Why ‘Atomic Robo’ Is Your New Favorite Comic

Comic Books Entertainment
Image provided by Scott Wegener and Brian Clevinger
Image provided by Scott Wegener and Brian Clevinger

Nowadays the news from comics usually concerns the latest reboot or the newest major character death that’ll get undone a month later. It’s tough to find a good comic that you’d be interested in, let alone okay with introducing to your kids. It’s about time that I introduced frustrated comic readers to my favorite comic, Atomic Robo. Created by writer Brian Clevinger and artist Scott Wegener, it was published by Red 5 comics in late 2007, and nominated for an Eisner award the following year.

In the world of this comic, Atomic Robo was built by none other than Nikola Tesla in 1923, and has dedicated his existence to following his father’s love of super science. Robo and his “Action Scientists” comprise Tesladyne Industries, a force of good that travels the world combatting giant ants, mobile pyramids, and shadowy government organizations. The story is told non-sequentially, with the first volume jumping around in time from 1938 to the modern age. The second volume occurs exclusively in World War II. Clevinger and Wegener use Robo’s robotic immortality to tell stories that span multiple generations, sometimes with an equally immortal Nazi scientist and sometimes a Lovecraftian horror from outside of time.

If you're a sucker for comedic super science, boy howdy do I have a comic for you! Image courtesy Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener.
If you’re a sucker for comedic super science, boy howdy do I have a comic for you! Image courtesy Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener.

However, that explanation totally misses the mark on what truly makes Atomic Robo resonate with readers. It’s a hilarious comic that riffs on the very super science in which it is framed. My favorite example is their Free Comic Book Day entry from 2009, “Why Atomic Robo Hates Dr. Dinosaur.” In it, Robo argues with a talking raptor named Dr. Dinosaur about the feasibility of time travel and Dr. Dinosaur’s dubious backstory. And crystals. Always with the crystals. The trope of Robo arguing against the impossibility of the science behind his foes is a recurring and consistently comedic one. The brilliant writing is accented with Wegener’s perfect art. His unique style always delivers; whether he’s designing a maniacal dinosaur, an undead Thomas Edison, or a kaiju, the art is always on point.

Despite having super science violence, Atomic Robo is always kid friendly. There’s zero profanity, gore, or anything else that would likely be seen as offensive. But don’t take my word for it: fellow GeekDad Dave Banks talked about Atomic Robo a few years back in a Premiere Edition of the GeekDad Stack, where he showcased the first issue of “Volume III: Shadow Beyond Time” with an “unspeakably high GeekDad Stack score of 9/10.”

In January of this year, Atomic Robo launched its own Patreon, along with leaving their publisher to become a web comic. They’re currently in the process of uploading their back catalog, a few issues a week, and just started uploading one of my favorite volumes, “Volume V: The Ghost of Station X.”

All Atomic Robo will be available online henceforth at Atomic-Robo.com, but you can still purchase the trades at your local comic book store or on Amazon.

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14 thoughts on “Why ‘Atomic Robo’ Is Your New Favorite Comic

  1. I was first introduced to Atomic Robo with that free comic book day offering and just had to read everything else. My biggest thing is that it’s just plain fun. It’s a 90’s action movie. I love it.

    1. Totally agreed! I’ve chatted with Brian Clevinger in the past and he’s confessed that two big influences in his writing Robo are Ghostbusters and Buckaroo Banzai. It shows in the absolute best way 🙂

      1. When Brian contacted me about doing the Atomic Robo RPG — I wasn’t familiar with the comic at that point — he pitched it as a mix of Ghostbusters, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Buckaroo Banzai, and Planetary. I could not get signed up for that fast enough.

    1. And this is an attitude that the creators vehemently reject. This is from the intro to their third volume…

      “Your average Hellboy story is rich in texture, full of folklore, myth, subtle visual pacing, poetry, and melancholy. Atomic Robo, on the other hand, has far more in common with your average episode of ‘The Muppet Show’. A series of bad jokes, shameless slapstick, dancing chickens, and when we paint ourselves into a corner (creatively speaking), we fix the problem by blowing everyone up.”

  2. Robo is by far my favorite comic; I’ll miss my floppies, but will get by with the web-only until the trades can line my shelves. Clevinger and Wegener are both awesome people, to boot. I’ve had no hesitation in buying the comics…the RPG…getting in on the Kickstarter…

    Frankly, I might have a problem.

    1. I also soundly fall in the “I might have a problem” category when it comes to Robo…

  3. I’m always leery of claiming “zero gore” for Atomic Robo. The fact is there tends to be an average of one moment of personal violence, horror or gore per volume that stands out from the rest. Japanese pilot shot inna face on-panel. Background soldier decapitated in a spray of blood. Half-corrupted woman crying. Jenkins dripping blood to the elbows lol and sort of tunnel through Shinka. Can’t think of one in 5, fair enough. Jenkins again, bloody knife and dying M12 soldiers plus arguably the horror of that amazing Otomorific falling sequence. Gigantic globs of purple zero-G jelly blood. Nothing leaps to mind in 8 or 9.

    That’s not a condemnation but I do take care to point it out when I recommend Robo to parents, as I do. It’s easy to forget that beloved family classic Indy films open with a faceful of arrows, have people’s hearts getting cut out and one of the great, hilarious ad-libs in cinematic history is also baaasically murder. It just does no one any favors, I feel, to lead people to find you’ve made false claims on something’s behalf. There’s an argument to be made that one or two bits pushing the boundary is the best way for a kid to get introduced to this stuff – but in any case, in my experience people can deal with the truth.

  4. I own every issue of the series in one format or another, many times both but I agree with Hipocee completely! Fun? ABSOLUTELY! Fantastic stories? Again ABOLUTELY! But ZERO gore? Not on your life! Just look at volume two for example. I just can’t WAIT for volume 10!!!??!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. I totally made that Atomic-Robo wallpaper. Nice to see my edits around the web. Gives me the warm and fuzzies in the cockles of my heart, maybe below the cockles. Maybe in the sub-cockle area, maybe in the liver, maybe in the kidneys, maybe even in the colon, I don’t know.

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