Officially announced at the Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo, the creative team behind the second tale in the Free Comic Book Day issue “Doctor Solar/Magnus, Robot Fighter” will be returning for Dark Horse’s “Magnus” ongoing series, which launches in July. Writer Jim Shooter and artist Bill Reinhold spoke with CBR about reviving the classic character, who was originally published by Gold Key in the 1960s and enjoyed a resurgence in the ’90s with Shooter’s Valiant Comics.
To describe Magnus’s role within his universe, Shooter quoted the hero himself: “When robots rebel, wreak havoc or threaten to impose a murderous, mechanical tyranny upon the world, I protect humankind. I was trained from birth to achieve the pinnacle of human potential – steel-smashing strength, a disciplined mind and the will to conquer any enemy. I am Magnus. Robot Fighter.”
Shooter continued by describing the futuristic realm. “In the last year of the 40th Century, 4000 CE, the world, and especially the continent-spanning city of North Am, is a near-Utopia. Humankind has become over-dependent upon its robot servants and unable to fend for itself should those robots fail them, or worse, turn against humankind, as some robots created to possess artificial intelligence have.
“After a robot rebellion very nearly led to the slaughter of humankind, 1-A, a robot whose AI was made to mirror the mind of his human creator, trained Magnus to become the defender of humankind,” the writer continued. “When robots arise in revolt again, when any foe or force threatens, Magnus dares to fight back.”
Despite the title, Shooter said that Magnus would diversify in his heroing. “Magnus faces all kinds of threats, and not all robotic,” he said. “In the first issue, we introduce Big Guns, an immensely strong, half-man, half-robot mob enforcer. There are new, powerful enemies every issue – Steelhammer, Andronicus, criminal mastermind Timur…lots more.”
Fleshing out Magnus’s world, Shooter said that the original cast of Leeja, Senator Clane, and 1-A would return. “I’m introducing many new people, too – Queeny, who runs the orphanage where 1-A found baby Magnus; Goph Lands informant Little Eddie; and the fabulous, fabulous Tomato. Wait’ll you see her.
“And, there’s a new romantic interest for Magnus – the irresistibly beautiful Cinnette. Look out, Leeja.”
As in “Doctor Solar,” the first storyline will not focus on Magnus’s origin, which Shooter said would be told in a 67-page zero issue to be released sometime in the future. “However, in issue #1, everything you need to know is there.”
The first story arc, then, is entitled “Metal Mob.” “North Am has never had a significant crime problem – until now. Suddenly, there’s an epidemic of human mobsters using robot muscle terrorizing the city with human trafficking, illegal psychoactive substances, violent crime and corrosive corruption,” Shooter said. “Leeja’s childhood BFF, beautiful Cinnette, has been taken by kidnappers. Magnus fights his way into the mob stronghold in the lawless, ground level Goph Lands where kidnap victims are kept awaiting ransom, purchase by chattel-traders or being sold by weight as a protein source to the Arcturians.
“Meanwhile, Leeja’s not about to stand by and do nothing…
“Lots of action, powerful enemies, phalanxes of Assassin and Thug-robots, a criminal mastermind, Timur, who earns that description… I think this story is pretty intense.”
Given that we now “live in the future” in relation to when Magnus was first imagined, with real-world technology advancing along a certain path, we asked Shooter whether it was less or more difficult to imagine a credible robot-fighting future. “I think more science, better science just opens more opportunities for imagination,” Shooter said. “All of the brilliant foundation Russ Manning built in the original series still serves, and remains in place. I simply have more toys to play with than he did.”
Speaking on the classic appeal of Magnus, Shooter said, “Like Doctor Solar, Magnus is iconic – the man who can, in a world softened by civilization and technology. Magnus, to some extent was inspired by Tarzan, but it’s more than that – I think of John Henry, the steel-driving man, the brave student facing down the tanks in Tiananmen Square, even Ludek Pachman playing chess against a computer – and winning. Powerful stuff. No need to strive for something new. I just have to do it right.”
Joining Shooter on the series is Bill Reinhold, who also illustrated the Magnus story in the Free Comic Book Day issue. In recent years, Reinhold has been primarily focused on inking and illustration work outside of comics, but the timing was just right to return to pencilling with “Magnus, Robot Fighter.” “I’ve always had in mind to jump back in to drawing stories again, but one interesting project or another would come my way that just delayed it,” Reinhold said. “I’m always drawing in some form, sketching, doing commissions or the occasional pin-up. I’ve been approached in recent years, but I was always busy. I’m sitting on a short ‘Badger’ story that I’ve yet to complete for that reason. So I have been working on storytelling, also, recently.
“What really led me back was great timing and [editor] Chris Warner. Chris came by my table at the San Diego Con in 2009 to say hi and asked what I’d been up to. He knows my history well and asked if I was still interested in penciling. I said yes, and I guess he kept it in mind. When he called about ‘Magnus,’ I was just finishing my last inking stint on ‘Wolverine: Origins’ inking long time friend and co-worker Doug Braithwaite.”
Reinhold also told CBR that he is having a blast creating a new world for Magnus. “I really enjoy working on a project where a world is so open for one’s own imagination. I really enjoy drawing modern day urban stories, but here I’ll be able to do that and more with this future world,” Reinhold told CBR. “I enjoy the challenge of designing the miscellaneous robots, tech and the architecture of the city North Am.
“I’ve drawn many stories in comics that touch on these aspects of a futuristic world. I look forward to stretching myself further in displaying that,” the artist continued. “Through movies, and particularly gaming, visions of the future have been pushed further than ever. I expect to take advantage of my old influences of the past all the way up to today. I’d like to see those visions blend in such a way to seem new, yet very much a part of the Magnus universe we all know.
“What works best about the action is Magnus is smashing robots!”