Saturday, January 25, 2014

365 Days of KirbyTech, Day 25: The Psycho-Man's Murder Machine

There are certain devices we use constantly in our everyday lives whose purpose is completely detectable by their names. A vegetable peeler peels vegetables. A tire pressure gauge gauges tire pressure. A Batmobile mobiles bats. It's all pretty simple, and occasionally a piece of KirbyTech falls under the same criteria: it is, pretty much, what it says on the tin. You don't have to read the user reviews on Amazon for the Ultimate Nullifier to get an idea of what it does. (Nullifies, ultimately.) Such is the case with that device whose name defines its purpose: The Murder Machine.

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 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!

Left: cover of FF #76 (July 1968); pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Sinnott, colors by Stan Goldberg, letters by Sam Rosen
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 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.

Left: cover of Marvel Two-in-One #24 (February 1977); pencils by Ron Wilson, inks by Frank Giacoia, letters by Danny Crespi
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 we'll find out tomorrow!


Rip Jagger said...

That issue of FF was my first that I read got and read on my own. Delicious! Loved seeing the "Murder Machine" get some past due attention!

Rip Off

David C said...

For the record, according to Amazon, the Ultimate Nullifier is, in fact, John C. Calhoun.

Bully said...

So he is, David! And Amazon also tells us that Tom DeFalco's first name is actually 'DO NOT USE.'!