TITLE: Magnus Robot Fighter 4000 A.D. Issue #17
YEAR: February 1967
COMPANY: Gold Key Comics
Created, Written and Drawn by Russ Manning
While “Magnus Robot Fighter” may have gain popularity in the ’90s thanks to Valiant, many did not know that the character came out several decades prior via Western Publishing’s imprint, Gold Key Comics (which lasted from 1962-1984).
Created, written and drawn by Russ Manning, the issue which premiered in 1963 would only last until issue #46 and would cease in 1977. Russ Manning would only complete 21 issues and the issues afterward were reprints or written by other creative talent.
But comic books during that era had its own share of problems. Battle over winning a young demographic who were becoming hooked on television and the price increase from 12 cents to 15 cents a comic book, which may seem quite minuscule today (considering some comic books are now reaching $5 an issue).
But as Russ Manning was doings of the work on his lonesome, it was a common occurrence to read in the letters column “Robot Rostrum” from fans hoping the series would go into bi-monthly instead of quarterly. But for one who is able to read these comics now, you have to be in awe with the forward thinking of Russ Manning in terms of technology (Manning was inspired by Isaac Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics”) and how much was incorporated into each issue including mini-stories.
In issue #17, Senator Clane and the City Council of North Am along with Magnus and his love, Leeja welcome Zypex from the planet Sirius.
Zypex arrives to North Am to deliver a robot as part of the Robot Exchange Program between North Am and other worlds.
But Zypex brings a clunky robot and Magnus is immediately cautious as he doesn’t understand why he didn’t brink anything smaller.
Bothered that something may be awry, Magnus looks up a tale he read from the Ancient Bronze Age Greeks about the Trojan Horse left outside the City of Troy and how Greek Warriors hid inside until everyone slept and began attacking and destroying the city.
As Magnus and Leeja quickly head back to inspect the robot that Zypex has brought inside North Am, Zypex immediately uses his sleeping powers to make everyone in the Council sleep and inside the big hunk of a robot are his miniature robots that can easily duplicate. And Zypex orders the robots to destroy key areas of North Am.
As Magnus goes to warn Colonel Chov and Dr. Singh, can North Am prepare itself for the chaos that Zypex has brought to North Am?
Also, included is a one-page tale of factualy history as woman explains of how people received flight service before robots and how in the distant past, Ellen Church, a young nurse would suggest to Boeing about employing air stewardess and their role back in the day.
And the other storyline would feature Captain Johner, M’Reema and aliens into the Planet Venus and are greeted by the hostile Venusians.
Overall, “Magnus Robot Fighter 4000 A.D.” is an entertaining, futuristic tale that surely captivated readers in the 1960’s. Moreso in 1966 when Gene Roddenberry’s “Star Trek” would captivate audiences with its tales of space exploration. But “Magnus Robot Fighter” did something that we wouldn’t see until the “Terminator” films decades later and the warning of evolving technology and robots.
Granted, the thoughts of robots depicted on pages, wouldn’t be as terrifying as James Cameron would feature in “Terminator”, especially for the second film “Terminator 2” and the many sequels that came after.
As I travel, especially to Tokyo and seeing how robots now being utilized, while used in automation for industries, in public, while not perfect I still find it interesting to see robots being utilized as mall information givers or as store greeters. Heck, I would like to own Softbank’s Pepper the Robot but with that being said, I think that the recent messages from Bill Gates, Elon Musk and especially Stephen Hawking should be taken to heart, especially now as employers look at utilizing robots in order to cut costs of employing human employees. Unfortunately, technology is changing the way we live our lives but one could only wonder how things will be a 100 years from now.
Considering the readers of “Magnus Robot Fighter 4000 A.D.” in the ’60s were reading Russ Manning’s comics and imagining a future of teleportation and robotics, this issue was written 50-years ago. Here we are in 2017 and the worry of mass unemployment due to robotics is a concern but unfortunately, with what’s going on with the political landscape and instability of socioeconomics and threats of terrorism around the world, the threat of technology is pushed to the backdoor, only to be worried when that time comes when people are faced to confront the issue. That’s understandable, that’s how humanity works as many worry for the present, not so much about the future. May it be ecology or whatever the issue that we leave to the next generations of having to deal with.
The threat of mass unemployment due to technology is starting to trickle in, especially with the debates of minimum wage increases and how employers tend to use technology to counter that. But that’s just the beginning and maybe the worries of technology in the workplace are not too important for the masses now and perhaps those concerns may not occur so much in my lifetime, but surely in our children or their children’s lifetime for sure.