If you were a robot with a human skull for a head, and you’d just been dredged up from the depths by fishermen, without memory of who you are or why you existed, you’d no doubt be plagued by all the questions that drive the central character of a new comic series by Thomas Hall and Daniel Bradford, co-creators of Robot-13. The first issue of this series — portentously titled “Colossus” — is due out from Hall and Bradford’s comic imprint, Blacklist Studios, this month. When I tell you that Robot-13 has an instinctual and irresistible drive to protect mankind from mythological creatures of destruction and that the first issue includes a major mash-up with a gigantic Kraken, you will understand why regular readers of this blog who are into comics will need to check it out as soon as you can shoot off an order.
The issue comes with a choice of two covers — the above, in a “naturalistic” style, by Jeff Slemons, or in the more comicbook style of co-creator Daniel Bradford (see below):
As you can see from this cover and the following scenes of combat between Kraken and robot (pages 8 and 10), Bradford’s stark, high-contrast approach is somewhat reminiscent of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy, which in turn displays the influence of Marvel’s iconic Jack Kirby. Edgy and dynamic, Bradford’s art compliments and drives the narrative, which is scripted with no-nonsense clarity by Thomas Hall.
Comparative example of a page from Hellboy: Wake the Devil, by Mike Mignola:
Bradford’s cleaner, even more stylised images seem to take on board what is good about Mignola’s approach and give the influences an individual quality of their own.
Story-wise, the Robot-13 narrative expands outward from the opening “discovery” of the titular robot and flings him into a frenetic journey of self-discovery, driven by a compulsion to protect humanity from various large mythological beasts. Says Hall:
On the surface, it’s about a skull-headed robot who fights giant monsters from Greek Mythology. From a storytelling standpoint, however, it’s somewhat a reworking of Frankenstein meeting Homer’s Odyssey — it’s the story of a thing created by Science who goes on a Hero’s journey of sorts to find out who he really is…
Hall identifies the novel Frankenstein and the mythos that has grown from it as a major inspiration:
Daniel had this robot design he was working on, and I had been reading Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ at the time … I thought there could be a connection. Frankenstein was really a product of its day. People wondered if science had any limits and whether it should have them. … If something is created that can think and reason, what would that creation think about itself?
He also expands on how the original Frankenstein novel, which was subtitled “A Modern Prometheus” — a reference to the Greek myth of the titan who defied the gods and incurred their wrath — plays into Robot-13:
… we decided our robot should fight giant monsters from mythology, just like the ones in the [Ray Harryhausen] movies we grew up with! But the monster mash-up of the Frankenstein creature and Greek mythology goes beyond mere battles between behemoths. In Greek mythology, there’s always the journey where the hero goes to find himself. Having our “creature” follow that hero’s path, looking for who he was, gives me as a writer some great stuff to use. And who doesn’t love a giant monster fight?
Hall and Bradford’s previous comic for Blacklist was one with a rather startling and equally attractive concept. King! — a four-part series — featured a character clearly based on the iconic and increasingly mythologised “King” himself:
Meet Jessie King: Former Mexican wrestling bad ass turned supernatural hitman, King is THE man. Be it Bloodsuckers, Shape Shifters, Flesh Eaters or Mouth Breathers, King puts an end to the freaky, antisocial, abnormal misfits that torment the common Man and threaten Freedom and Fried Foods everywhere! Anywhere there are people to help, money to be made and savory grub to chow down on, King will be there with his fist and his Blue Suede Colts…
Elvis-esque ex-wrestler vs zombies! What more could one want?
Oh, of course… robots and giant monsters…