It's that time again, when the boys and girls of the Tesladyne Patreon get to thow us questions, comments, and whatever else pops into their brains. And then everyone gets to see the results.
In a couple of weeks, we'll have been doing this webcomic thing for a full year. Time flies when you're posting pages. To commemorate our One Year Insanity, which is like an anniversary except you put your entire catalog online for free and hope it all works out and oh my god what have we done, we've got some big news to share with you guys.
In the meantime, let's get with the questions and then with the answers!
Atomic Robo has many characters that are active for decades, for different reasons. Robo most of all seems to be feeling the weight of his years lately. Edison also seems to greatly regret being *alive* so many years after 'his time'. But Helsingard, who is even older than Robo (by a fair margin) never seems to lose his particular brand of enthusiasm. Does he never really have a moment's doubt? It seems like he's happily building crazier machines every time we see him, in yet another underground base. What sets him apart? Other long-lived characters, like A.L.A.N. only appear for short periods, but seem to vary from 'irretrievably insane' to 'we don't really know' in how they deal with their isolation and the vast changes in their lifetimes. Maybe Helsingard just doesn't really have anybody he cared about? Since Majestic-12 have just barely managed to build robot suit soldiers as good as he could 60 years ago, maybe we're just insects to him?
Well, Edison may or may not have been driven insane by having his consciousness scattered an unknown field of energy for seventy years. To what degree he was aware, in that state, of time or of himself, we can’t say.
Robo of the 21st century is definitely getting, I dunno, weary. He’s kind of stuck, really. The world is a vastly dangerous place, and about half of it is his fault whether directly or indirectly. And The Ring of Fire is demonstrating how no one else is really equipped to cope with those dangers. He’s not gonna mope about it, because that’s not how he handles problems. And, anyway, even if you put that stuff aside, it doesn’t get at the real problem. Robo is already a couple generations removed from most of the people running around today. And that’s only going to keep getting worse. It’s just a matter of time before he gets a stern talking-to.
The thing to remember with Helsingard is that it’s (almost?) never the same brain. I think it’s mentioned in the RPG, and sorta hinted at somewhere in the comic, but it’s never explicitly spelled out, so it’s easy to miss.
Helsingard spent much of the late 19th and early 20th centuries spinning multiple concurrent plots to conquer the world. Each particular plot worked as the backup plan for the others. His ultimate backup plan was to seed the world with multiple cloned copies of his own brain that could take over his empire in the event of his death. If he’d conquered the world, then the clone brains would ensure his immortal reign. If he hadn’t conquered the world before dying, then the clone brains would continue the fight. Simple!
Now, Helsingard was a brilliant scientist. I mean, he cloned up brains somewhere around 1899 or 1905 or whatever. Amazing! But not infallible. The system to awaken brains upon Helsingard’s death malfunctioned, so the continuity between one Helsingard and the next is a little muddled. There are gaps with no Helsingards at all and occasionally several active Helsingards at once. This latter condition complicates things further because all the clone brains believe themselves to be the original Helsingard brain recently awakened after the events of 1938.
1. Will Atomic Robo be in 2016's fcbd, floppies?
2. Scott, if you had the time to draw a RSA story, who would it be about?
3. Can we get a stand alone Jenkins story about his whereabouts during volume 10?
4. How about a Jenkins: War Journal annual? Just one issue a year dedicated just to Jenkins!
2. Jack Tarot! Or She-Devils. Or Tesla’s crew.
3. Be careful what you wish for!
4. I’m afraid Jenkins falls under the same Coolness Inversity Clause as Dr. Dinosaur wherein the best way to utilize a favorite character is to minimize his uses.
Has RIFTS©®™ just totally ruined me? I know Dr. Dinosaur was inspired by a character from some long-forgotten campaign, but now my brain is seeing RIFTS©™®€£π everywhere! Alan parallels A.R.C.H.I.E.! Killer orbital satellites that shoot down anything that comes near! I'm sure some sourcebook somewhere has terror birds! Also, the vampire dimension!
Or, y'know, it could just be that RIFTS©®™ has historically included any idea anyone has ever uttered within earshot of its creator, and thus vague parallels to nearly *anything* are easy to find.
Will I ever stop seeing the hand of Palladium everywhere? Please say yes.
When it comes to RIFTS, it’s a chicken and the egg kind of scenario. It’s impossible to say if RIFTS included something, be it a character or archetype or plot or whatever, because that specific idea already existed and thus had to be rifted in, or because it would have to be invented in RIFTS for the idea to exist in the first place.
For those poor fools not in the know, RIFTS is a massive kitchen sink kind of RPG. The basic idea: Earth is ravaged by these dimensional rifts that allow anything and everything to show up in a kind of worldwide proto Red Dragon Inn. Mostly it was an excuse for the publisher cross-market all its game through one setting like an enormous comic book crossover event. Only even better because this was a crossover that never had to end and it never had to screw up the original titles. You could keep selling your fantasy game to your fantasy fans, but now your sci-fi fans had an excuse to check it out too. Simply brilliant.
And that’s the major influence RIFTS had on Atomic Robo as a setting. RIFTS showed us how much fun it would be to throw all of our favorite things together. This is partly why we’re working on the eleventh volume of Atomic Robo and the third spin off volume while other indie creators are on their third or fourth all new property: it’s very easy to slot new ideas into the Atomic Robo setting. Arguably, the other indie creators are much smarter about this. Every new property is something else they can pitch to TV, film, whatever. Meanwhile, Scott and I are stuck pitching this one thing that’s too big and crazy and expensive for anyone to take the risk on it.
I wanted to say thank you. As an avid comic reader or as many titles as I can get my hands on, I am thankful for Atomic Robo.
There are lots of great comics available today telling millions of different stories. What separated Atomic Robo for me and got me involved with Patreon to support was this.
Thank you for avoiding the anchors that drag down many comic creations. Your comic is witty, well paced and just tons of fun. Thank you for doing it your way and crowdsurfing your way to something that you're passionate about and trusting your fans to hold you up.
Thank you for your commitment to an excellent product and the obvious care and effort that goes into every panel.
We just wanted to make a comic that we’d want to read if we weren’t the ones making it. Imagine our delight and surprise when we learned there were other people out there looking for something just like it. We’ll keep making them if you guys keep buying them.
I was just curious if Atomic Robo: Last Stop was part of the Robo canon?
You guys are awesome! You know what would be more awesome though, Atomic Robo Action action-figures. Can this be done? Also keep up the good work, and did you hear about the Lab in Australia that made a quantum logic gate? Matrix here we come.
I won’t promise “action figures” because that concept conjures up a different image for everyone and there’s no reason to get anyone’s hopes up about what a purely hypothetical product may or may not look like. But more physical non-comics items of a figure-like nature are 100% on the Big List of Stuff. Our main priority is always to deliver the best comic books we can, so there’s only so much time we can devote to figuring out the action figure problem. But it’s something we’re looking into!
What was it like coming up with Robo's redesign? Was it a challenge to make it familiar yet different, or was it something you guys had been sitting on?
Let's turn to Scott for that one:
Redesigning Robo for Ring of Fire was a ton of fun! In the eight years since we started making this comic, I've learned a lot about character design and there are many things about original Robo that I've come to see as less than ideal. I won't spoil that with details, but if you read through the archives you can see Robo's design evolve as I learn what I am doing.
Re-Designing Robo -- the final version we see of him in Ring of Fire was great. In the production sketches I got to add all sorts of modern little details that would be out of place on an early 20th century design. Robo as a head in a box, or Boxbo, was hilariously fun to design. God, those hands! I think Brian was a little horrified at the idea, which only made it more fun, haha! Partially it was a homage to one of my favorite scenes in the original Ghost in The Machine manga.
Interim Robo -- the Boxbo mounted to an arm/leg rig was the most fun to design. A pure delight. And a nightmare to draw over and over in the comic. Thus you did not see a lot of that one.
Skinny Robo -- the nearly final but still battery powered version, was interesting to research. It was based on the tons of generic drone soldiers any Google search will turn up. They look neat, but every concept artist seems to draw them exactly the same, with only minor variations between the designs. I wanted Skinny Robo to have a kind of generic look like that, but filtered through the lens of the tech and ‘bots you’ve seen in our series.
howdy, my query is around the current storyline - was it intentional to set it in almost exactly the same circumstances as the Pacific Rim movie, or is that a happy coincidence ?
thanks. keep robo-ing along,
All we knew about this storyline was: Tesladyne in tatters; Robo has to go through several iterations before being fully rebuilt; Majestic has action science as we know it on a global lockdown while they cope with a crisis that threatens to destroy mankind; the crisis is only exacerbated by the lockdown; Robo and the ragtag remnants of Tesladyne come up with a desperate last minute solution utilizing international cooperation.
We were already leaning toward Biomega as the central threat because it had been a while since we last saw any. And something so big, literally and figuratively, would put Robo and his crew up against the wall in the worst way possible -- how could they hope to defeat the largest biomega outbreak in history while they’ve lost Tesladyne and the connections/support that comes with it?
Then we saw Pacific Rim and that cemented things. About the only thing we liked about it was, well, everything before the Jaegers get built. And then we realized that what we’d been thinking about for this series was already our version of that part of the movie: the initial discovery of these monsters and the early attempts at repelling them.
For a movie all about giant robots fighting with giant monsters, Pacific Rim actually makes a terrible case for the use of giant robots fighting giant monsters. You kind of go along with it because the movie only proposes one alternative solution, giant walls. And, it’s weird, because they’re already proven to be a failure by the time the movie mentions them as the alternative, so all you’ve done is propose that your giant robots might be better idea than an idea already known to be terrible. That’s really, if you think about it, not a resounding triumph for the use of giant robots.
But whatever! There is a common wisdom in the cultural zeitgeist that pits giant robots against giant monsters, so we knew that would be Majestic’s go-to solution, and we knew that would have to be shown as a failure so that Robo and his crew could sweep in and save the day with the far more logical and realistic defense system that would also be far easier to implement than either giant robots or walls.
And then we made the title Ring of Fire just in case anyone missed it.
Do you like questions in letter pages? I like questions in letter pages.
1) Your timeline in the Atomic Robo RPG Guide has Robo and 2 Sparrows thwarting Dr. Valkyrie control of the Spear of Destiny and crater-izing Marconi's Venezuelan Science City in 1968. Is Marconi's orbital weapons system "The Spear of Destiny" related to Projeckt Longinus in the Ring of Fire?
2) I imagine Undead Edison has been spending his time buying pharmaceutical patents and raising prices from $13 to $750 (because who would do that?), but are there any plans for the underground villains like Edison or Delphi to make a comeback in Atomic Robo?
3) Before the Hackers reveal, I built a brief headcanon that Bernard gave the rest of the team backstories based on an interrupted Tesladyne GURPS campaign going on with him, Phil, George, and Ananth. Any thoughts as to what Tesladyne employees did in their free time pre-ULTRA?
1. They are the very same thing! We tend to have this kind of vague idea that Marconi was a genius and probably an okay guy. But he was a huge supporter of Mussolini and fascism and Hitler and, whoops, not so okay guy after all. So, in our stories, Marconi fakes his death and devotes his life to running what will become the Nazi Space Program deep in the wilderness of Venezuela. The main goal of this outfit was to produce the orbital weapon platform “Longinus” to secure an Axis victory and global domination for all time.
But, as so often happens with these things, there were unforeseen complications and the launch was delayed until a few days after Germany’s surrender. Which, hey, would’ve been great anyway, because an invincible satellite weapon is the kind of thing you can use to obliterate any treaty’s “no backsies” clause. So, what went wrong? Guess we’ll find out!
2. Big time. We thought we were smart as heck when we made the call to tell the story of Atomic Robo’s life anachronistically, but the biggest unforeseen problem with that approach is: it can take a long damn time for us to circle back to the seeds we planted in the narrative to pick the fruits of our labor and share them with you. It seems weird, for example, that Helsingard is a big threat to the world and yet we hardly see him. Shouldn’t he be the Magneto or the Lex Luthor? The guy who pops up as a major problem all the damn time? And then there’s things out there like DELPHI and Undead Edison, like you mentioned, or Project Daedalus and some other weird stuff.
We can only ask for you guys to hang in there and enjoy the ride in the meantime.
3. Life on Tesladyne Island was probably a weird mixture of a dorm, a military base, and a food court. Well, we know Jenkins cultivates orchids. Everyone else has their own side projects and hobbies.