Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Discuss: Robots



J.A. Morris said...

I'll open this discussion by stating that I'm not a robot. I say this because every time I post a comment here, blogger asks me to prove I'm not a robot.

Edo Bosnar said...

Well, darn. I was going to say J.A. is my favorite robot... :P
And on that note, I have to say that sometimes I fail to prove that I'm not a robot (on the first try at least), which often gives me pause.

Anyway, I know it's in his name, but I don't count Robotman as a robot: he has an actual human brain, so I'd consider him a cyborg.

Redartz said...

Well said, J.A.! Neither am I a robot, although I kid my wife that she is part cyborg (she has an insulin pump).

In comics, the robot that comes to my mind is: H.E.R.B.I.E. (not a fan; he seemed shoehorned in simply to accommodate the Fantastic Four animated show)'

Then there were the robots Spencer Smythe repeatedly sent after Spider-Man. I still like the first version; clunky-looking Ditko version with Jolly Jonah's smiling face staring out of it...

On screen, the top robot might be: Robot from Lost in Space. His interplay with Dr. Smith was a great highlight of the show. Those wildly swinging arms were wonderful, too.

"Danger, danger Will Robinson!"

ColinBray said...

I'm sure this thread will touch on what counts as a robot/android/synthezoid/cyborg but I'll with that in mind I'll still pin my love for Rom and Machine Man to the board.

Both are noble, both are melancholy, both have a great look and both were drawn by Ditko during his brief BA return to Marvel.

Rom probably doesn't count as a robot with his Galadorian soul and all, so Machine Man may take the prize.

Anonymous said...

Where are all the robots we were promised (and the flying cars, space-flights to Jupiter, colonies on Mars etc) - but maybe it's a good thing they're not around (I mean proper robots, not an ipad or a washing machine) as sci-fi has shown time and again that robots are too prone to turning evil and overthrowing mankind, except R2D2, C3PO, Data and Robby The Robot obviously :)

Humanbelly said...

I dunno. . . methinks J.A. protesteth too much, knowhumsayin'--?

And for the zillionth time, edo captured exactly the same first thought that I had about Robotman. He really isn't strictly a robot-- he is indeed a cyborg. In fact, since his only remaining organic "part" is his human brain, he pretty much represents the final definitive extreme of what/who could be called a cyborg, y'know? More that The Vision, he's a normal human being who has ended up with a prosthetic. . . everything.

Say, even though I bet most of us do indeed latch onto ol' "Robot" (B-9) from LiS as our favorite television example, I'll bet a whole post could almost be dedicated to Robby the Robot sightings over the course of our formative television & movie-watching childhoods! IIRC, he bowed in FORBIDDEN PLANET and then for the next 20 years was seemingly hauled around every film and television studio lot that could conceivably stick him in for a "novelty" episode. Even as a youngster I would groan when he came shambling in (Lost in Space, Gilligan's Island, Twilight Zone-- just to name three quickly off the top of my head), because he'd already lost any shock value or sense of menace by the mid-60's. It was like having your Uncle Maurice show up at your birthday party as the "Celebrity" entertainment, or something. And even a child could recognize how un-formidable this slow, clunky, clumsy, immobile contraption was (which, to their credit, was something addressed by the Professor on Gilligan's Island). (There's almost no subject on earth that I can't find a way to tie to either The Hulk or to Gilligan's Island. Or Spaghetti. Or chocolate. . . )


Edo Bosnar said...

You know, I never watched Lost in Space; I only saw that rather crappy movie from the 1990s that starred William Hurt, Mimi Rogers and Joey from Friends. I do recall that robot from Gilligan's Island and a few other shows, though. But I'd say my favorite TV robot is Hymie from Get Smart.

One thing I noticed about robots in comics is that they often serve as this quick-fix to iron out any potential plot conundrums (especially in the Silver Age). Superman (or Superboy for that matter) needs to be in two places at once? No problem: send out one of those robots that is a perfect and perfectly functioning replica (Dr. Doom later employed the same trick with his Doombots). The Hulk needs to hide out in a circus and juggle elephants, but needs to conceal the fact that's he's a gamma-irradiated rage monster? No problem: just say you're a robot!
(And today I'm not a robot: blogger says I correctly identified all of the photos of steak!)

William said...

This is pretty recent, but I kind of like BetaMax from the "Big Hero 6" movies. A very original concept for a robot. I still don't know how they thought of making him inflatable on the outside, robot in the middle. Then putting a squishy robot in what was basically an Iron Man suit. Brilliant.

But since this is not "Modern" Age Babies, I'll have to put in my vote for Machine Man. I always liked him back in the day. In fact, I tend to like the "robot" characters a lot. Such as Robotman (although he in indeed a cyborg), but his name has "robot" in it, so he counts. I guess the Vision is technically a robot as well. I've never been really 100% clear on the difference between an android and a robot anyway. I figure androids are more soft and human-like, and robots are more metal and machine-like.

But when you consider Star Wars, and the fact that all of their robots are called "droids" (which is obviously a shortening of the word android), then it would seem that there is really no difference between an android and a robot. Unless an android is just a robot with a personality.

And now to prove to Blogger that I am indeed not a robot. (But I could be an android).

Doug said...

Hey, gang --

I'm back in the saddle after #wadleyweddingweekend (which was awesome by the way)!

Speaking of the log-in for commenting. I don't know if this works for me because I'm a blog admin or if it works for everyone... I've just clicked the "I'm not a robot" box and then immediately hit the "Publish Your Comment" button and it goes immediately. No steak, no drinks, nothing. Try it!

Funny how human those Superboy robots could be, hmmm? Lana gets dumber by the second when we talk about stuff like that!


Humanbelly said...

Edo, the Hulk-in-the-Circus example is almost unsurpassable (insurpassable? Uhm. . . .surpassable-proof?). IIRC, the barker's "big" selling point had nothing to do with the impossibly advanced and powerful technology on display (in a circus??!??), but rather that the automaton was so incredibly "life-like". Am I remembering that this was Avengers #1? Drawn in a hurry by Jack, and then scripted in even more haste by Stan? That particular panel, I'm sure, must've had Stan thinking, "what in god's green apple am I supposed to do with THIS?"

But yes, your point is extremely valid. "Why, it was just a robot all along!" (or LMD, f'rinstance)is barely a half-step below "Why, it was all a dream/imaginary story/hallucination" as far as ending a story with a cop-out goes.

Although. . . a great story along those lines, I must confess, was Hulk #127, "MOGUL". 'Cause. . . neither the Hulk nor the robot himself realized what he was until the very end. And it turned the whole it-doesn't-matter-it's-only-a-robot convention completely in the other direction.


Garett said...

This cool Dreadstar cover came to mind, but I see there are human parts on some of these guys. Still, robots are great when you want your hero to fight a whole bunch of something!

How about Magnus, Robot Fighter? They always had those nice painted covers, but I could never get into the stories.

J.A. Morris said...

One of my favorite robot scenes ever was in X-men #58. The Sentinels attack Mesmero and Magneto. But the Master of Magnetism is revealed to be a robot. Poor Mesmero is crushed to learn his "master" was a mechanical man.
Check it out here:

Humanbelly said...

Oh! And then Magnus went on to become Doc Magnus, and created the Metal Men. Now THERE is a beloved group of robots, no question. Robots as a convention are at their best, of course, when they are used as a means to explore humanity and person-hood. It's flat-out SF cliche' at this point, and yet it's a trope that still resonates w/ poignancy in the hands of even a reasonably capable writer. I've seen about three episodes of the short-lived ALMOST HUMAN, and that was by far the most compelling element of that series, to my eye. The Blade Runner-esque mise en scene? The gritty, hard-boiled, no-rules detective? Enh-- not pulling me in so much. But I'm a hopeless sucker for the "What is a person?" exploration.

And it all started with Capek's play R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots) in 1921(ish). It's the unusual case where the ideas driving the play very much overcome the rather dry, stiff, plodding dialog. Probably a must-read for any true SF scholar-- but yeesh, it surely feels like homework-!


Anonymous said...


Redartz said...

HB- Good call on the Metal Men! Great characters with heart and humor ( pretty sympathetic robots there).

Also just thought of Jocasta; another cyber character sprung from Avengers...

Edo Bosnar said...

Second the good call on Metal Men! And HB; I second your opinion of RUR as well. Except for his coining of the term robot, which would become so important not only to SF and popular culture, but science as well, that is a pretty dry and, frankly, boring piece.

ColinBray said...

Of course, Doombots...! Especially because they were programmed so well that they thought they were Doom himself - a great Twilight Zone-esque trope.

Anonymous said...

Best comic about a robot is surely the incredible Italian series Ranxerox, if only for the phenomenal artwork of Gaetano Liberatore.
And any list of cool robots would include Ro-Jaws, Hammerstein and Mek-Quake, as long time readers of 2000AD will know.

Many of the more interesting stories about robots were one offs - I'm thinking of stuff like War Toy in Marvel's Unknown Worlds mag - and I think science fiction as a genre suffered in US comics once anthology titles pretty much disappeared. (I wonder why US readers don't like anthologies.... maybe that's an interesting topic for another time?)

Still, if we're talking about superheroes and villains, I always liked the Mad Thinkers's Android for some reason I find hard to adequately explain. Although... is he actually a robot?


Martinex1 said...

Domo arigato!

Anonymous said...

How about the Transformers*? They were robots (in disguise!) and my childhood favorites. The question I asked was whether or not they were programmed to respond with personalities or if they actually had personalities and thus souls. It's apparent that they're mechanical but definitely life forms, stretching the idea of "robot" a bit. Same with R2D2 and C3PO. Other Star Wars droids seem defined by their function and devoid of personality but the two star robots bicker and make independent decisions. Are they robots in the traditional sense or mechanical life forms? If they're just robots, who in their right mind would program Threepio to be that annoying?

- Mike Loughlin

* toy, cartoon, and comic book versions, not Michael Bay destructopuppets.

Anonymous said...

Yeah I remember Robby the Robot showing up in an episode of the 1970s Lynda Carter Wonder Woman series of all places; seems like he was everywhere!

Hmm seems like the line is blurred between robots/androids/cyborgs in this discussion here. To me, robots were simple unsentient automatons (like the Monstroid), androids were artificial but sentient (the Vision) and cyborgs were an amalgam of machine and man (Robotman, Steve Austin, Darth Vader).

Funny thing is, great minds like Stephen Hawking and Bill Joy predict dire consequences if we don't get a handle on the burgeoning AI (artificial intelligence) which future machines like nanobots will have. Maybe not in our lifetime, but imagine a Terminator-like future for our great-great-grandchildren!

- Mike 'hasta la vista ... baby' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Rip Jagger said...

Let me add the greatest creation of John Byrne - Rog-2000 to the roster of great robots. Rog had a great brief run as a back up in E-Man and later showed up from time to time in some of Byrne's pet projects. He's a humdinger.

Rip Off

JJ said...

Is Dragon Man a robot, or an android? -JJ

Humanbelly said...

He's an android, Ozone. Albeit one used with wild inconsistency over the past 50 years. Although I believe there was an early appearance where he was shown with his head off while the Mad Thinker worked on repairs, he's always been given at least an animal-like level of awareness (and then child-like, and lately fully sentient), which places him above the more robotic-android station of the M.Thinker's square-headed faceless creation.

Hey, y'know who else was originally created as an "android", and yet was depicted as having fully self-aware, sentient THOUGHT BALOONS? The SUPER-ADAPTOID!! Talk about yer inexplicable technological marvels being tangled up with yer moral/ethical dilemmas!


PS-- and apparently I'm still not a robot myself. Good, good. . .

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