Thursday, January 30, 2014

Deathlok and I

SHIELD Deathlok
My desk. Seriously.
I'm an avid fan of the multiple incarnations of the Marvel Comics character Deathlok, so when people I know got word that they are introducing the character into the new Marvel Television (and potentially cinematic) universe, I got flooded with people telling me the news and people asking me what my opinion on the subject is. So I decided to write a little rundown on the character, his history, and my thoughts on this new version. I'm going to concentrate this article solely on the Michael Collins version of the character written by Dwayne McDuffie as not only do I find him the most all around appealing, this new television version seems to be using him as the predominant source of inspiration for this new version.

My History with Deathlok:

SHIELD Deathlok Doom
Issue 4
In early September of 1991, I was 6 years old and living on Crawford Street next door to my babysitter Katie. She is an amazing woman who is near and dear to my heart to this day, more a family member than most of my family. As such, she would take the money my parents would pay her to watch me and spend a decent percentage of it on toys, gifts, and other things for me. On September 1st 1991, Issue 4 of the second incarnation of Deathlok written by Dwayne McDuffie had just came out, and as fate would have it, I entered the Stop & Go grocery mart, and begged Katie to buy me a copy of it, and being the amazing person she is, she did. That day I got into comics, and in particular, the Michael Collins version of Deathlok. I now have a massive collection containing the entire collection of the Collins Deathlok as well as a 9.2 CGC'd copy of Deathlok's first appearance. I still have that original issue as well.


A Synopsis on Michael Collins (Deathlok 2.0*):

SHIELD Deathlok
Michael Collins Deathlok
Michael Collins was a computer programmer who lived a healthy normal life with his Wife and son. He was a pacifist who was put to work on a program that he was told was to help humanity. In truth,  he was helping design the Deathlok project, the creation of the perfect soldier. When he found out about the companies twisted plan, they killed him and stuck his brain in the Deathlok unit which was comprised of corpses, components, and an artificial intelligence system that was programmed to only obey its commander. Upon discovering that he is now a conscious that is alive inside the cyborg, he then hacks the AI he is sharing a body with, takes control of the Deathlok unit, and escapes the facility. Afterwards he begins searching to find his human body so that he can again rejoin his family.
*Yes technically Collins was Version 3, but John Kelly was in the body for 1/3rd an issue of Marvel Comics Presents #62

A Breakdown of the Book:

Deathlok combined Miniseries
What I love about this book (in particular the 4 issue mini-series leading up to the characters main-series) is it's amazing writing. Collins changes the unit and installs a no killing perimeter inside the machine. You are dealing with the most efficient unit of death that has ever been created, with a pacifist who does not believe in violence stuck inside it. Furthermore, the way in which McDuffie deals with showing the reader how this is happening is a constant witty battling dialogue between Michael and the computer, thus creating a story that is a brilliant amalgamation of the 4 types of narrative conflict all wrapped into one:

"Man VS Man"- Collins VS the person who put him inside the machine
"Man VS Self"- Collins confronting situations where he should kill people to accomplish his goal.
"Man VS Nature"- Collins becomes homeless and impoverished after the event takes place. and
"Man VS Society"-  Collins is literally made of bodies alla Frankenstein, society judges him where ever he goes.

The comic then went on to explore racial, gender, and societal issues that were not tackled by comics at that time, all without being preachy to the reader. I stress the word "explore" because it never told the reader how to feel, but offered up a raw look at the topics.

The Genius of McDuffie:

SHIELD Deathlok Dwayne McDuffie
Dwayne McDuffie
McDuffie was a brilliant writer who went on from this project to have a huge career in comics, and eventually was hired to write on the amazing Justice League cartoon. When it became Justice League: Unlimited he was promoted to story editor and producer and went on to be the guiding force of the series. After this success he was later hired to takeover the same role on the Ben 10 series. His last two major projects was adapting the amazing "All-Star Superman", the only Superman story I have EVER cared for, and "Justice League: Doom". "JL:D" was McDuffie's chance to take a slightly darker spin on his television creation and was a GENIUS piece of cinema. The Blu-ray for which has a far too short career retrospective on him that is highly interesting. McDuffie finished writing "JL:D" just before his untimely death at 49 years old. He was by far, my favorite comic storyteller of all time.

The New TV Deathlok:

SHIELD Deathlok Dwayne McDuffie
Newest Deathlok
Mike Peterson (this new TV version of Deathlok) seems as if he strongly takes from this version of the character since his past encounters on the show have all shown he is a decent man who just wants to take care of his son. He seems to be a good person put in a horrible situation, plus, to be blunt about the subject, he's black and named Mike. Collins has thus-far been the only African American version of him. Remember that so far in Deathlok's history the character has been stuck inside the dead body of another person, that is not the characters true body you are looking at when seeing Deathlok. This fact will obviously have to change as the show will want to display the actors face in part.

My Concern Over The New Deathlok: 

SHIELD LEaked Deathlok Firstlook
Leaked Production Photo ;-)
Although the show runners have obviously wanted to do something with his character from the beginning, it scares me that they jumped toward Deathlok as their choice out of desperation for ratings. Mike's character arc thus-far has been all over the map. First he was a hero who had his powers given to him via the centipede serum, then he presumably was locked away, only to still be found out to still be a super-soldier who was under SHIELD training, then we watched him get blown up, then he reappears with no arm or leg and ready for the Deathlok treatment. Just seems as if they are trying to succeed by establishing what is not working. A little all over the map for my taste.

Also, if Centipede had been implanting explosive devices inside their soldiers, why didn't they do it to Mike when they initially gave him his powers as they did to EVERYONE else?

Why A New Deathlok Is Ultimately a Good Thing:

Deathlok 1st appearance
Deathlok 1st Appearance (Luthor Manning)
I'm never someone who cries fowl anytime something bad is done with a character I love, nor am I assuming this will be a bad version of him, I merely have my concerns going into it. Do I wish that the long gestating movie rumored to be directed by Paul McGuigan (Sherlock, Lucky Number Sleven) would happen? Fuck yes. But this almost entirely puts the last nail it its coffin. But the thing about Deathlok is that although it is a character inside the machine, the Deathlok unit itself can host ANYONE inside it. This leaves room for multiple versions of the character within the same universe effectively meaning you can reboot the character again and again within the same universe and choose whether or not you acknowledge the prior versions.

As a matter of fact this is the best thing that could happen to the character regardless of how good or bad the portrayal is. If it's good? They will either port the character over for a standalone movie or at the minimal keep him involved in the universe. If he is bad? It puts the character back in peoples mind for a few more years and makes him ripe to reboot within the existing universe. Either way, I shoot my series of shorts and they will be put forth as one cohesive narrative by years end. That put's me on track to do my own original film in 2015, so by 2020 I should have enough projects under my belt to convince Marvel to let me have a go at the character in 2022 ;-). Just kidding.

Well, actually not at all.

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