You know, for the longest time as a kid I thought giant robots were bad guys. I mean, I’ve since learned the error of my ways, and have been exposed to enough Japanese geek culture to see how limited my view was. But that’s part of the battle right there. In American comic books, Giant Robots were one of the main enemies of super heroes. Heck, until Power Rangers, the same can be said for American movies and television actually. Giant robots were one of the few threats that were both intimidating and expendable.
Robots were good in that they could be punched in the facsimile of a face and didn’t start bleeding or scream. Well, they did sometimes squawk, but only like a busted radio. Of course, R2-D2’s screams of terror or pain still haunt me to this day…
Anyways, in comic books, giant robots were the equivalent of Godzilla. They showed up. Destroyed a ton of property. And then had a throw-down with a super-hero. Pretty cut and dry.
Marvel Comics especially had some bad robo mu’fuggahs. First off, there were the Sentinels. They were huge, were painted bad buy purple, and were programmed to be racist. Hard core, Mein Kampf downloading, racist Skynet asshats.
Sentinels were always trying to kill the X-Men, and were programmed to kill or neutralize mutants. Though the “neutralizing” was just to kill them later. Uberbot would be proud.
Superman, being Superman, was almost contractually obligated to fight tornadoes and giant robots.
Even Iron Man had to fight a giant robot called Ultimo that we as readers can only be happy was as anatomically correct as a Ken doll.
The Avengers even dealt with ancient alien massive robots from outer space called “Sentries.”
Though American giant robots spent most of their time as bad guys, Japan did try to throw a little of their good guy towering mechanized marvels into our Marvels. The Best/Worst Prize goes to “Supaidaman” (Go ahead and say that out loud and then let the phonetic fun sink in).
That’s right boys and girls, Japan made a version of Spider-Man… with a giant robot (yep, like Power Rangers!). It is insane and insanely awesome.
Frank Miller likes Japanese stuff. He threw ninjas into Daredevil. Drew samurai into Wolverine. And he wrote what I think had to be an influence for the upcoming movie “Pacific Rim“. The comic in question is titled “Big Guy & Rusty The Boy Robot.” Big Guy is every giant robot rolled into one. The twist is that he’s actually piloted by a human, even though the world believes he’s just a 100% robot. Even Rusty the Boy Robot believes Big Guy is a robot. (Oh, and an extra giant robot high five to you if you caught that Rusty is a shout out to Astro Boy, from Japanese anime and manga).
Side Nate Tangent: Go out and buy this comic book right now. The writing is crazy Frank Miller when crazy Frank Miller was entertaining and not The God Damned annoying/insulting that he’s become. And the art is by Geoff Darrow. What can I say about Geoff Darrow besides he has a madman’s insane death grip on detail oh my god the detail did he actually draw all that in one sitting what the WHAT the detail so gorgeous! Yeah, seriously, this man is both gifted and cursed.
With the influx of more positive views of giant robots as Super Heroes (and Iron Giant making us cry so damn much), even Marvel tried to soften at least ONE giant robot. That of a damaged and repaired Sentinel. The Sentinel was reprogrammed to be a hero, and Stan Lee help me, it actually works on me every now and then, especially a scene like this one.
American comics have been easing up on the villainy-ness of enormous cybernetic beings. What brings up all this over-analysis of said gigantic droids? I’m gonna watch Pacific Rim in a few hours and I can’t wait to see some heroic mechanized antics! GO BIG OR GO HOME!