Atomic Robo of Mars - Matt Reads Comics

Stephen Hawking Is a Bastard – Re-reading Atomic Robo of Mars

One of my favorite things about Atomic Robo, the action-adventure comic about a wisecracking robot built by Nikola Tesla, is the way the series’s premise lends itself to jumping backward and forward in time.

Robo and Carl Sagan - Atomic Robo of Mars - Matt Reads Comics
To create a robot adventure scientist, one must first invent the universe.

Because the titular Robo was created in the 1920s, and because he’ll outlive us all, Atomic Robo can set its adventures in any time period from the ’20s on. And because Robo himself is a fairly flexible and straightforward character, writer Brian Clevinger and artist Scott Wegener can drop him into whatever the most interesting situation is for a certain time.

Which is how you end up getting a story in which Carl Sagan recruits Robo to pilot a secret NASA mission to Mars, and in which Stephen Hawking’s meddling nearly sends the mission off the rails.

Stephen. Hawking. - Atomic Robo of Mars - Matt Reads Comics

There’s a sense of play, and humor, to Atomic Robo that you don’t find in a lot of other action comics, and that play extends to the series’s take on history. Clevinger and Co. play fast and loose with Robo’s effects on history, extrapolating just far enough to allow a bunch of cool things (like this Mars mission) to happen in their continuity. But continuity itself is not Robo‘s chief concern, so much as telling a cool story (and making you laugh along the way) is.

Wait, Wha - Atomic Robo of Mars - Matt Reads Comics
You’d think he would’ve memorized THAT by now.

Atomic Robo knows what it is, and it doesn’t try to be anything else. It is not stern or dark or over-dramatic. It is exciting, funny, straightforward, and full of heart. It is equal parts earnestness and gumption.

He Got Fightin' Mad, This Robo Lad - Atomic Robo of Mars - Matt Reads Comics
Technically, there are no laws, but the upshot’s the same.

But most of all, it is exceedingly clever, as is Robo himself.

Stephen Hawking Is a Bastard - Atomic Robo of Mars - Matt Reads Comics
Again, fast and loose with the effects on history.

Because Robo doesn’t limit itself to one time period or genre, it’s still fresh even now, about twelve volumes in. I highly recommend clicking over to when you have a free lunch break, where the whole series is available online for free.  The panels in this post are from the very first volume, but I recommend checking out Atomic Robo and the Shadow From Beyond Time as well. That volume is my absolute favorite (and includes another guest appearance by Carl Sagan, as well).

Now if you’ll excuse me, I just realized I’m not caught up on volume twelve yet, so I’m going to go give that a read. Catch you in a couple weeks.

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