Michael Collins was created by Dwayne McDuffie, Gregory Wright, and Jackson Butch Guice in 1990, while the preexisting Deathlok persona and design were created by Rich Buckler and Doug Moench in 1974.
Michael Collins is perhaps the best known Deathlok and starred in the 1990's ongoing Deathlok series. He first appeared in issue 1 of the Deathlok mini-series (1990) before he got his own ongoing series.
Collins was a pacifistic computer programmer working for Roxxon's Cybertek division developing prosthetic limbs which he believed were being used to help those in need. To his horror, however, he discovered that Cybertek was using his designs to create cyborg super-soldiers. Upon learning about this he complained to his boss, Harlan Ryker, hoping that Ryker would be sympathetic to his objections. Instead Ryker killed Collins and had his brain used to replace that of John Kelly in the Deathlok prototype. Ryker than reported Collins as dead to his friends and family.
Major Story Arcs
A Living Nightmare
Roxxon's new Deathlok prototype was dispatched to Estrella to put down guerilla forces preventing Roxxon's construction of a new dam. He slaughtered many, but when ordered to kill a young girl, Michael's pacifistic personality asserted itself over the Deathlok programming.
Ryker, worried about this unexpected development, brought Deathlok back to Cybertek for study. While his body was in stasis, Michael managed to interface his active consciousness with the Deathlok programming and take it over. When Ryker's scientists prepared to wipe Michael's brain patterns away from Deathlok, Collins broke free and escaped the compound.
Michael tried to return home, but terrified his wife and child. He considered suicide, but decided to impart one last lesson to his son. By hacking into his son's computer game, he told his son that doing the right thing was often hard, and realized that this could give his life meaning as well. Michael resolved to keep living, and be a hero through hard times.
Deathlok took to the streets to fight crime, though he programmed his body to never kill a human being. After saving Jesus Badalemente from muggers, he moved into his tiny apartment. He also made contact with his friend and co-worker Jim Dworman, who sent him a file with information on Roxxon's actions in Estrella. Ryker hadn't given up on recovering Deathlok, and sent Mainframe and a team of Cybertek operatives to Coney Island to ambush him, but Deathlok handily defeated them.
Deathlok went to Estrella looking to make right what Ryker had made him an accomplice in. He helped the paramilitary forces there destroy the dam, knowing that the sunk cost would cause Roxxon to abandon the project. Cybertek employee Ben Jacobs, a member of the Deathlok team humiliated by Michael's defection used a group of massive robotic "Worker Ants" to defend the dam, but one Michael realized they were being remote controlled, he was able to hold Jacobs at gunpoint and force him to stop. The dam was destroyed, and Deathlok left.
Nick Fury recruited Michael to arrest Ryker for him. When Michael went to arrest him, however, Ryker showed him his human body and promised to return him to his original form if he helped him with a business deal. Michael reluctantly agreed to act as Ryker's bodyguard while Ryker sold weapons to a group of Japanese militants, but when the militants turned on Ryker, he was forced to fight Sunfire. The two quickly realized that they had been misled and joined forces against the militants. Ryker gave Michael the opportunity to help him evade S.H.I.E.L.D., but Michael instead gave them all the incriminating evidence he had, knowing full well that it probably doomed him to live as a cyborg forever.
The Wolf is at the Door
Harlan tried to use his cybernetic Warwolf to kill key witnesses for his upcoming trial, but Michael, still searching for a way to restore his humanity, caught wise to his scheme and was forced to kill the beast to protect the evidence against Ryker.
The Souls of the Cyber-Folk
Michael was recruited by Misty Knight to help her find several of her friends, all cyborgs and androids, who were being abducted by strange craft. The two soon found Machine Man, Bushwacker, Forge, Ultron, Ruby Thursday, and Jocasta being held at a strange base. They at first believed it to be the work of Doctor Doom, but Michael soon discovered that it was a particularly advanced Doombot, who severed Misty's arm. Michael soon returned, and fought the Doombot, who identifies himself as Mechadoom in cyberspace while Misty, Fantastic Four, and the X-Men fought his Doombots in the real world. Michael, recognizing his true humanity and fear managed to reason with him and free his prisoners, but a vengeful Ultron killed Mechadoom before the robot could truly discover himself.
Michael continued to watch over his family from afar. One day, while watching his son Nick at a playground, a group of armed gangsters did a drive-by shooting, killing several children, and almost harming Nick. Michael personally hunted down the criminals, and interrogated them. He found out that one of Nick's friends was a drug dealer, and Nick himself was acting as a drug mule. Michael turned the gangsters over to the police, despite his rage.
Michael tracked Nick and his friend to a gang meeting, where the children were kidnapped by their employer, Silvermane. The Punisher, having heard of the murder of children showed up to kill, the gangster, but inadvertently put Nick at risk. Deathlok intervened, and fought Punisher, allowing Silvermane and his men to get away. Although he loathed Punisher's violent methods, Deathlok agreed to team up with him in order to recover his son. The two tracked down Silvermane, and Deathlokwas able to non-lethaly handle Silvermane and most of his men, but Punisher saved Nick's life by killing a man with a thrown knife. Despite disliking the brutality, Michael found himself thankful for Punisher's intervention. Nick suspected that Deathlok was his father, but Michael denied it, claiming to be watching over Nick as a favor before asking Punisher to escort Nick home, having acquired some trust for the man.
The Ultimate War Machine
Ben Jacobs and Mainframe teamed up to hack into and control Deathlok, planning to use for for mercenary operations. In order to prove his effectiveness, Mainframe forced Deathlok to attack an A.I.M. facility. When Mainframe tried to force Deathlok to kill, he fought back and managed to throw off Mainframe's programming. Mainframe decided to flee, using his remote control to force Jacobs to help him escape, although Jacobs wanted to outright kill Deathlok as payback for earlier humiliations.
Deathlok Vs Ghost Rider
Nightmare trapped the mind of Michael Collins in his own virtual dreams, leaving Michael's subconscious fears to operate the Deathlok android. Deathlok rampaged around the city, its anti-kill condition barely holding out. Ghost Rider, believing Deathlok to be malicious, attacked Deathlok, but became trapped in Michael's nightmares when he used his Penance Stare on Deathlok. After Michael conquered his fears he was able to regain control, and he and Ghost Rider parted ways.
Deathlok discovered that Curtis Carr, an employee of Stark Prosthetics and former supervillain, was using the vigilante guise of "High-Tech" to steal old Cybertek files to help those in need. The file's new owners, Magnum Munitions tried to kill Carr, but Deathlok stopped them; he had the chance to work with Carr on creating prosthetics, and although he disapproved of Carr's theft, he respected the man's work, and was left longing for a chance to do similar work for those in need.
Deathlok later did Nick Fury a favor by saving a Symkarian ambassador from the mercenary Powderkeg.
Fury then told Collins that his wife Tracy was pregnant with Michael's second child, and that Tracy had discovered the truth about Michael being Deathlok. Michael resolved to return home to her, but before he could he was attacked by Mandroids who believed him to be responsible for the murder of S.H.I.E.L.D. personnel. Deathlok managed to subdue the Mandroids and Fury set the record straight, allowing Michael to finally reunite with his family.
Michael had a difficult time reconnecting to his family, with his wife barely able to stand looking at him. However, this drama was interrupted by Billy Hansen, a Cybertek scientist who had been killed by Warwolf. Hansen explained that before he had died he had mutated the brain of John Kelly, which had become the monster Biohazard. Biohazard had killed the S.H.I.E.L.D agents that had blamed on Deathlok in order to gain their memories, and had done the same to Hansen, before resurrecting Hansen. Biohazard's ultimate goal was to consume the brain of Deathlok, in order to regain the back-up of Kelly's memories within the Deathlok system. As soon as Hansen had explained this, his mind and body were overwritten he transformed into Biohazard, who had actually used Hansen's form and memories as a trick to ambush Deathlok.
Biohazard attacked Michael and the rest of the Collins family. Michael was able to barely stop Biohazard with the help of S.H.I.E.L.D agent Earl Angstrom, trapping it in a containment tank. They soon discovered that another of Biohazard's bodies was still on the loose, going after Kelly's estranged family.
Collins and Angstrom arrived in the nick of time, barely managing to stop Biohazard from consuming the Kelly family in a misguided desire for "closeness" Deathlok tried to appeal to Biohazard's humanity, but was forced instead to tear Kelly's mutated brain out of Biohazard. Biohazard was no more, and Angstrom took the brain into S.H.I.E.L.D custody. Shaken by the danger his family had been placed in, Collins decided that he should live apart from his family, but keep in contact with them in order to hold onto the things that matter.
Deathlok was briefly confronted by Evilok, a duplicate created by the Magus. Deathlok was able to overwrite his code and leave him comatose, but had little knowledge of the Infinity War and the part he played in it.
Deathlok was also briefly pulled into the future by a man called Timestream. At first he believed Timstream to be a noble rebel, but discovered that he was in fact a power-mad conqueror; Deathlok foiled his machinations, and both were returned to their own times.
Trying to understand John Kelly's motivations, Michael opened Kelly's memory files, but they unexpectedly manifested as a digital consciousness, one that was disgusted by Collin's pacifism and perceived weakness. Although Michael maintained control, Kelly began to manifest as another voice within Michael's consciousness.
Jim Dworman discovered that Roxxon had knowledge of Michael's human body. Roxxon executive Clayton Burr agreed to help Michael, on the condition of Roxxon retaining the Deathlok body. He informed Michael of a rogue cell of Cybertek scientists using proprietary Roxxon technology, who had possession of Michael's body. Despite Kelly's belief that Burr was hiding something Michael decided that following Roxxon's ordered was his only option. Unbeknownst to Michael, Burr was setting him up to be captured by these scientists as revenge for Michael's damage to Roxxon.
Recruiting the help of Silver Sable and the Wild Pack, Collins went to Paris and attacked the terrorist cell ULTIMATUM, who had ordered several Cyberwarriors from the ex-Cybertek personnel. Collins became increasingly uncomfortable with the Wild Pack's violent methods, especially as Kelly's consciousness urged him to start using lethal force.
The group managed to infiltrate the facility where the Cyberwarriors were being manufactured, and discovered the culprits: Ben Jacobs, Mainframe, and Harlan Ryker. As Jacobs used his battlesuit to pummel Deathlok, Kelly urged Collins to give up control, allowing the more seasoned combatant to preserve their existence. When Collins refused, Kelly managed to transfer his consciousness to the body of a Cyberwarrior, becoming the cyborg known as Siege. With Siege's superior firepower, Deathlok and the Wild Pack were able to force Mainframe, Ben Jacobs and the Cyberwarriors into a full retreat. Collins's hesitation to kill the barely-sentient Cyberwarriors tragically cost several civilians their lives, causing Collins to despair, blaming himself for Siege and for the actions of Cybertek.
The Wild Pack left, pursuing a group of Cyberwarriors that had been sold to the terrorists. After the enemies had escaped, Collins confronted Siege, calling him an uncaring, unliving monster. Siege mocked Collins's weakness, and goaded him. Deathlok, deciding that Siege was more monster than man and had to be stopped, prepared to execute him, but was stopped by Nick Fury. Fury incapacitated Siege, but Siege broke free and attacked. Despite their differences, Siege promised not to kill any innocents, and urged Deathlok to finish the mission and regain his human body. Collins reluctantly agreed, fleeing the scene.
After escaping, Collins was confronted by the cyborg mercenary Coldblood, who had been tricked into believing Deathlok a murderer. After a brief fight, Deathlok used cyberspace to show Coldblood his memories, proving that he wasn't a killer. The two teamed up, with Deathlok looking to reclaim his body, and Coldblood looking to cash in a bounty on Ryker. They arrived to find Siege attacking Ryker, but Ryker threatened to trigger a bomb, and level Paris.
Siege, Coldblood and Deathlok were forced to team up and disarm the bomb, allowing Ryker to escape. They managed to stop the larger explosion and save Paris, but they believed Michael's human body destroyed.
Furious at the loss of his humanity, Michael accompanied Coldblood and Siege to destroy the remaining Cyberwarriors. They successfully did so, and captured Harlan Ryker. Michael very nearly killed Ryker, bur Nick Fury reminded him that he wasn't a killer. Michael turned Ryker over to S.H.I.E.L.D, and decided to let Siege go. He returned to his family, unsure what kind of a man he was becoming.
Deathlok in Wakanda
W'Kabi. the security director of Wakanda recruited Michael for cybersecurity consultation. Michael took his family along with him to meet with Wakanda's ruler T'Challa. He soon discovered that the system was being hacked by Phreak, an agent of Moses Magnum. Michael drove Phreak out of Wakanda's systems, but he and T'Challa discovered that Magnum had conquered the small African nation of Canaan. Magnum planned to turn Canaan into an ethnostate refuge for disenfranchised African-Americans, but in order to do so he had overthrown the rightful rulers and planned to conquer Wakanda as well.
Soon afterwards, Michael intervened to save T'Challa from an assassination attempt by Magnum's agent Killjoy. Killjoy believed in Magnum's cause and was willing to murder for it, but Michael beat him and reprimanded his callousness, reminding him that heroes do "What's right, not what's easiest."
Magnum contacted Michael, asking him to join his new nation along with other disenfranchised African-Americans, but Michael refused, citing Magnum's evil and the potential to better America despite its flaws.
When Magnum invaded Wakanda, Michael at first intended to flee with his family. His principles of non-violence conflicted with his desire to fight in the war. When his son Nick was in danger, however, Michael armed himself and rescued him, even prepared to kill, leading Killjoy to call him a hypocrite. Nick wasn't pleased at his father's approach, and asked him to stop the war without killing. His resolve hardened, Michael methodically used all his abilities and tactical knowlege to destroy Canaan's main communications systems and heavy weapons before attacking Magnum. Michael accused Magnum of being willing to right the wrongs done to him at the expense of other, particularly other black people like the Wakandans. Michael promptly defeated Magnum and won the war for Wakanda, before returning home with T'Challa's friendship.
Back In America
Clayton Burr, seeking revenge for his arrest, hired the mercenary Hobgoblin to kill Michael and his family. Michael, enraged, attacked Hoboglin and began to furiously beat him. Determined to never allow his family to be put at risk, Michael prepared to kill Hobgoblin, but his wife Tracy began to go into labor, allowing Hobgoblin to escape while Michael rushed Tracy to the hospital for the birth of his daughter Tisha.
While Tisha underwent a health crisis Michael was attacked by Richard Bloom, the anti-superhuman mercenary known as Tracer. However, when Bloom hacked Deathlok's brain, he realized that Deathlok was a victim and helped him get to the hospital to see his daughter.
Misty Knight contacted Michael and alerted him to the activities of Siege, who had resurfaced in Australia. Feeling responsible for Siege, Michael went to Australia to confront him. However, when he arrived, he discovered the Siege was in fact fighting more or less on the side of the angels, driving paramilitary invaders out of the area. The two teamed up once again to fight off the hostiles, and Michael discovered that they were servants of his enemy Timestream. The two were incapacitated and captured by the madman, magnetized against a wall. Timestream explained that he was capitalizing on the Infinity Crusade to attack while Earth's heroes were absent.
Michael received a vision of the Goddess, who had intended to recruit him to hero cause for the crusade, but realized that, with his recent dispair and violance, he was no longer the man of virtue he once was. She left, leaving Michael doubting his worthiness and decency. Siege and Michael escaped Timestream's grasp, fighting his time-displaced army while Michael hacked into the system, discovering that Timestream had created a device to flood Australia. Michael managed to subdue Timestream while Siege destroyed the device, though Timestream once again escaped.
Shortly afterward, Goddess sent a flame of purification to earth, forcing Michael and Siege to confront their own fears, sins and hypocrisies. Michael was left doubting himself, seeing how his pacifism and unwillingness to act has harmed others.
Michael began working more closely with Siege, the two teaming up to fight criminals like Scorpion. The two, slowly, but surely developed a mutual trust and respect. To his horror, Michael discovered that his family had decided to go into hiding without him, his wife Tracey leaving him a note saying that while she loved him, she couldn't be with him and risk their children any longer.
He didn't have long to brood, however, as the time traveler Godwulf appeared, asking for his help against Michael's enemy Timestream. Godwulf explained the history of his own timeline, Earth-7484, and Timstream's plans to alter both Earth-616 and Earth-7484 by altaring the actions of Captain America and the original Deathlok, the Luther Manning of Earth-7484.
Michael and Siege decided to join forces with Godwulf, and the three traveled into the past of their own timeline. They first prevented Timestream's attempted assassination of the Luther Manning Clone who had revived the Deathlok cyborg in the past, and then Timestream's plan to replace the Deathlok of Earth-7484 with the Luther Manning of Earth-616, who he had transformed into a Deathlok duplicate.
After foiling both of Timestream's plans, Timestream used his powers to strand Michael, Siege, and Godwulf in the liminal space between timelines. The heroes were seperated when they were attacked by Timestream's minions, and Michael found himself fighting Timestream's brainwashed Luther Manning. Michael, as always refusing the kill his opponent, but unable to overpower him, appealed to his better nature, begging him to overcome Timestream's brainwashing. When Michael appealed to his love for his family, Luther was able to burn himself out resisting his program, and died. Michael then would have been stranded in time if not for the timely intervention of Time Variance Authority agent Justice Peace.
Justice Peace transported Michael to where his allies, Godwulf and Siege, and one of Timestream's renegade servants, a cyborg called the Demolisher, were preparing to fight Timestream. Timestream's final plan was to kill the past version of himself before he received his time travel powers, creating a paradox and resetting the timeline entirely.
Michael and his allies fought hard to prevent Timestream from killing his younger self, but were barely holding out when Michael had an idea. He attacked Timestream with the Nth Projector, the object which was fated to give Timestream his powers. The energy of the Projector cancelled out that of Timestream, and Timestream faded out of reality. This allowed Justice Peace to return all parties to their proper place, and ensure that the timeline proceeded as it was supposed to.
Back in their own time, Michael and Siege were able to hold a funeral for the departed Luther Manning, who had died a hero fighting Timestream's programming. Michael finally came to peace with his separation from his family.
The Power of Terror
While living at Coney Island, Michael was attacked by Beetle, Speed Demon, and Hydro-Man, all members of the Sinister Syndicate. They fled, and he followed them. However, Hydro-Man led him into the path of a subway train, and Michael was buried under a pile of rubble.
Michael recovered quickly. Hydro-Man and his new accomplice Scorpia ambushed him. Spider-Man and the rest of the Syndicate soon joined the fray. Deathlok and Spider-Man had the villains on the ropes, when their boss Silvermane made a public announcement over the city's digital billboards. Silvermane told Deathlok that he would destroy the city with bombs unless he surrendered himself to the Syndicate.
Unwilling to cause any further collateral damage, Michael agreed to Silvermane's terms. Once he'd been taken to Silvermane's base, Michael was quickly immobilized by his old enemy Mainframe, who Silvermane had recruited for the job. Silvermane had Mainframe download a copy of his consciousness into Deathlok , rendering Michael a prisoner in his own body.
Silvermane assumed Michael's identity, and tried to fool Spider-Man and Daredevil. He even shot his own minion Scorpia in the back to convince them he was on their side. His violent behavior only made them suspicious, however. Once they caught on to what he was doing, Silvermane tried to kill Spider-Man, but the No-Kill principle that Michael had imposed on the Deathlok OS was still in effect, forcing Silvermane to fight non-lethally.
After escaping Spider-Man and Daredevil, Silvermane and Mainframe attacked a military weapons facility, Michael still fighting Silvermane's control from within. Spider-Man and Daredevil soon arrived in pursuit, as did Punisher and a vengeful Scorpia, both looking to kill Silvermane for their own reasons. Silvermane had the upper hand, and managed to deactivate the no-kill principle. When Scorpia was about to fall to her death, however, Michael reasserted his control and saved her. Silvermane fought for control, but Spider-Man attacked him, allowing Michael to destroy the Silvermane program and regain control fully.
Michael was one of many heroes and villains transported to Battleworld by the Stranger (who had assumed the guise of the Beyonder). Michael was part of a group including Darkhawk, Terror Inc, Captain Marvel, Wonder Man, Sleepwalker, Dracula, and Michael's old ally Coldblood. Unlike many of these groups, Michael's managed to form an alliance and barter with the Stranger. In exchange for the freedom of his allies, Michael agreed to remain on Battleworld and witness the events there. Stranger held up his end of the bargain, and the others were returned to Earth, but thier memories of the event were erased, and Michael was simply believed to have disappeared.
Michael spent years on Battleworld, trying to help the other prisoners who were brought there, though most turned against each other and were killed. Michael was able over time to develop new technology for his own use, including finally creating a cure for his cyborg body. Somehow he found a way to switch between his cyborg form and a copy of his human form at will.
When a new group of people, including Alyosha Kravinoff, Gravity, Venom, Medusa, The Hood, Firebird, Hank Pym, and the Wasp were tansported to Battleworld, Michael guided them through the harsh landscape, at first concealing his cyborg nature, but later explaining the nature of Battleworld and his own recent history.
The Stranger (still assuming the guise of the Beyonder) explains that the only way for any of them to return home is to kill all the others. After Venom trapped the others in Limbo trying to collect the prize, Michael and Pym devised a scheme to allow them to escape Battleworld.
Pym used his matter displacement ray to apparently kill the other heroes, allowing him to collect the Stranger's prize. After making the Stranger promise to send him home, and end the experiments, and learning the Stranger's true nature, Pym reveals that the other heroes were not in fact dead, but subatomic.
Stranger, furious, starts to destroy Battleworld, but Gravity holds it together, allowing the rest of the heroes to return home through Stranger's teleporter. Stranger punished Michael for his part in the subterfuge by removing his power to became Deathlok, but Michael considered losing his powers more a blessing than a curse, and planned on returning to his family.
Man Versus Machine
At some point after his return from Battleworld, Michael regained control over his dormant powers, now able to form and deactivate his Deathlok enhancements from trace nanotech in his systems.
Michael was later approached by the mercenary Domino, looking for information regarding a new Deathlok. He revealed that he had been interrogated by S.H.I.E.L.D. agents about the subject already, though in reality the men he encountered were agents of BIOTEK in disguise.
Real S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, including agent Andrea Hope, soon arrived to interrogate him, and he agreed to help them track down Domino and the new Deathlok.
Deathlok and a S.H.I.E.L.D team went to capture Domino in Paris. Michael once again using his enhanced abilities to transform into Deathlok, easily incapacitating the mercenary.
Michael then went to apprehend Henry Hayes, the new Deathlok, but upon discovering he was rogue, the two joined forces against BIOTEK, the organization that had revived the Deathlok program. The two tore through the BIOTEK base and turned over the captured prisoners, and Hayes agreed to help S.H.I.E.L.D in exchange for amnesty. In the aftermath, Michael agreed to join Agent Hope's new task force as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
In Other Media
- Deathlok appears as an assist character in Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage.
- Deathlok was featured in ToyBiz's Marvel Super Heroes line of action figures.
- Deathlok was featured in the HeroClix figure game.
- Deathlok is featured in ToyBiz's Marvel Legends line as part of the Galactus Build-a-Figure wave.