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Comic Book Legends Revealed #257

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Welcome to the two-hundred and fifty-seventh in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous two hundred and fifty-six.

Comic Book Legends Revealed is part of the larger Legends Revealed series, where I look into legends about the worlds of entertainment and sports, which you can check out here, at legendsrevealed.com. I’d especially recommend you check out this installment of Baseball Legends Revealed to find out what Hall of Famer Adam Sandler incorrectly labeled as Jewish in “The Chanukah Song!”

This week is a special theme week! All legends related to the late, great Arnold Drake!!

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: Arnold Drake based Robotman of the Doom Patrol on the Golden Age Robotman.

STATUS: I’m Going With False

This one is particularly amusing because of the age-old story that Marvel’s The X-Men is a take-off (or rip-off, if you wish to be less genteel) of Arnold Drake’s creation, the Doom Patrol.

I address that one in my book, Was Superman a Spy? and Other Comic Book Legends Revealed (hint – I lean heavily towards “coincidence”) but here, what makes it interesting is that it is Drake who is put into the position of “defending” the originality of one of his characters.

Probably the most famous members of the Doom Patrol is Cliff Steele, Robotman, a robot with the brain of a man (which, I suppose, would technically make him a cyborg, right?)…

Interestingly enough, though, there was a Robotman in the Golden Age!

This Robotman debuted in Star Spangled Comics #7, created by Jerry Siegel and artist Leo Nowak.

This guy was named (oddly enough) Bob Crane, and he was also was a human brain living in a robot body…

Drake, though, noted in interviews that he had never heard of this older Robotman until Julie Schwartz mentioned it to him one day.

And I believe Drake, particularly since Cliff was not originally CALLED Robotman!

You see, in his first appearances, he was known as Automaton…

It was only over a period of about nine issues before he slowly became known as Robotman.

Check out the progression…

Then he’s known just as Cliff Steele…

(as you can see, only Negative Man’s name was “set in stone” – Rita Farr was called Elasti-Woman frequently to start before Elasti-Girl became her “official” name…

Finally, by My Greatest Adventure #89, it was “Robotman” for Cliff…

And that stuck.

Note, though, even in the first appearance of the Doom Patrol, people were calling him Robot Man…

In any event, while Robotman was a fairly popular back-up character back in the Golden Age (lasting five years in Detective Comics), he was never THAT popular – and Arnold Drake was always quite clear that he was not a big comic fan when he was growing up.

So you couple that with the fact that he was calling the guy Automaton for a number of issues makes his story believable to me, so I’m going with a “false” here.

Thanks to Lou Mougin’s Drake interview in Comics Interview #16 for the denial from Drake!

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47 Comments

So, why didn´t somebody stop older creators for leaving? And why did they want lo leave in the first place? It´s the first time I´ve heard about it.

Great stuff, Brian. Drake was one of the more undervalued comic book creators.Regarding the great X-Men/Doom Patrol influence controversy,I strongly favor your notion that the two titles were too close in time for one to have influenced the other.Actually, I have always thought that the Doom Patrol was DC’s attempt to do Marvel style book, with The Doom Patrol being a DC take on the Fantastic Four..

So, why didn´t somebody stop older creators for leaving? And why did they want lo leave in the first place? It´s the first time I´ve heard about it.

A group of veteran creators tried to unionize (or if not unionize, at least negotiate on terms similar to a union – basically, get more money and health benefits for the veteran creators). It did not work, and in the aftermath of the attempt, a few notable veteran writers were no longer on good terms with DC, so they left.

What’s so odd about the first Robotman being named Bob Crane?

Bob Crane played Hogan on Hogan’s Heroes, Michael.

That Deadman cover is positively brilliant.

I rather like the name Automaton. But it doesn’t really suggest Cliff’s cyborg status like Robotman does.

That’s some gorgeous Bruno Premiani artwork there…

Actor Bob Crane was also murdered.

LOVED the treatment of the Golden Age Robotman that James Robinson gave him in “The Golden Age”

>>Actor Bob Crane was also murdered

& under extremely unsavory circumstances.

“A group of veteran creators tried to unionize (or if not unionize, at least negotiate on terms similar to a union – basically, get more money and health benefits for the veteran creators). It did not work, and in the aftermath of the attempt, a few notable veteran writers were no longer on good terms with DC, so they left.”

Thanx, Brian.

As Seth said, Robotman’s appearance in Golden Age was memorable. Paul Smith & Richard Ory did a great job making him look really creepy.

Another notable Arnold Drake comic was the first Guardians of the Galaxy story. It ended rather abruptly, but Drake & Gene Colan provided a well-executed set-up.

It’s shameful how poorly comic book creators were treated in the past.

As opposed to “savory” murderous circumstances? :)

I agree with trajan.

It’s silly to assume the X-Men were a Doom Patrol rip-off, when the Doom Patrol itself so closely mirrored the Fantastic Four.

Super-scientist as leader? Check.

Orange-colored, gruffy-but-lovable brawler who bemoans his lost humanity? Check.

Flying, energy-powered superhero with two distinct looks? Check.

The token girly girl? Check.

“As opposed to “savory” murderous circumstances? :)”

From Wikipedia: “In Robert Graysmith’s book The Murder of Bob Crane, he notes that investigators found semen on Crane’s dead body and assumes the murderer may have ejaculated on him after killing him.”

I’m not sure any murder qualifies as savory, but Crane’s unsolved murder manages to be more unsavory than most.

Are the Doom Patrol Showcases worth getting? I’ve found only the Jonah Hex satisfactory out of the ones I own (including the first Superman, Green Lantern and JLA ones), as the Silver Age stuff is so, well, cheesey, and I find that hundreds of pages of it in a row can get to be a bit much for me.

The best way to decribe the connection between the Doom Patrol and the X-Men coming out around the same time was that Arold Drake and Stan Lee was good friends and they might have talked to each other will they were creating each title. Thus the reason they were simular to each other. Now the Doom Patrol debuted a few months ahead of the X-Men so DP Rules and X-Men drools.

I rest my case

Are the Doom Patrol Showcases worth getting?

I thought it was brilliant, a true synthesis of Marvel Age storytelling with Silver Age wackiness. Gave it a glowing review about a year back.

Second volume’s out this summer. I’m excited.

I first heard about the freakish coincidence of the DP and X titles years ago, and I too think it was just that.

Didn’t know about the readers voting on their fate. That’s a good 20 years or so before the Kill Robin 900 number stunt.

Hadn’t heard about Automaton, and hadn’t thought about a connection to the Golden Age Robotman (whom I’d only vaguely heard mention of).

Interesting that Rita starts as Elasti-Woman and later becomes Elasti-Girl and not the other way around.

Drake was a unique voice in comics. It was an honor meeting him a few years back.

what about the similarities between Grant Morrison’s runs on ‘Doom Patrol’ and ‘New X-Men’? That’s not just a coincidence, is it?

“what about the similarities between Grant Morrison’s runs on ‘Doom Patrol’ and ‘New X-Men’? That’s not just a coincidence, is it?”

Umm, could you elaborate? Not trying to be snarky but unless there was a gorilla faced mutant or bi-genderous creature in the X-Men run, I see no similarities beyond Morrison and Quitely’s names attached to both series. Again, my memory is fuzzy due to rampant old age…

what about the similarities between Grant Morrison’s runs on ‘Doom Patrol’ and ‘New X-Men’? That’s not just a coincidence, is it?

Um, maybe, I’m just spitballing here, but maybe it’s got something to do with the fact that they were both written by Grant Morrison. You know, just as a theory.

Willie Everstop

April 24, 2010 at 1:17 am

“unless there was a gorilla faced mutant or bi-genderous creature in the X-Men run”

Beast and Mystique?

I think it’s funny that the original X-Men only lasted 2 years past the Doom Patrol before being canceled. They should make an old school Doom Patrol/ X-Men crossover.

It is eerie to note that both Bob Crane the actor and the original Robotman’s alter ego ended up murdered. And yes, the real life Crane’s demise was particularly ghastly. The case remains unsolved to this day.

An aside: I remember Chuck Grayson being related to the Earth-2 Dick Grayson at some point in DC continuity. I believe they were cousins, if memory serves.

Arnold Drake and Bruno Premiani are one of the Silver Age’s most underrated creative teams. Drake was an excellent writer and Premiani’s art is simply beautiful, with a nice European sensibility to it, especially when you look at characters like Rita Farr. And is that Steve Dayton on the last page vowing to avenge her death? It sounds a lot like him but I’ve never actually read the issue.

Too bad readers gave the Patrol’s resurrection a thumbs down. It wasn’t until Paul Kupperberg got ahold of the characters during the mid-70’s that we got to see Cliff Steele return at least.

There’s also another very popular character named Robotman, this one from Japan. He’s a big robot with a little boy in a chamber on his chest, and he was part of the Microman line of manga and toys by Takara. The toy was imported to the US in the late 70’s as Biotron from Mego’s Micronauts toy line, which of course also became a long-running Marvel comic.
http://www.microforever.com/Robotman-Biotron.htm

I expect the reason the DP sales never shot up for that last issue was cos only kids named Charlie bothered.

Am I misremembering or was GA Robotman pal Chuck Grayson at one point pegged as a erlative of Dick’s/

Oops, Lt Clutch answered my question as I was reading. Ta!

A group of veteran creators tried to unionize (or if not unionize, at least negotiate on terms similar to a union – basically, get more money and health benefits for the veteran creators). It did not work, and in the aftermath of the attempt, a few notable veteran writers were no longer on good terms with DC, so they left

Weren’t they fired outright? Or was it constructive dismissal effectively? It could be a good subject for a future Legends Revealed. I think Mike Barr wrote about it in one of the TwoMorrows magazines…

I remember Denny O’Neil once said that his generation of writers that revolutionized DC in the ’70s (including O’Neil, Skeates, Wein and others) effectively got their jobs because the older writers tried and failed to make those demands.

Mr. Cronin, Thanks for posting this Arnold Drake theme legends. Mr. Drake was one of my favorites. Feel free to do it again.

Huh…I REALLY want to read Doom Patrol now!

Bruno Premiani was one of those artists that not as appreciated by the fans because of his work on DC mystery and Sci-fi books,but who was a super storyteller and great draftsman. He just didnt get to work on the big 3 or any of the hi-profile charecters.I guess,at DC, whoever was your editor is what you ended up drwaing.If Julius Schwartz was your editor,you got the good heroes to draw,or Mort Weisinger you got to draw Superman,or Jack Harris.you got to draw Batman.Schwarzt was the lucky one,he had Gil Kane,Carmine Infantino,Joe Kubert and Murphy Anderson.WOW,what a line-up.Thats how we went from Shelly Moldoff,a great artist,to Carmine Infantino on Batman.DC demoted Harris to the Sci-fi titles and promoted Schwartz to the Batman and hero titles.This is why the Silver Age was such a great time at DC.Atom,Flash,GL,Batman, Hawkman where in Julie’s stable.Julie edited some real ground-breaking titles.Mostly the Neal Adams Green Lantern/Green Arrow classics.But,Bruno never got much after Doom Patrol and I ask anyone,where did he go after his DC Doom Patrol days?

One more thing,Deadman is a Silver Age Classic.Neal Adams came on after the 1st issue and was a revalation in comicbook story-telling dynamics.Lots of which the DC editors 1st balked at.I guess the fans and sales told them otherwise.

Weren’t they fired outright? Or was it constructive dismissal effectively? It could be a good subject for a future Legends Revealed. I think Mike Barr wrote about it in one of the TwoMorrows magazines…

It’s definitely one of those things where I thought the topic had been brought up a lot, but when I see the reader reaction I realize that I’m totally wrong and the subject is still rife for discussion.

So sure, I’ll give it a shot in a future column.

[…] Comics Should be Good: Comic Book Legends Revealed #257 […]

Stealthwise- check out my review of the DP Showcase book at Amazon by “Pickles” because it’s the best Silver Age book I’ve read. I’ve had good feedback and I agree, a lot of that era’s books are a bit cheesy. DP most DEFINITELY is not one of those.

I thought the only similarities between Deadman and Daredevil were their costume. I didn’t know Boston Brand was an ex-boxer like DD’s dad. Somehow their must be a cool Amalgam character out of this.

Graeme: “Weren’t they fired outright? Or was it constructive dismissal effectively?”

I believe the writers were freelancers, not employees, so they couldn’t really be “fired”…the editors just stopped giving them work. I guess the proper term would be “blacklisted”.

Twin, are you confusing Jack C Harris, Seventies DC editor, with Jack Schiff?

Or more likely, Jack Miller (remembers actual column …)

Yes,I did.Thanks for the correction.Schiff was a piece of work.He also pissed off Jack kirby,too.

The Mad Monkey

April 26, 2010 at 2:40 am

@ Frank: Dead-Devil could be an interesting concept for Amalgam.

The Doom Patrol has always been my favorite comic book team. To this day, I can’t explain the devout attraction to them…

That surely did not make Drake’s departure to Marvel any harder on him!

And, humorously, one of the books Drake took over after coming to Marvel was X-Men, where he had a hand in creating Havok and Polaris, as well as Mesmero.

It was establish way back in All Star Squadron that Chuck Grayson was indeed related to Dick Grayson on Earth Two.

“It is eerie to note that both Bob Crane the actor and the original Robotman’s alter ego ended up murdered. And yes, the real life Crane’s demise was particularly ghastly. The case remains unsolved to this day.”

True. The movie Auto Focus and a documentary on the DVD (Murder in Scarsdale) strongly suggests John Carpenter (not the famous horror filmmaker or any of the other actors/crew members with that name) but it’s never been proven in court beyond a reasonable doubt. The case on the documentary is pretty compelling but doesn’t offer any rebuttal.

“I thought the only similarities between Deadman and Daredevil were their costume. I didn’t know Boston Brand was an ex-boxer like DD’s dad. Somehow their must be a cool Amalgam character out of this.”
If I remember correctly, in the second special of X-Patrol (oddly enough the amalgam of X-Men and the Doom Patrol) was a throwaway character whose name was DeadDevil The Man Without Life. He was only in one panel, part of the memories of Niles Cable, but I remember thinking they should have done something more with him.

Maybe instead of Amalgam they should just do an alternate story where Deadman is Daredevil’s dad. He comes back from the dead and becomes DD’s main villain. But he would be named DEAD DAD. Get it? :D

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