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CSBG Archive

A Year of Cool Comics – Day 247

Here is the latest in our year-long look at one cool comic (whether it be a self-contained work, an ongoing comic or a run on a long-running title that featured multiple creative teams on it over the years) a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the comics posted so far!

Today we look at Joe Casey and Ashley Wood’s Automatic Kafka…


Automatic Kafka was a sadly too-short comic book series that ran 9 issues from 2002-2003.

The plot of the comic is not particularly important, but it is about a robot who was part of a heavily-marketed superhero team during the 1980s and now, years later, his artificial life is in a bit of a shambles, and the series shows him trying out different ways of capturing the spirit of being human, and we’re talking some pretty offbeat ways, like trying to become famous.

To wit, in #1, he looks to get high, as that is something he’s never been able to do as a robot…

As you can see, Ashley Wood’s artwork is striking. Joe Casey’s story is complex and intriguing.

The two most famous issues of Automatic Kafka are definitely numbers 4 and 9.

#4 sees Automatic Kafka working as a game show host and we examine the life of one of the contestants, a grown-up Charles Brown. We also see his friends’ lives.

Brutal stuff handled expertly by Casey and Wood.

And the last issue of the series, #9, sees Automatic Kafka come face to face with his creators, Casey and Wood, as they explain the cancellation of the book.

Really clever stuff.

The other issues are great, too, I just figured I’d show you the highlights to really motivate you to go find these issues in the back-issue bins.


Could (or even — DID) you understand what was going on in the book?

It did have the name “Kafka” attached to the title. ;-)

Paging Dr. Nevett…

I think I traded my Slingers run for Automatic Kafka shortly after the latter’s final issue was released, and, as much as I dug that Spidey spin-off, I definitely got the better end of the deal. This series was a great synthesis of innovative ideas, pure psychedelia, and pointed meta-commentary, all filtered through Avengers analogs.

Casey and Wood have only gotten better over the years, continually honing their respective crafts to create a slew of excellent comics, but they were absolutely firing on all cylinders with Kafka, creating arguably one of the best comics at an imprint that, at the time, was consistently doing groundbreaking work. It’s a shame the book’s life got cut so short; the final issue, however, was probably the best of the series, so who can really complain? Casey has a rare gift for ending projects well — maybe because he knows to prepare for the worst.


September 5, 2010 at 5:11 pm

Could (or even — DID) you understand what was going on in the book?

Yup, it’s a pretty straightforward read.

The only issue that ever felt confusing in it – and seemed to make a lot of reviewers angry at the time – was the first issue, which didn’t really give you time to take stock of what was going on.
But I found if you read it a second time, it all made perfect sense.

Other than that, what confused you in the series?

Wow, I’d always heard good things about this, but this looks awesome. I’ll have to dig in the back issue bins for this.

Unless DC’s new policy of collecting forgotten gems leads them to put this into one volume…

@ funkygreenjerusalem (any relation to “Spider Jerusalem”?):

Can’t remember, it’s been awhile since I’ve read it.

It was just a Kafka-esque question anyway. ;-)

Still waiting for the trade….

I’ll just have to re-read Stray Toasters or Popbot while I wait.

Ok, DanCJ, who did Popbot? It’s something I should know…

But I see the Stray Toasters…influence, maybe?

Popbot was Ashley Wood’s solo book. I’ve got The Complete Popbot which ends on a cliffhanger (so it’s not that complete). I’m not sure if he ever finished the story.

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