Mar.19.15 at 02:16 pm

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.

Mar.13.15 at 10:55 am

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.

Mar.12.15 at 11:00 am
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.
Mar.05.15 at 11:00 am
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.
 
Feb.24.15 at 01:00 pm


I'm not saying that your life is woefully incomplete without these latest additions to the Teslayne Online Shop, but I am thinking it.

First up, this delightful sticker series! These suckers are perfect for laptops or iPads or anywhere you find a flat surface.


Next, we have the classic Robo + Bomb image you all know and love. Check out that son of a gun.


And finally some nice juice propaganda that definitely isn't printed with human blood haha where'd you get that crazy idea?


 

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