Panels from Fantastic Four (1961 series) #76 (July 1968), co-plot and script by Stan Lee, co-plot and pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Sinnott, letters by Artie Simek
The Psycho-Man from Sub-Atomica, literally a big fish in a small pond (except for the fish and the pond part), needs to destroy the Fantastic Four. Well, who doesn't? So why not a big heavy-metal all-battlin' robot in suitably sinister non-primary colors, huh? A robotic brawler who can go fist-to-fist with the Thing, withstand the Torch's heated blasts, bust through the Invisible Girl's force fields, and tie Mr. Fantastic up in knots. Why, we'd have to call him...The Murder Machine!
Several references I've read on FF #76 state that the Murder Machine isn't given a name in this issue, but hey, Reed Richards, who has a great big brain, has quickly sussed out the robot's purpose and design and aptly dubbed him...you know it...a Murder Machine. Also, that Murder Machine sure plays a mean pinball. With Ben Grimm.
Nothing can stop him! Not fists or flame or even high-falutin' insults. That's because he's not a man...he's a Murder Machine!
Well, one thing you have to hand to the Psycho-Man...when he builds a Murder Machine, it's built Ford tough. However, please overlook the fact that it has not actually murdered anyone yet.
Eventually the Murder Machine just goes away, probably so it can keep its spotless record on not losing a battle. Still, on the murder front, he's still batting .000, isn't he? Well, even Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times, and the only thing he ever murdered were medium-grilled ribeye steaks.
And thus the Murder Machine never appears again. Well, unless you count the reprint of this story in Marvel's Greatest Comics #58. (Hey, does that numbering discrepancy mean that Marvel considers that 18 of the FF run until then were not great comics?) Ron Wilson contributed a dynamic new cover for the reprint, which confirms the robot's name in a big red jaggedy font. The two covers next to each other dramatically show the immense difference in Marvel's cover coloring techniques from the '60s to the '70s, though, don't they? And hey, it's a Same Story, Different Cover!
Right: cover of Marvel's Greatest Comics #58 (September 1975); pencils by Ron Wilson, inks by Joe Sinnott, letters by Danny Crespi
(Click picture to anti-Microverse-size)
While it's true that as far as I can tell, ol' MM doesn't appear in the Marvel Universe again, it's just too good a name not to pull out of the drawer once in a while for a different object. The Defenders, everyone's favorite non-team next to Derby County FC in 2007, call their third-partry knock-off of the X-Men's Danger Room...you guessed it...The Murder Machine!
Panels from Defenders #59 (May 1978), script by David Anthony Kraft and Ed Hannigan, layouts by Ed Hannigan, finishes by Dan Green, colors by David Anthony Kraft, letters by Joe Rosen
How deadly is the Defenders' diabolical device? It has rings.
Luckily this Murder Machine comes with a handy green "off" switch...namely, the Incredible Hulk.
Another Murder Machine was a big killdozer driven by C-list villain the Hijacker. Even though he starts out calling it his Crime-Tank, which is a name worthy of Jack himself.
Right: panel from Marvel-Two-in-One #24 (February 1977); script by Bill Mantlo and Jim Shooter, breakdowns by Sal Buscema, finishes by Pablo Marcos, colors by George Roussos, letters by Letters by Joe Rosen
(Click picture to Afro-American Goliath-size)
But later the Hijacker gave into pressure and just called it his Murder Machine.
Panels from Marvel Two-in-One #96 (February 1983), script by Tom DeFalco, pencils by Ron Wilson, inks by Mike Esposito, colors by George Roussos, letters by Joe Rosen
That's because, truly, ya can't beat a name like The Murder Machine! And Jack Kirby definitely knew that...as we'll find out tomorrow!