In 1974’s “Astonishing Tales” #25, Rich Buckler and Doug Moench took readers to the dystopian future world of 1990 where they introduced readers to a fascinating character struggling to regain his humanity, Luther Manning AKA the cyborg super soldier Deathlok. Since that fateful first appearance Manning and other incarnations of the Deathlok cyborg have appeared in numerous Marvel Comics titles, and while many of them hailed from a dystopian future like Manning one of the most popular versions of the cyborg soldier was created in the present day Marvel Universe.
Michael Collins debuted in 1990s “Deathlok” miniseries by co-writers Dwayne McDuffie & Gregory Wright and artist Butch Guice, in which the pacifist scientist’s consciousness was placed inside the body of Deathlok. McDuffie and artist Denys Cowan then continued Collins’s struggle to maintain his non-violent beliefs and do some good with his new robotic body in the ongoing “Deathlok” series that lasted 34 issues and came to an end in 1994.
Since then, Collins and Deathlok have popped up a number of times, but both characters will resurface in the upcoming “Original Sins” anthology series which begins in June and ties into Marvel’s big summer event, “Original Sin.” CBR News spoke with writer Nathan Edmondson and artist Mike Perkins about their Deathlok story for “Original Sins” which reintroduces Michael Collins, introduces a new incarnation of Deathlok and sets the stage for a new ongoing series starring the cyborg super soldier.
CBR News: Nathan and Mike, a number of different Deathloks have appeared in the Marvel Universe, but you’re tackling the story of Michael Collins, a character who was popular in the ’90s but has only made a handful of appearances since. What made this story a compelling assignment for each of you? Were you a fans of the character? What do you find most interesting about Michael Collins?
Mike Perkins: Michael Collins is THE Deathlok who is tied to the Marvel Universe. He’s not a future version or an alternate timeline version. Collins was developed in the here and now and, as such, can interact with the heroes and villains of the established universe — a fact that comes into play with the “Original Sin” tie-in.
I consider myself one of the biggest Butch Guice fans and have been lucky enough to collaborate with him and work alongside him — learning along the way — so I’ve always been enamored by the work he and Dwayne McDuffie produced on the original Michael Collins Deathlok run — from when it first appeared on the stands.
Nathan Edmondson: I am a fan, and it was in fact talking with Denys Cowan about his previous run with Michael Collins that really excited me to take on the project. In fact, though, we aren’t telling a story about Michael Collins — he will certainly be a part of our approach but our Deathlok, you’ll find out, is someone new. How? Why? Who? That will become clear in our story, where we take a wider view of the idea of Deathlok and offer something fresh to the iconic character.
Nathan, what can you tell us about Michael’s sort of status quo when this story begins? If I remember correctly the last time he appeared he had the ability to switch between his human and Deathlok forms. Is that correct? That to me suggests that Michael might be relatively at peace when this story begins, but is that the case?
Edmondson: That is one question that we don’t exactly answer. I won’t give much away, but we’re looking at a different person and we invite some discussion about Collins’ past and what this all means, but while you might think you have it all figured out, we’ll hopefully prove that Deathlok can still really surprise you.
Mike, what’s your sense of Michael Collins and Deathlok? Which aspects of these characters do you really want to capture and bring forward in your work on this story?
Perkins: Michael Collins is a divided man. He’s both a family man and a stone cold killer. A peacemaker one moment, a Demolisher the next. That brings an added depth to the already intriguing character of Deathlok and is something that I can play with visually — adding that spark of light to the face and eyes when he’s a normal guy and the shark-like features when he’s operating as an assassin — much like Daniel Craig’s Bond, in a way.
In terms of plot and themes, what is the Deathlok story in “Original Sins” about? Is this story designed to reintroduce Deathlok to new readers and show older fans what he’s been up since his last appearance? Will Michael Collins be dealing with a secret revelation about himself that has recently come to light? Or will he be reacting to another’s person’s “Original Sin?”
Edmondson: It is designed to reintroduce Deathlok, yes. As for the wider story, I’m not sure at the moment what has been revealed about “Original Sins” so what I can say is that “Original Sins” offers a perfect opportunity, perhaps even a sinister one, to learn some long-hidden secrets, including some of those behind Deathlok.
What details or teases can you give us about the antagonist and supporting cast in your tale? What sort of opposition is Michael up against?
Edmondson: There’s a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent involved, but the real threat isn’t someone that’s coming after Deathlok. We have a little twist in that regard, something that touches on what’s going on in the Marvel U at large.
Mike, what can you tell us about the look of your Deathlok story in “Original Sins?” How does it compare to some of your other more recent work? Your “Astonishing X-Men” work featured some big emotional moments and high tech weapons-manufacturing antagonists. Will your Deathlok story have a similar vibe?
Perkins: Deathlok is perhaps synonymous with high tech and that’s something I’ll get the chance to play with, but my primary concern is to convey the atmosphere of the piece. Nathan has written some particular scenes that play well “oppressively” and I’d like to think that I could convey that with the inking textures.
Finally, what’s it like working together? Mike as an artist which elements of Nathan’s writing do you really enjoy? And Nathan, what do you feel Mike brings to this story as an artist?
Perkins: We’ve wanted to work together for a while. Nathan leaves his artists with enough space to breathe and shine. There’s a literary texture to the writing that works on many different levels grounded in a real-time environment but with a (robotic) eye to the imagination of the Marvel Universe.
Edmondson: Mike’s a legend in the field and despite his ridiculous accent I’m excited to finally get to work with him.
Edmondson: I don’t know another artist out there who could have been more in tune and fervent about telling a Deathlok story, and that shows in the art.
Perkins: I am probably the world’s biggest Deathlok fan (with [Marvel editor-in-chief] Axel Alonso following very quickly on my heels) so I’m absolutely thrilled to be working on this. The one thing that could blow my mind even more is if we’re allowed to follow the progression of this character into other adventures.
Edmondson: Don’t be afraid to try Deathlok if you haven’t before; and if you’re a devotee — welcome back. Enjoy the appetizer.
“Original Sins” begins in June.