Thursday, April 22, 2010

GET YOUR CRUSH ON!-The Fiction of Robo Force CONCLUSION: The Robo Force Storybooks!

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 last of two parts we'll take a look at the Robo Force storybooks, including the two game books and the Robo Force Adventure series.

While the Robo Force pack-in comics that came with the toys were a good place to start, those eight page stories weren't able to really flesh out the mythology of the Robo Force universe. So, like many other licensed toy properties of the 80s, Robo Force had a number of different series of storybooks written for children with different levels of sophistication and reading comprehension that would further the adventures of Maxx Steele and Hun-Dred. So far I have found two distinct types of Robo Force books-a game genre set which consisted of two books and three other books all of which were subtitled "A Robo Force Adventure". I will call the second type "The Robo Force Adventure Series" for purposes of this post.


"Robo Force and the Giant Robot" and "Robo Force and the Mountain of Burning Ice" were two Choose Your Own Adventure style storybooks written by Seth McEvoy and beautifully illustrated by "Penalva" and "Courtney". I don't know why the artists only chose to go by one name but it's a trend that continued throughout most Robo Force storybooks. This game book series is written for very young children so there isn't much depth to the stories and they're about as complicated as the pack-in comics in terms of plot, but with more pages and fantastic art. This is strictly for the little kids, though, as the decision making involved is mostly unnecessary and the majority of the time making the wrong turn will inevitably lead to an ending with a second chance, telling you to go to the page you should have gone to in the first place. There's even very little page navigating. In fact, you could read straight through the first 29 pages of "Robo Force and the Giant Robot" before you encounter a page that would be out of sequence with the story. At times they hardly feel like game books at all, but that is probably because they're aimed at very young readers. They're very much worth reading, though, as they do have their moments of classic Robo Force goofiness like the unforgettable line "Make up your mind, jerk-circuits!"


Synopsis: Doctor Richard Fury and the Robo Force discover Andor, a lost civilization that stored all their advanced knowledge of medicine, technology and war in a vast underground supercomputer before going extinct. When his son Mark falls ill with a rare disease, Dr. Fury desperately hopes the knowledge in the computer can save him, but Nazgar and Hun-Dred also know of the discovery and have different plans in mind.

The Adventure Series is where Robo Force really shines and fulfills its potential as a the kind of sci-fi space robot war I could get into when I was 10. The storytelling in the books of the Adventure Series is slightly more serious and a bit darker in tone, which I really like because they seem like they're more set in the same universe as The Revenge of Nazgar (the one shot cartoon). The comic pack-ins and game books have a way more kiddy feel than the Adventure series. Instead of short plots with little character and background development, the Adventure series books attempt a more thorough fleshing out of the Robo Force universe than you'll get in any other books. In The Treasure of Andor we get to learn a little more about planet Zeton and what Doctor Fury does when he's not building robots. Then it breaks out into crazy robot war halfway through and gets a little hard to follow. My favorite illustration is one of Hun-Dred busting the door down, beautifully rendered by story artist "Fernando". What's awesome is how Hun-Dred's holding his laser like a 1920s Tommy gun in a surprise attack on Maxx and the other members of the Robo Force.


Synopsis: Doctor Fury invents a machine to kill Nazgar called the De-Nazgarator but the rare element he needs to power it can only be found in one place: UNDER NAZGAR'S FORTRESS!

This is classic Robo Force silliness in a very people powered Robo Force story. Much of the action is centered around Dr. Fury, his son Mark and Councilwoman Deena Strong. (Oh god Deena strong is so hot thanks to the artistry of Juan Gimenez.) Robo Force takes a bit of a back seat during the story in which the human trio of good guys storm Nazgar's Fortress in an attempt to secure the element "Ryton". In a short email conversation I had with Flint Dille (who wrote The Return of Nazgar) he commented "I remember they were searching for something called Ryton. I remember that sounding like the hippie phrase, 'right on'." I thought Mr. Dille's observation was funny. In my head I had been pronouncing it like 'rye taun' but I was off. I really thought this would be the book that wraps the series up but the ending was not as decisive as I was hoping for. It's hard to make a timeline of Robo Force canon because every story in every book is pretty much stand alone, but this one could serve as the finale depending on how the ending is interpreted.


Synopsis:Maxx gets kidnapped by Hun-Dred and taken to Nazgar's fortress for some reprogramming, but once again Hun-Dred has underestimated his foe.

Pretty straightforward plot here-Maxx is kidnapped and the Robo Force has to get him back. But this is Maxx Steele we're talking about so the reader is left with no doubt that the ones in trouble are really Hun-Dred and his crew. There's a funny moment where even Nazgar shows his frustration with Hun-Dred's inability to recognize the situation is worse for the kidnappers than the kidnapped. Personally I am really tired of Hun-Dred always losing to Maxx. Maxx is so overwhelmingly great and smart and powerful that I find myself cheering for Hun-Dred all the time. At least in this book there is actually a moment where even Maxx thinks there is a possibility-however small-that he might get reprogrammed into a slave of Nazgar. Another book beautifully illustrated (this time by artist Mones) in a large 9x11 inch format. The two other Adventure series books are small, 5x5 1/2 inch squares so the great art really looks good in the bigger size here.


There are two more pieces of Robo Force fiction I have yet to cover-the read along adventure "Battle at the Fortress of Steele" and of course the long lost cartoon "The Revenge of Nazgar". But fear not my fellow Macrocranians! I'll get to those in this week's Roboplastic Podcastalypse!


Anonymous said...

cant thank you enough for the tour of the roboforce mythos.
i wonder if you could comment on my pet theory that roboforce is the intellectual descendant of IDEAL's Zeroids line. the design of the robots is very similar as is the marketing material ( also very scant)

Evil King Macrocranios said...

You're welcome. A couple of people have noticed those parallels between Zeroids and Robo Force so you're not alone in thinking the two are remarkably similar. Most recently I talked about that with two other Robo Force fans in Episode 44 of my show. I think I also mentioned it when I briefly reviewed the recent 2010 Zeroids comic in episode 12.


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