Friday, February 20, 2009

Famous First Fridays: Deathlok the Demolisher

Young Groove thought the Six Million Dollar Man was pretty cool until he laid eyes on Rich Buckler and Doug Moench's Deathlok the Demolisher in Marvel's Astonishing Tales #25 (May, 1974). Here was a hero, uglier than Jonah Hex, part man/part machine, loaded with cool weapons, saddled with two extra personalities (a computer and what can only be described as a "goth"), being used as a pawn in a war he wanted no part of. (Talk about being a product of the times!) Steve Austin seemed a bit...tame after reading the exploits of Luther Manning, y'know?

Writer Doug Moench was proving he could write adult comics for all ages (yeah, dig it--it can happen!) with his stint on the strip (AT #'s 25- 31), while Rich Buckler, the heart of the strip, was perfecting his melding of the art styles of Jack Kirby, Neal Adams, John Buscema, and Jim Steranko into a slick, dynamic, sophisticated style that became a trend-setter itself (looking especially fantastic when Klaus Janson was providing the inks as he did on issues 31 and 33-35). Buckler plotted or co-plotted each issue, and even scripted or co-scripted several issues ( 28, 30, 32, and 36). Bill Mantlo took over the scripting chores for issues 32-35, and kept things rolling along quite nicely. The series really grabbed me, man! Sadly, the strip didn't grab enough readers to stay around very long and it ended with Astonishing Tales #36 (April, 1976).

Deathlok might have been a man "locked in death", but he refused to die. He popped up again in Marvel Spotlight #33, Marvel Two-In-One #'s 26-29, 32, 34, 53-54, Marvel Fanfare #4, and Captain America #'s 286-288 (by J. M. DeMatteis and Mike Zeck--highly recommended!). In the 90s Luther Manning was replaced by more characters calling themselves Deathlok, but none with the cool of the original. Oh, and the original Deathlok is another series Marvel has failed to reprint in trade format. Get with it, Marvel!

Now, check this out! Not only is Ol' Groove providing ya with the dynamic debut tale from Astonishing Tales #25, but also the "behind the scenes" text piece and the humorous story of Deathlok's true creation (featuring the artistic debut of Gorgeous George Perez, no less!) from that incredible ish! Still not enough for ya? Well then, I'll also toss in Doug Moench's "Buckler & Me & Deathlok Makes Three!" piece from FOOM Magazine #5! Who loves ya, baby?


  1. Luther has just popped up again recently, actually. Unfortunately, Brian Michael Bendis got a-holt of him and he gets wasted. Both literally and figuratively.

    It's a shame. I still treasure those Marvel Two in One issues.

  2. Buckler's habit of constantly doing Buscema swipes was a pain, but you're right, Deathlok rocked! Extremely violent & nihilistic for a code approved book. Always amused me that they felt the need to add 'The Demolisher' too. What, Deathlok's not a scary enough name?

  3. I look at Deathlok nowadays and see the forerunner of Robocop and The Teen Titans' Cyborg, to name but two characters.Rich Buckler was obviously ahead of his time, especially with regards to the violence in the strip: there was a heated debate on that in the letter columns at the time, but today it wouldn't be such a big deal.BTW thanks for posting the FOOM article, never seen that before.

  4. i know buckler has taken a lot of flak for swiping over the years, but when this comic came out i didn't know about any of that. the only thing i knew was that this comic was THA BALLZ!!!!

  5. Yet another "wish I could've bought that but my allowance wasn't large enough" title! I think my problem is that I was so obsessed with Marvel's horror titles (even the reprint titles like "Where Monsters Dwell"), that it soaked up a lot of my funds.

    Deathlok always looked great to me and I'm hopeful we'll see a Marvel Masterworks collecting these at some point down the road. Very original.....and as for Rich Buckler, I always thought he was talented.....and he seems like a great guy, to boot, with a lot of enthusiasm for the art form.

  6. I think Buckler doesn't get enough love from fans myself, Chris. His Deathlok, Black Panther, Avengers, and such were great! I dug his turn doing Kirby on the FF as well...

  7. Yes....his take on Kirby was wonderful. Sinnott complimented him so well, too. I was sorry to see him leave the F.F.

    And I enjoyed his stay on Jungle Action with The Black Panther.....which Billy Graham did a great job continuing! Yeah...if someone handed me a few Buckler originals, I wouldn't exactly cry about it!

  8. Deathlok was a unique character.The problem was you read it the arguement between Luthor Manning and the computer,sice the story was all over the place.This first issues had too many flashbacks.And the next guy to be Deathlok was more Marvel Soap Opera dribble.Didn't like it-didn't read it and I haven't those other series neither.I look at Deathlok nowadays and see the forerunner of Robocop and The Teen Titans' Cyborg, to name but two characters-you rip off-right down the black man Manning was supposed to be before some screwed up.And one fearing us fans were too stupid to know the difference between General Ryker and General Ross,made Colonel Mannings superior Major Ryker-forgetting a Colonel outranks a major.Someday Marvel will get Deathlok right-hopefully-once you stop hiring all the hacks to write his book.

  9. As of October 2014, Marvel has released a collected edition of all the original Luther Manning Deathlok issues. It's worth reading.



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Special thanks to Mike's Amazing World of Comics and Grand Comics Database for being such fantastic resources for covers, dates, creator info, etc. Thou art treasures true!

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