Hope you guys enjoyed reading The Flying She-Devils of the Pacific. It was a tough one for us. We'd been talking about it since we finished Fightin' Scientists of Tesladyne. We kept pushing it back because we knew we weren't ready. Scott's art wasn't up to snuff and I could barely keep a story going for more than one issue.

We figured out that we'd never really be ready for it. So one day we just decided to stop running away from it and do the damn story.

This week we're bringing you The Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur. For the first time it's a direct sequel to a previous storyline, The Ghost of Station X. For those of you reading it for the very first time as we're putting it online, I'll just say: if you think we've ever done a cliffhanger before, wow, are you in for a heck of a ride. And it's not gonna end for a while.

Enjoy!

Meanwhile! We've got some super huge news coming at you guys in the next month or so. I hate to be so cagey about what we're brewing up, but argh, you guys. You guys!

Okay, fine. I'll give you one little glimpse of one of the things.

What could it beeeeee?

If you'd like to participate in our letters column, just sign up with the ol' Patreon and send us a dang letter!

Like these chumps did.

So my question is kind of a multi-aspect one.  One of the wonderful things about Atomic Robo is, of course, the historical aspect.  And one of the wonderful things about comics in general is the collaboration between artist and writer.  And so I find myself wondering about how the historical characters get developed.

Historical characters; how much is fact, how much is Brian, how much is Scott, and how fun is it to blend it all together?

Thanks!

Eric

It’s a tremendous amount of fun to play with historical figures, that’s why we use them so often!

There’s no set ratio of realness to fictionality. We do our best to stay true to the spirit of the historical personality because what the hell is the point of putting them into your story if you’re going to make up a character for them? Just to have a famous name associated with your own? Sounds kinda crappy to me. 

That said, we aren’t slaves to historical fact either. We got big fun time sci-fi stories to tell. And, I mean, Atomic Robo himself is the most historically inaccurate thing in the pages of Atomic Robo the comic book. But Tesla was one of our earliest pioneers in what could reasonably be considered robotics, so while it’s impossible for Atomic Robo to be made by Tesla, at least it’s within the purview of Tesla as a character to make something like Atomic Robo.

Similarly, Edison never pursued an immortality formula as we posit in Volume 5, but he was definitely an ambitious business man and innovator who dabbled in spiritualism.




Ever since we read volume one both my dad and I have loved Atomic Robo. Obscure science! History! Robots punching things! It's all here! I have volumes 7, 8, and 9 right next to my bed ready to read. We've got the Patreon too, and the RPG. But enough gushing about this awesome action science comic. It's time to turn on the swinging lamp because I have some questions for Brian and Scott! Respectively!

Brian- Do you have any plans to include Sergei Korolev in the future? He's a great obscure science guy who spearheaded the soviet space program.

Scott- What's the secret to the Wegener crud/weathering surfaces?

Dave & Gabe 

No specific plans for Sergei. Yet. But don’t worry. I’m a huge fan of the space race, especially the early Soviet efforts. We’ll soon plant some seeds that could lead us to elaborating on what our version of Sergei got up to back in the day. Stay tuned!

Scott had this to say about his cruddiness…

There's no real secret to be honest. When I first started drawing comics I just wanted things to look kind of scuffed up and gritty. As a kid Star Wars looked like this totally lived in and thus believable universe, and that always stayed with me. I loved the abstract way that Mignola did that, so I just applied little abstract shapes to anything and everything because I thought it looked cool.

In other words I had no idea what I was doing, so it was successful about 50% of the time.

Eventually I started looking at this desire to create a specific look with some purpose. In The Deadly Art of Science I stopped inking my work and switched to very tight pencils instead of inking the pages.It's very easy for pencils to look muddy and just kind of gross and I wanted very much to avoid that. I wanted a nice clean and almost animated look to things. So I was no longer able to do any sort of shading because the pencil strokes would always show up no matter how careful I was, and I found it kind of broke my own immersion in the fictional world we were creating.

Enter the Crud.

I have learned, literally through years of trial and error, to use my crud/weathering as a shorthand to stand it for the visual depth that would normally be created with cross hatching and spot-blacks. Obviously my colorists also play a huge role in this. I find that when I get it right, the scuffs and stains that I use help create a sense of volume to characters and objects that would otherwise look very flat and bland. So I decide who or what needs to really pop and what can fade into the background, and then go to town making a thousand little tick marks on each page.

Here’s the best links turned up by my research and general internetting last week. I offer this as a service to you weirdo degenerates who unaccountably do not follow me on Twitter.

World’s first head transplant "could result in a hitherto never experienced level and quality of insanity.” - Science Alert

Augmented vision while driving couldn’t possibly backfire and especially not at highway speeds oh my god what are you people thinking? - The Verge

Quantum communication gets a little more possible with fibers that can bring light to a practical standstill. - Phys.org

 

 
It's time for another MAILBAG.
 
What you do is: you become one of our Patrons. And then you send us letters. And we address them here for everyone to see.
 
Let's get rolling.
 
 
 
I'm curious why you guys decided not to have weird science filter into the mainstream universe a bit more.  I mean, sure, you've included enough secret societies and everything to make it plausible (heck ALAN by himself would work just fine as a reason), but, before you included all that, you had to decide "Are we going to have a world where Action Science has changed everything or one where Action Science is more hidden and hasn't affected the landscape of the world so much?"
 
I'm curious why you went with hidden science.  Also, if you're planning on making it less hidden anytime soon.
 
Michael
 
It’s a question of accessibility. That’s the feature of this series that we championed above all others. It informed the shape of everything we’ve done. It’s why Robo is a robot. You never need to see the origin story. You see a robot on the page and you never question why it’s strong, or invulnerable, or ageless, so we never have to waste time talking about it.
 
The robot main character lets us build a big and complex continuity across 100+ years without retcons or compressions. That means every story counts and with a little planning every story fits with all the others without any of them getting in the way. And that means readers can start anywhere and read the rest in any order. That’s less of a concern now as the whole comic goes online. But back when print was the only option, you could never be sure that any individual reader would have access to the whole catalog.
 
Anyway! A big part of how all that history fits together seamlessly is by making sure that it closely resembles our own so we don’t have to devote a lot of space to explaining How Things Are to everyone. Memory and Wikipedia do it for us. Super duper crazy science has to be suppressed or destroyed in the course of these super duper crazy science adventures to keep the world recognizable so we don’t have to keep reminding readers about Kennedy’s second term or when the Fourth Reich claimed Antarctica in 1972.
 
I mean, sure, that stuff is fertile ground for fun and interesting alternate history stories, they just aren’t the ones we’re doing with Atomic Robo!
 
Modern stories are going to be a little different. Volume 10 is our first glimpse of a little thing we’re calling Weird Future, the new ongoing “now” of Atomic Robo’s continuity. It’s not that this will be an era where the “hidden” science will become revealed at last. Rather, it’s clear that our immediate future of the real world is going to become very strange. It seems like every day I read articles about emergent technologies that would’ve been considered ridiculous as recently as a year ago. We'll have to let things get a weirder just to keep up.
 
 
 
We've seen a large number of maniacs, mad scientists and explosions in Atomic Robo.
 
What I gotta ask is if there have been any initiatives made by Tesladyne to reach out to the potentially deranged and help them? Be it to save out on the massive explosions that tend to be an end result of their experiments and/or projects.
 
With the general awareness of mental health these days, it's bound to have happened at least one, right?
 
-Kyle M.
 
Well, there’s a very in-depth psych evaluation for potential Tesladyne staff and their immediate families, but there’s only so much that can be done to screen for these sorts of things in the general populace.
 
And, really, there just aren’t that many mad scientists. It may seem like there are, but it’s only because we don’t do comics about days when Robo is bored out of his mind waiting for the results of the latest experiment to come back from the lab.
 
 
 
We've gotten hints that Robo, at some point, got extra A/V stuff wired into him -- the brain phone, getting RSS feeds in his head, watching TV with no screen. This begs all sorts of questions.
 
Is Robo a WiFi hotspot?  Can he 'speak' Bluetooth?  Does he have IR emitters so he can act as a universal remote?
 
Unrelated: Is canonical George dead?
 
Thanks!
 
Dana
 
What, no love for Canonical Ananth?
 
Without spoiling anything for readers diving into the Atomic Mythos for the first time via this website, there are events in Volume 8 that put the ultimate fate of, uh, 95% of the Action Scientists into the Question Mark Zone.
 
My philosophy is that these guys aren't dead until the comic tells us they are. They have become Schrödinger's cast.
 
As for the other stuff.
 
WiFi, yes.
 
Bluetooth, yes.
 
Universal Remote, no. But he does have a cell phone in there.
 
 
 
Has the transition to webcomic changed how you do each page? Before a reader would read each issue as it was released, but once the website is caught up readers will be reading a page at a time. So in a way each page is its own issue.
 
Does the fact that we are currently using more DC than ever before have something to do with Edison? Or has he moved on to bigger and better things?
 
Oh, and a third question, will we ever find out where Edison's Robot came from?
 
Thanks, Timothy T.
 
I WAS PROMISED TWO QUESTIONS.
 
It’s funny, the webcomic transition is pretty much meaningless on my end because I was already writing Atomic Robo like a webcomic.
 
It’s a habit I picked up without knowing it until Greg Rucka told me. I tend to structure my pages to be specific units that will be experienced separate from all other pages because I spent ~10 years writing a webcomic.
 
Back in the wild days of 8-bit Theater I made sure there were several gags per page. With Atomic Robo there’s less of an emphasis on “gags” because it’s not primarily a comedy series. Still, something important happens on every page. Which you ought to be doing anyway, because my god, what was the point of that page otherwise?
 
I suppose the big thing is that there’s a sense of completeness to each page. It means pacing things so there is a natural pause at the end of each page. Even if the scene keeps going on the next page(s).
 
As for Direct Current, we use it so much because it’s so handy! Alternating Current is not a miracle technology for all applications as some Tesla nerds would have you believe. In certain contexts, it’s unquestionably superior to Direct Current. But DC is unquestionably superior to AC in other contexts. Having access to both of them is pretty great.
 
As for Edison’s robot, he built it! Probably the most successful out of what I assume to be Edison’s many attempts to build a better Robo.
 
Fun Fact. The robot is called the Dynamic Electro Consciousness Engine or DE-CE or “dee-cee” haha get it. Yeah, that was dumb.

Wish we could've made it out to ECCC. It's probably tied with HeroesCon as our favorite convention. There's just too much happening on the home front right now for us to jet over to the Worst Coast.

OH SNAP SON YOU SEE WHAT HE DID BOOOOOOM

Hope everyone's having a good time over there and to see see you at the next ECCC.

First, here's some kind words about Atomic Robo from the dorks at GeekDad.

Second, here's the madman at Funranium telling you what's-what.

Third, you may have noticed last week's livestream died. Our private test run earlier in the week went smoothly, but setting up the real one was a nightmare. We eventually called it off but kept poking at it to find out WHY WHYYYYYYYYY.

And I think we figured it out. We'll run a new sorta open test soon and see how this new set up copes with other human being looking at it.

Whoops! Meant to advertise this earlier in the week, but I've been up against a hell of a deadline for The Phantom and kinda sorta forgot about everything else in the world.

We're gonna do a live stream for our Patrons tomorrow, Friday March 20th, at 7:30pm Eastern.

Scott and Brian will take questions from whomever the hell shows up while Scott draws an all new cover. I think it's a cover? Whatever, it'll look cool and you'll see it happen as if by magic before your very eyes.

Stay tuned to this website, our Twitters here and here, and Patron feed for the URL when the event looms nigh.

Just a quick note for everyone who wanted to know when Atomic Robo and the Knights of the Golden Circle would be available through Amazon. Uh, it is!

You can also buy it online through Midtown Comics or your favorite online retailer. Definitely check your local shop too.

The collected edition is not yet on comiXology, but we're working on that. Meanwhile you can grab the individual issues if you're getting impatient.


Baron Heinrich von Helsingard is poised to conquer the Old West with his invincible army of automatic soldiers and the war zeppelin Basilisk. Atomic Robo, Doc Holliday, and U.S. Marshal Bass Reeves are all that stand between him and total conquest. But they're outmanned, they're outgunned, they have no good plans, and there's no way out alive. Oh, and Robo's nearly out of nuclear fuel because it's 1884.

It's that time again.

MAILBAG. Where Patrons send us mail and then we answer it in public. The few sacrifice for the many!

Just one question this week, but it leads to a big dang rambling answer. Hope you guys and gals enjoy.



You guys do tons research but what’s the most unexpected thing you came across? Thanks!

B. K.

Y’know, I sat down with this question a couples weeks ago and thought, “Oh, this’ll be easy.”

WRONG-O. But I’ve finally got an answer. It might be a big sprawly one, but here it goes.

It seems like we’ve always been working toward the internet. Not explicitly, I don’t think it was ever the plan, but an internet accomplishes a great deal of what every civilization was trying to get done. 

Now, it’s dangerous to look back at history and assign motivations or values that simply weren’t there. Or to argue for a grand scheme to explain the course of history. History isn’t even linear, not really. History is a network with billions of nodes that are all growing new nodes and every node is tugging on all the others forward and backward through time.

But what you find in every society, in every corner of the globe, throughout all of history, is a constant and practical interest in making both communication and computation faster and more accurate. And the more complex your civilization becomes, the more you need both of those things. Complexity demands greater and more specializations, and that means sharing more kinds of information with more people. The specialization then increases the complexity of your economy and you need more and better computation to keep track of all its moving parts and to coordinate the re-assembly of all that discreet specialized knowledge into whole working things from walls to roads to pencils.

The intersection of increased specialization with increased computation drives innovation. Think about it. If we’re individually responsible for all the ingredients of our own survival, there’s not a lot of time available to experiment. But if you have, for example, architects who don’t have to worry about hunting or growing food, then those guys have a lot more time to work out the art and theory of their trade. And the more they can model mathematically, the more experimentation they can do because they don’t have to use as much time, materials, and manpower/energy building prototypes to find out what works by trial and error.

And that’s happening in every trade. And then every facet of every trade.

Those innovations in increasingly subdivided fields of all human activity then drive the need for yet more communication and more computation. On and on.

So, at all stages of organization, we were incentivized to find more and better ways to communicate and to calculate.

“You mean to tell me the Egyptians were trying to build computers?”

Well, no. Not as we think of them. But wherever you find permanent structures, you find machines designed to output new information based on various inputs. They were far too specialized to be anything like a computer, but they are computing. The most obvious ones were calendars built to output the time of day/week/month/year using astronomical input based on observations dating back who knows how long because prehistoric societies used memorative arts to remember and to teach everything to every generation before someone invented the idea of writing it down.

The ancient world is full of devices that compute, from megascale calendars to compasses. But they were never computers as we understand them. The idea probably didn’t occur to anyone until Ada Lovelace.

People had been building calculators for ages. Babbage’s Difference Engine was just the latest in a line of mechanical calculators. His proposed Analytical Engine was another calculator, but one that could deal with irrational numbers. Babbage figured the best way to feed this machine information was via digital on/off bits of information read from punch cards. Babbage and the few folks who understood what he was talking about went as far as figuring out that bits could represent numbers and variables so the machine could work equations. It was Lovelace who made the connection that those bits of digital information could represent anything, any information at all, so the machine that could read bits and do work upon them. Properly equipped to express the output, the same machine could play back music, or display a book, or maps of the Earth, or an accounting spreadsheet.

Babbage’s Analytical Engine was so advanced that very few people understood its significance, and none of them were the people Babbage needed to help pay to build the damn thing. And Lovelace’s ideas about the Analytical Engine were even more advanced such that NO ONE understood them, not even Babbage. Or, if he did, the total math dork that he was, it never occurred to him that universal computability was at all interesting.

To put this into a modern context, it would have been Steve Jobs inventing the iPad and insisting it was only useful to do your taxes.

We’ve had binary for a few thousand years. And we’ve known for at least 500-ish years that the easiest way to make machines work on information is through binary -- it’s easier to design and less error prone to build ten different on/off switches than one switch with ten settings.

So, how often did this happen? Tesla had an innate understanding of electromagnetic principles, but we only know that because he was lucky enough to successfully express some of them. How many Teslas were wasted in history?

Babbage and Lovelace happened to be rich geniuses and happened to intersect each others lives, and happened to invent computers while solving some other problem entirely. And even then it’s another 70 - 100 years before anyone else understands their ideas enough to do anything with them.

Did anyone else figure it out before them? Someone unlucky enough to not be born rich? Or to be born before the Industrial Revolution? Someone trying to eke out a life despite the wild flashes of pure agonizing certainty that you can build a machine to work ideas the way a farmer works land?

Did I answer the question somewhere in there? Here it goes again: I did not expect to find every civilization working on their own versions of the internet. From writing to mail to the telegraph to email to texts. We’re just trying to be heard.
You might have missed it, but I shared some behind the scenes Secret History of Atomic Robo on Twitter yesterday. It's the story of where we came up with this issue. There's eleven tweets in all, numbered for your convenience, and they start right here!

Meanwhile! Did you know we take questions from our Patrons and answer some of them every week? It's true! Here's the latest pile of questions that get answers.


Ahoy!

I have two questions I was curious about and hoped you might answer in your mailbag one week.

(1) Do you guys have any favorite real or fictional robots?

(2) Did teen Robo ever make a mixtape for someone he was crushing on? If so, what was on it?

Thanks!

Vanessa L.


I suppose it would be unfair to mention Atomic Robo for either part of that first question, so let’s take him off the table.

Favorite real robot, for me, right now, is the Curiosity Rover. Chang’e 3 is a close second just for how its mission ended. It might take a robot mission to Europa or Titan to trump these guys.

Fictional robot is a toughie! Might have to go with G1 era cartoon Optimus Prime.
 
Did they do mixtapes when Robo was teenagerish? I think he kinda jumped over that stage of development anyway. Like, he was activated and already late teens or early twenties. Maybe a bit childish, especially for that era, but hell, the guy just needed some life experience!




Will we ever see the origin of Robo's bug phobia? Will we see more undead Edison? How about Ada Birch?

Ben

Edison? Oh my, yes.

Ada? Well. People who are not explicitly in Volume 10 might be dead. Or alive! We’ll make the call on a case-by-case basis when the time comes. I’m inclined to side with most of these guys living. It should be more interesting to see how familiar faces have adapted to the new status quo we’ll introduce than to just kill a ton of the cast off panel.

I don’t think there’s a definitive “origin” to Robo’s bug phobia. I tend to think of it as something that developed over time. The rest of us, we have skin and hair to keep things from getting into us and we have immune systems to destroy the few things that get through.

Robo does not! So, for him, I think it’s just the idea that it’s statistically inevitable that things are going to get into his body where they will be crushed to death and their gross bug goo and organs will be gunking up his insides and there’s nothing he can do about it other than try not to OBSESSIVELY AND VIVIDLY PICTURE THAT GOING ON ALL THE TIME.

Harder than it sounds.




First off, thanks for making such a great character and such awesome stories. I have been buying single issues, trade paperbacks, and electronic issues and whole volumes via Comixology. Atomic Robo is really one of the best books out now, and I'm grateful to have come across it. So, on to my question now...What kind of failures, or setbacks have you guys run into prior to your Atomic Robo success? Thanks for your time!

Jonnie

Well, Atomic Robo was rejected by every publisher we approached. Before that, my dumb novel was rejected by every publisher I approached.
 
The default state of this business is failure and setback. It's why when there's a success, it gets franchised to hell, i.e. Wolverine being in every Marvel comic book, then it was Deadpool, now it's putting "Avengers" on the cover, etc.

Failures and setbacks are discouraging as hell when they hit you, and after enough of them they make you want to pack up and quit. But they're a sign that you're participating. People who don't try don't even get to fail. Failures and setbacks are a step up. Everyone who is succeeding in this business is failing. Almost every single corporate gig I got after my success with Atomic Robo went belly up before the first issue was released. This new The Phantom mini-series from Dynamite is the first one in five years that might actually come out in full.
 
You just don't hear about the failures. No one puts out a press release for My Pitch Was Rejected because that's not news. Because, again, failure and setback is the default state.
 



Are there any plans to do stories of the original Ironhide?  I would really be interested in learning about him.

Steven

So, some years back we got the idea to do Tesla’s 11. Step 1: who the hell is on that team? That was largely a matter of researching a bunch of cool historical scientists and adventurers to find a batch of them who would be alive and at an appropriate age within a plausible window toward the end of the 19th century.

We only came up with seven. And we had to cheat for one of them -- Wong Kei-ying died in 1886 but we figured, hey, why not fake your death and come to America for a while? We're lucky to be able to use history as a guide without being shackled to it.
 
Anyway, seven characters instead of eleven. Just as well since it’s hard enough to satisfactorily share screen time across just that many characters.

An unintended side-effect of this "wide net" approach to the casting call was accidentally inventing prior action science teams! See, a lot of the cool historical scientists and adventurers we looked into were born too early to make the cut for Tesla’s late 19th century team. So, you start to imagine different teams they were on. Mid-19th century. Early 19th-century. And their American, European, Asian, and African contemporaries. And then you keep working backwards. Renaissance, Crusades, Greece, Sumeria.

Uh, where was I?

Right, the original Ironhide. Like I was saying, we totally made room to tell that guy’s story, and a few dozen others, by accident. We already have some vague thoughts about what to do with the first Ironhide. But our Real Science Adventures spin-off series is in something of a limbo. It’s a matter of figuring out when, where, and how to make them. I think it's just to early in this new Webcomic Phase to tell how that stuff will play out yet.
 
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