Robot City Adventures
written by Paul Collicutt
- Look Inside
- Related Editorial: Fun with Robots! Paul Collicutt Guides Us Through Robot City
- Related Editorial: Robot City Adventures!
The Robot City Adventures books are brand new, but they look like they were done in the mid-20th century: The art is classic comic-book style, linear, richly colored, and realistic without being overly detailed.
Back when comics were 12 cents on the newsstand, kids' comics were really adult comics; the characters were adults and they had adult concerns, but the comics were accessible to younger readers as well. And this is the truly retro thing about the Robot City comics—they are about adults, not kids, and the setting is far from the experience of your average child. The world of Robot City is the future, as imagined in the 1940s, provided that the future had actually turned out much cooler than in real life.
The Indestructible Metal Men begins with a shipwreck of the same period and type as the wreck of the Titanic. Among the passengers are the inventor Henry Greenwood and three of his creations, the original "metal men." Greenwood and his wife stay on board the sinking ship, and as the band plays on, the robots try to keep the ship from breaking apart. Their efforts are ultimately unsuccessful, and the ship breaks in two in a fairly dramatic scene that shows the enormous hull upended and tiny bodies flying off to their doom.
The metal men, of course, sink to the bottom of the sea, where they wander aimlessly, their navigation systems disabled. Sixty years later, one of them shows up in Robot City and winds up in a museum, its batteries completely dead. And he stays that way until some sort of a bad guy fishes a second metal man out of the sea, planning to dissect and reverse-engineer it, as he has done with several other robots. His plans are foiled by robot scientist Dr. Sarah Cross and her weirdly emotional robot sidekick Tony, and the story ends happily with the two metal men hanging out and reminiscing, while their third companion is spotted at the very end, swimming with the dolphins.
Murder on the Robot City Express is just what it sounds like, a murder mystery with an ensemble cast, including two physicists who are both romantically inclined toward a lovely cardiologists, a pair of robot movie stars, an arrogant film director, and a Russian tennis-playing robot. The train—itself a robot—is trying to beat a land speed record, so even an onboard death can't stop the trip. Instead, the (robot) conductor plays detective and, in classic mystery-novel style, gathers everyone together for the final denouement. The story includes a number of old-movie tropes, including a chase across the tops of the train cars, and throws in a bit of comic relief with the hapless Curt the Coffee Robot, who must deal with a murder on his first day—and is afraid he caused it all.
Paul Collicutt's art really pulls it together. He lavishes a lot of detail on his robots (one is 300 feet high, with a lighthouse for a head), and his Robot City looks like the 1930s version of the future. The stories are easy to follow but filled with delightful surprises, such as a robot wedding and the robot who swims with the dolphins. These books are a treat for imaginative readers who love science fiction—or who think they are too old for comics.