Saturday, January 22, 2011

Jack Kirby's Machine Man

Fictional character biography

Machine Man, whose real name is Z2P45-9-X-51, was the last of a series of sentient robots created at the Broadhurst Center for the Advancement of Mechanized Research in Central City, California, by robotics expert Dr. Abel Stack for the US Army. However, all previous 50 experimental robots went mad as they achieved sentience and became psychotic, due to a lack of identity. X-51 was the only survivor, as he was treated as a son by Stack and given a human face mask as well as being exposed to one of the monoliths from 2001. After Stack died trying to protect him, X-51 assumed the human name Aaron Stack and escaped confinement, only to be relentlessly pursued by the army. X-51 was named "Mister Machine" by a young boy in issue #9 of the 10 issue run of 2001. When the character received his own comic, the moniker "Mister Machine" was never used. Also, in retelling his origin, there was no reference to the encounter with the monolith, perhaps due to licensing reasons. Kirby called Machine Man "the Robot with a soul", the second Kirby creation to be so endowed. The first was a character named the Recorder, who appeared in Thor, and even looked a great deal like Machine Man. In Thor #162 he was acknowledged to be alive because he had a soul, the soul also being what Machine Man claimed he had that made him part of humanity.

While on the run, the newly-christened Machine Man (Mister Machine in his very first appearances) initiated contact with humanity in order to better understand it. After being captured and later freed, Machine Man was found by psychiatrist Peter Spaulding. He also battled Col. Krag's troops. Soon after that, he first encountered Curtiss Jackson. Alongside the Hulk, he battled Curtiss Jackson. Soon after that, he was redesigned and rebuilt by Dr. Oliver Broadhurst. He then first encountered the Fantastic Four. He then met mechanic "Gears" Garvin, and then battled Baron Brimstone. He also battled Madame Menace. He then first encountered Aurora, Northstar, and Sasquatch of Alpha Flight. Spaulding and Garvin set-up Machine Man with a human identity as Aaron Stack, insurance investigator for the Delmar Insurance Company, but he continued having adventures as a superhero on the side.

In Iron Man v1 #168 (March, 1983), Machine Man attempts to pay Iron Man a visit. Machine Man was seeking to compare notes with Iron Man, thought to be a robot by Machine Man. At the time, Iron Man was drunk, irate, and under considerable stress from the machinations of Obadiah Stane. Iron Man attacked Machine Man and almost killed two of his own employees. At the last possible second, Machine Man's extendable arm pushed them out of the way. Iron Man continued to feel shame and guilt for this even years later, and viewed it as an example of why superheroes needed to be supervised by government authorities.

In a meeting with the Thing of the Fantastic Four, Machine Man also first met and fell in love with another sentient robot, Jocasta. Alongside the Thing and Jocasta, he battled Ultron. However, during the battle, Machine Man witnessed the seeming destruction of Jocasta by Ultron.

He later fought alongside the Avengers, which lead to the invitation to become a team reservist. Later he was captured by S.H.I.E.L.D., who wanted to use his technology to create another Deathlok. He helps the X-Men and Douglock against the villainous Red Skull, who had taken over the Helicarrier where Machine Man was held.

He helped the X-Men again against Bastion and his Sentinels. As a consequence, he was infected by Sentinel programming, assuming a more robotic look in the subsequent series X-51, and losing self-control whenever he was faced with a mutant. During this series he was on the run from Sebastian Shaw, who wants his technology for himself. Because of his new programming, while seeking aid from the Avengers, he attacks Justice and Firestar. Because of his actions against Justice and Firestar, X-51's membership in the Avengers is revoked. At the end of X-51, X-51 encountered one of the monoliths and disappeared, brought into the presence of the monolith's creators, the cosmic beings known as the Celestials.

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