Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Smashing Robots in 4000 A.D. by Dave Goode

 My favorite Silver Age sci-fi comic book was Gold Key's Magnus Robot Fighter 4000 A.D. That first issue stood out from everything else on the stands. That fantastic cover that featured what appeared to be, serial & B-Movie star, Buster Crabbe smashing a robot with a "karate chop" defending an Ann-Margaret lookalike cowering in the background. 

 Over the decades since it's first appearance back in 1963 the Robot Fighter feature has become a cult favorite. I attribute this to three things...

 First and foremost was the art. Not only did you have Russ Manning, one of the all time great comic book/strip illustrators drawing the stories ,but you also had wonderful painted covers that gave the title the look of science fiction paperbacks.
 Secondly you had robots. Nothing, except for dinosaurs and gorillas on a comic book cover,  was guaranteed to sell a mag like robots. And with a title, like Magnus, Robot Fighter, you were sure to have plenty of robots.  

 Thirdly, there was karate. It was that karate stuff that we had been seeing more and more of in movies and on television. It was never stated that Magnus was using karate, but the reader had little doubt.  I imagined the Robot Fighter was using the form of karate developed by the legendary Mas Oyama - kyokushin.

 Interestingly, Magnus' creator, Russ Manning, didn't originally conceive of Magnus destroying robots with shuto blows. That idea came from his wife. However she originally suggested the idea of Magnus leaping up on the shoulders of robots and unscrewing their heads.

 Manning originally imagined his "Tarzan of the Future" using a stone hammer and not tameshiwari techniques to turn robots into scrap metal. After reading about that. I re-imagined Magnus wearing something different than the "red mini-skirt and white go-go boots". Like something out of a gladiator movie. Even with the stone hammer, it's impossible not to think of Magnus using karate, if only as a back-up.
Faux fun by Vance Capley

For years fan-boys have imagined a live-action Magnus movie. Today, with CGI, that's even easier to imagine. But back in the 60s, we could only imagine Ray Harryhausen and a team of stop-motion animators bringing Magnus' robot antagonists to life. That or you'd have to trade down and use the type of robots seen in Target Earth. Casting the leads for the Robot Fighter movie might have proved a bit easier. Someone once told me, when casting a hero, just go with Ron Ely.
In this case, that was more than just good advice. Ely, who would star as Tarzan on television, would have been spot-on as Manning's "Tarzan of the Future".
Connie Stevens or Mimsy Farmer could have played his love interest Leeja Clane.


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    1. Richard Harrison star of several gladiator movies and ninja flicks might have made a good Magnus as well.And maybe Joey Heatherton as Leeja.