Over the years, there have been many robots, androids and automatons that have graced the pages of comic books. There are plenty who were created solely to be used as drones for some menial task, as well as those that were meant to kill , maim, pillage or otherwise cause problems. Then, there are the those synthetic saviors — “herobots,” if you will –who are either designed to save people or actively go against their programming to become superheroes.
While there are hundreds of interesting candidates to choose from, we at CBR kicked this idea around for a little while and came up with the following 15 robots who are some of the most honorable and heroic automatons to ever be written and drawn into the pages of comics.
1-A was built in 3591 CE to fight in the Martian Uprising under Captain Greer on the cruiser Ottawa, alongside approximately 600 other robots. He made his first appearance in “Magnus, Robot Fighter” #1, written and penciled by Russ Manning for the original Gold Key comic in 1963. Originally, 1-A was not sentient, but a power spike throughout the ship caused most of the bots to reboot and crash. In 1-A’s case, he rebooted and became self-aware. Realizing that the Ottawa could not survive the battle, he made his way to the bridge to convince the captain to turn around, but found that robot E-6 had also become self-aware and was assaulting the captain. 1-A destroyed E-6 and returned to Earth to think about what happened.
1-A realized that the chances of a robot becoming sentient were 11 billion-to-one (per century) and decided he needed to do something to combat the possibility of other robots becoming malevolent since there were more than 15 billion in the North Am civic sector alone. 1-A spent the next few centuries in isolation until he found a young boy in 3976. He named him Magnus and raised him to fight rogue robots with his bare hands.
14. G.I. ROBOT
G.I. Robot was a sentient android built to fight like a soldier during the second World War. He was given the name J.A.K.E. and went on to have many robotic military adventures throughout the war. Given the combatants in the conflict, the inappropriate name of Japanese Attack Killer Elite was a bit less politically-correct than one might prefer. Since then, he has been renamed Joint Allied Killer Elite, which everyone can admit is just a bit better. J.A.K.E. made his first appearance in “Star Spangled War Stories” #101, written and penciled by Ross Andru in 1962.
J.A.K.E. was created by captured scientist Robert Crane for use by the Japanese military as a new and devastating weapon to be used against the Allies. Shortly before Crane completed his work, he was rescued by the Bride of Frankenstein and revealed to her that he programmed the robot to fight the good fight and turn on the Japanese. J.A.K.E. joined S.H.A.D.E. and partnered with agent Frankenstein, with whom he worked for the remainder of the war and eventually served during the Korean War as well.
Anna is the Rosie the Robot to the superhero team, Gen 13. She acts as their maid, but also is the guardian of their home while they are out on a mission, which makes her a valuable member of the team (even if she isn’t a recognized member). She is a highly advanced robot who looks entirely human and is responsible for all of the cleaning and cooking around the Lynch’s house. She made her first appearance in “Gen 13” #0, written by Brandon Choi and penciled by Jim Lee.
Anna is often little more than an afterthought by the members of the team who don’t realize her value. While she is a programmed robot who is meant to be a housekeeper/home defense assault droid, she does have a personality all her own. She innately loves each and every member of the team and often treats them as if they were her own children.
12. AWESOME ANDY
Awesome Andy started out as the Mad Thinker’s Awesome Android, who he made with parts he stole from Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four. Like any android designed by a bad guy, he was meant for evil and the destruction of superheroes, but he went on to rebel against his master and became a true good guy, thus befitting his sweet name. He even joined the law firm of Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzberg and Holliway, the very place that employs She-Hulk. Andy’s role at the firm is mostly that of an administrative assistant and sometimes gopher. It was at the firm that he earned the nickname of Awesome Andy to reflect his smart life choices and general coolness.
As far as androids go, Andy is relatively unique. He was made using unstable molecules, which allow him to imitate anything he comes into contact with. This enables him to create anything, from the wings of a bird or bat to turning his skin into something akin to the physical properties of Mjolnir. He made his first appearance in “Fantastic Four” #15, written by Stan Lee and penciled by Jack Kirby.
Kelex is an autonomous robot who once served Jor-El on the planet Krypton prior to its destruction. He was eventually recreated on Earth in the Fortress of Solitude in “Man of Steel” #1, written and penciled by John Byrne. In many ways, Kelex is indistinguishable from the other servant robots in the Fortress and he doesn’t do very much but serve as a plot device when the Fortress comes into play. That changes when it becomes evident that Brainiac 13 is susceptible to Kryptonian technology. Superman reprograms and rebuilds Kelex, who becomes instrumental in reviving Red Tornado and bringing about an end to Brainiac 13’s evil schemes.
Kelex has also operated as the superhero Steel and even saved Lois Lane from an android double that went on something of a rampage. Kelex even saw some air time in a recent episode of The CW’s “Supergirl” called “Solitude,” when Supergirl and Jimmy Olsen head to the Fortress to find a way to stop Brainiac 8. There to help them is none other than Kelex, who is represented in the picture above.
Not to be confused with the Marvel haracter of the same name, DC’s Wonder-Man was created by a race of aliens intent on taking over the Earth. He was endowed with the powers of Superman, but came with none of those pesky rock-borne limitations. This made poor ol’ Supes feel like something of a has-been. However, it was later revealed that Wonder-Man began as Ajax, one of Superman’s duplicate robots he employed every now and again to protect his secret identity. Initially, the two came into conflict, but when Wonder-Man learned of the Superman Revenge Squad’s plans for him, he rebelled against the aliens who gave him sentience and fought alongside Superman.
Following their successful battle against the aliens, Superman offered a position at his side to become a true superhero. Unfortunately, Wonder-Man had a sort of death clock installed within him that nobody could disassemble and he was set to terminate after only one week. He was given a hero’s burial with a gravestone that read, “He was born a robot, but died a human.” As his time was short, he only appeared in a few issues. His first was “Superman” #163, written by Edmond Hamilton and penciled by Curt Swan.
9. RED TORNADO
Red Tornado is yet another example of why bad guys shouldn’t create sentient robots to help them in their evil schemes. In Earth-Two, a criminal named T. O. Morrow created an android he hoped would be able to infiltrate and defeat the Justice Society of America. An alien entity called Tornado Champion merged with the android and became a new entity, the Red Tornado. As in most cases where an evil scheme backfires, Red Tornado ended up joining the very organization he was designed to destroy.
Throughout his time as a superhero, Red Tornado was destroyed and reformed numerous times. He eventually created a sort of secret identity he called John Smith (the most original name in all the world). He became romantically entangled with a woman named Kathy Sutton and the couple adopted a child named Traya. Red Tornado is very powerful and has the ability to fly, turn himself invisible, is invulnerable, and functionally immortal, not to mention his ability to create gigantic and hugely-powerful whirlwinds. He made his first appearance in “Justice League of America” #64, written by Gardner Fox and penciled by Dick Dillin in 1968.
The third incarnation of the superhero called Hourman was created in the 853rd century by Rex Tyler, the very first Hourman. During his life, Tyler would black out for extended periods of time without understanding why. It was later revealed that he was traveling to the 853rd century to run his company called Tyler Chemorobotics with the goal of advancing the state of robotics. You would think that humans would have mastered robotics by then, but apparently that wasn’t the case. While he was in the future, he created his successor, Hourman, who took the name Matthew Tyler.
Hourman made his first appearance in “JLA Secret Files and Origins” #1, written by Mark Millar and penciled by multiple artists. He became self-aware in the year 85,269 CE and possessed the abilities of flight, time manipulation and time travel. He would eventually go on to replace his creator at the moment of his death, thus saving his life from the hands of Extant.
7. MACHINE MAN
Machine Man was created to be a killer robot called X-51 by the U.S. Army. X-51 was the only successful robot to come out of the project and was raised by his creator, Dr. Abel Stack, to be more human. He made his first appearance in “2001: A Space Odyssey” #8, written and penciled by Jack Kirby in 1977. After Dr. Stack was killed in an explosion meant to take out X-51, he spent most of his time avoiding government agents, who were intent on bringing him back into their program. As a sentient being, he had no intention of becoming a government stooge, so he set out to do what every sentient robot would when they want to retain their anonymity and better understand humans: he became an insurance agent.
Of course, this career didn’t last forever and he eventually joined the Avengers as a reserve member for their West Coast roster. Eventually, Machine Man was exposed to a Sentinel virus that made him attack mutants whenever he was around them, forcing the Avengers to remove him from their registry. He has numerous powers and has fought alongside the likes of the Hulk and Fantastic Four over the years.
6. METAL MEN
Dr. Will Magnus created the Metal Men by first placing a device he called the responsometer into the robot he named Tina (later called Platinum) in “Showcase” #37, written by Robert Kanigher and penciled by Ross Andru. The responsometer was a nuclear-powered, microscopic device that essentially functioned as Tina’s brain, allowing for the animation and control of her metal body as well as her consciousness. Magnus later created a team of responsometer-enabled robots to combat the threat of a radioactive prehistoric monster that was released from a glacier, calling the team his Metal Men. That, of course, is a little misogynistic, seeing as his first robot was supposed to be a woman, but we aren’t here to judge.
The team consists of various members each made of a specific metal and endowed with powers related to that metal. Over their publication history, the roster has consisted of Alloy, Aluminum, Copper, Gold, Iron, Lead, Lithium, Magnesium, Mercury and Nameless, who was created by Tin to be his girlfriend. Nothing creepy about that!
Jocasta was created by Ultron because he wanted a loving wife. In order to give his creation life, he kidnapped and brainwashed Dr. Hank Pym into transferring the consciousness of Janet Van Dyne (Pym’s wife and the Wasp) into the empty shell of Jocasta. The plan is thwarted by the Avengers, who come to rescue their comrades after Jocasta uses her newly-acquired Wasp powers to alert them. This leaves the transfer process incomplete, but a part of Janet ends up within the shell and Jocasta, though seemingly no longer sentient, was born. This took place in “The Avengers” #162, written by Jim Shooter and penciled by George Perez.
She later returned and eventually joined the Avengers, but ended up leaving after the roster was trimmed. She has her own personality and is somewhat comparable to Vision. She has even had a romantic relationship with a human… who just happened to be Pym, which might have had something to do with a part of Janet being what made Jocasta who she was. While was killed off and has returned a couple of times, she presently works as an instructor at Avengers Academy.
4. HUMAN TORCH
The original Human Torch made his debut in “Marvel Comics” #1, written and penciled by Carl Burgos, all the way back in 1939. The robot named Jim Hammond was created by Professor Phineas T. Horton to become the first Human Torch. He was presented within a glass tube to the world at a science fair in Manhattan, but burst into flame when the glass broke and flew away. He eventually learned to control his flame and took up the secret identity of the Torch so that he could learn what it means to be human.
Hammond joined the New York Police Department and began his career as a cop walking a beat; he would then moonlight as the flaming man, beating up criminals and saving the day in his off hours. Hammond was, by most accounts, the very first superhero created for Marvel Comics (then known as Timely Comics). The title was eventually given to Johnny Sotrm of the Fantastic Four, but the original Jim Jammond has since come back to work for S.H.I.E.L.D. His power-set has recently changed, though, from fire to radiation, making him potentialy more powerful than ever.
Baymax may have entertained millions when he hit the big screen in 2014’s “Big Hero 6,” but the character made his first appearance in “Sunfire & Big Hero 6” #1, written by Scott Lobdell and penciled by Gus Vasquez back in 1998. Each version is very different in both origin and appearance. In the comics, Baymax was created to act as Hiro’s bodyguard and companion, but was programmed with the memories and emotions of Hiro’s father, who had recently passed away. Another major difference is the look and design of the character; in the comics, Baymax looks more like a green dragon than a less-pudgy Michelin Man as he did in the film.
Though their appearances and origins differ between media, the comic book Baymax and his film counterpart serve the same function: they protect Hiro. Baymax can assume his less-conspicuous humanoid form whenever he’s walking about town with Hiro, but when he needs to beef up, he has no problem switching to Battle-Dragon or his Action-Mecha configuration. He is also adept at several forms of martial arts, is bulletproof, and can fly at speeds up to Mach 4. He continues to serve on the superhero team Big Hero 6 alongside Hiro.
2. OPTIMUS PRIME
Optimus Prime is the leader of the Autobots, a race of sentient metal beings who battle an unending war against their evil counterparts, the Decepticons. Our younger readers may think he came from the recent string of Michael Bay films, but Prime’s first appearance in comics dates back to January 1st, 1984, with the publication of “Big Looker Storybook: The Transformers” #1, written and penciled by Earl Norem. The book debuted a good nine months before the first airing of the American television cartoon, so Marvel can claim first publication rights in the States for the heroic Prime and his Autobot compatriots.
Optimus Prime’s power comes from his ability to lead. “Of all the Autobots only he, wise and powerful beyond understanding, was able to unite the scattered warriors into a fully effective fighting force.” Sure, he has all the abilities a giant robot who can transform into a semi truck might possess, but his ability to command, his vast intellect and his empathy for the lesser creatures of Earth (that would be we puny humans) is indicative of a great leader and military commander. Over the years, he has been modified and tweaked by writers and artists, but his core principles have never changed, making him one heroic bot.
Vision is probably the most well-known robot in all of comics and it didn’t hurt that Paul Bettany played the character so well on the silver screen, increasing the character’s popularity to newfound heights. Vision was created by the villain Ultron as a weapon to be used against his own creator, Dr. Hank Pym, in “The Avengers” #57, written by Roy Thomas and penciled by John Buscema. The original Human Torch was divided into two entities by Immortus so that one body remained with the Torch while the other was used by Ultron to create Vision. It didn’t take long for Vision to give Ultron the boot and join the very supergroup he was built to destroy.
Vision is not only one of the good guys, he is also one of the most powerful superheroes in Marvel comics. He possesses the ability to turn his body invisible and intangible, has super speed, super strength, speaks every known Earth language, is nearly invulnerable, can fly and much more. The film version placed the Mind Stone on his forehead to power him, but in the books, Vision sports a Solar Jewel that absorbs ambient solar energy to power him.
Who is your favorite herobot? Let us know in the comments!
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