DC Comics History: Robotman (Late Golden Age)
By Deejay Dayton
October 30, 2015 - 19:55
While Robotman’s series in Star Spangled Comics never made the cover, and rarely had stories longer than six pages, the series had strong art and a great sense of sun about it. There were no major developments during the Late Golden Age, but frankly, none were needed.
The only supporting character to appear in the Robotman series in this era was his pet, Robbie the Robodog. Robbie appeared in most of the stories from this time, and in many played an even larger role than Robotman himself.
Star Spangled 35 has Robodog acting as a detective. This issue also shows that, like Robotman, Robbie wears a disguise that makes him look like a normal dog.
Robbie highly overestimates his detective skills, leading both himself and Robotman into danger. But he does make up for this, as we see that Robodog has a “utility cupboard” in his side, containing a tool kit he uses to save himself. Robotman is the one to save the day, however.
In Star Spangled 59 Robodog goes undercover to root out dognappers at a dog show, taking the place of a valuable pedigree, and getting stolen in the other dog’s place. He still needs Robotman to help him take down the thieves, but you have to admire Robodog’s courage.
In a couple of the stories from this period, Robodog gets jealous of Robotman, feeling that he just is not getting as much attention as the hero. The better of the two stories with this theme is in Star Spangled 74. Robbieis so determined to show off and be impressive that he attracts the attention of some other dog thieves, who plan to make money entering him into dog shows. Apparently there is a lot of money at stake in dog shows, leading to the large number of criminals kidnapping dogs.
While many of Robotman’s earlier stories dealt with the various mechanical abilities and apparatus in his robot body, in this era only one tale adds a new “power” to his arsenal. In Star Spangled 52 Robotman is tracking some thieves through the woods at night, and reveals that he has photoelectric cells in his eyes. This manifests as a sort of flashlight vision. It’s a pretty cool idea, believable and useful. Sadly, we do not get to see it again.
In most of his stories Robotman was pitted against run of the mill thieves and hoodlums, but a few of his enemies, while not recurring, were notable.
Hugo Harrar may not have been the most impressive villain, being an evil animal trainer. But it was Hugo’s good fortune to be hiding out up north, just when a number of dinosaurs, frozen for millennia in the ice, break free and head south. Hugo manages to take control of these beasts in Star Spangled 36, an leads them to attack a city, until Robotman uses his mechanical abilities to defeat the dinosaurs.
In Star Spangled 40 Robotman goes up against the Spyder. The splash page makes the villain look like a weird human/animal hybrid. But though the villain does have a strangely shaped head, he is 100% human.
The Spyder runs a criminal gang that are buying up all the available gasoline illegally, supplying the rationed fuel to the Nazis, who use it to power their U-Boats. This is one of the few Robotman stories to touch on World War II.
Star-Spangled 50 features a clever plan by an evil dentist. His office has a wall adjoining a bank vault, and he uses the sound of his own drill to cover the noise made by his gang as they work to penetrate the wall. Had not Robotman’s electronic ears heard the drilling, at a time when the dentist’s office was closed, the plan might well have worked.
Tiger-Man looks like he will be a real threat for Robotman, and I was hoping for someone with actual powers as I read the tale, from Star Spangled 54. Sadly, aside from the costume, there was nothing very special about Tiger-Man, who turns out to be a relatively timid hood, using the suit to scare people away.
Robotman continues in the next period, 1948 – 1951: End of an Era.
Robotman: Star Spangled Comics 35 – 75 (Aug. 44 – Dec. 47)
Last Updated: May 19, 2020 - 12:25
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