Recently, ABC’s Agents of SHIELD revealed the appearance of one of Marvel Comic’s most original, yet forgotten characters back into the Marvel Universe: DEATHLOK! While most fans of the show and/or comics have little to no idea who Deathlok was or is without Googling him; allow me (a long-time fan of the character) the privilege of filling you in. Deathlok was truly a unique and original comic book character for the time. Appearing years before The Terminator (1984) or Robocop (1987), even DC Comics’ own Cyborg (1980), Deathlok has had an interesting and troublesome history within the Marvel Universe, having appeared in several different incarnations (and universes) within the past 40 years. Deathlok first appeared in "Astonishing Tales" #25, in August 1974. Created by artist Rich Buckler and writer Doug Moench, the character appeared in numerous comic books as a guest star and team-up books throughout the 1970’s such as “Marvel Team Up”, “Marvel Spotlight", "Marvel Two-In-One" and "Marvel Fanfare". Col. Luther Manning was killed during military war games from an accident with a concussion mine in 1985 (in an alternate timeline). Manning's superior, Major Simon Ryker, salvaged his body for use in Project: Alpha-Mech, a covert operation whose purpose was to create cyborg super-soldiers. In a procedure performed by Major Ryker's brother, CIA official Harlan Ryker (code-named Hellinger), Manning's brain, nervous system, and still-living tissue were transplanted into a synthetic body and became Deathlok; a merciless killing machine programmed for death and destruction. Now Manning's life is over, his brain and what’s left of his horribly scarred and decayed flesh, is encased in a metal cybernetic body. He soon realizes that he can override the machine's programming and destructive impulses and uses them to his own advantage. No longer the man he was, although unable to end his own life due to his programming, he accepts his fate and escapes in search of himself. The original Deathlok disappeared from regular comics after a 3-issue appearance in "Captain America" # 286-288, in 1983. In 1990, a new Deathlok appeared in “Marvel Comics Presents” #62, in a 9-page short story, then in his own 4-issue limited series in July 1990, written by Dwayne McDuffie and Gregory Wright; and artist Jackson Guice, with covers by Joe Jusko. The new Deathlok finally achieved his own monthly series in July 1991. The new Deathlok was very different from his 1970’s counterpart, Michael Collins, a pacifist computer programmer working for Cybertek Systems Inc., until one day, he discovered he was helping to build a secret weapon instead of artificial limbs for the handicapped. The project was a cyborg super soldier controlled by a human brain, code-named: Deathlok. Outraged, he approached the head of the company Harlan Ryker, who murdered him. His brain was extracted and placed in the Deathlok cyborg. After its first mission, Michael's consciousness took over, overrides the programming and escaped! Now Michael's life and humanity is lost, but driven by his revenge upon those who made him this cybernetic monster. Now he struggles to reclaim his humanity and hopes to recover his human body, his family, and to live a normal life again. After several appearances alongside several prominent Marvel comic’s characters even the original Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., the character disappeared into Marvel obscurity after 1994. In 1999, Marvel revived Deathlok as part of their M-Tech comic series. S.H.I.E.L.D (Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate) Agent #18, Jack Truman, a highly trained and skilled, extremely covert and S.H.I.E.L.D's best man-hunter. During an altercation with the rogue mutant Cable, Agent Truman suffered severe injuries, which made him a prime candidate for EXTECHOP, a new cybernetic division. His consciousness was transferred into an experimental cyborg. Now he is the most dangerous man and machine in the world, his body is a weapon equipped with an arsenal of futuristic weaponry. But his humanity remained trapped in the machine. Unfortunately this latest Deathlok only had a run for about a year until the M-Tech line was cancelled around 2000. In 2003 a failed comic project for Marvel’s Max comic-line was set to be released titled Deathlok: Detour, but it was never published. Finally in 2009, Marvel brought Deathlok: the Demolisher back from the dead for a 7-issue mini-series. In this incarnation, two personalities are at war inside the Deathlok cyborg with Capt. Luther Manning’s brain inside Lt. Mike Travers body. Sadly, the limited series ended with no possibility for an ongoing monthly series. Recently there have only been a few minor appearances by Deathlok including appearances in “Beyond!” (2006) “Wolverine: Weapon X” (2009), “Uncanny X-Force” (2010), and “Wolverine & the X-Men” (2011). Currently in the Agents of SHIELD TV show, Deathlok is Mike Peterson, formerly an out of work factory employee who received powers from a clandestine organization known as Centipede with stolen Chitauri technology (The Avengers movie). Later, after being saved from Centipede and joining S.H.I.E.L.D., he sacrificed himself to save his son who had been kidnapped by Centipede. Believed to be dead, Centipede repaired his body with cybernetics and turned him into the killing machine known as Deathlok! Who knows what the future will hold as Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continues alongside the growing canon of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe.
April 9, 2014