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Deathlok: Detour


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ALONSO, WAY, & ROBERTSON ON DEATHLOK DETOUR

by Benjamin Ong Pang Kean

 

After being in the works for well over a year, and now a 30th anniversary celebration of sorts, Marvel Executive Editor Axel Alonso has confirmed for Newsarama that Deathlok: Detour is due to finally hit stores in January. On board for the four-issue MAX limited series is writer Daniel Way with art by Wolverine and Born artist Darick Robertson. Newsarama caught up with Alonso, Way and Robertson for a lowdown on this project.

 

Deathlok has always been somewhat ahead of its time, given that the character was created long before the introduction of popular sci-fi icons that blended robots and humans to varying degrees such as the Terminator or Robocop. Pulling the car over for a quick history lesson then - Deathlok first appeared in an alternate timeline earth in Astonishing Tales #25, published in August 1974. The issue told the tale of how a former C.I.A. agent and United States Colonel Luther Manning was killed during military war games from an accident with a concussion mine and how it led to the creation of a cyborg super-soldier, a merciless killing machine programmed for death and destruction. No longer the man he once was, a husband and a father, Manning became Deathlok: The Demolisher – only to rebel against his programming.

 

Decades later, in 1990, a new Deathlok appeared in a nine-page short story in Marvel Comics Presents #62 and went on to star in his very own four-issue limited series and later, his very own monthly series. This version of Deathlok starred pacifist computer programmer Michael Collins, who as murdered by his employer and had his brain placed into the new model of the unstoppable killing machine. The ongoing series lasted a total of 34 issues, with the four-part finale “Cyberrstrike” arc that saw the return of the Manning-Deathlok from the alternate timeline to assist the new Deathlok and eventual death of the original.

 

A new and improved Deathlok emerged from the “M-Tech” crossover event in 1999, which also led to two other new series focusing on technological and futuristic characters: X-51 and Warlock. The short-lived Deathlok (written by Joe Casey) took an unexpected twist which had Agent 18 or Jack Truman, one of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s top operatives, the highly trained and skilled, extremely covert man hunter becoming the third cyborg super-soldier. This volume, however, lasted a mere eleven issues.

 

Dlock2.jpg

 

So, what made Marvel decide to do another Deathlok? “Deathlok, along with Fury and Cage, was one of the first characters that I considered for the MAX line back when I first came to Marvel,” Alonso said. “Certain characters benefit from the extended parameters that MAX allows.

 

“Deathlok's a peace-loving guy who's trapped in a car with a pyscho – only in this case, the ‘car’ is a cyborg, and the ‘psycho’ he's trapped with is a computer that's been wired for one purpose: to kill,” the editor continued. “What you've got is a buddy movie between a pacifist and a serial killer, which is kind of funny. This is also the first pitch on which I worked with Daniel Way. After seeing his ashcan Violent Lifestyle, I figured the direction I wanted to take the series was right up his alley -- big guns, monster trucks, inbred rednecks, black humor.

 

And the selection of the artist was just as easy. “As for Darick, he just excels with dark comedy and over-the-top violence, which is why he's always working with Garth [Ennis],” Alonso said. “When he read the story synopsis and the first script, that was that. And I've got to say, this is the best Darick's ever looked in my opinion – he’s pencilling and inking, and working at a pace that doesn't force him to meet crazy deadlines. The result is just sick art.”

 

For Way, though some of his work have been seen in the titles such as Wolverine, Venom, Tangled Web and Gun Theory, the writer gave an indication of how long the project has been gestating. “Detour was the first thing I ever wrote for Marvel. Three years ago.

 

“When Axel first called me, back in November of 2000, he asked me to do a story for what would eventually become Tangled Web. Problem was, I was way too raw - and too uninformed about what was ‘acceptable’ for mainstream comics -- to produce anything that could ever be associated with Spider-Man. But Axel was digging the hardcore shit, so when the MAX thing was getting tossed around, he approached me to do Deathlok. Sounded great to me, since he basically told me ‘there are no rules.’”

 

Dlock3.jpg

 

As for his project partner, Robertson, the artist got involved in this slightly later. “This project started over a year ago for me, and I was rolling off a success with Fury,” Robertson said. “Axel had read the script and was scratching his head wondering who would fit the bill as the right artist for the book. He looked up at the copy of the splash from Fury where he's pushing his nephew in a wheel chair and a light bulb went on in his head.

 

”When he offered me the book, I was interested, but needed convincing. Then I read Daniel's script outline and was sold. I went in with a design that I thought would never fly in a million years, but truly thought fit the story and Axel loved it. Deathlok is a cool character but this is a version that reinvents him a bit. Like Fury, he hasn't found his niche in a long time and could use a jumpstart. This series is a fun, non-continuity type of thing that should be a good laugh with over the top action.”

 

Deathlok fans take note though – as Robertson said, this MAX-version of Deathlok still threads along familiar territory: a living, killing machine with a human brain doing what he does best in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic world, although this might not be what fans normally expect in a Deathlok story.

 

“He’s Luther Manning, the original,” Way confirmed. “He got junked and forgotten, then was re-discovered in a weapons surplus buyout.”

 

Other than the lead character, “there's David, who's a ‘special’ little boy, Chief Bleeding Stump, Lieutenant Dingler, a shady old minister, some rednecks, some hippies,” Way said.

 

Dlock4.jpg

 

“Deathlok is set 64 years in the future,” Robertson explained. “Canada has become the world super power and is dominated by the National Pride Brewing Company, that sells the world's most popular beer. They bought Deathlok in some military weapons sell off from the states and want to use him against their competitors. Once he's fired up though, his human brain kicks in, and he breaks free, leaving a path of blood and destruction in his wake. In his desire for freedom and suicide, he inadvertently kills the parents of a young mentally retarded boy. Feeling responsible he decides he can't kill himself until the boy is safe, but finding a safe place in America in 2064 is not an easy task. To make matters worse, if Deathlok falls asleep, the computer will take over his body and destroy his last bit of humanity.

 

”It's comparable to Fury and Transmetropolitan in that it's reinventing a classic character who's lost his steam and set in a crazy ultra detailed future world,” Robertson continued. “It's different in that the comedy is going to be prevalent, like a Farelly Brother's Mad Max film. I like it because it's MAX and I can really do what I want with it. Axel and Daniel have given me free reign to really direct the story with the art, and make changes to the script visually wherever I feel necessary. Pacing, page layout, everything, so I am really putting a lot of myself into this project.”

 

As for why it’s called Deathlok: Detour? “He gets detoured from his suicide into defending a young boy,” Robertson said.

 

“Deathlok wants to kill himself -- he hates what he is,” Way added. “Always has. Problem is, the computer part of him won't let him do it. So he's gotta figure out how. The other problem is that in the bleak, futuristic setting that the story's told in, this kid doesn't have a hope in hell of surviving. So Deathlok takes a detour from his suicide mission to find a safe place for this kid.

 

“Which, in post-apocalyptic America, is completely impossible.”

 

The look of the MAX-version of Deathlok is based on some of the past designs as envisioned by some of the industry’s best. However, at the end of the day, it’s still Darick Robertson doing what he does best: Letting his imagination run wild, as he did in the past with Fury and Transmetropolitan.

 

Deathlok_kid.jpg

 

“Issue #1 is complete and I’ve penciled all of #2 and #3, and I'm beginning inks on issue #2 while I start penciling Wolverine #12 and am waiting on the script for Deathlok #4. I’m just running wild with my imagination, based on Daniel's story and what I thought they would put Deathlok through as a corporate toy. I loved the Mike Zeck version in Captain America, and drew Deathlok back in 1994 for Spider-Man: The Power of Terror. I enjoyed drawing him that way, but I’m really enjoying this version much more. I also thought about Simon Bisley and Doug Mahnke when I was approaching this new version.”

 

The delays in getting this project off the ground has been a blessing in disguise for the artist as he thinks that “my story telling and page lay out has gotten sharper in this last year, and I have redrawn some of the pages from issue one to make them stronger. This will appeal to MAX fans and fans of my Transmetropolitan and Fury work.”

 

This book looks good. Yeah Deathlok isn't a character whose book I'd buy regularly, but then again, I wouldn't piss on a Thor book. That is until it went MAX (that coulda been Ennis though...). The whole concept of the book sounds all sortsa cool as well, and with Darick Robertson on board ya can't go wrong.

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