In 1976, Marvel published a Comic-Book Adaptation of 2001: A Space Odyssey written and drawn by Jack Kirby, followed by an ongoing series which ran for ten issues. The first seven issues focused on the Monolith aiding humans in the past and the future. The last three focused on X-51 a.k.a. Machine Man, who was later incorporated into the Marvel Universe. The Monolith returned in the last two issues of X-51's 1999-2000 series, in which it was revealed that it had been created by the Celestials (in the Marvel Universe, at least...)
Dr. Abel Stack, a scientist working on a government project to design robotic soldiers capable of acting like humans, had a theory that a robot could only function like a human if it was raised like one. Taking one of the robots home, Stack raised X-51 as if it was his own son.
After the project was shut down because all of the other robots started displaying psychotic behavior, all of the robots were ordered destroyed using an auto destruct device in each robot. Sacrificing himself, Abel Stack managed to remove the device shortly before it detonated. Now on the run from the government, X-51 - now calling itself Aaron Stack- tried to make his father's dream of peace between humans and robots a reality, becoming a superhero dubbed "Machine Man" in the process.
Machine Man provides examples of:
- Alternate Continuity: He's had a couple of notable stories set outside Marvel's main continuity. He had a well-regarded self-titled miniseries in the 1980's, set in a Cyberpunk future. He's also one of the main characters in Earth X.
- Civvie Spandex: These days, he likes to wear a Badass Longcoat over his purple costume.
- Death by Origin Story: Aaron's "father" Abel Stack died in a Heroic Sacrifice to save Aaron's life.
- Do-Anything Robot: As he puts it, he is "full of many useful devices." This was played to the hilt during Kirby's original run, downplayed considerably during Ditko and Wolfman's run, and came back with a vengeance in Nextwave and later stories.
- Easily Detachable Robot Parts: He can remove and reattach his limbs without that much trouble. One of his early story arcs involved greedy industrialist Sunset Bain (aka Madame Menace) literally stealing his arm to reverse-engineer it. Naturally, Aaron wanted it back.
- Eating Machine: He can eat despite being a robot. Heck, he can get drunk despite being a robot; he only discovered this after his return from the Celestials, and he's ambivalent as to whether he's happy about it."My robot brain needs beer."
- Expy: He started out as a very clear expy of Adam Link, a robot from the golden age of science fiction. Nextwave used him as an expy of Bender.
- Fugitive Arc: Most of Jack Kirby's run on the comic had Aaron on the run from army General Kragg (full name Joseph Kragowski), who believed Aaron was just as dangerous as his predecessors (very much like General Ross and The Incredible Hulk). Aaron eventually earns Kragg's trust, and Kragg agrees to leave him alone.
- Killer Robot: The previous fifty androids in Aaron's series quickly suffered identity crises and went homicidally insane. Getting raised as a son by Abel Stack is why Aaron isn't nuts (though these days he tends to be depressed).
- Meaningful Name: Abel Stack is killed in the first issue.
- Mechanical Lifeforms: One of Aaron's first enemies was Tenfor the Autocron, first scout of a robotic alien race who wanted to invade Earth.
- Monochromatic Eyes: His eyes are a solid red (or gold, in some depictions).
- Motherly Scientist: Fatherly Scientist, actually. Abel Stack raised Aaron as his son, which is why Aaron turned out sane, unlike the fifty previous robots in his series.
- Not Himself: His 1990's series X-51 saw Aaron infected with nanotech which saved his life when he had seemingly been destroyed, but then infected him with mutant-hunting Sentinel programming. Out of desperation, he tries purging it by erasing his entire memory, but when the Celestials come for him, they are apparently able to restore him to normal, memories included.
- Not-So-Imaginary Friend: He's never admitted it to anyone (except a probably-nonsentient robot psychiatist he built just to have someone to open up to), but ever since the Celestials dumped him back on Earth, he's periodically aware of a tiny invisible Celestial literally riding around on his shoulder. Since Celestials scarcely ever explain anything, he has no idea what it wants, or even if it's real or a hallucination.
- Odd Friendship: He hung out with Howard the Duck for a while, as a fellow outsider with very ambivalent feelings about humanity.
- Pinocchio Syndrome: He goes back and forth on this. On the one hand, he still wears his human facemask, and for most of his history tried to be as human as possible (getting a job as an insurance fraud investigator, of all things), but he would frequently get frustrated with humanity's vices; and after suffering an emotional breakdown after getting abducted by the Celestials, he became much more jaded toward us than he'd ever been before.
- Purple Is Powerful: His body was originally purple.
- Ridiculously Human Robots: He can easily pass as human as long as he wears sunglasses to hide his robotic eyes. His big red bug eyes got shrunk considerably when Ditko took over from Kirby as artist (this was part of an in-universe upgrade), but still didn't look human; later artists have gone back to depicting him with the iconic big eyes.
- Robo Romance: He has long-standing Unresolved Sexual Tension with fellow robotic Avenger, Jocasta. The fact that she keeps getting destroyed and rebuilt again and again hasn't made things any easier.
- Robosexual: When he learns that his old enemy Madame Menace (aka Sunset Bain) has a crush on him, he's so utterly startled he ends up accidentally letting her get away at the end of the story. As for his, ah, physical capacity in the regard, as he puts it, he is "full of many useful devices." He may have been joking, and the comment was in Nextwave, so take it with a grain of salt.
- Self-Constructed Being: Not totally, of course, but he's made a lot of modifications to himself over the years. This ends up giving him an advantage when he faces off against a robot double built from him his original specs.
- Sliding Scale of Robot Intelligence: Level 4: possesses an above normal intellect, with a capacity for unlimited self-motivated activity, creative intelligence, and human-like emotions.
- Snark Knight: He always had a sarcastic streak, but he got much snarkier after his abduction by the Celestials.
- Something Person: Machine Man
- Telescoping Robot: Machine Man has the ability to telescope his arms and legs to a length of 100 feet.
- This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman: When the Marvel Zombies tried to invade our universe, the government got Aaron and Jocasta to go fight them for the (actually quite logical) reason that they're not edible or infectable.
- Touched by Vorlons: Machine Man was actually introduced in the last couple of issues of Jack Kirby's ongoing title based on 2001: A Space Odyssey, which chronicled the appearances of Monoliths throughout humanity's history, shaping humanity's development. When Aaron had been captured by hostile government forces and showed signs of possibly succumbing to the homicidal rage that dominated his predecessors, a Monolith appeared and telepathically calmed him down. Many, many years later, when Aaron was at the lowest point in his life (physically transformed by nanotech and corrupted by invasive Sentinel programming), the "Monolith Aliens" (finally revealed to be the Celestials) returned for Aaron and carried him away into space, seemingly to introduce him to wonderful new vistas of existence... and then they dumped him back on Earth, with no explanation. Aaron didn't take this seeming rejection well at all, falling into a deep depression, and turning into a perpetually grumpy Snark Knight when he finally started to pull out of it.
- Voluntary Shapeshifting: He gained some degree of shapeshifting powers when his was infected with Sentinel nanotech. He didn't get to enjoy the experience, unfortunately, since the nanotech was also affecting his mind.
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: A variation. Aaron truly loved his "father," Abel, and no matter how angry he gets at humanity in general, he still misses him deeply. No, Aaron's rejection complex comes from believing that the Celestials who contacted him early on in his career, and came back for him decades later, and then dumped him back on Earth with no real explanation found him inadequate somehow. Since the Celestials scarcely ever explain anything they do, he is probably wrong about this, but it left him feeling like a failure.