One of the big announcements at last year’s Comic-Con International in San Diego was that Dark Horse Comics was reviving the classic characters of the Gold Key line, with Jim Shooter at the helm to script the series. Shooter is no stranger to these characters, having worked on them in the mid-90s at now-defunct Valiant Comics where he served as both publisher, editor and writer. But now with this new relaunch, Shooter is sticking to scripting and allowing Dark Horse to promote and publish it – which they have, as these new incarnations were first glimpsed in May’s Free Comic Book Day preview book. Last week we talked to Jim about Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom, and now we turn to the second title launching this new line: Magnus, Robot Fighter.
Magnus, Robot Fighter is the story of a man at odds with rogue robots in the year 4000. Originally created by Russ Manning back in 1963, in this far-flung future humans live in relative luxury with technological advances with robots have allowed their every need to be met. But as it turns out, these robots aren’t happy being the worker class and in some cases, rebel. Good thing there’s a robot fighter in their midst. Writer Jim Shooter talked with us in-depth about the series, which debuts on August 4th.
Newsarama: I really loved what you did with Magnus in Dark Horse’s Free Comic Book Day issue, Jim. Now that people have read that little short, what can they expect with the full Magnus, Robot Fighter series?
Jim Shooter: First of all, issue #1 begins shortly after Magnus’s arrival in North Am. The entire back story—the origin of robot 1-A, who was the first Robot Fighter (as established in #18 of the original series) and his entire tale, plus the origin of his successor, Magnus, revealed in detail for the first time, is told in a 67-page Zero Issue that I hope will see print someday, some way. I wrote it mostly for myself, however, as a way of working out every nuance of the characters and the world they live in before starting the series, so I’d be building on a solid foundation.
Yes, I am quite mad. Ask Senior Editor Chris Warner, who’s coordinating this project and is constantly stupefied by my insanity.
The Free Comic Book Day Story takes place a few days after the Zero Issue’s events, and #1 takes place a week or so after that.
In the FCBD special, I provided essential background, as I do in #1. But I hope people are intrigued to see the Zero Issue when it comes out.
Therefore, the first arc, being close to the beginning of Magnus’s career, introduces many of the key players, including Leeja, Senator Clane, 1-A and more—plus a few new people that I hope Russ Manning would approve of: Queeny, the woman who run the illegal orphanage where 1-A found baby Magnus, Magnus’s Goph Land informant, Little Eddie and Magnus’s cat, Tomato.
Nrama: Wow – that zero issue sounds amazing. Now I know what I’m going to bugging you about next time I see you at a convention.
For all the different Magnus series, he’s being battling robots – but just as humans are diverse, so are these robots. What is Magnus facing in this new series?
Shooter: Magnus, Robot Fighter begins with an arc entitled “Metal Mob.” Criminals are using robot muscle to commit crimes, which they would, wouldn’t they? Normally peaceful North Am is suddenly hit by an epidemic of human trafficking, violent crime, drugs and corruption. Leeja’s lifelong best friend, heiress Cinnette Victoria is kidnapped, which leads Magnus—and Leeja—to the lawless ground-level Goph Lands searching for Cinnette and the mob’s power base. Each issue introduces new opponents—the cyborg killer called Big Guns, the deadly bionic, gen-engineered Hippolyta, Steelhammer, the robot fighter (in the sense of gladiator) and the mob-boss himself, Timur. And more. Big action
Nrama What would you say is the iconic elements that make Magnus Robot Fighter click?
Shooter: Magnus is a human being who battles machines. Like John Henry, the legendary steel-driving man, the kid who faced down the tank column in Tienanmen Square or Grandmaster Ludek Pachman beating a supercomputer at chess, it’s iconic, powerful stuff.
Nrama: This is your third visit with these characters – first was as a fan, second as a creator and editor, and now you’re getting another turn. What’s that like for you?
Shooter: The past is prologue, and all that I have done before is, as far as I’m concerned, was preparation for this chance. Maybe this time I’ll get it right. I hope so. I have never worked harder in my life.
Nrama: Last week we talked to you about Doctor Solar, this week we’re jabbering about Magnus, Robot Fighter; I remember when this return of the Gold Key character was announced, Turok was bandied about as a potential title. Could you tell us what the plan is as of now?
Shooter: I have already written the first issue of Turok, Son of Stone, and I’m almost done with the Mighty Samson #1. I’ll leave it to Mike [Richardson, Dark Horse Publisher] to announce what comes next.
Nrama: We’ve got Magnus, Doctor Solar, and promise of Turok and Mighty Samson on the way – but one of the beauties of these Gold Key characters is how many there are. Are there any characters in the Gold Key library that might surprise people to know you’ve got your eye on for future stories?
Shooter: I like all the ones you’d expect, but I can’t stop thinking about what might be done with Jet Dream and Her Stunt-Girl Counterspies ever since my friend, excellent writer Roger Stern gave me a heads up about it. No really. I think I can rock that!
Nrama: I’ll take that, and a Tragg & The Sky Gods series. I think we got minds reeling enough, but before I go – I want to ask about your future. What else can you say you’re working on now, inside and outside comics?
Shooter: Technically, I work for a company called Illustrated Media, which does advertising and other such things, and provides my services to Dark Horse—but all I’m doing, all I will do, till Mike says different, is work for Dark Horse. This project means everything to me. I am 100% committed.
Some say I should be committed, but they’re talking about something else….
Which Gold Key character are you most excited for?