Atomic Robo – Why Was I Not Informed?!?

I can’t believe I just found out about this.

Last week some time, Fred Hicks tweeted ((Actually, he retweeted. But anyway.)) about this comic called Atomic Robo. The tweet included this link, which you should check out. I did. And it intrigued me so much, I immediately went and bought all the Atomic Robo comics ((Well, not went so much as fired up Comixology on my iPad and downloaded them. I love you, Comixology!)).

There are currently five complete series of Atomic Robo up on Comixology, each series running from four to six issues. In addition, there’s a sixth series that is in progress ((On issue #4, as I write this.)) and three Free Comic Book Day issues. I read them all in a binge over the weekend, and am now very sad that I’ve finished them. Gonna have to reread very soon.

The idea behind the comic is simple: in the 1920s, Nicola Tesla built a robot. Ever since then, the robot has been fighting crime and dealing with weird technological mysteries, alongside his team of Action Scientists. What more could you ask for? It’s written by Brian Clevinger, drawn by Scott Wegener, coloured by Ronda Pattison, and lettered by Jeff Powell.

Now, the link above gives you a really good overview and teaser to the comics, so I’m not going to go into much depth about them. I’m just going to talk about why I like them, and why you should go buy them.

  • Echoes of some great sources. You see the influence of Hellboy, Planetary, Indiana Jones, and Buckaroo Banzai ((To be fair, I’m not really a fan of Buckaroo Banzai, but that’s more of an issue with the execution than the idea. The idea of Buckaroo and his Hong Kong Cavaliers rocks. What they did with it just didn’t work for me.)) in the story and structure, and the influence of Mike Mignola and Dave Stevens ((And probably others – I’m not an art guy. I can’t really talk intelligently about it. But the style reminds me a little of Mike Mignola, and Robo looks a bit like The Rocketeer, so there you go.)) in the art.
  • Transcending its influences. The influences in the book are visible, but the comic is not just a pastiche of the sources. It takes elements from the sources and turns them into something new, exciting, and brilliant. Standard tropes are lampooned or inverted, all with smart, savvy commentary on the sources.
  • Taking chances. The stories jump all through Atomic Robo’s ((Yes, the robot’s name is Atomic Robo. Why else would the book be called that?)) history, and deal with everything from Nazi super-tanks to time-traveling ((Or so he claims.)) dinosaur geniuses to the evil manipulations of Stephen Hawking. It does unexpected things, smart things, things that fill me with mad glee.
  • Smart, yet absurd. One of my favourite moments in the books – one which, for me, sums up the heart of Atomic Robo – is when a giant monster rises from Tokyo bay, and Robo says, “Why do we even have the square-cube law?” There is something sublime about that image: a sentient, atomic-powered robot built by Nicola Tesla complaining about a violation of physics.
  • Trusts the readers. In that moment I described above, there is no explanation of the square-cube law. The book trusts the readers to get it. With the tangled, time-jumping stories, the book trusts the readers to keep up. The comic treats the readers as intelligent, creative, adaptable people, and trusts them to be able to follow along on the mad, joyous ramble through the story.
  • Fun. Fun! FUN!! The stories, situations, and characters are just a whole lot of fun. The art is clean, kind-of-cartoony, with great monsters and expressions ((Atomic Robo has the most amazingly expressive face, considering he doesn’t really have a face.)) and fights and motion. It’s just an amazingly fun comic.

Here’s a link to the official website of Atomic Robo. You should go buy all the comics.

And Atomic Robo folks? Please make more. Very quickly.