REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS MAGOG
The nineteenth wave of Mattel's superb DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS line of action figures has a significant focus on Golden Age characters, such as Sandman, the Golden Age versions of Hawkman and Atom -- so one does sort of wonder how a distinctly non-Golden Age character like Magog managed to work his way in here.
The package description claims that Magog had his debut in the pages of Justice Society of America, which might be a partial explanation, since that modern title does feature some characters from the Golden Age of DC Comics. However, it's also not entirely accurate.
The character of Magog may have had his first appearance in the mainstream DC Universe within the pages of Justice Society of America, but he was actually introduced within the pages of the acclaimed mini-series by Mark Waid and Alex Ross called KINGDOM COME, an "Elseworlds" tale in which the traditional heroes had largely retired and been followed by their less effective and far more brutal successors. Magog also turned up in the far less-acclaimed sequel, The Kingdom, which I really don't think many people want to think about all that much.
So, who is Magog? For starters, it's an unusual name. It technically has its origins in the Bible, where it appears twice. It was the name of one of Noah's grandsons, and in conjunction with the name "Gog", which as a name also has some affiliation to the comics character Magog, but when used together, their meaning is a little less definitive than the name of a person. The names appear primarily in various scriptures, as well as numerous subsequent references in other works. Their context can be either genealogical (as Magog, Noah's grandson, in Genesis 10:2) or eschatological and apocalyptic, as in Ezekiel and Revelation. They are sometimes individuals, sometimes whole peoples, or in the case of Magog, a geographic region. The passages from Ezekiel and Revelation in particular have attracted attention due to their prophetic descriptions of conflicts said to occur near the end times prophesied in the Book of Revelation.
None of which has all that much to do with the DC Comics character, but I think it helps to know the origin of the name. So, who is the DC Magog?
Magog first appeared in Kingdom Come #1 (May 1996), and was created by Mark Waid and Alex Ross. Within this possible future, he represents the violent, modern-style heroes who come into conflict with the classic, moralistic heroes of the past.
Magog's character design was based on superhero design trends of the time, principally the Marvel Comics anti-hero character Cable, and Cable's creator Rob Liefeld himself. Alex Ross stated, "As I remember, Mark originally told me, 'Make him look like everything we hate in modern superhero design.'" Ross has gone into more detail in an interview with Comic Book Resources:
"That's a character that Mark Waid invented that was really just put to me like come up with the most godawful, Rob Liefeld sort of design that you can. What I was stealing from was - really only two key designs of Rob's - the design of Cable. I hated it. I felt like it looked like they just threw up everything on the character - the scars, the thing going on with his eye, the arm, and what's with all the guns? But the thing is, when I put those elements together with the helmet of Shatterstar -- I think that was his name -- well, the ram horns and the gold, suddenly it held together as one of the designs that I felt happiest with in the entire series."
You know, I always thought Magog looked a whole lot like Marvel's Cable. I just never knew that it was THAT intentional. I've got nothing per se against Cable, but he did seem to be the most prominent representative of a group of overly-violent, and poorly considered characters that came along at the time -- most of which had pretty silly names. I mean, I recall one character that was named "Post", of all things. I seem to recall one comics writer at the time commenting that he thought someone should come up with a character named "Basement" just to see what would happen. It made about as much sense as anything else. While "Magog" may not be quite as nonsensical, the character definitely carried the flavor of what was happening at the time.
In Kingdom Come, Magog, "The New Man of Tomorrow," is a hero with a rising career in the last days of Superman's declining popularity. His true origins are never revealed in the story. His most controversial act at the time was killing the Joker, who was in custody for the murder of Lois Lane and dozens of other members of the Daily Planet. Magog then surrenders to Superman and the authorities. When put on trial for murder, Magog is acquitted, the feeling being that it is time for psychotic super-villains like the Joker to be killed off rather than preserve the belief of heroes of Superman's generation that all life is sacred no matter what the crime or risk of recidivism.
Superman, disgusted with this verdict, goes into self-imposed exile for ten years. During that time, a new generation of heroes following Magog's violent approach begins to arise. Magog himself begins operating with a team of heroes known as the Justice Battalion (a group composed of characters based on the heroes of Charlton Comics). During a battle with the villainous Parasite, Magog's teammate Captain Atom is critically injured, causing him to explode with the force of an atomic bomb. This disaster leaves Kansas completely destroyed, over a million people are killed and much of America's heartland is covered in deadly radiation.
Magog and Alloy are the only survivors of the Kansas blast. This cataclysm is the event which finally draws Superman and many of the heroes of his generation out of retirement, thus leading to the story's inevitable generational conflict. Initially, Magog is considered the most wanted and dangerous criminal in the world and is hunted by Superman's new Justice League. They finally confront him as he tries with little success to put some small order back amongst the ruins of Kansas. Superman goads him with the remark "You must be proud (of this destruction)" which results in Magog lashing out at the Man of Steel, blaming him for the present crisis since he would not adapt to modern ways. It becomes apparent that Magog is traumatized by his experience and seeks forgiveness.
He is taken into custody by the League and held in their special prison where he and others are lectured about their violent ways — though Magog appears to spend most of his time remorsefully in his cell. However, the jail's walls are pierced by a brainwashed Captain Marvel and in the battle that follows, Magog noticeably avoids fighting and just sticks to attempt to save as many lives as he can. At the end of Kingdom Come, Magog retires to Paradise Island, where he is seen caring for the crippled Japanese superheroine Tokyo Rose — and giving another character a hard clout when he fails to show proper respect to Wonder Woman and the Amazons. In the Elliot S. Maggin novelization, it is revealed that Magog even becomes the Dean of Students at Themyscira.
The character was subsequently featured in Justice Society of America. Introduced in Justice Society of America #12 as Lance, the character was introduced as Magog in Justice Society of America #18, and finally given an origin.
Lance Corporal David Reid, great-grandson of Franklin D. Roosevelt, was with the Marine platoon assigned to halt the looting of the National Museum of Iraq during the Iraq War. Reid tracked one of the looters and found an artifact that was a stone fragment of the "old god" Gog. Upon touching it, Reid blacked out, waking up three weeks later to find that he was now filled with plasma energy and that a mark shaped like the Eye of Providence had opened up on his left arm. With the aid of a pointed hand-held device (which got him the nickname "Lance"), Reid was able to project focused blasts of energy.
Because the modern Justice Society of America tries to keep the legacies of former heroes alive, and because Franklin Roosevelt was credited with bringing the JSA together in the first place, the Society asked Reid to join them.
When the Justice Society encounters the Third World survivor Gog, several of their number have themselves "healed" by him. When Gog sets out to save a village from a rogue military attack, the JSA assist him. During the conflict, Lance is struck by an RPG missile and killed. Gog stands over Lance and brings him back to life, replacing his ruined left arm and right eye with gold metal. Gog then dubs Reid Magog. Thankful for Gog's gift, Magog then leads half of the Justice Society in support of Gog, using his staff to send the members who don't agree with Gog's ways back to the Justice Society's headquarters.
The Justice Society discovers that Gog is rooting himself to the Earth, which would cause the planet's destruction if he were ever to leave and seek to destroy Gog to prevent this. Magog protects Gog, until he sees him remove the gifts he gave to the Justice Society and use the corpses of Mister Terrific's wife and Alan Scott's daughter to torture them. Magog then turns on Gog as well. Gog orders Magog to serve him, or have his gift of life taken from him. Magog refuses, saying that he would rather die than live without freedom. The Society finally manages to topple Gog, and Magog beheads him with his staff. After Gog's head is removed from his body, his effects on the Justice Society are reversed, except for Magog, who for some reason remains in his altered state.
Soon after, David leaves the JSA, returning to his family's farm. He later returns to the team, but his military training causes him to chafe under the Society's comparatively lax security and combat ethics. After the team barely survives a mass supervillain attack and returns to the Brownstone to find Mister Terrific had been stabbed by All-American Kid, Magog greatly voices his disdain for the Society's methods, even getting into a brief altercation with the original Wildcat.
After the split that occurs in the Justice Society, Magog forms and joins the newly-formed All-Stars (a team composed mostly of the Justice Society's younger heroes), alongside Power Girl, and helps lead the team along with her. The team received a new ongoing series beginning December 2009.
In September 2009, a Magog solo series was launched, written by Keith Giffen and illustrated by Howard Porter. The series, while loosely tied into the events of Justice Society of America and the JSA All-Stars spin-off series, focuses on Magog as his own character. As such, Giffen gave Magog his own rogues gallery as well as explored Magog's origin, powers, and relationships.
Both JSA All-Stars and the Magog solo series have since ended. I think it would be fair to say that any connection between DC's Magog and Gog and any Biblical references are superficial at best, so I'm not going to delve into that any further.
So, how's the figure? Very nicely done, and extremely distinctive. Magog is one of those characters that really can't use very many existing body parts, but still has to work well within the line.
I tend to think that the Four Horsemen, the sculpting and design team that creates these and other figures for Mattel for DC Universe Classics, Masters of the Universe Classics, and others, likes to include figures like these every so often, because it gives them something more to do than just come up with a new head and maybe an accessory or two that will fit on an established body. Personally, I appreciate the consistency that that sort of thing afford, but there's no reason why a more distinctive figure can't match the consistency of the line as well, and Magog does.
From the look of him, about the only existing parts Magog could have used would be the right shoulder and right lower arm, and I'm not even certain about that.
Magog definitely doesn't fit the "spandex set" look of the average super-hero. The character wears a helmet, dark metallic gold in color, with what appears to be a red gemstone on the forehead, and two curved, ridged horns protruding from the top and curving over to the sides somewhat. The character's face is one of the dead giveaways on this guy being a riff on Cable. His right eye is blank white, with a series of scars around it. His face is otherwise human-looking, with a decidedly stern expression.
Magog is shirtless, but -- once again, with a considerable take on Cable -- the left side of his chest and back, and his entire left arm are metallic. Robotic? Cybernetic? Armored? I'm not entirely sure. So's his neck, for that matter. The metal plating is heavily ridged wherever it appears, on the chest, neck, and arm, and follows closely the musculature of human anatomy. The ridges are more pronounced and heavier-looking on the outside of the arm. All of the armor plating, like the helmet, is dark metallic gold.
There's a ridged metallic plate slung over Magog's right shoulder. This tapers into a narrower ridged section, and finally to a leather strap, cleverly sculpted just on the mid-torso region, so it will look good with the articulation. Most of the plate is sculpted to the figure, but it has an overlay that includes a slight shoulder flare. A fairly complex assembly, but very nicely done.
Magog also has a gold armband wrapped around his right bicep. He is wearing a simple gray glove in his right hand.
Magog has a military type of belt around his waist, brown in color, with numerous small pouches. And they are very small. Not sure what he could keep in these, but if it's more than three bullets apiece, I'd be surprised. Compared to this, Batman's utility belt is downright spacious. He also has a holster attached to the front of the belt, with a pistol inserted into it. Somewhat to my surprise, the pistol is not removable. Usually such accessories are.
Magog is wearing gray trousers, definitely not of the tight-fitting super-hero type. He has broad brown ridged straps wrapped around both upper legs. These do a nice job of concealing the upper leg swivel rotation. There are two pouches attached to the outside of the straps.
Finally, Magog is wearing high brown boots, that include knee pads. The boots are definitely not of a military type, but rather seem to fit the pattern of some of his armor, being heavily ridged even though they are not metallic in color.
One thing especially impresses me about this figure. Despite the fact that this is an entirely new figure, Mattel did not inflict Magog with any ridiculous double-jointed articulation in the elbows and knees. No DC Universe Classics figure needs this, and I have yet to see one that looks good with it, and it doesn't even work very well -- on ANY action figure regardless of the line or the company that makes it. I might've thought that Magog was a little too bulky to be subjected to this, but that didn't stop Mattel from doing it to the Azrael Batman figure a few waves back, and really Magog has a fairly standard musculature. I appreciate the fact that they left well enough alone here. I hope they do so on a regular basis.
The figure's articulation is certainly abundant, as one would expect from a DC Universe Classics figure. Magog is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles.
Magog comes with an accessory, his energy-blasting staff. This device is about 7-1/2" in length, and is nicely detailed with what I would call something like a curved, bulbous tuning fork at the tip. Magog can readily hold it in either hand. I do find myself wondering if the inclusion of the staff is the reason his pistol is not a separate accessory.
So, what's my final word? This is an excellent figure. It's interesting how the character started out. Really, Magog was created for a mini-series, and intended as a condemnatory commentary, and a very visibly specific one, of the type of characters that were cropping up in the comics at the time. Again, I have nothing against Marvel's Cable per se, but I have to say that the type of character he, and Magog, represented were a type of character that grew quite tiresome quite quickly. Cable managed to live past that. And so, it seems, has Magog, finding an identity of his own, while still maintaining a fairly harsh personality. But I don't believe he's really regarded as a villain any longer, and the degree to which he's seen as a particular sort of take on Cable probably depends on who you ask.
I was a little surprised to see him turn up in the DC Universe Classics line, but I'm not sorry that he did. The Four Horsemen really did an outstanding job on this figure from top to bottom, and he no doubt presented a greater challenge, and represents a good bit more individual work, than some other DC Universe Classics figures, as impressive as they all are.
Magog may not be the most prominent member of the DC Universe, but he's an interesting one, and he certainly received an impressive action figure. If you're a fan of the remarkable mini-series Kingdom Come, or just of Magog himself, you'll want this figure.
The DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of MAGOG definitely has my highest recommendation!