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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!!
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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