"MACHINE GUN" MARTIN
Real Name: John Martin
Identity/Class: Human (circa 1939) conventional weapon user
Occupation: Idol (and slave) to the
Skrulls of Kral IV and the
rest of the Kral system;
formerly an inmate imprisoned somewhere in upstate New York;
originally a criminal and mobster active within New York City
Group Membership: Slaves of the Kralian Skrulls;
formerly: allegedly part of an unspecified criminal organization active within New York City
Affiliations: (Against his will) Skrulls of Kral IV (and the rest
of the Kral system);
formerly other inmates of the New York State Department of Correctional Services
originally other criminals active within New York City
Enemies: Skrulls of Kral (especially the slaver who captured him)
formerly City of New York Police Department
Known Relatives: None
Aliases: "Machine-Gun" Martin
Base of Operations: Planet Kral IV, Kral system, Andromeda galaxy;
formerly an unspecified state prison ("correctional facility") located somewhere in upstate New York;
originally active in New York City's Lower East Side
First Appearance: Fantastic Four I#91 (October, 1969)
Powers/Abilities: Judging by his mob nickname, John Martin presumably had a lot of practice at using a machine gun.
Height: 6' (approximately)
(Fantastic Four I#91 (fb)/1939 Daily Bugle#1 (fb) - BTS) - John "Machine Gun" Martin was a criminal and reputed mobster who was convicted of killing someone and sentenced to an unspecified term in prison. Martin was sent to an unspecified state prison in upstate New York to serve out his sentence.
(Fantastic Four I#91 (fb)/1939 Daily Bugle#1 (fb) - BTS) <1935> - One night, Martin broke out of prison and, illuminated by searchlights, he fled on foot even as the guards opened fire on him.
(Fantastic Four I#91 (fb)/1939 Daily Bugle#1 (fb) - BTS) - Under the cover of darkness, Martin managed to elude the pursuing guards and their dogs for a time. Now the subject of a countywide manhunt, Martin made it to a remote marsh where the authorities came to believe they had him cornered.
(Fantastic Four I#91 (fb)/1939 Daily Bugle#1 (fb) - BTS) - Martin was moving cautiously through the marsh when he discovered a cylindrical craft, with a round flat underside, a raised bump at the top and multiple lights ringing the sides: a "flying saucer" that was about fifteen or twenty feet across.
(Fantastic Four I#91 (fb)) - Believing that he had discovered a vehicle that he could use to escape his pursuers, Martin approached the craft, entered it and began to inspect its controls. Unfortunately for him, the pilot, a Skrull slaver who had left his slave ship and had been busy photographing life on Earth, returned, found the intruder and used his hand weapon to force Martin to surrender to him. The Skrull slaver was pleased that he now had a living specimen of his own to take as a prize.
(1939 Daily Bugle#1 (fb) - BTS) - As they were closing in on Martin in the marsh, many officers of the law who were present on site observed a dimly lit, disc-shaped vehicle rise from the ground and take off at fantastic speed until they lost sight of it. These officers reported their sighting and, when Martin was never found, the vehicle was initially assumed to be some sort of getaway craft arranged by his fellow gangsters. However, over the next few years, as dime-novel science-fiction stories of moon men and spacecraft rose in popularity, more fanciful explanations for the craft's origins were suggested. One of the people who came to believe that Martin had been abducted by "men from other worlds" was Douglas Errol, a man who lived in Morristown, New Jersey.
(Fantastic Four I#91 (fb) - BTS / Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Fantastic Four 2005: Skrulls entry) - The Skrull slaver brought Martin to his world, the planet Kral IV in the Kral system of the Andromeda galaxy, The people of Kral were fascinated by the films (of life on Earth) that the slaver had brought them and by the gangster himself. Initially a slave, Martin became a favorite of Kral's rulers, who were fascinated by the gangster culture he represented. This fascination became so widespread that the entire planet began to copy the styles, the manners and the "primitive" speech of the American "gangster era." The Kralian Skrulls also altered much of their advanced technology so that items like vehicles and weapons outwardly resembled Earth vehicles and weapons from Martin's time.
(Fantastic Four I#91-92 (fb) - BTS) - Inspired by Martin, the Skrulls of Kral IV reorganized their society so that gangs of mobsters ruled. These Skrulls also credited Martin with giving them the idea for using gang wars to settle disputes between rival bosses. However, these gang wars took the form of gladiatorial contests (known as "the games") in which the bosses used enslaved alien champions to fight each other to the death to determine which boss was the winner.
(Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe I#10: Skrulls entry) - At some point, this fascination with the gangster era led the Skrulls of Kral IV to transform their planet's capital city into a replica of Prohibition Era New York City.
(U.S.Avengers#12 (fb) - BTS) - Skrulls who were part of various subsequent missions to Earth also discovered the planet's culture. These Skrulls became fascinated with "acting" and the concept of "movies," especially old-time gangster movies.
(U.S.Avengers#12 (fb) - BTS) - Eventually, the Kral system was set aside for the exploration of these forbidden ideas, and it became a melting pot of ideas and fashions, a place for those Skrulls who didn't fit in the rest of the empire.
(1939 Daily Bugle#1 (fb) - BTS) <1939> - On Friday, October 13th, the late city final edition of the Daily Bugle contained a story about how the residents of Morristown, New Jersey were worried about recent "flying saucer" sightings in the area. The story noted how the descriptions of the recent sightings matched those recorded by prison officials and policemen four years earlier in upstate New York during the manhunt for John "Machine Gun" Martin. Bugle Staff Reporter J.C. York mentioned that longtime resident Douglas Errol, who had recently reported several sightings, believed that "men from other worlds" had taken Martin and had now come back for more humans, including himself.
(Fantastic Four I#91 (fb) - BTS) - At some point, the Skrulls of Kral IV decided to commemorate how Martin had influenced their lives. The Kralians ultimately chose do so by erecting statues of Martin at various locations within their replica of New York City. It seems likely that many other such statues were erected at various locations all around the planet.
(Fantastic Four I#90-91) - Decades later, a Skrull slavemaster traveled to Earth to capture Ben Grimm (a.k.a. The Thing) and to then transport him to Kral to be a "fighting slave" in the upcoming Great Games. After arriving on Kral and being securely restrained, Grimm was placed on a slave truck that was to transport him and other captured aliens to the training area. During the trip, Grimm asked the guard why, if he was on "some nutty Skrull Galaxy world," was everything "like some goofy late-show gangster movie?" To help pass the time, the guard decided to answer Grimm's question, and he began by saying that "It all started when Machine-Gun Martin was brought from Earth...many years ago!" After pointing out a statue of Martin that the truck was then passing, the guard revealed that Martin had been a killer who broke out of prison on Earth in the 1930s and had managed to elude his pursuers "just long enough for the first of (their) Skrull slave ships to find him!" The guard then described how the people of Kral had been fascinated by the gangster and how, before long, the entire planet had begun to copy the elements of the American gangster era.
(Fantastic Four I#93) - Grimm was later rescued when his comrades in the Fantastic Four arrived on Kral during the Great Games, destroyed the sonic disruptor weapon that the gangster Skrulls had been using to keep their slaves from rebelling, and then took him back home to Earth with them, leaving the slaves behind to rise up and overthrow their former masters.
(Secret Invasion Saga#1 (fb) - BTS) - Ben Grimm apparently told his teammates about "Machine Gun" Martin and how his presence on Kral had affected the Skrulls of that planet, and Reed Richards recorded this data in his computer files. At some point, Grimm also personally told Tony Stark about Kral IV.
(Secret Invasion Saga#1 (fb) - BTS) - Years later, after discovering unsettling evidence of a recent Skrull infiltration, S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Anthony Stark ordered Deputy Director Maria Hill to have her best data-mining technicians gather all available data on the Skrulls.
(Secret Invasion Saga#1) - While flying in his Iron Man armor, Stark reviewed the report sent to him by Hill, which included information in Reed Richards’ files about how “Machine Gun” Martin, an escaped killer from prison and unrepentant gangster, had been abducted by a Skrull slave ship and ferried away in chains to Planet Kral in the Andromeda System. Stark also reviewed a file about Kral IV, an "odd locale" that he had heard about first from Ben Grimm.
The final fate of John "Machine Gun" Martin has never actually been revealed.
Comments: Created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott.
Martin's connection to the Lower East Side
In Secret Invasion Saga#1, Tony Stark speaks of how the Skrulls of Kral IV "had taken on the visage of Martin and his Lower East Side mores."
The entry on the Kralians of Kral IV in the Skrulls! one-shot notes that Martin was "abducted in the 1930s from the streets of New York City's Lower East Side" and that is not (literally) true because Martin was not in New York City when he was captured and taken away. The story in the 1939 Daily Bugle confirms this by revealing that his abduction took place in a remote marsh in upstate New York. Of course, if that reference was meant to instead be taken figuratively, then it could be accurate, in its way. However, the choice of words is ambiguous enough that readers cannot be sure how it was meant to be interpreted.
Although "Machine Gun" Martin's story was first told back in 1969, very little additional information has been revealed about him since then. It took forty years before his first name was revealed to be "John" and other basic facts (like his height, weight, eye color and age) are still a mystery. However, there are some other details about Martin's life that I would be more interested in learning. Here's a list of questions that I would like to see answered in some future story:
1. When was Martin sent to prison? We know from that 1939 Daily Bugle article that he escaped from prison and disappeared in 1935, but we don't know how long he had been in prison before he escaped.
2. What crime did Martin commit that resulted in his being sent to prison? The Skrull guard described Martin as a "killer" and the Daily Bugle article confirmed that he was a "convicted killer" but, even presuming that he had caused a death, that allows for a large number of possible crimes for which he could have been convicted. The death (or deaths?) could have been the result of manslaughter (either voluntary or involuntary), assassination, felony murder (death caused during the commission of another crime), an execution-style killing or even a negligent homicide or a crime of passion. It's even possible that Martin, despite his criminal activities, might have been innocent of the specific crime for which he was convicted. More data is needed.
3. Where was Martin imprisoned? The guards wore "State Prison" uniforms and the Daily Bugle article states that the breakout occurred in upstate New York but that just means anywhere in the state of New York that is north of the New York metropolitan area.
4. Was Martin a member of any established criminal organization? The Daily Bugle article described him as a "reputed mobster" which implies that he was part of one (of the gangs of New York City) but no details were provided.
And finally, the BIG unanswered question from above:
5. What is the final fate of John "Machine Gun" Martin?
This is the question that interests me the most because we really don't know what happened to Martin. The fact that the profile on the Skrulls in Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Fantastic Four 2005 (August, 2005) states that Martin was "Initially a slave" before he "became a favorite of Kral's rulers" implies that he was NOT a slave at some later point in his life. So, did Kral's rulers reward Martin for the gangster culture he had brought them by giving him his freedom? If so, would that freedom have included the freedom to leave Kral IV and return to Earth? Maybe that's what Martin did but, due to his outstanding criminal charges, he was forced to hide behind an alias to avoid being sent back to prison.
Alternatively, maybe Martin was freed by Kral's rulers but decided to stay on the planet where he was so idolized. And maybe he died there, as some online sources have claimed. After all, when the Fantastic Four first visited Kral (in 1969), it had been 34 years since Martin was abducted and, thanks to the Sliding Timescale, that time period has been stretched to about 80 years, more than enough time for a normal human to have died of old age. Then again, the Skrulls are technologically advanced and, if they did possess the right kind of advanced medical technology for treating human ailments, then maybe they could have used it to greatly extend Martin's lifespan. Or, failing that, when faced with the possibility of their idol dying due to old age, the Skrulls may have acted to preserve him from death via some form of suspended animation, using either cryogenics or a stasis-field (like the time-displaced X-Men used to get back to their own time in X-Men II#90).
All in all, "Whatever Happened to John 'Machine Gun' Martin?" is a mystery that I'd really like to see solved someday.
If he was still on Kral IV in some form, it's unrevealed whether he escaped the destruction of Kral's sun in Guardians of the Galaxy Annual#1/2.
Original profile (part of the Skrulls of Kral IV profile)
Expanded into a separate profile by Donald Campbell.
John "Machine Gun" Martin has no known connections to:
The Skrulls of Kral IV came to idolize Martin for the new way of (gangster) life that he had brought to their world and they sought to commemorate the effect that he had had on their society by creating and erecting various statues of him. Two such statues appeared in Fantastic Four I#91-92 and there were probably a great many other statues that had been put up at various locations around the planet and on the other planets in the Kral system.
When Ben Grimm was being transported in the slave truck to the training area for new slaves, he asked the Skrull guard why the alien planet looked like "some goofy late-show gangster movie." To help pass the time, the guard began to tell him how it had all started when Machine-Gun Martin had been brought to their world from Earth many years earlier. Before continuing, the guard pointed off the road and told Grimm that they were then passing Martin's statue. This particular statue was made out of some grey material and was of Martin standing atop a grey pedestal with a machine gun held in his hands, seemingly ready to shoot.
Sometime later, as Boss Barker was being driven to the arena to watch the Great Games, he commented on how glad he was that the Skrulls had captured Machine-Gun Martin from Earth years earlier to give them the idea for these gang wars. Barker's comment was apparently prompted by the fact that he was then passing another statue of Martin. This statue was made out of some green material and was standing atop a pedestal that was also green. However, this statue was not only larger than the other one, it depicted Martin in an unarmed pose, with his arms straight down at his sides and his head bowed forward, as if in sadness or regret.
(Guardians of the Galaxy Annual#1/2) - With the
destruction of Kral's sun, Kral IV and the statues on it were
presumably all destroyed.
--Fantastic Four I#91-92
images: (without ads)
Marvel's Greatest Comics#73, page 11, panel 5 (main image)
page 11, panel 1 (the breakout)
page 11, panel 2 (evading pursuit)
page 11, panel 3 (finding the Skrull ship)
page 11, panel 4 (investigating the Skrull ship)
page 10, panel 5 (grey statue of Martin)
Marvel's Greatest Comics#74, page 12, panel 1 (green statue of Martin)
Fantastic Four I#91 (October, 1969) - Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (script and art), J. Sinnott (inks)
Fantastic Four I#92 (November, 1969) - Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Joe Sinnott (embellishment)
Secret Invasion Saga#1 ("04.2008") - John Rhett Thomas (writer), Jeph York (research assistant), Mark D. Beazley & Jennifer Grunwald (editors, Special Projects)
SKRULLS! ([September] 2008) - Ronald Byrd, Michael Hoskin, Gabriel Shechter, John Rhett Thomas, Stuart Vandal & Jeph York (writers), John Rhett Thomas (editor)
1939 Daily Bugle#1 ([August] 2009) - John Rhett Thomas, Jess Harrold, Sheila Johnson, Dugan Trodglen and Jeph York (writers), Chance Fiveash (penciler), John Rhett Thomas (editor)
Guardians of the Galaxy Annual#1/2 (August, 2019) - Al Ewing (writer), Yildiray Cinar (artist), Lauren Amaro (assistant editor), Jordan D. White (senior editor)
First Posted: 12/14/2019
Last updated: 12/15/2019
Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.
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