He's the sole survivor of a secret military program to create robotic super soldiers who became an alcoholic perverted government operative, and in between worked as an insurance adjustor and mutant-hunting hacked machine. It's been a long, strange road for Jack Kirby's Machine Man. The one-time pacifist robot that spun out of Marvel Comics' short-lived spin-off from 2001: A Space Odyssey gets a new chance at stardom in this week's issue of Marvel Comics Presents, giving you the chance to look inside his head and find out what makes him tick - literally.
The character - who started life as Mr. Machine before Ideal Toys pointed out that they owned the trademark to that name, thank you very much - started life as a very traditional robot whose purpose was to ask "What does it mean to be... human?" on a regular basis, despite work by Hulk and Captain America co-creator Kirby and Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko in his early years. After multiple attempts to make something of the character - including a cyberpunk-inspired series in the early 1980s - the character fell into limbo until Warren Ellis brought him back in 2006's Nextwave series as a somewhat drunken bastard version of himself that... strangely... clicked with audiences. Now, with his new series, writer Ivan Brandon attempts to explain just what turns a sensible, staid robot to drink:
It's hard to get too far into explaining it without spoiling what's a really strange structural animal...let's say being a Kirby character is what drives the Ellis character to drink, if that makes any sense to anyone. Also, let's say that Niko Henrichon is really great at drawing the Hulk, and a dozen other characters I won't name for the sake of being a horrible person.
Brandon has the chops to make it all work - in addition to his webcomic addition to Marvel's Secret Invasion series, he's also the creator and writer of robo-centric indie books NYC Mech and 24Seven. What keeps him coming back to mechanical lead characters?
The funny thing is beyond NYC Mech, they all sort of grew their own legs without my help. We'd gotten a lot of interest from other creators who wanted to play in the NYC Mech world in some way and we took that and built 24seven out of it, trying to give them more room and a bigger stage to play on, something that wouldn't just speak to our own existing readership. With Machine Man, my editor suggested him and I loved the idea more for the fact that he's the perfect Marvel/Kirby weirdo than for him being a robot.
That said, ROBOTS! Who doesn't love 'em? When they run things, it might get me in good.
The serial starts in this week's Marvel Comics Presents #8, and continues for the next three issues.
Comic Talent - Ivan Brandon [Heavy Ink]