Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Art of Steele, Tales of Dred-The Fiction of Robo Force PART 1: The Robo Force Comics!

Although Robo Force did not last beyond its initial debut year, Ideal was still able to commission a decent amount of fictional material exploring the Robo Force mythos. There were Robo Force stories in a variety of formats including the comics that were included with the figures, storybooks that were sold separately and also in the premiere (and only ) issue of Robo Force Magazine. I don't have a complete Robo Force collection so I don't know what all exactly is out there but I would like to give a brief overview of the stories contained in the various books I do have. In this first of two parts we'll take a look at the Robo Force comics I've been able to find so far, including three of the pack-in mini books from the figures and also the five page comic story in the magazine.

Robo Force stories were told in many formats but the most commonly accessible were the short mini comics that came with the toys. The mini booklets that came with each Robo Force figure and vehicle were 14 pages long and included a robot roster, a Maxx Steele bio page, an eight page comic and a brief product catalog featuring the other vehicles, playsets and non-figure merchandise in the line. They had wraparound covers and were illustrated by cartoonist Paul Kirchner. I don't know the exact number of comics produced but I think there may have been more than just the three I have because the back of each book has a number that appears to be sequential from book to book. The ones I have are numbered 2L-2947-0000, 2L-2947-1000 and 2L-2947-4000. I suspect there may at least be two more that would end in -2000 and -3000 but I don't know for sure, nor do I know if there are any beyond -4000. (UPDATE! Thanks to fellow Macrocranian the Necronomitron, I was supplied with the last two Robo Force pack in comics!) There is also a five page comic in the Robo Force magazine, which was written by Jay Itzkowitz and penciled by the late great Frank Springer, who also drew the first four issues of Marvel's Transformers comic.


Character Appearances: Maxx Steele, Hun-Dred, Blazer
Other Toys Featured: Dred Crawler, Fortress of Steele
Synopsis: Hun-Dred discovers the secret location of the Fortress of Steele while Maxx is conducting a delicate memory enhancement experiment on Blazer.

My Thoughts: In this comic we discover the Robo Force story takes place on a planet named Zeton and Hun-Dred is a robot whose only purpose is to destroy Maxx Steele. Other interesting character traits are revealed, like that Blazer likes to play the saxophone and Hun-Dred only has one sense: the ability to sense fear in others. Yeah, it's corny but that's why I like it. We also learn that Maxx is a super bad ass and while Hun-Dred really tries his heart out he's still no match for Maxx. In fact you kind of get the idea that Maxx is annoyed by all this. Even on the cover it hardly looks like Maxx is concerned as he only slightly tilts forward after being shot in the back by Hun-Dred's laser at point blank range. This is comic 2L-2947-0000 and it firmly establishes that Maxx Steele is super awesome and Hun-Dred is a bit of a hater but it fails to answer more important overall questions like why the robots fight each other and how they don't have mouths but can still play the saxophone.


Character Appearances: Wrecker, Wrecker's Air Bot, Cruel, Hun-Dred's voice (over the radio in the Dred Crawler)
Other Toys Featured: Dred Crawler, Robocruiser
Synopsis: Wrecker is on a mission to recover selenium ore from a wrecked space freighter when Cruel launches a surprise attack.

My Thoughts: If you didn't already know who the good and bad guys were then the actions of the robots in this story would have you confused. Wrecker is essentially looting a derelict ship when Cruel shows up and starts sucker punching him from out of nowhere, destroying Wrecker's Robocruiser in the process. Then during the course of the battle, Wrecker carjacks Cruel's Dred Crawler and prank calls Hun-Dred. This is comic 2L-2947-1000 and it firmly establishes that both sides in the Robo Force war are willing to win at all costs but it does not explain why these robots have nothing better to do all day long than be total douchebags to each other.


Character Appearances: Blazer, Blazer's Air Bot, S.O.T.A., Hun-Dred
Other Toys Featured: Dred Crawler, Robocruiser, Command Patroller, Fortress of Steele
Synopsis: S.O.T.A. and Blazer discover Hun-Dred in the act of melting a jungle with a satellite based laser weapon and set out to stop him.

My Thoughts: It's the return of everybody's favorite saxophone playing pyromaniac as Blazer goes up against Hun-Dred's heat ray. You may think eight pages isn't much but the action and toys are jam packed in this one. Every Robo Force vehicle and playset are featured even if it's just for a few panels and the Air Bot even gets a line or two in! Yet another Robocruiser bites the dust and there's a great scene where S.O.T.A. totally punks Hun-Dred from a million miles away with his sniper scope. This is comic 2L-2947-4000 and it firmly establishes that Hun-Dred is the Wile E.Coyote of robot villains and it still doesn't explain how a robot can play the saxophone but by this time you realize Robo Force is the greatest space robot war story of all time.


Character Appearances: Mark Fury, Maxx Steele, Wrecker, Blazer, Sentinel, Coptor, S.O.T.A., Hun-Dred, Vulgar, Cruel, Enemy
Other Toys Featured: Robocruisers, Command Patroller, Fortress of Steele
Synopsis: Hun-Dred has a death ray and a space mirror. Unfortunately he just gave the Robo Force the space mirror and he's still stupid enough to try to use the death ray on them. Hilarity ensues.

My Thoughts: Ever wonder what would've happened to the Death Star if Alderaan had a gigantic space mirror? Hun-Dred actually manages to get all the guys on his side killed in this one. That's not a spoiler because if you haven't realized by now that Robo Force is the Bugs Bunny/Roadrunner show in space with robots then you aren't paying attention. It's a real treat to see Frank Springer's take on the Robo Force universe as he elevates the subject matter with subtle touches like NOT drawing each robot's name on their torsos. Just for a moment the art tricks you into thinking you might actually be reading a SERIOUS saxophone playing alien robot war comic. Unfortunately no subtle touch could mask the absurdity of scenes like the following where human hero Mark Fury pilots the Robo Force's open air, cabinless flying car through space-without a space suit on!


Although these are all of the Robo Force comics I could find, the ridiculous stories don't end here. Tune in next time when I go over the rest of the storybooks in the Robo Force universe, featuring some of the most incredible illustrations I've ever seen but also some of the most incredibly silly stories I've ever read.

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