I had an incredible, and very rare, experience yesterday. I was browsing one of the local bookstores—‘Better Read Than Dead’—with my girl, and as I often do, gravitated to their small graphic novel section. A hardback caught my eye. I picked it up and suddenly, a little door in one of the dustiest corners of my brain flew wide open, and out bounded Magnus, Robot Fighter 4,000AD, as big and strong as he was when he got locked in there some thirty-odd years ago.

I’d discovered a new—and the first ever—Dark Horse reprint of a comic series that was published in 1963 by Gold Key. I’d owned—or my brother had owned—issue number two, ‘Operation Disguise’, and I must have read it a million times at a very young age (I was born in 1965, and comics didn’t often last that long back then). The incredible thing is, after totally forgetting all about this comic, I picked up the book yesterday and every frame was indelibly etched into my subconscious. I recognised every line, and could recall how every image sparked off my imagination in that particular vivid way that only young kids understand. Each panel wasn’t a flat 2D image, but a little window into a huge 3D space that my imagination filled out in incredible detail.
It was ridiculously expensive, and I reluctantly put it down for later purchase. Of course when I walked out of the store my girl had bought it for me. Am I lucky or what?

So Magnus, Robot Fighter is back in my life. Magnus is your classic Flash Gordon/Buck Rogers type who runs about the continent-sprawling city of North Am in 4,000AD in a very brief red mini-tunic (this is the future, when men are OK with things like that), karate-chopping evil robots (who almost always go “SQUEEEE-*!!!” when their metal ass is busted) and saving the luscious Leeja Klane. It was the creation of Russ Manning, who was apparently inspired by Tarzan (robots instead of apes!) This new hardback is Volume One of three, which collects together the entire twenty-one issues of the series.

What an indescribable burst of nostalgia. Sadly, the more I look at the images now, the more the vividness of the recall slips away. It’s as if that door has been opened and the rarified air of childhood is now mixing with today’s atmosphere. Like opening Tutankhamen’s tomb, and an elusive scent of flowers from thousands of years ago slipping out and being lost forever. It made me think a lot about how everything seems to be stored somewhere in our brains, and the way a smell, a particular combination of shapes, a snippet of music, can bring back the most vivid recollections.

Or a sound of course. SQUEEEE-*!!!