnus to hear robot communications and he took his crusade to the streets of North Am, a city state that sprawled over most of the continent. For 46 issues, Magnus fought for man and ripped up evil robots in exciting new ways. However, the end of this series was not the end of the hero.

Comic book characters belonging to Western Printing, which owned the Gold Key imprint, were acquired by a new start-up company called Valiant. Valiant, later renamed Acclaim Comics, re-released Magnus in May 1991 in Magnus: Robot Fighter #1. Gambling on a hero that very few people had heard of, Valiant hit the jackpot, and they used the Magnus title to reintroduce other Gold Key licenses, like Solar, Man of the Atom and Turok, Son of Stone. The heroes of the 1960s were revived and revisioned for the 1990s.

Jim Shooter, then head of Valiant, made Magnus's world less black and white in terms of moral values. The robots that Magnus freely smashed in the 1960s became robots that developed free will in the 1990s. This freedom from human slavery is the danger against which Magnus fights, becoming a kind of dark, pro-slavery Luddite. The free robots also have a new edge, becoming homicidal energy vampires, feeding on their former human masters. The edgy 90s Magnus walked the tightrope between zealot and savior, and became a great hit with readers. Magnus: Robot Fighter ran for ran for 64 issues. The last issue came out in February 1996, just prior to the legal limbo that Acclaim Comics fell into in the late 1990s. When or if he will see print again is anyone's guess.

http://www.valiantcomics.com/valiant/charapp.asp?i=156&n=Magnus
http://www.toonopedia.com/magnus.htm

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