Drawn by Jim Meddick, "Robotman" -- now called "Monty" -- is an irreverent comic strip with a goofy drawing style and a playful attitude. The humor draws heavily from pop culture, particularly science fiction, which makes it particularly entertaining for Star Trek and X-Files fans.

It's among the few strips to go through major, conscious lifestyle changes, dropping key characters in favor of a fresh look. In fact, Meddick in 2000-2001 made the rather gutsy move of writing Robotman out of the strip altogether, leading to its change of name. The strip now features none of the original characters.

Robotman started life as a children's toy, and Meddick was hired to create a comic strip around it. Meddick created the Mildes, a harmless suburban nuclear family who hosted Robotman for reasons never explained. The young boy Oscar Milde was his closest companion.

The toy was a flop, but readers loved the strip. So Meddick broke from the original premise and moved Robotman in with klutzy bachelor, nerd and failed inventor Monty Montahue. Meddick also started leaning more heavily on the pop-culture elements, a type of humor more geared toward his own personality.

The strip now deals with Monty's new life with Mr. Pi, and of course his slovenly beer-chugging friend Moondog and his pet parakeet, Pilsner. Pathetic pet cat Fleshy is still around, too. Monty's artsy girlfriend, Loco Ohno, drops in once in a while. All mention of Robotman is gone from the introduction on the United Media Web site.

The story arc that took Robotman away was a gutsy change of pace for the strip. It featured some emotional installments that didn't always work, as they were sandwiched in between strips of more conventional goofball humor; it may be that Robotman is too goofy and too off-the-wall to be truly touching (contrast with Calvin and Hobbes).

Along the same lines ... the longer Robotman is gone, the more I realize there's no need to bring him back. The strip has very little continuity (the Mildes' disappearance was never really explained), and the characters aren't all that deep. Really, there's no particular trait of Robotman's that leaves a void. His main role was to be the voice of reason and ridicule for Monty's life, something pretty much any other character can do.


How Robotman left the strip

(Spoilers all over the place, of course.)

Robotman was kidnapped by aliens for use in their zoo, which houses one-of-a-kind beings from all over the galaxy. In his place, the aliens left behind Mr. Pi, an alien-human hybrid. (A small, green Vulcan, personality-wise), who has become Monty's companion.

Occasional strips tracked Robotman's struggle on the aliens' world during the course of about eight months. Eventually, Mr. Pi built a receiver so Monty could watch what was happening all those light years away (don't nitpick, it's a comic strip), but the technology was unidirectional and couldn't send any messages out.

Robotman's repeated attempts to escape tickled the aliens' curiosity, so he was granted one chance to win his freedom in the arena of combat, which bore odd resemblance to the floor from "The Gamesters of Triskelion" and was controlled by the brain creatures from that episode.

About this time in real life, the 2000 U.S. Presidential Election took place, giving Meddick the chance to drop some incongruous political satire into the fray. The alien Supreme Court ruled that the arena combat was unconstitutional and that Robotman would be banished to the slave mines. Luckily for Robotman, Al Gore stepped in to help and, in a coup he couldn't pull off in our universe, bared his emotions in front of the aliens' Supreme Court, thus winning their favor. Robotman got his chance in the arena, and he won easily by using the Kirk fighting techniques he learned from Monty.

But there was a twist. Robotman's trainer for his arena battles was a female robot named Roba, and of course they fell in love. So Robotman went back to the gamesters to ask for Roba's freedom as well, but they would grant it only of Robotman could defeat their all-time arena champion, James T. Kirk himself. Obviously, the Kirk moves didn't work on him, but Robotman prevailed by removing Kirk's hairpiece, thus crushing his will to fight.

So Robotman and Roba were freed. But alas, Roba's battery was powered by solar radiation unique to the Triskelion (or wherever it was) system, so she could never accompany him to earth. Tearfully, and with Monty watching on via the receiver, Robotman chose to stay with Roba.

Might Robotman come back to earth someday? In departing the arena, he lamented his inability to contact Monty, telling Roba that Monty was a grand inventor who might be able to find a way to keep Roba alive on earth. To which Mr. Pi remarked, "Surely he's not referring to you."

Sources:
-- Robotman on the Web: http://umweb2.unitedmedia.com/comics/robotman/
-- Interview with Meddick: http://www.dailyillini.com/archives/1998/January/30/pB03_robotman.txt.html

-- Paul's Web Space has a very nice summary of the strip, and the X-Files investigation into Robotman's origins: http://paulbot.tripod.com/fan/comics/monty.htm

Two heroes have gone by the moniker Robotman. The first was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Dobrotka and first appeared in Star-Spangled Comics #7 in 1942. The second was created by Bob Haney and Arnold Drake and first appeared in Doom Patrol #1 in 1963.

The first Robotman was Dr. Robert Crane. He and his partner Charles Greyson constructed a robot body capable of housing human organs and a human brain. The two were overheard discussing their breakthrough by a pair of theives. Believing that since the two had a robot body that they must also have cash and easily pawnable merchandise, the two theives broke into the pair's lab. When it was discovered that they did not, the theives knocked Greyson out and shot Crane, leaving him for dead.

When Greyson recovered, he discovered his dying partner and did what any normal doctor with a double major of mechanical engineering and transplant surgery would do, placed Crane's brain in the robot body. After successfully performing this landmark surgery, Greyson collapsed, succumbing to his injuries. The police arrived to discover Greyson passed out on the floor beside the mangled remains of his partner Crane. Greyson was charged with his partner's murder

Soon afterward, Crane awoke in his new robot body, which must have been like waking a hotel room and not knowing where you are for a second only more so. Discovering that his partner had been charged with his murder, Crane went after his killers to clear his friend's name. Crane tracked the theives and brought them to justice, but realized that if they were to be charged with Rober Crane's murder then he would have to stay dead. Adopting the name Paul Dennis, Robotman continued to adventure and became one of the founding members of the All-Star Squadron.

The second hero to go by the name Robotman was race car driver Cliff Steele. When Steele's car crashed during a race, his body was nearly completely destroyed. In an attempt to save him, Niles Caulder transplanted his brain into a robot body. Caulder then enlisted Steele into his group of super-powered heroes known as the Doom Patrol. Steele has been the single common thread in all the Doom Patrol's incarnations, surviving the explosion that was believed to have killed the majority of the first team. He continues to adventure today in the newest version of the Doom Patrol.


The important issue that is deduced from the Robotman origins is that within the confines of the comic book universe, there is no requirement of doctors to have consent forms before performing lifechanging experimental surgery on a patient.

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