Deathlok in a typical pose. Artist: Rich Buckler.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Marvel Comics
First Appeared: 1974
Creator: Rich Buckler
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One of the hallmarks of Marvel Comics is continuity, the quality of each story being part of a continuous thread, where what happens in one will affect those that follow, rather than each story existing on its own. An example of a series that doesn't have continuity is Casper the Friendly Ghost, in which the stories can be read in any order without loss of understanding because they exist …

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… independently of one another. But continuity worked so well in generating reader interest for Marvel during the 1960s, it was quickly adopted by that company's biggest rival, DC, and nowadays practically all "serious" comic books use it heavily.

One of its disadvantages is that things can get complicated and hard to follow, especially when a series runs a long time or is handled by a variety of creators with differing visions for it. But here's a series that got complicated and hard to follow early on, when very few creators had worked on it.

Deathlok the Demolisher started in Marvel's Astonishing Tales #25 (August 1974), replacing It the Living Colossus. The series was set in 1985, 11 years in the readers' future, but the reason for doing so is unclear — it didn't use technology that couldn't easily be found in Marvel comics set in the present; and while a major theme involved individual misuse of government power, that too was a staple of Marvel comics set in the present. A confusing time-travel romp through a possible future or two soon landed the character back in the 1970s, where he became available for crossovers with denizens of the mainstream Marvel Universe, which only highlighted questions about the purpose of locating him in the near future in the first place.

Deathlok (the character's full name, "Demolisher" being an appendage added to the series title, also for unclear reasons) started out as Luther Manning, a U.S. Army officer who had come up through the ranks all the way from private. His superior, Major Simon Ryker, took an accident with a "concussion mine" as his cue to have Manning surgically transformed into a cyborg under Ryker's personal control. Deathlok broke free, however, and afterward used his capacity for death and destruction in service of the CIA, evil corporations, and similar institutions. He may also have done a heroic deed or two during all this, depending on your definition of "heroic". He had a couple of clones along the way, which made things ever so easy to follow.

Deathlok was created by cartoonist Rich Buckler (Reagan's Raiders), who both plotted and pencilled the origin story as well as subsequent ones in the series. Early stories were scripted by Doug Moench (Moon Knight). Later scripts were by either Buckler or Bill Mantlo (Alpha Flight, Captain Universe). The character's name seems to have been chosen by a process frequently used in superhero comics of the 1970s and later — shoving together two words chosen apparently at random, and misspelling one. Another example is "Godwulf", a resident of an alternate future who was involved in Deathlok's time transfers.

Deathlok continued as the sole feature in Astonishing Tales, skipping one issue, until, after a couple of years, Marvel pulled the plug. The last issue was #36 (July, 1976). Since no Marvel character is ever left behind, he made occasional guest appearances during the rest of the 1970s and throughout the '80s.

They gave him a mini-series in 1990 and a special in '91. After that, he had an ongoing series for 34 issues, July 1991 through April 1994. In May, 1994, he co-starred with Captain America in a graphic novel. There was another mini-series in 1999. Rich Buckler was not involved in any of the 1990s incarnations.

Unlikely as it may seem, Deathlok's movie is scheduled for release in 2011.


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Text ©2004-06 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Marvel Comics.