Jul.15.15 at 11:40 am

You know what's up. Patrons ask us questions. We answer them. Everyone gets entertained. It's so simple!

The return of zorth activity to the comic has me curious:

 
Your characters keep referring to zorth as the "fifth cardinal direction" but all other dimensions have two directions.  In addition to before and after, there's left, right, bow, stern, dorsal, and ventral. Is the zorth axis uniquely unipolar, or is there an "anti-zorth" direction?  Or, is zorth multi-polar, with many potential cizorth and tranzorth directions?  Thanks for clearing this up.
 
David
 
 
This may come ask a shock to some of you, but "zorth" is completely made up. And, before you ask, yes, a lot of other things in the comic are made up too. I know. It's horrible. But better you pick it up here than on the streets.
 
Okay. That was way too condescending, but it's too late to to take it back. It's a good and legit question, so here's the real answer.
 
I think zorth theory would've been developed with the natural presumption that a zorth implies an anti-zorth. But refinements in the theory that came later revealed that it's more useful to model zorth as several "directions" at once.
 
Zorth is our sci-fi MacGuffin for all sorts of hyperdimensional shenanigans. Especially if those shenanigans either A) shouldn't "realistically" happen, or B) if they could happen if you pump enough energy into a system to very nearly break physics as we know it, but explaining that in any sort of detail would get in the way of the next explosion.
 
In either case, we can just invoke "It was a zorth!" and the reader nods sagely. This comes out of our plausibility over accuracy policy.
 
 
Today I was re-reading The Deadly Art of Science, and I noticed a familiar name on the cover of the Real Science Adventures issue Robo was reading on one of the pages.
 
I'm not sure if this has been answered before (I don't think so?), but I was curious:

Did Robo pick the name Ironhide to use as an alias, based on the story he read in the RSA issue? Did Robo get mistaken for the actual Ironhide (assuming the Real in RSA means "this actually happened!"), and he just rolled with it? Or was Robo the original Ironhide, and was the RSA story/legend based on him? (so he could read it in the RSA book, and that made him pick the name Ironhide, causing the legend of Ironhide so it could show up in the RSA boOH GODS WE'VE GONE TIMELOOP!)

Thanks for answering!
 
Bjorn
 
There's so much going on in The Knights of the Golden Circle that we had to cut everything that wasn't 100% essential. On the bright side, we can revisit everything that was cut in a later spin-off series if we're so inclined.
 
But the basic idea is this.
 
At some point between 1860 - 1870 an armored vigilante starts taking out bandits in Colorado. Folks start calling him "Ironhide" and his legend grows. He soon becomes a symbol of justice and of resisting/fighting corruption, which is a darn shame for the Caldwells who are piecing together the first organized crime ring in American history right there in Colorado. The Caldwells eventually kill Ironhide, but they can't kill the idea of him. For instance, he's quite likely the source of inspiration for the Kelly Gang years later.
 
When Robo pops up in 1870, he tries to lay low so he doesn't screw up time. But he's in the past for about 15 years, so people are bound to catch sight of him here and there. He's immediately identified as or with Ironhide because what else is he gonna be? It's why everyone who meets him in the comic thinks he's either the original Ironhide back from the dead or someone who has taken up his mantle. These people have only heard about Ironhide's legend, so it doesn't seem immediately strange that he's capable of amazing feats of endurance and strength.
 
Fastforward to the 20th century and we have a young Atomic Robo who voraciously reads pulp magazines. One of his favorites is Real Science Adventures because it features stories based on real historical events. It'd be more accurate to say these stories are "based on" real historical events, but you get the idea. Anyway, Ironhide is one of RSA's more popular recurring characters since the legends of his life, his death, his other life, and his other death are vague enough to allow all sorts of crazy stories "based on" them.
 
Bonus metapoints: the way history and folklore inform the fiction of Ironhide that Robo reads is a demonstration of how our real history and folklore inform every volume of Atomic Robo.
 
 
One of your previous Mailbag questions got me wondering. We've really only seen two "good guy" Science Organizations (as opposed to bad guy science organizations, of which there are legion): Tesladyne and Big Science Inc.  Are there others that haven't been talked about yet? Are you planning on introducing any of them into the comic at any point?

Michael
 
Something to keep in mind is that they all think they're heroic. And they're all going to view the others as antagonistic. And it is our position that none of them are wrong on either count.
 
Of course Majestic 12/ULTRA look like villains because we're seeing them from Robo's perspective. It'd be pretty easy to see Robo as a dangerous lunatic if we did comics from Majestic's point of view. We deal with this a bit in the upcoming Atomic Robo RPG supplement all about Majestic 12.
 
We don't bother to make Robo the villain of the supplement. I just don't think that's an interesting "twist." Rather we shift the default point of view to show how an organization like Majestic 12 is a necessary part of keeping civilization from unravelling. Because then anything it does can be justified by the results -- isn't it worth a little collateral damage to save every life on the planet?
 
Doing this lets you play any type of game from, and I believe this is even a quote from the text, "Science Bastards With Unlimited Gun Budgets" to a more nuanced and psychological thing where good men and women strive to do what's right while trapped inside a corrupt organization.
 
But that's enough commercial, let's get back to answering your question.
 
Yes, we'll see more of these sci-fi organizations. I think the blanket term I've come up with is Research & Defense. The Ring of Fire shows us what Majestic has grown into, and we get some time with another organization we've never seen. Maybe two but one of them is so loosely affiliated you can hardly call it an organization. Anyway, you'll see.
 
I think we used to call The Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur, "The one where everything changes." The Ring of Fire is only our first glimpse at what that means. Future volumes will show some other R&D organizations; what they used to be like; and how they've changed in the wake of Tesladyne's fall.
 
 
Jul.09.15 at 09:12 am

The last time we talked about the Atomic Robo Roleplaying Game by Evil Hat Productions, it was to tell you it had been nominated for an Origins Award.

Something called "Dungeon's Dragon" or something like that won. I understand it's pretty popular.

Well, today we're hitting you with this bit of news. We've been nominated for a couple of ENnies too! Best Family Game and Best Game.

The neat thing is: you can vote for them right here!

Jun.25.15 at 09:30 am

Okay, ladies and germs, it's that magical time when we answer questions from our Patrons. Here's how it works. You join our Patreon and then you can ask us questions and then we answer them in the public forum of this here blog.

I love that Atomic Robo wears clothes, but I have never seen him do any laundry that I can remember. 

Does he do his own?  Do they have a laundry area at Tesladyne Industries?  Does the whole gang go around the corner to the local Fluff and Fold and hang out and do their laundry there, on every odd Tuesdays? 

You cannot be an Action Scientist and not look clean and pressed!

Thanks for all the Robo AWESOMENESS!

Yours For Science,

Nathan

Well, Nathan. You went and done it. You asked me something about the Atomic Robo setting with no solid answer.

No, wait. WAIT. I can power through this.

Deep breath.

Tesladyne must have its own laundry onsite. They get up to all sorts of dangerous radioactive and exoversal nonsense, so it’d be irresponsible to expose third parties to that stuff.

Ha! That was a close one.

 

Hey Guys!

I'm in the process of running a B.P.R.D./Atomic Robo crossover game (using the ARRPG rules) and wondered if you guys had any advice or comments about the situation. Can Atomic Robo and Hellboy exist in the same universe? Have the two organizations run into each other again?

Ruben

The most important thing about your Atomic Robo game (using the ARRPG rules) is that it doesn’t matter what we say. It’s our comic, but it’s your game. Do whatever makes sense for you and your players!

So if you guys really want Hellboy, the BPRD, Atomic Robo, and Tesladyne to co-exist, then go for it. It doesn’t matter what our opinion on any of this stuff is, because we aren’t in your game! But here's some questions you should ask yourself. The answers are whatever you think would be fun or interesting...

Do they investigate the same kinds of cases?

How rarely or how commonly do their investigations interfere with one another?

How much respect is there between the agencies?

Does BPRD have a higher jurisdiction because it’s an official government agency? Are there things it can do that Tesladyne cannot as a result? And vice versa?

Is BPRD kind of like a Weird DARPA and sometimes Tesladyne does work for them?

Is BPRD more like a Weird EPA vs. Tesladyne’s Ghostbusters?

Do Robo and Hellboy get along even in the face of organizational antagonism? They have a lot in common. Then again, sometimes that’s why we don’t like people!

 

1) In our world, science doesn’t get much play unless it’s “sexy.” Potential alien life, cures for cancer and other wonder drugs, fancy new computers, the LHC… that stuff gets the media attention and, sometimes, the funding. But the nuts and bolts science that build on our understanding, we never hear about it, and it’s hard to get it funded. You’ll never hear about the latest research into scorpion bioluminescence or about a new computer algorithm for predicting weather.

How is this different in the world of Atomic Robo? Obviously, science is a much bigger deal, but are there still overlooked, underfunded areas that are considered “boring”? Basically, the shortest version of the question is this: what makes a science groupie tick?

2) In spite of Tesladyne having “a lot of departments,” the ones we have seen and heard about seem physics/math/engineering based. SigInt, Exotic ballistics, lasers, and so on.  This makes sense, given Tesla’s areas of expertise as founder of the company. Likewise, Big Science Inc, with its history of dealing with Biomega, seems much more biology and energy oriented. Science Team Super 5’s projects included viruses, crops, and exobiology.

Without tipping your hand too much, is this a common thing? Are most of the big science firms focused more on one area than others?  And, by extension, is this the kind of thing that can cause problems down the road? If someone who only has a hammer treats every problem like a nail, does Robo/Tesladyne treat every problem like a physics problem?

Eric

Well, for the first one, nothing in our culture exists in a vacuum. It’s not enough to identify the fact that most scientific pursuits are underreported, underfunded, and underappreciated. We have to consider why might that be.

The answer is a complicated, nuanced, and interconnected one. But the TL;DR version is: due to a convergence of factors, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to communicate the relevance and importance of modern scientific pursuits to most people.

This is not a lack of will among scientists and it is not a lack of imagination among the population. It’s a sort of diminishing returns situation. We’ve got the basics figured out at this point. The cutting edge stuff we’re discovering now is weird. And it’s getting weirder. Our discoveries are becoming more removed from the day-to-day concerns of most people with every passing day. And then the basic stuff also gets overlooked because many of our schools are overcrowded, underfunded, our teachers are overworked, and our parents are on a spectrum between exhausted and apathetic.

How do you explain the importance and relevance of, as per your example, scorpion bioluminescence to the average person? Especially when most of us are maximally pre-occupied with just keeping our lives from falling apart. Meanwhile there are hundreds of other demands upon our attention that are easier to access. Indeed, exactly unlike the universe, which has no responsibility to make any goddamn sense to us, our distractions have been specifically engineered to rob us of time -- from video games to movies to television to the outrage industry to sports and celebrity culture.

Scientific literacy is a luxury of time, energy, and resources. And the more esoteric the field, the more luxurious it is to know about it. And luxury is disappearing along with the middle class. 

Scientific illiteracy is often discussed as a lack of imagination or curiosity or intelligence among a generation or class -- “These kids today with their Pokemans” if you will. It’s not. A desire to know how and why things work is the root of human experience. It’s how you learned to speak. It’s where language as a concept came from in the first place. It’s how we figured out agriculture, cooking, and smartphones.

Scientific illiteracy is a lack of opportunity. It is of more use to the status quo to maintain an ignorant and entertained populace than a learned one that’s asking questions because it wants to know more.

So, in that sense, Atomic Robo’s world mirrors our own rather closely. I suppose the major difference, other than the robot adventurer running around, is that certain esoteric scientific pursuits seem more immediately relevant than they would in our world simply because the fate of all life on Earth was saved by them. Like, astronomy would get a real shot in the arm in terms of public interest and worldwide funding if we knew a couple intrepid scientists narrowly saved all life on Earth from a rogue asteroid while the rest of us were all, “Duh, what?”

But even then, y’know, consider any given Man On The Street bit. They’re a demonstration of the uphill battle we face, re: getting most people to pay attention long enough and deeply enough to fully absorb complex information outside their immediate spheres of interest and perceived relevance. It ain’t easy! And I feel it's irresponsible to blame the individual for the fact that the struggle exists. I don't think you were doing that with this question, but that's often the direction taken when people have a discussion on this topic. 

Dang that was a long answer. Your other question’s much simpler though: yes.

Jun.19.15 at 10:52 am

The Ring of Fire is rocking and rolling. Catch up with the prologues if you haven't already, or skip straight to the first issue.

Did you hear the news? IDW Publishing is putting Atomic Robo back into comic shops starting with Atomic Robo and the Ring of Fire #1.

But that's not all. They'll also complement our fancy hardcover editions with multi-volume softcovers. The first one will collect The Fightin' Scientists of Tesladyne, The Dogs of War, and The Shadow From Beyond Time. We posted the details over at Kickstarter, but here's the TL;DR version...

  • The hardcovers get the nice new lettering and the all-new bonus content.
  • The softcovers do not get the new lettering or all-new bonus content because the folks at IDW are moving at lightning speed to get these out there, so we don't have time to get the new stuff finished for them.
  • There will not be softcovers for individual volumes.
  • Think of it like this. The hardcovers are for the hardcore Robo reader who wants the best and most stuff possible. The softcover omnibus editions are for cramming as many comics into your face as possible.

Nothing about the IDW deal changes how the website works. You will still get your comics here for free. In fact, we'll have given away something like half of The Ring of Fire series by the time they publish the second issue.

We're very excited to partner with IDW Publishing in our ongoing efforts to pave the Earth with Atomic Robo comics.

Jun.16.15 at 10:38 am

What have you guys been up to?

Okay, shut up.

We've been toiling away at the all-new bonus content for the hardcovers. The use of "we" in that sentence is an enormous god damn lie because I'm the dumb jerk who's got to make it all. We'll do a backer update when there's some interesting news to share about that. Here's what there is far: "Uh, about halfway done."

Meanwhile! Here at The Website, the last of the prologues wraps up tomorrow. The first page of the first issue of The Ring of Fire will go online Thursday. Be there! Well, here. Be here.

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