When artist and native Detroiter Rich Buckler created Deathlok for Marvel Comics in 1974, his famous creation was not intended to be part of the Marvel Universe proper.
“I wasn’t thinking in ‘Marvel Universe’ terms. As the uncredited editor of my own book, I was left alone to do whatever I wanted. It was only later (he) was drafted by Marvel’s editorial department… to be integrated into Marvel continuity,” explained Buckler, 65, of New York.
A 1965 Redford High School alumnus, Buckler will appear with several artists at the Great Lakes Comic-Con in Warren on Oct. 17-18.
Buckler broke into comics in 1972 after sending artwork to the late Jack Kirby, a pioneering artist who created/co-created Captain America, the Hulk, X-Men, et al. Kirby instructed Buckler to contact his colleague/collaborator Stan Lee.
“(Kirby) said to me, ‘Tell [Lee] I said to give you a job, and if he has any problem with that, tell him to give me a call,’” recalled Buckler.
At this meeting with Lee, Buckler was given a “Man-Wolf” story to draw. From there, Buckler illustrated nearly every Marvel and DC character, including Superman, Spider-Man, among many others.
Creating Deathlok – who debuted in 1974’s “Astonishing Tales” No. 25 – was a highlight of Buckler’s career. Deathlok is Luther Manning, a wounded soldier from Detroit reanimated in a cyborg body.
“Deathlok was the first of his kind in terms of concept and appearance. All the other cyborg super-soldier characters that have come after him seem to be patterned after [him],” said Buckler. “[Robocop is an] extremely close imitation… And a whole lot of comics fan out there agree with me. ‘Terminator’ owes a lot to my original concept. So does ‘Universal Soldier’ and a bunch of other ‘descendants.’”
A second Deathlok was co-created in 1990 by the late Dwayne McDuffie, a Detroit native. Earlier this year, J. August Richards played Deathlok on “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
“I always liked the psychological element of the person behind the costume,” said Richards. “Honestly, it took me many days to figure out how to really play him because… he’s so conflicted on a human level. How does that translate into the physicality, the voice, the action? Once I figured it out, it was such a great breakthrough.”
Richards wouldn’t comment if he’ll be reprising this role.
“What they are doing is utilizing a character who’s derivative of a character who was derived from my original character. It’s a bit disingenuous to pawn this version off as the real thing. And what bothers me most is that this version will probably be regarded as the definitive one and that would negate what I originally created,” said Buckler.
Still, Buckler was impressed with Richards’ performance.
“He looks intense. He looks the part. I would like to see him look a lot more like the Deathlok from the comics,” said Buckler. “[Deathlok] was a technological anomaly – a tragic product of the military and modern science gone awry. His life and everything it means to be human was stolen from him… When you think about it, Deathlok is a veritable new archetype of the 20th century – a luminous and surreal symbol of our troubled times.”
ALSO APPEARING AT THE 2014 FALL GREAT LAKES COMIC-CON:
The 2014 Fall Great Lakes Comic-Con will be held on Friday, Oct. 17, and Saturday, Oct. 18, in the Sports and Expo Center on the South Campus of Macomb Community College, located at 14500 E. 12 Mile Rd. in Warren.
• Times are 5 to 9 p.m. on Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday.
• Admission is $15 both days or $10 for a one-day pass.
• Children 10 and under are admitted free on both days.
• Parking is free throughout the weekend.
Several artists – the majority having Detroit ties – will be present at this event, including Buckler, William Messner-Loebs (writer of “Thor” and “Wonder Woman”), Keith Pollard (“Thor” and “Fantastic Four” artist), and Arvell Jones (“All-Star Squadron” artist). The Guest of Honor is Jim Steranko, the legendary writer/artist of “Captain America” and “Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
For further information about the Great Lakes Comic-Con, see greatlakescomiccon.org