Machine Man: Jack Kirby, Meet Stanley Kubrick
Posted September 14, 2010on:
Even if you’ve never read or seen 2001: A Space Odyssey, chances are pretty good you know about HAL 9000 and his shenanigans. Something you probably didn’t know, however, was that it apparently took place on Earth-616.
“What the hell are you talking about?” asked the entire Internet.
Well, from 1976 to 1982, Marvel would occasionally release comic book adaptations to TV shows and movies written and illustrated by some industry heavyweights under the banner “Marvel Treasury Special.” The first book to carry this banner was the 84-page 2001: A Space Odyssey, written and drawn by Jack Kirby (released a full 8 years after the film’s release).
In December 1976, Kirby began writing a ten-issue limited series also called 2001: A Space Odyssey which expanded on the story a bit. July 1997’s 2001: A Space Odyssey #8, tells the story of Dr. Oliver Broadhurst’s experiments regarding artificial life. After a bunch of his robots suffer existential crises and lash out, General Joeseph Kragg orders him to destroy the whole lot. Unbeknownst to him, fellow scientist Abel Stack has stolen robot X-51 (aka Aaron Stack aka Mister Machine aka Machine Man) and is in the process of removing his self-destruct mechanism when the flip is switched, killing Abel. The military shows up and captures X-51, but he is immediately freed and granted sentience by one of those big monolith things. The rest of the limited series is all about X-51 running away from Kragg’s men, ending in September 1977.
But Kirby wasn’t done yet. April 1978 saw the release of Machine Man #1, continuing the story of X-51 evading Kragg. In issue #4, Earth gets invaded by an alien robot named Ten-For (Kirby loved him some alien invasions) and X-51 jumps in and defeats him. Kragg decides that X-51 isn’t that bad a robot after all and, by the books cancellation with December 1978’s Machine Man #9, they were BFFs.
In April 1979’s Incredible Hulk Vol 1 #234, Hulk’s buddy Trish Star gets kidnapped by a bunch of thugs, one of which is wearing a purple jumpsuit. Since Hulk is a blathering idiot, he immediately sets out to fight X-51 (proving that everything up till now takes place on Earth-616). Incredible Hulk #235-237 are standard “Hulk vs. Hero X” fare (couple issues of fighting and then everybody walks away).
After the conclusion of that storyline, Marvel renewed the Machine Man series under Marv Wolfman and Steve Ditko with August 1979’s Machine Man #10. Dr. Broadhurst attempts to repair the damage caused by Hulk and, in doing so, takes away all of X-51’s offensive weapons. Tom DeFalco took over for Marv Wolfman with issue #15 and immediately started integrating more Marvel characters into the title. The series ended with February 1981’s Machine Man #19 (which was also first appearance of Jack O’Lantern and had a pretty rad Frank Miller cover).
X-51 made a couple other appearances including Marvel Two-In-One #92-93, in which he falls in love with Jacosta juuuust in time for her to get blown up by Ultron. Later, in March 1983’s Invincible Iron Man Vol 1 #168. After Obediah Stane beats Iron Man in the previous issue, Tony Stark has gone back to drinking. Just as Tony reaches shit-faced levels of drunkenness, X-51 shows up to ask for help. Tony’s immediate reaction is suiting up and beating the crap out of X-51.
In January1988’s The Avengers Vol 1 #287, X-51 is told by Fixer that Jacosta will be resurrected if he fights against the Avengers alongside a bunch of other robots. Of course, Fixer is screwing with him, and by issue #290 he’s switched sides. Later, he helps out again in Avengers: West Coast #83 and becomes a reserve member.
Nothing really happens until Cable and Machine Man Annual 1998 and Bastion and Machine Man Annual 1998, in which he helps the X-Men fight Bastion and accidentally ends up full of Sentinel technology. In August 1999’s Uncanny X-Men #371, SHIELD agents capture Machine Man with the intention of using parts of him to create Deathlok. They do, but in X-Men Annual 1999, Red Skull attacks the SHIELD helicarrier housing Machine Man. He saves the day but is seemingly destroyed in the process.
He’s not. In September 1999’s X-51 #1, a federal agent named Jack Kubrick (subtle!) tries to beat the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants in recovering X-51’s head. Mystique decapitates Kubrick, but his headless body picks up the head of X-51 and puts it on his own shoulders. He spends the next few issues fighting off the Hellfire Club, learning about his new powers (specifically, self-repairing nanobots), and dealing with the fact that the Sentinel technology gives him the urge to kill mutants. In X-51 #7, X-51 gets blown up in a gas station explosion and, when his nanobots piece him back together, he’s completely purged of Sentinel technology. The series ends with July 2000’s X-51 #12, where the Celestials (another Kirby creation) send down a big black monolith (full circle!) and whisk X-51 off into space.
He next pops up in March 2006’s phenomenal Nextwave: Agents of HATE #1, written by Warren Ellis. It is revealed that the Celestials didn’t actually take too kindly to X-51 (“You are total ☠☠☠☠”), and dump him back on Earth. Upon his return, he develops a cynical attitude towards humans and a taste for beer. joins up with Monica Rambeau, Tabitha Smith, Elsa Bloodstone, and Captain ☠☠☠☠ and battles their former boss, Dirk Anger, and his Broccoli Men.
In October 2007’s Ms. Marvel Vol 2 #18, he joins her new Initiative team, Operation: Lightning Storm, but that group disbanded in Ms. Marvel Vol 2 #27.
Aside from these appearances, Machine Man has popped up in some non-canon places. Aside from being the main protagonist of both Marvel Zombies 3 and Marvel Zombies 5, he also got a limited series in 1984 written by Tom DeFalco. It took place in an alternate future on Earth-8410 but,despite being extremely boring, was extremely popular.
So, yeah. From 2001: A Space Odyssey to Marvel Zombies. Everything you ever wanted to know about a character you never asked to know anything about.