Jul.25.16 at 02:11 pm

It's that time again. Thanks to our Patrons we are here to answer your burning questions. And your ordinary questions. Burning is always appreciated but not necessary.

I know you've addressed how ridiculous it would be for Tesladyne to have a child employee or sidekick, and I totally agree with you, but I can't help but wonder... are there any current or former 'boy adventurers' not tied to Tesladyne running around in the setting, a la Jonny Quest or Rusty Venture? (I realize Robo himself kinda sorta counts if you think about it)

Chris S.

There’s bound to be bright kids in Robo’s world. We’ve shown at least one. But I like to think that in Robo’s world, there’s sufficient public funding for programs designed to attract and/or identify these kids and then to encourage them to pursue their interests with some mentorship or guidance to keep them from harming themselves or others.

Maybe that’s unrealistically optimistic, but it’s an unrealistically optimistic setting in a lot of ways!

 

With all the modifications Robo has made on himself - not to mention all the times he's had to have himself rebuilt - Tesladyne had any success with adapting Robo's limbs for prosthetics?

Nicholas P.

Scott and I have talked about this a few times over the years. It seems likely that having Robo running around as a proof of concept for, uh, 90 years would be a huge boon to prosthetics technology. But then it occurred to us that studying Robo’s example would lead to monstrous super prosthetics that would injure the people they’re attached to.

So, it’s had relatively little impact on prosthetics as we think of them. But, on the bright side for our crazy sci-fi series, that means dangerously augmented cyborg bad guys!

 

Dear Robo

What kind of music do you guys listen to?  and do you imagine any sort of soundtrack for your comics?

William E.

These days, while working, I tend to listen to stuff like Perturbator, Makeup and Vanity Set, Kn1ght, Lazerhawk, Kavinsky, Betamaxx, sea shanties (too many Aubrey-Maturin novels + Assassins Creed Black Flag), and Boccherini (Aubrey-Maturin again). So, if it sounds like it came from an ‘80s sci-fi movie, or the age of sail, I’m in.

Not sure how I’d go about making an Atomic Robo soundtrack though. Guess it would depend on the era and tone of the particular story being done. Hopefully there’s a lot of Johnny Cash and Inkspots though.

 

Question 1: In the reprint Kickstarter you have about 45 backers who should be getting their name in the comic and 19 who get their name plus actually appear. I'm curious if you can share your plan on how you are going do this? Is it going to be a gradual one or two here and there or are you planning to name drop everyone en masse?

Question 2: A train leaves from New York City (NYC) heading towards Los Angeles (LA) at 100 mph. Three hours later, a train leaves LA heading towards NYC at 200 MPH. Assume there's exactly 2000 miles between LA and NYC. When they meet, which train is closer to New York City?

Tim N.

Answer 1: I will say this: we’ve already written all the relevant scenes, and if everything goes according to schedule, you should see them before the end of this year. Stay tuned.

Answer 2: Hahaha highspeed transcontinental rail in America lol okay buddy good one.

 

So I recently re-listened to all the Atomic Robo: Nuts and Bolts and that got me thinking about the action scientists. You mention several times that you would like to expand their stories but find it too hard to in comic form as you keep flipping through time. Have you considered the possibility of expanding their backstories in prose, possibly in the form of archives of the Tesladyne Newsletter? 

Steven P.

Yes. And we decided it’d be more fun to use these potential stories as fodder for mini-comics here and there. Either online or as bonus content in print issues.

Which is not to say we’ve ruled out prose as a content delivery platform. Patrons know all about what we’re offering at superexplosive.com for example.

 

Summer is upon us and it is a great time to travel, relieve some stress, and get over past defeats. Do you think Dr. Dino and Robo’s differences could be solved if only they could channel their energy into a more constructive pursuit? Have they considered D&D? Or perhaps board games? They come in app form now for the Dino on the go!

Vanessa L.

I’ll be honest, we never thought about it before. Doctor Dinosaur is not exactly the forgiving type. But now I can’t stop thinking about how we need him and Robo playing chess like Professor X and Magneto in those X-Men movies.\

Now to figure out how the hell we could keep Doctor Dinosaur captured. Everything’s just too Looney Tunes with him around.

 

Indiana Jones, Big Trouble in Little China, The Good The Bad The Weird are all great influences for The Temple of Of and let's not forget the force from Star Wars...Just Awesome! But answer me this, is Helen still alive in the present time? She's an amazing character.

Shawn M.

Well, let’s see. She’s at least twenty-ish by the time we first meet her in The Deadly Art of Science, so she’d have to be born in, let’s say, 1910. That would make her 106 years old if she was alive today.

But she’s not. Helen lives a nice, long life full of adventure, but she has passed away.

 

First of all, thank you for making an amazing comic.

I've always been curious about Robo's birth. Is that something we'll ever get to see? What knowledge and behaviors, if any, was he preprogrammed with? I assume he could walk, move, and control his strength so he didn't risk hurting anyone while trying to learn.

Keely M.

Thanks, Keely!

But, yeah, we generally avoid showing Robo’s “origin” as such. We just don’t need one. Most superhero stories need to tell us how and why these characters can do what they do. We already know how Robo does his amazing feats because it’s right there in his name! He’s atomic powered and he’s a robot. Done.

The why is perhaps less obvious, it’s certainly never explicitly stated, but I like to think we’ve built a case out of Robo’s actions that help readers to infer why he does what he does: because it’s the right thing to do.

 

Hi! Firstly, I'm a huge fan, geeking out, saving up for books on my crappy freelance artist budget, etc. etc.

Okay, now that the formalities are out of the way, I wanted to ask if we'll ever see what happened to Jenkins? I'm with Robo on this one and very highly doubt the explosion got him; it didn't kill the other guy, so he could've survived too. I've got this silly personal theory that he survived the explosion and escaped to some remote part of the island, where he's been camping out a la Bear Grylls with nothing but a knife and his wits. Pretty soon that corner of the island gets declared off-limits or haunted or something by Majestic/Ultra; few who go there ever return, and those who do can only jibber terrified nonsense about the Angry Ghost of Tesladyne Island.

Which is probably not what really happened, but it keeps me from worrying about a fictional character too much, haha!

Audrey M.

Oh, man. What happened to Jenkins is definitely the most popular question we’ve gotten since we started The Ring of Fire.

And our answer is the same now as it has always been: we’re not telling you anything other than what’s on the page. He was in an explosion. He hasn’t been seen since. But the other guy who was there seems to have lived through it (with a cyborg arm). And everyone thinks Jenkins is dead, except for Robo who thinks he must be alive because there’s no body.

And that’s just how it stands!

For now...

 

1: This one's for Dr Dinosaur specifically: What is your Origin Story? I know you have said you have come from the past but I am curious on the full details. Were you once good or evil or just crazy? Did you have anyone you cared for? Why come to the future? Why the hate on us mammals? We just trying to survive man. DX

2: For the creators of this fine adventure: Which of the adventures related to Robo do you think is your finest work? Why is this the case?

3: For anyone willing to answer it: For over a hundred years, and possibly many more in the future, Atomic Robo has advanced the course of science, and dealt with monsters from beyond time, evil men seeking the powers of the gods, and crazy scientist dinosaurs. In all those years, in all that time, what has been the hardest evil he has ever had to face and why? Feel free to go metaphysical on this like the horrors of mankind's desire for power or something if you wish, but I mean along the lines of physical or mental threats to his well being like a evil mad scientist with a death ray or a horror from beyond time or something.

Kyle K.

1. Unlike Robo’s origin, which we don’t show because it’s not interesting, Doctor Dinosaur’s origin is only interesting because we don’t show it. Is he telling the truth? Everything he says sounds crazy and wrong. And, not coincidentally, is crazy and wrong. But then it turns out he’s right just enough that it makes us question if he’s actually crazy and wrong about that other stuff too.

2. Brian: I think The Shadow From Beyond Time was our best overall Robo story, but I’m also partial to Ghost of Station X because it’s given us so much to play with ever since.

Scott: Scott: Flying She-Devils of the Pacific. P.S. I am forever jealous of Lo Baker for getting to draw more She-Devils over at realscienceadventures.com. At least I got to do the covers!

3. That’s a toughie. But I think we have to side with the Shadow From Beyond Time on this one. It did, after all, threaten the existence of the entire universe forever throughout time. That’s pretty big. And, technically, we don’t know if Robo succeeded or not.

 

First, thank you for Atomic Robo! It's a series that's made me smile and laugh when I really need it.

I’m working on a webcomic I want to release soon. How do you make a character that is supremely skilled in some ways but also relatable? Particularly non-human characters? 

Robo is a super strong character with a crap load of intelligence who is just as human as every other character he encounters. Which seems to be one of the points of his character. But all the same, how did you go about making him so relatable? Was it something that came about naturally or did you go out of your way to give him a few flaws that make sense with his character?

Marco G.

Glad you’re enjoying our work, Marco.

And, boy, you’ve asked us a whopper of a question. Here’s my attempt at an answer.

To start, I’m not accusing you of doing this, Marco, I don’t know the first thing about your process. But I see a lot of beginners making the mistake of thinking of characters, especially main characters, as the products of equations. Arrange all the variables in the right order, give them the right values, and output a beautiful creature.

But that’s not how it works. These aren’t D&D characters. You aren’t picking from a list of feats, skills, stats, and flaws from TVTropes all min-maxed to produce maximum audience relatability.

So, relatability is a tough one. It’s not something you can force, it has to arise naturally from what we learn of the character through his or her thoughts and actions.

We kind of cheat with Robo. He has the bare minimum requirements for a face and that subconsciously makes most people project themselves onto him. The moment you see him, you’re relating to him without knowing it.

And then he lives in a big, crazy sci-fi world. And most of the people reading about it are somewhat familiar with the kinds of things that happen in big, crazy sci-fi worlds. And Robo is kind of in on it too. He can share the text’s secret jokes and nods and nudges with the audience. Not in a Deadpool-ish Break-The-Fourth-Wall kind of way, Robo never steps out of the world he inhabits, but his experiences of getting slapped in the head with crazy sci-fi threats for nearly a hundred years gives him the same familiarity the audience probably has with regard to the kinds of threats he’s going to face.

So, Robo gets to be funny, but it’s important that he’s not too funny or falsely funny. Those are two products of the same phenomenon. It’s when the writer pushes too hard to make a joke happen and ends up with a string of words that practically scream out at you, the reader, as unnatural. I never plan Joke Goes Here or labor over dialog for humor. If a line comes out funny, then it’s a funny line. I might give it one more pass to make sure it sounds natural. And I’m not against making a slight tweak to an ordinary line if doing so would turn it into a funny one. But if a gag doesn’t work by that second draft, it’s a sign to cut it. For whatever reason, that moment does not call for a joke, or at least that joke, and the best thing to do is to move on. Maybe that sounds harsh, but I strongly believe in the “KILL YOUR DARLINGS” philosophy of writing.

Anyway, this gives us a heroic character who throws himself into danger while giving voice to the most likely thoughts/reactions of the readers. And then we try to structure the action to put a twist on what the audience has come to expect about what’s happening. This twist often comes as a surprise to Robo too, so he continues to mirror the audience’s feelings.

Actually, there is an equation, and it’s much simpler than D&D. Here it is:

Character wants X, but must overcome Y to get it, and then Z is an unintended/unwanted consequence of attaining it.

That’s your story. Asking yourself questions about each of those variables can tell you about the others. Why does the character want X? Why not something else? What will they do or give up to get X? What would they refuse to do or to give up to get X? Why is Y an obstacle? Why not something else? And so on.

This gets you thinking about your characters in terms of their motivations and outlooks, and it gets you thinking about who and what is aligned against them, and thinking about how and why those are. It’s a process that places the characters in their world and gets them reacting to it in ways that make sense. That’s pretty relatable. Everything else is just details.

 

LOVE the series. It's a gem! 

Question: Is zero-point energy based on anything beyond your imagination? The concept? The name? Any connection to real-world science?

Dave C.

It is a very real idea! And, like most very real ideas or historical events/people, we amp them up and sci-fi them a bit, but always with an eye toward keeping them sort of plausible. It’s a tough balance to maintain. Like, a little later in the series, you’ll see Doctor Lu talk about zero-point energy, and what he says isn’t strictly correct, but the ways that it’s incorrect respects what’s true and real about zero-point energy theories. Basically, we try to write stuff like that so that a knowledgeable person could read it and go “That’s not quite right, but they did their research, so it’s wrong on purpose instead of just stupid.”

Usually when you see zero-point energy pop up in sci-fi stories, it’s being used as an excuse to allow for absurdly magical events to happen. Which is fine, it’s just not what we’re doing. When we borrow concepts from reality, be they historical people or events or theories, we like to keep our versions of them a little more grounded to show our respect for the real people responsible for these things in the first place. The way we see it, they never gave us permission to play with their toys, as it were, so this approach is our way of handling their accomplishments with care. We don’t know if anyone notices or cares that we do things like this, but it just feels right.