The Mystery of Ultra Magnus

The Mystery of Ultra Magnus

Monday, September 22nd, 2003 10:51pm CDT

Category: Site Articles
Posted by: Seibertron   Views: 51,927

Article written by KingMob

Ultra Magnus is one of the most popular characters from Generation 1, and while he survived the run of the American cartoon series, his fate in the other main Transformer media of the time is somewhat less than cheerful. While his demise at the hands of Sixshot in the Japanese cartoon is well-known and may even be considered as a dignified end for the character, the comic continuity dealt with him in a considerably less-than-heroic way.

For a start, Ultra Magnus never appeared in the conventional US comic run at all. His last on-page appearance in the UK comics was in #205, more than 100 issues before the title was cancelled, but this was the Ultra Magnus of 2009; the last narrative appearance of the present version of Ultra Magnus was in issue 171. Then he simply vanished, never to be seen again.

It was an incongruous decision to ‘disappear’ Magnus, because the character had been such a huge part of the storylines of the preceding 90-odd issues. After the death of Optimus Prime (UK#106), Magnus’s role was elevated to that of leading man, the heroic ‘role model’ character. Simon Furman would no doubt have preferred to use Grimlock in this role, but unfortunately for him his favourite character was off-limits for this purpose, thanks to the US portrayal of him at the time as the semi-tyrannical ‘bad’ Autobot leader. Ultra Magnus was the next logical choice, and provided the readers with some of the best storylines of the year, including the fantastic ‘City of Fear’. However, Optimus Prime’s scheduled return meant the Magnus needed to be sidelined. Instead of writing a conclusion for the character, Furman just left him on Cybertron (in the company of the Sparkler Mini-Bots) presumably with the intention of returning to the character, as Magnus was important not just to the fan community; he was important for the validity of the ‘future universe’ stories that Furman enjoyed writing, where he was a major player. But this never happened.

What is more worrying is that Magnus was never seen or mentioned again at all in the present narrative. His absence during the Unicron Saga is especially jarring, particularly during the sequence where the Heralds of Unicron attack Autobase. The combat abilities of Ultra Magnus are practically revered by Emirate Xaaron and colleagues; Operation Volcano and the Wreckers’ first attempted termination of Galvatron both initially depend on his presence. It is markedly odd not to at least see Magnus during the Autobase defence (UK#315); but Furman resorts to having the Z-list character Quickmix act as Emirate Xaaron’s military advisor (a post normally held by capable fan-favourites like Impactor, Magnus and Springer). Then, Magnus is specifically excluded from the character roll-call after Primus transports all the Transformers from Earth to Cybertron (UK #317). Again, Furman goes one step further and has the Cybertronian Autobots personalised by a minor character, namely Backstreet. Finally, it is inconceivable that Ultra Magnus would not seek out his friend and mentor Optimus Prime, after Prime was publicly named leader of the Transformer race by Primus. Therefore, it is pretty safe to assume that Magnus wasn’t just being sidelined or ignored; he wasn’t even there at all. It is also important to note that no-one even mentions him during this crisis, or in any of the 100+ previous issues. To step into the real world, it is also worth noting that Furman was ignoring the US editorial decision to exclude many of the Movie/3rd season only characters at this point; Galvatron being the obvious example of this. So, there was no ‘official’ reason for Magnus to be ignored.

So, just what happened to Ultra Magnus? The possibilities are thus:

A) He was present on Cybertron the entire time, we just didn’t see him during the Unicron War, the aftermath, or the events on Klo and Hydrus 4. He would need to have spent the entirety of Generation 2 on Cybertron.
B) He left Cybertron at some point before the Unicron War and never returned until after the events of Generation 2.
C) He was wiped from reality/existence during the Time War.
D) Simon Furman forgot all about him.

A is highly unlikely due to the reasons outlined above. Magnus should have been defending Autobase, he should have been chosen as the visual representative of the Cybertronian Autobots; his stature would demand at least one panel of him fighting in the Unicron War, like Jazz and Hot Rod. Similarly, if he were to die, we would have to see it. Basically, it is beyond belief to claim that he was present but always off-panel.

B is a possibility, but there is absolutely no evidence for it other than the similar absence of the Sparkler Mini-Bots, Ultra Magnus’s seeming cheerleader squad who followed him around for the last 20 issues of his present narrative appearance. They were used as a kind of ‘special mission’ unit by Xaaron (rescue Magnus, locate Chameleon) and their disappearance is synonymous with that of Ultra Magnus. It is therefore conceivable that the Sparklers and Magnus were sent away on a special mission by Emirate Xaaron himself. This would explain why Xaaron was not accompanied by Magnus; presumably Prime would also know of this mission. The rest, though hard to believe, then falls into place. As entertaining as this theory is, it is far from satisfying, mainly because it is bizarre that Magnus would be gone for so long and that no-one mentions him. Worse, such an event would surely have made excellent material for a potential story; Furman would have at least set up some plot markers pointing to it.

C is my personal favourite, a theory absolutely water-tight apart from one panel of primary evidence in UK 205. In this theory, I put forth the notion that the body of the Ultra Magnus of 2009 – lying shattered on the ground after being gutted by the Horrorcons – is one of the bodies that is sucked up by the Time Rift when it finally manifests. The Rift erases everything that is sucked into it from reality, from existence itself, changing the timelines to compensate for this as it happens. This is the perfect explanation for the disappearance of the present narrative Ultra Magnus. It explains where he goes (he literally does vanish), it explains why no-one else ever mentions him (they don’t remember him because he never existed and the timeline-alteration has changed the past to compensate) and it explains why we don’t see him ever again (yep, still non-existent). With a stretch, one can even explain away the absence of the Sparklers; they are such low-grade characters they could actually be on Cybertron etc and we just weren’t shown them. Or they could even have been caught up in the reality-effect that removed present-day Ultra Magnus. However, this theory is torpedoed by one panel on the last page of UK 205, in which one can just barely make out the figures of Kup, Blurr, Arcee and Red Alert gathering up the inert body of Ultra Magnus after the Rift has been sealed. This panel therefore negates the entire theory, although it should be noted that without it the theory is perfect. Magnus is never seen again in the future storylines either, despite the fact that his body is presumably taken back to the future by his comrades, and that Rodimus Prime can revive him using the power of the Matrix. All I can offer to validate this theory is to either consider the offending panel an art error, or that the re-organisation of the timelines which follow the Time War and create the ‘dark future’ seen in the UK stories (different to the ‘dark future’ shown in the US issue 67) also erase Ultra Magnus from existence. This is merely conjecture, however.

D is therefore the most likely, I’m afraid. Ultra Magnus was no longer a popular toy by 1991, the cartoon had long been cancelled, and no-one was clamouring for his return. Furman was under pressure, writing both US and UK stories and facing the potential cancellation of his title. What with juggling heavyweights such as Prime, Galvatron, Grimlock, and Scorponok, not to mention the whole Unicron thing, there was just no time or room for Ultra Magnus, a relatively forgotten about character at the time.

For my part, I think it was a great shame that Ultra Magnus was forgotten about, especially as his lack of appearances in the comic helped decrease his popularity with the readers. Ultra Magnus is a truly heroic character with a complex personality worthy of respect, and his disappearance took away one of the few strongly humanist characters in the book; the person with the most similar character traits left was probably Scorponok! I also think the Transformers story as a whole lost something when Magnus vanished; the drift towards very action-orientated characters and plots started around the same time as he was removed. While this is not to be considered a bad thing, it would have been enjoyable to have had a cerebral action hero of Ultra Magnus's calibre involved.

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