How have I not written about Atomic Robo before??
OK let’s start with the basics: Atomic Robo is a comic about a robot built by Nikola Tesla in the 1920s who goes on to become a PhD, a World War II flying ace, the founder of the company Tesladyne, thwarter of the Cold War, an astronaut, and an inventor.
He battles Dr. Dinosaur, numerous Russian, Chinese, or Japanese enemies, a giant robot pyramid, and of course his creator’s nemesis, Thomas Edison.
We’re talking good old fashioned comic books here.
But they’re not just good old-fashioned comic books, they’re good old fashioned comic books written and illustrated by creators that understand what the flaws of old-fashioned comic books were and they do not repeat those mistakes.
For example, Atomic Robo and the Flying She-Devils of the Pacific is not just a post-WWII comic about an attempt at Japanese conquest via a super weapon. It’s not just a graphic novel about women pilots and mechanics who become air pirates over the Pacific. No, it’s all of those things and it’s a send-up to eight women in the comics industry who are fantastic in their own right.
Author Brian Clevinger summarizes their goals in the introduction:
The text doesn’t contort itself to show these ladies in a positive light. Nor does it pat itself on the back for featuring these ladies as its main characters in the first place. It doesn’t make bad guys say sexist things so you know they’re bad and wrong. No one praises the She-Devils’ ability or know how or pluck for a girl. None of them picks a lock with a hairpin to save the day.
Because normal is what goes unremarked upon.
I love it when a comic team doesn’t need to make a big deal out of women characters because, in the context of their universe, women are as common as men, and as accepted. Doubly so for an action/adventure type where honor, hard work, and sacrifice are driving the plot.
Atomic Robo and the Flying She-Devils of the Pacific is volume 7 of the Atomic Robo series and I’ve got at least four more volumes waiting for me in the library. This may have been the first time I’ve mentioned Atomic Robo, but these comics are so good you can be pretty sure it won’t be the last.