Before there was a Blog@Newsarama, there was The Great Curve … a now-defunct blog that was scattered across the four winds of the internet when we transitioned to Newsarama. So we thought we’d dig into the archives and start featuring some of the more “evergreen” content from the Curve over here every week or so, in what I like to call “Great Curve Classics.” To start us off, here’s the very first post Kevin Melrose did for the site, his first At Sixes & Sevens feature. Enjoy!
Welcome to At Sixes & Sevens, a new weekly feature in which I’ll get my list-making fix by selecting the six or seven best, worst, greatest, or what have you, in comic books.
You see, I have a list infatuation that rivals the idiosyncrasies of the lamest Batman villain. Grocery lists, to-do lists, hit lists — it doesn’t matter. I’ll read them all.
So, At Sixes & Sevens is all about enabling, really.
Enough about you, you say, What about the robots? All right then: What about the robots?
The Metal Men
God bless the 1960s, when creators like the late Robert Kanigher rolled out undeniably absurd concepts with irresistible appeal, such as The Haunted Tank and The Metal Men. The former is, well, a haunted tank. But the latter is a group of six robots made of six different metals, created by pipe-smoking scientist Will Magnus. (Why did so many ’60s comic-book scientists smoke pipes, anyway?) Thanks to the good doctor’s “responsometer,” each of The Metal Men — Gold, Iron, Lead, Mercury, Platinum and Tin — has a distinctive and quirky personality to go along with his or her element-based power. Oh, how I love Silver Age science.
He wasn’t the first comic-book robot, but Osamu Tezuka‘s Astro Boy is certainly one of the best-known and most influential. In the future, yet decades before A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, Dr. Tenma creates a pointy-haired android to replace his son, who died in a car accident. Creepy, I know. Still, at least he’s not Haley Joel Osment. It gets worse, though, as Tenma realizes adorable little Astro Boy can never truly replace his son, so he gets rid of him. Now where’d he put that “World’s Greatest Dad” mug? Luckily, our robot with a heart of gold is rescued by Prof. Ochanomizu, and becomes a flying, super-strong righter of wrongs. There you go, Astro Boy! He’s also the only comic-book robot to be inducted into The Robot Hall of Fame. If he’s good enough for Carnegie Mellon, he’s good enough for me.
All right, this may be a bit of a cheat, but I’m a notorious cheater. So, there. The whole giant robot/mecha thing is a subgenre of its own, encompassing everything from Transformers and Robotech to Iron Giant and some of the 137 incarnations of Power Rangers. It’s easy to see the appeal: enormous metal automatons knocking the nuts and bolts out of each other while laying waste to the landscape around them. But after a while, one robotic slugfest starts to look like another. That’s why I’m picking just three giant robots who stand out: Juston Seyfert’s Sentinel, from Sean McKeever and UDON’s Sentinel; Chiron (pictured at top), from J. Torres and Mike Norton’s Jason and the Argobots; and Marvel Comics/Stark International’s Red Ronin. Forget puppies; few things are more heartwarming than a boy and his giant robot. And, really, is there anything cooler than a 100-foot-tall robot who can go toe-to-toe with The Avengers and Godzilla? That’s a rhetorical question.
Rusty the Boy Robot
Despite his second billing, Rusty is the true star of Frank Miller and Geof Darrow’s Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot miniseries (and the later TV cartoon). Owing much in look and temperament to Astro Boy, Rusty is sweet and determined — and armed with nucleo-protonic index finger blasters. Sure-as-shootin’, he’s pint-sized, perky and dangerous. In the original comic, Rusty is pitted against a Godzilla analogue that stomps Tokyo, only to be smacked down. Desperate for help, Japan turns to Big Guy, who finally defeats the giant lizard. An appreciative Japan then, um, gives Rusty to Big Guy. Come to think of it, that’s kind of creepy, too. Aren’t there laws protecting child robots?
Henry Pym just can’t win. Mental problems. Marriage problems. Lame costumes. He’s a mess, really. But all of that pales in comparison to his creation of Ultron, a sentient, evil android hellbent on stomping out humanity. “My bad,” doesn’t quite cover that one, Hank. Ultron is a serious robot. I mean, you don’t hear H.E.R.B.I.E. bellowing, “The total, irrevocable destruction of the human race is at hand!” No, Ultron was Cylon when Cylon wasn’t cool. But he’s not content with just ridding the planet of the human blight. Uh-uh. Ultron’s all about procreation: The Vision? That’s his boy! Jocasta? That’s his wife and, er, daughter, in an uncomfortable Bride of Frankenstein-meets-Deliverance sort of way. And Victor Mancha, from Runaways? Well, that’s his cyborg son produced using the DNA of a drug mule. Yeah, Ultron’s freaky like that.
Picture this: It’s the psychedelic 1960s. You’re a paraplegic genius with a luxurious beard, fond of calling yourself “The Chief.” You learn the body of a world-famous racecar driver has been destroyed in a crash. What do you do? What do you do? It’s a trick question, of course: You transfer his brain into a robotic body, crafted by Will Magnus! Four decades later, Cliff “Robotman” Steele still has issues with his “new” form, possibly because it’s broken down more times than Tammy Faye. Through the many (confusing) incarnations of the Doom Patrol, the lovable jerk has remained the heart and soul of the team. Think of him as a gold-plated Bender.
What about The Vision or Amazo or The Red Tornado, you ask? Eh, I had to leave something for folks to bicker about.