Let the record show…

Let the record show…

Okay, so I’ve seen the same reaction to Atomic Robo and the Flying She-Devils of the Pacific #1 in a wide range of places, and I’m a little tired of it.

Basically: “Robo is too surprised by the She-Devils. He keeps bringing up their gender over and over and it’s really tiresome, or annoying, or sexist, or all of the above.”

Counterpoint: you’re wrong.

There are 22 pages in this issue. Robo meaningfully interacts with one or more of the She-Devils in 12 of them. Let’s take a look.

Page 7, bottom. Robo is surprised to learn that the jetpack men who rescued him are in fact women. I think we’re allowed one reaction without over doing it, yeah?

Page 8, top. Still reacting, so the same incident.

Pages 9 – 14. Not at all surprised to meet a lady engineer, a lady navigator, a lady pilot, or their lady captain.

Page 15, middle. Realizes everyone on the island is a lady: finds that unusual.

And that’s it.

Two reactions — two and a half if we’re being generous — to two different ideas nine pages apart: 1) The person Robo assumed was a man is a woman, and 2) The entire secret island’s population is made up of women.

To the first, well, I think mistaking someone’s identity usually involves surprise on the part of at least one of the parties. To the second, I’d like to put forward the perhaps radical idea that an uncharted South Pacific island full of women AWOL from WW2 is actually unusual. We’ve seen Robo immediately doubt unusual things when he first encounters them for six volumes. His reaction here is no different, and it’s not out of proportion to other unusual events he’s come across.

Maybe it’s something about the rest of the issue then? We noted above that Robo interacts with She-Devils for twelve pages but we’ve only looked at nine of them so far.

Pages 16 – 18. The only thing that surprises Robo is how the lady engineer who designed and built the jetpacks out of scrap isn’t a millionaire.

So, in what possible way was that, “bringing up their gender over and over“?

  • BeastieRunner

    The modern critic tends to forget that critical reading is just as, if not more so, important as the critique. Are they all male reviewers? That screams bias and that they themselves are shocked that it’s all women in the story. We can’t have strong women in our comics! CLOTHED no less! Typical industry nerd.

    Just keep doing what you’re doing; you guys are knocking it out of the park!

  • Veronica

    Oh my goodness, it’s just a joke – and a really harmless one at that

    People love making mountains out of mole hills, it’s like you can get your degree in it or something.

    Don’t worry about any of that nonsense – it’s not offensive at all – Keep up the great work!

  • Chris

    Those critics are also forgetting the time period in which the story takes place.  The 40’s and 50’s didn’t see a lot of women in the workplace, at least not compared to today.  Like Brian said, an entire island of woman doing things that mostly men were doing at the time would be very surprising.  Its called context people.

  • http://twitter.com/Featherweight_ Devin Harrigan

    its a knee jerk over reaction reviewers in the industary have at the moement to call everything with a woman in it sexist*, just in case, so they themselfs can not be excuesed of being sexist. A legitimate conseron rolls in to a witch hunt. which is not a healthy enviorment, It creates alot of no win situation for creatrors (when it comes to reviews anyway).

    *not to say thier isn’t freakn’ mountians of it, which thier is.

  • Ola

    Totally never crossed my mind (the gender thing). But i might have been distracted by the frick´n AWSUME storyline! Jetpacks, airships, secret pacfic island hideouts. YAY pulpy goodness! Loved it!

  • Jay in Oregon

    Well, except for that whole “women working in factories/Rosie the Riveter” thing that took place during WWII, which the story explicitly addresses.
    And yes, a whole island of women with a private fleet of planes would be extremely surprising in WWII. I daresay it would be considered unusual NOW—not that it should be, but you get my drift…

  • Rolacka

    I’m going to play Devil’s advocate here and say that I noticed Robo mentioned it more than I would expect him to (I had read no reviews prior to reading the issue).

    I think it was the second mention on page 8, that I read as more than just a momentary surprise, approaching incredulous. That was what surprised me, I would have expected Robo to adjust to it more quickly. Then of course I noticed the third mention as I had noticed the second.

    A big part of all this is of course I as the reader already knew the title of the arc so knew they were all women prior to reading the issue, so didn’t share Robo’s surprise at all. I think had I not known prior to reading the issue I wouldn’t have noticed.

    I have read a couple of reviews that mentioned it, and in fairness it did seem more like a comment in passing. Everybody still seemed to enjoy the book.

    (Don’t hate me by the way Brian – I love Robo and it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the issue).

  • alasdair stuart

    For what it’s worth,l I took it as a good, character-driven running joke and commented on it as such in my review. I don’t think I cited it as a criticism and didn’t intend to if it came across that way.

  • BCarbaugh

    I like this new-found awareness of gender and social issues that’s been manifesting among comics and videogames lately, but I think it can border at times on over-reactive defensiveness and hand-wringing.

  • http://www.nuklearpower.com Brian!

    Basically, yeah.

  • Scott!


  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Serge-Broom/1567496523 Serge Broom

    A story set in 1951 where a Robo built in 1927 would not have reacted to women in that setting would have been unrealistic. And he was indeed more impressed by someone improvising jetpacks than by the improviser having breasts.

  • http://www.nuklearpower.com Brian!

    Exactly. He never questions their abilities or accomplishments, he is simply surprised that they’re all women. The end!

  • http://www.facebook.com/twobyfour Dave Smith


    Finally got around to curling up with a copy of Atomic Robo and
    the Flying She-Devils of the Pacific #1 and it looks as though Volume 7 is
    picking up right where Volume 6 left off.  Again the plot is laid out beautifully through
    the perfect blend of action and exposition, Brian has again dropped you right
    into the midst of a fully realized story, another time jump and the
    introduction of a half-dozen characters. I also have to mention how the new colorist
    has added a new depth to Scott’s stark composition.  


         Now I adore Scott’s work and continually
    drool over each pencil line, but this issue really brings home how integral
    Brian’s work is to this book.  Last
    volume was easily the most fully realized and perfectly paced of the series so
    far; being both the optimal jumping on point for a new reader while remaining familiar
    and comforting to those who follow this book rabidly.  And while reading through issue #1 of
    ARATFSDOTP, it struck me how well Brian writes his women.  Be it the WWII action heroine The Sparrow,
    Helen McAllister or new favorite Capt. May Carter, each woman speaks and acts
    in unique and specific fashion, genuine and solid.  Clevinger is writing some most interesting,
    believable and unabashedly human female characters in comics right now.


     Additional proof of the special nature of this
    series is the inspired decision to ask several female comic artists their own
    characters to appear as The She-Devils in ARATFSDOTP.  There is a magic to this book that has just
    increased with each successive volume.  Brian
    and Scott are assembling a body of work as worthy of the term genius as I’ve
    ever read.. and I pray they’ve only scratched the surface. 

  • michaelk42

    People looking for offense are just tiresome.

    I really don’t think those people get that Robo is an alien mind. He doesn’t necessarily think like people. He’s still a lot closer to thinking like people than Turing’s AI was, but still not a human. He doesn’t think women can’t do things, he’s simply surprised to find cases of humans not arbitrarily limiting themselves based on gender. If he’s surprised by the situation at all, it’s more pleasantly than anything else.

  • Ron Shirtz

    Just received issue #1 of the Flying She Devils, and can’t understand all the hoopla about Atomic Robo’s amazement over discovering the women. As stated by others, it fits in the cultural expectations of the time period. That’s what I love about the series, is the background authentically reflects not only the hardware but the social mores. Those who complain are must be the same ilk of those who wring their hands over Huckleberry Finn and clamor to have it banned.

    BTW, I’ve been racking my brain and scouring the internet trying to ID that parked single engine mono-wing float plane that appears in the latter part of the story. I’m 90% sure that’s a Loening. Just can’t determine the exact model. Am I right?

  • Scott!

    It is indeed a Loening. It’s a mash-up of several models and I didn’t feel like drawing a biplane so WA-BAM!! through the magic of comic books I turned it into a monoplane.

  • Ethan

    How early is Robo’s existence publicized and to what extent?  To me it’s more interesting that the She-Devils aren’t more taken aback by the atomic-powered pilot robot.  Keep up the great story and artwork!

  • http://www.nuklearpower.com Brian!

    Robo was revealed to the world in September of 1923.

    By the time this story happens, in 1951, he’s the kind of guy everyone knows about. We thought about having the She-Devils mirror Robo’s surprise, but as Captain Carter says in #2, “The Pacific is big enough [for all kinds of crazy shit],” so we figured they’d been out there long enough to take odd events in stride.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kyle.thoreau Kyle Thoreau

    ignore the complaints- so far this book has some of the best female characters in comics. My girlfriend who hates comics for the misogny and sexism LOVED this issue (mind you she loves Robo already this just reaffirmed her love)

    for me I’m just saddened this might be the only time we see these characters

  • http://www.nuklearpower.com Brian!

    Enjoy ‘em while you can!

    There’s room for a few stories about the She-Devils from before they showed up, but I’m not sure if it’d be more interesting to tell them or simply to imply them. I tend to learn toward the latter.

  • Scott!

    I feel that sadness about every set of characters we great for Robo. :)

    It’s a good sad though. I guess.