Fred Van Lente Talks Magnus: Robot Fighter

Part of the Gold Key revival at Dynamite is Magnus: Robot Hunter. The rebirth of the character has been in the hands of Fred Van Lente. Now Byron Brewer talks with the writer about the future for the classic comic character.

Magnus07CovHardmanBYRON BREWER: Fred, of all the Gold Key Universe revivals (perhaps that is not the right term), as a reader I have found Magnus: Robot Hunter to be one of the most involving. Have you been having fun with this character?

FRED VAN LENTE: Thanks! Yes, I very much have. I enjoyed the original Russ Manning stories when I was a kid (in reprints, I'm not that old) and bringing his world to a new generation has been extremely gratifying.

BB: The revival of the Gold Key Universe certainly has been well embraced by the fans of modern comics. Were you expecting that when you signed on?

FVL: You know, you start coming up with these concepts and stories in the hopes that it'll be well-received by readers, but it's always gratifying — and relieving! — when they are. So you definitely never take that for granted. It's been awesome how well received Magnus has been.

BB: July's special Zero Issue has its origins in a celebration of Dynamite's grand 10th anniversary. How does it feel to be part of that?

FVL: Very flattering. Doing a standalone story so early in the comic's run that wasn't really connected to anything else was a bit of a challenge, but fortunately we hit upon the idea of doing it as a bit of backstory of the North Am religion, which of course is such a huge part of the robot society there.

Magnus07CovSubscriptSmithBB: I enjoy the juxtaposition between Magnus' worlds and how robots are humans are robots. Is this hard to deal with or do you enjoy the story elements that North Am offers?

FVL: That's a great way of putting it! Yeah, at the heart of this story are the questions of what makes humans human, can a copy be better than the original, and is there such as thing as The Essential? I'm as attracted to the philosophical and psychological aspects of the series as the action and satire.

BB: So, Fred, what can you tell us about the dread … Butcher Bloc? (Someone has been watching Chopped on Food Network, lol.) And should I ask about "soft" robots?

FVL: Is that a thing on the show? I've never seen it, but given the title I'm not surprised…

The title for this second arc is UNCANNY VALLEY. For those of you who aren't familiar with the term, I won't spoil any surprises, but suffice it to say it involves the Transmechs, an offshoot of the robot religion who believe in incorporating human tissue into their chassis. They get those tissue from victims thrown to the Butcher's Bloc, where they are enhanced with a brush with their own mortality. Robots don't really understand death, you see, since they can always be rebuilt, and the Transmechs like to observe it in action — that's what Butcher's Bloc is for.

So, suffice it to say, Butcher's Bloc is pretty horrifying, and Magnus may not survive. For one thing, there are no robots down there, and his powers of communication and weakness-finding only work on artificial intelligences…

Soft robot! I know this term. And yes, it is important. But I can say no more for now…

BB: What is it like working with Cory Smith?

FVL: An absolute joy. His designs are amazing, his compositions are incredibly dramatic, and his acting is never less than soulfully empathic. This is the beginning of his superstardom, so snatch up those issues of Magnus before they quintuple in value as his early work!!

BB: In this world of angst and struggle, there have not been a lot of opportunities for the ol' FVL sense of humor ala Hercules (although the FVL wit has been rampant). Do you foresee things lightening up for our hero even for one issue?

FVL: Well, I don't really agree with your premise too much (we have this H8R character, after all) but as Magnus goes into Butcher's Bloc if anything things are getting to get a bit grimmer — and he may learn some unpleasant truths before this arc is over, that will change him forever. (You've never heard a comics writer say that before, right?!)

BB: After all he has suffered thus far, what is next for Russell Magnus?

FVL: He's currently on a quest to find his robot father, 1A. And once they meet up, all of North Am should tremble, because some metal butt will begin to seriously be kicked.

For more on Magnus: Robot Fighter, click here.

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About Dan Wickline

Has quietly been working at Bleeding Cool for over three years. He has written comics for Image, Top Cow, Shadowline, Avatar, IDW, Dynamite, Moonstone, Humanoids and Zenescope. He is the author of the Lucius Fogg series of novels and a published photographer.
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