Tag Archives: Brainiac

The 36 Stratagems as Portrayed in Comic Books

00 Hugh Fox & Bruce Lee

Introduction

I first heard of The 36 Stratagems when I was working on a comic book story with Bruce Lee in 1974.  The story was eventually published in The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #14 (see cover above).  Bruce Lee envisioned a story that revolved around stratagem three of the 36 Statagems “Kill with a Borrowed Knife” that entails using the strength of another to defeat your enemies.  Bruce knew me from my cinema work in which I played the role of an evil psychologist turning nice Hong Kong girls, among others, into killing machines or worse in the The Evil Dr. Fox series produced by Shaw Brothers Studios.  We had tried again and again to make a “Bruce Lee vs. Dr. Fox” movie in Hong Kong without success.

The comic book was definitely a plan B.  There was a metafictional aspect to our comic book collaboration since Bruce Lee would more or less be playing himself in the comic book story.  I had played heavies in various B films in Hong Kong before the success of the mad psychologist Dr. Fox series.  In hindsight, I realize that using my actual last name as that of the character in that series was probably not a good idea.  I actually was a professor working as an English teacher in a Hong Kong university language center. I did some acting on the side to earn extra money and because acting was also a lot of fun.  I would like to take this opportunity to separate fact from fiction.

The real Dr. Fox cannot do the incredible kung fu stunts that are seen in my movies. I do have some knowledge of martial arts but I am more a theoretician than a practicioner:

Fox Martial Arts Taxonomy

The real Dr. Fox knows absolutely nothing about brainwashing.  If you want to learn English then give me a call but if you want to brainwash your ex-girlfriend to fall in love with you again then I am the wrong person for that task.  Metaschizophrenia, the Bureau of Intelligence Synthesis and corrective reality are all fictions and not real!

A stratagem is often used as a synonym for the word “strategy” and this is an incorrect use of the term.  A stratagem is more correctly defined as a ruse.  However, I think the term ruse is simplistic when applied to the term stratagem.  Based on the historical usage of the word, I would describe a stratagem as a ruse used for military and/or political purposes.  Also, a stratagem is a ruse that has been used for purposes other than mere monetary gain unlike a confidence trick.  For example, the Spanish prisoner con is basically the same as “7) Create Something Out of Nothing. – Turn something that is not substantial into reality” stratagem in the list of stratagems below at an operational level but the contextual historical background is totally different.  Operational similarities aside, the contextual background of the ruse given to the potential user is important for easy applicability.  A con man may have trouble understanding an operation given in a military context.  A military officer might have trouble applying a con explained within a monetary context to a military situation.  One of the recurring plot lines of modern fiction is having cons that are generally used for criminal purposes for government goals as is the case in the popular franchise Mission Impossible.  However, translating operations to a different context may not be as easy as the mentioned franchise suggests.

I would also like to contrast a stratagem with a ruse of war.  For example moving landmarks to confuse the enemy is clearly a ruse of war but I would not call it a stratagem.  Historically, a stratagem has a larger goal than the mere temporary confusion of the enemy.  Perhaps a stratagem is a ruse of war with strategic rather than tactical intent.  I would define a stratagem as a ruse of war with strategic intent.  In short:

1) A con is a ruse for monetary gain.

2) A ruse of war is a ruse for tactical military gain.

3) A stratagem is a ruse for strategic military and/or political gain.

I would like to apply this system of ruse classification to a particular historical example that would have been difficult to classify prior to this article.

In Operation Bernhard, the Nazis counterfeited British pounds in order to destabilize the British economy.  Was Operation Bernhard a con, ruse of war or a stratagem?  Certainly Operation Bernhard was a ruse.  I would argue that Operation Bernhard was not a con since the objective was political and not monetary.  If the goal was to supply Nazi agents with local money in Britain then it would be a ruse of war.  Since the goal was strategic then I would say Operation Bernhard was a stratagem and specifically: “2) Besiege Wei to Rescue Zhao. – Attack their Achilles heel” in the list below.

Feudal Chinese military strategists suggested the study of stratagems as part of basic military education.  The 36 Stratagems is an essay that explains stratagems in detail.  This essay shows how the 36 stratagems have been portrayed in comic books.  The author of this essay doubts the comic book writers were aware of the Chinese text on this subject but learned about the stratagems indirectly and used them largely for plot purposes rather than edification.  An essay of how the 36 stratagems have been used in comic books provides an interesting extension of literary criticism and how theories other than literary theory can help us understand modern media such as comic books.

The 36 stratagems are traditionally broken into six categories with six stratagems per category.  I find the categories are largely useless and create logical confusion.  The rationale for the six categories probably has more to do with Taoist aesthetics than any operational logic.  For example, #31, the honey trap is under the category six of “Desperate Stratagems” but this stratagem could just as easily be classified under category two, “Enemy dealing stratagems”.  For the purposes of utility, the categories have been deleted and a simple 1-36 list has been used instead. 

The Original 36 Stratagems – Contemporary Maxims

1) Cross the sea by deceiving the sky.  Act in the open, but hide your true intentions.

1 36 Stratagems Cross the sea under camouflage

This is the use of a series of false alarms so that when you actually attack then you will have the element of surprise.  Supervillains don’t use this stratagem very much since every time they move then they get caught because of the dictates of a media were the good guys always win.  However in World’s Finest #88, the Joker and Lex Luthor commit a series of crimes that are actually Mechano-Men stunts and not crimes.

1-36 Stratagems as Portrayed in Comic Books-World's Finest Comics #88 (1957) - Page 6

2-36 Stratagems as Portrayed in Comic Books-World's Finest Comics #88 (1957) - Page 14

In his first appearance in Action Comics V1, #51, the Prankster gives money to banks in apparent bank robberies until he decides to start robbing banks instead when the guard of the banks is let down.

3-36 Stratagems as Portrayed in Comic Books-Action Comics #51 (1942) - Page 12 4-36 Stratagems as Portrayed in Comic Books-Action Comics #51 (1942) - Page 15

The con version of this stratagem is a Kansas City Shuffle.

2) Besiege Wei to rescue Zhao.  Attack their Achilles heel.

2 36 Stratagems Besiege Wei to rescue Zhao Surround one state to save another

Lex Luthor has used Green Kryptonite to attack Superman at least a hundred times.  At this point the idiom Kryptonite to signify an Achilles heel is probably better known than the original antecedent idiom.  This only works if the bad guys know the fatal weakness of the super hero.  There can be an irony to the Achilles heel of a superhero as a plot device.  For example, Daredevil is more vulnerable to sonic attack due to his enhanced hearing but this has been kept secret by Daredevil.

The Achilles heel of most superheroes is their loved ones. The Injustice: Gods Among Us explores a universe in which the Joker has killed Lois Lane, Superman’s unborn son and most of Metropolis.   In the comic book, not the video game, that is ongoing, Superman seems to be on the path of creating a dictatorship.  In the comic book, the US government attempts but fails to keep Superman’s adopted family, Jonathan and Martha Kent in a Mirror Master dimension but this attempt fails.  Superman emerges angrier than ever due to this attempt by the US government.

5-36 Stratagems as Portrayed in Comic Books-Injustice - Gods Among Us #7 - Page 21 6-36 Stratagems as Portrayed in Comic Books-Injustice - Gods Among Us #8 - Page 21

The problem of the loved ones Achilles heel is that once you used up loved ones then your enemy is enraged and stronger than ever.  This seems to apply to real life to some extent.

Iron Man had his armor hijacked by a Hypersonic Scan Transmitter in the Demon in a Bottle story line.  Justin Hammer used the hijacked armor to kill an Ambassador while Iron Man was in the armor and effectively framing Iron Man for murder.

7-36 Stratagems as Portrayed in Comic Books-The Invincible Iron Man #124 - Page 32 8-36 Stratagems as Portrayed in Comic Books-The Invincible Iron Man #126 - Page 16

Overall, super villains are constantly looking for the weakness of their favorite super hero and will attack such a weakness without mercy.

Green Lantern has a green Power ring that is one of the most powerful weapons in the DC universe but the Power ring has an Achilles heel and that is that the Power ring is unable to affect objects colored yellow.  Sinestro had a yellow Power ring which in turn was ineffective with objects colored green!  This is cute use of the Achilles heel plot device but does seem a little too much in a modern context.  The Earth 2 Green Lantern, Alan Scott,  has a Power ring unable to affect wooden objects.  Green Lanterns have a weapon of incredible power so the only way a fight with bank robbers could not be totally one sided and interesting was to introduce a ridiculous Achilles heel.

Mon-El is a Daxamite.  Daxamites are about as powerful as a race as Superman who is a Kryptonian.  However, the Achilles heel of Daxamites is a vulnerability to even small traces of lead.  Presumably this plot device prevents the Daxamites from taking over the DC universe.  In a similar manner, the Martian Manhunter is more or less as powerful as Superman but is vulnerable to fire!  DC first used Kryptonite to allow interesting plots with a being as powerful as Superman and then continued this practice with Green Lantern, Mon-El, and the Martian Manhunter.  This use of a very fine tuned Achilles heel is a hallmark of the DC Silver age and seems forced nowadays.

3) Kill with a borrowed knife.  Attack using the strength of another person.

3 36 Stratagems Kill with a borrowed knife

In Avengers, Vol1, #1, Loki tries to trick the Hulk into fighting Thor but instead ends up creating the Avengers.  Loki bailed out the Cobra and Mr. Hyde and doubled their powers and aimed them at Thor’s Achilles heel, the current love of his life Jane Foster.  Loki has created super villains to fight Thor including the Absorbing Man.  Loki tricked the Silver Surfer into fighting Thor (Silver Surfer, V1, #4).  Loki in Acts of Vengeance attacked the Avengers by creating a team of super villains who in turn used even other super villains to attack the Avengers.  Loki’s true goal was to hurt his half-brother Thor.

Daredevil used HYDRA to destroy the Kingpin’s organization in the Last Rites story arc (Daredevil #297-300).  The Kingpin nearly destroyed Daredevil in the Born Again story line earlier via a series of stratagems so there is a plot symmetry in Daredevil striking back against the Kingpin using a stratagem.

17-36 Stratagems as Portrayed in Comic Books-Daredevil V1 #299 (1991) - Page 22

Darkseid has supplied advanced weaponry to Intergang in order fight Earth’s superheroes and to track down the Anti-Life Equation.  Darkseid also created an incarnation of the Secret Society of Supervillains and kept his involvement secret from the supervillains for an extended period of time.  Darkseid knew many supervillains are interested in loot rather than the larger strategic goals he had.

Justin Hammer supplied advanced technology to Iron Man’s adversaries in exchange for fifty percent of the loot the supervillains stole.  Justin Hammer also used stratagem #2 to attack Iron Man.

The Silver age Lex Luthor joins with Brainiac in the Crisis of Infinite Earths to form an army of supervillains.  The Modern age Luthor creates the Parasite, Bizzaro and the cyborg Metallo.  The Infinite Crisis Luthor creates the Society of Supervillains.

4) Relax and wait for the adversary to tire himself out.  Exercise patience and wear them down

4 36 Stratagems Wait at ease for the enemy

Doctor Octopus unsuccessfully tried to wear Spider-Man down using the newly formed Sinister Six who attacked Spider-Man one by one in The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1.  Doctor Octopus hoped that the exhausted Spider-Man would be defeated when he attacked Spider-Man last.

In The Dark Knight Returns, Batman uses this stratagem to fight Superman.  Batman attacks Superman with an otherworldly Batmobile, followed by cruise missiles and finally has Green Arrow shoot Kryptonite tipped arrows to weaken Superman sufficiently so that Batman with his exoskeleton can give Superman a beating before Batman appears to die of a self-induced heart attack.

5) Loot a burning house.  Hit them when they are down.

5 36 Stratagems Loot a burning house

Attack the enemy when they have internal difficulties.  The Kingpin literally blew up Daredevil’s house after framing him for bribery, destroying him financially and overall attacking him as Matt in the Born Again story arc.  The Kingpin muses that a destroyed Daredevil might serve him!  The Born Again story line also illustrates stratagem #2 and the use of interlocking stratagems, stratagem #35.

Norman Osborn looted Tony Stark’s armory and created the Iron Patriot armor from the loot.

18-36 Stratagems as Portrayed in Comic Books-Dark Avengers #1 - Page 27 19-36 Stratagems as Portrayed in Comic Books-Dark Avengers #1 - Page 30

Comic books need fights and fights between super heroes like Thor and the Hulk are always popular.  You see a lot of “temporary misunderstandings” between super heroes but after the mandatory six to ten panel fight, the misunderstanding is patched up and the heroes unite to fight the supervillain that created the conflict in the first place.

6) Make a feint to the east while attacking in the West. Fake to the right; attack to the left.

6 36 Stratagems Make a feint to the east while attacking in the west

Ozymandias was defeated by the Comedian during their first fight due to a feint.  The Prankster in the Modern Age acts as distraction-for-hire for Superman for a fee while criminals commit crimes.  Batman has been known to “miss” with his Batarang because he is actually going for a ricochet shot.  Daredevil does the same thing as Batman but with his Billy Club not a Batarang.

7) Create something out of nothing. Turn something that is not substantial into reality.

7 36 Stratagems Create something out of nothing

Vaporware is the modern equivalent of this stratagem.  The Prankster copyrights the English language and then charges fees for use of the alphabet!  Ozymandias tricks the world with a fake alien in order to unite the world in a war against the aliens and stop WW III from happening.

8) Secretly utilize the Chen Cang passage.  Pretend to advance down one path while taking another hidden path.  Pretend to care about an issue and later give it up to get what you really want.

8 36 Stratagems Pretend to advance along one path while secretly getting along by a hidden path

This stratagem is a more specific version of “(6) Make a Feint to the East While Attacking in the West. – Fake to the right; attack to the left”.  The difference is that beyond misinformation there is the use of physical baits such as a decoy.  Iron Man, Loki and Dr. Strange all have the ability to make mirror images of their own image in order to confuse the enemy.  If you try to touch the mirror copy then your hand will go through the copy and the copy cannot interact with the enemy so the illusion only creates temporary confusion. This is a type of illusion whether the origin is holographic science in the case of Iron Man or magic in the case of Dr. Strange and Loki.  This power is used in an irregular manner with the characters mentioned.

Mirror Master uses the power in a more consistent manner in order to flee from the Flash who has super speed.  The Mirror Master will often make multiple holograms of himself that flee in different directions.  Flash is fast enough to chase all the holograms so this rarely works but this doesn’t stop the Mirror Master from using this trick again and again.

20-36-stratagems-as-portrayed-in-comic-books-the-flash-v1-105-page-1

A slightly different version of this stratagem is the use of robotic copies.  When dealing with Doctor Doom, you never know if you are dealing with Doctor Doom or a robotic copy of Doctor Doom.  While you are dealing with the Doctor Doom robot, the real Doctor Doom can be watching from afar and coming up with some other counter plan.  Robots that are created by Doctor Doom that are exact replicas of Doctor Doom are called Doombots.

S.H.I.E.L.D makes extensive use of Life Model Decoys (LMDs).  Nick Fury LMDs serve a similar function for Nick Fury as Doombots for Doctor Doom. In the case of Doombots and LMDs the problem of controlling the robots has been a plot device.  Your robotic copy can try to supplant the original!  Max Fury is an LMD that has played a prominent role in the Marvel Universe.

Tony Stark (Iron Man’s secret identity) is probably the second greatest user of LMDs after Nick Fury.  Tony Stark was paralyzed and used the Neuromimetic Telepresence Unit 150 (NTU-150) to act as a remote controlled version of Iron Man.

In the film X-Men: The Last Stand, Magneto has Multiple Man  make multiple copies of himself and the copies act as a decoy while the real Brotherhood escapes.

9) Watch the fire burning from across the river.  Allow them to fight your other enemy while you rest and observe. Later, defeat the exhausted survivor.

9 36 Stratagems Watch the fire burning from the other side of the river

Ultra Boy, of the Legion of Super-Heroes, used covert means to trick Mordru into attacking Glorith in order to stop Glorith from taking over the universe (Legion of Super-Heroes Annual V4 #1.

21-36-stratagems-as-portrayed-in-comic-books-annual-legion-of-super-heroes-v4-1-page-42 22-36-stratagems-as-portrayed-in-comic-books-annual-legion-of-super-heroes-v4-1-page-43 23-36-stratagems-as-portrayed-in-comic-books-annual-legion-of-super-heroes-v4-1-page-44

10) Conceal a dagger in a smile.  Befriend them to get their guard down, then attack their weakest point.

10 36 Stratagems Conceal a dagger in a smile

The Batman has some very charming enemies.  The Joker often smiles and even laughs as he kills his victims.  The Joker also likes to make his victims smile while they die as well with his patented Joker venom.  The Riddler is another smooth talking rogue that is an enemy of Batman.  Ra’s al Ghul treats Batman as a worthy opponent and calls Batman detective out of respect.

Ra’s al Ghul has a daugher, Talia al Ghul, does more than smile for Batman and has given Batman a son!  Talia seemingly becomes an ally of Luthor and runs LexCorp while Luthor is President but secretly sells LexCorp to Wayne Enterprises in order to ruin Lex Luthor.  However, Talia is a ruthless criminal that will fight Batman.

Ozymandias is very genial even as he battles Rorschach, Nite Owl and Silk Spectre.

11) Sacrifice a plum tree to save a peach tree. Let the plum tree wither in place of the peach tree.  Trade up! Take a small loss for a large gain.

 11 36 Stratagems Sacrifice the plum for the peach Ready to make sacrifice for the ultimate gain

Super villains are more than willing to sacrifice henchmen for any sort of advantage or just kill them for fun.  Probably the worst super villain boss is the Joker who gets a kick out of shooting, electrocuting and poisoning henchmen left and right.

12) Take away a goat in passing.  Take advantage of every small opportunity.

12 36 Stratagems Lead away a goat in passing Picking up something in the sly

The Taskmaster is an interesting super villain who decided a lot of small opportunities with small risk is a better idea than the big score.  The Taskmaster runs a school for henchmen.  In general, super villains do not think small and do pass up small opportunities.  The biggest opportunity that super villains pass up is licensing their technology.  If the technology is stolen then this makes sense but in the case of criminal masterminds like The Mad Thinker and Egghead, you have to wonder why they don’t focus on being a the next Bill Gates rather than wasting their time on crime.

13) Beat the grass to startle the snake.  Stir things up before beginning to negotiate for your true interests.

13 36 Stratagems Beat the grass to startle the snake

Ok, this is the application of stratagems to a type of genre that generally relies on fist fights for plot development.  No one said this task would be easy.  I am going to revise this as distraction as a tactic or even super power in a comic book.  Deadpool has officially been classified as a character with the super power of distraction by a major super villain, Taskmaster.  Spider-Man consistently keeps up a line of personal to funny chatter while fighting that unnerves opponents.

14) Raise a corpse from the dead.  Revive a dead proposal by presenting it again or in a new way.

 14 36 Stratagems Raise a corpse from the dead

This stratagem means take something from the past and giving it new relevance.  I guess the Chinese knew endless reboots of everything from Spider-Man to Iron Man were going to be part of the future!  This may be number #14 in the list of stratagems but in comic terms this stratagems is number #1!

Comic books love updating old weapons!  The Atomic Knights use medieval armor after WW III!  Hawkman likes to use archaic weaponry.  Green Arrow and Hawkeye use trick arrows.  Batman uses Batarangs, boomerangs and shurikens, in his utility beltCaptain Boomerang and Boomerang use trick boomerangs.  Whiplash uses a technologically enhanced whip.  Wonder Woman has her Lasso of Truth. Comic book heroes and villains delight in taking and old weapon and adding new technology to the weapon so a trick version of the weapon is created.

24-36-stratagems-as-portrayed-in-comic-books-justice-league-of-america-v1-53-page-1

15) Lure the tiger out of the mountain.  Seek a neutral location. Negotiate after leading them away from a position of strength.

15 36 Stratagems Lure the tiger out of the mountain

Super heroes don’t really rely on forts and mazes to take care of their enemies.  Batman has the Batcave and Superman has his Fortress of Solitude. However, the last thing super heroes want is supervillains visiting their lairs.  Incredibly the opposite happens and super heroes wander into the stronghold of villains all the time.  At least once every three years, the Fantastic Four visits Latveria the stronghold of Doctor Doom.  This is not just a lair but a whole country that Doctor Doom controls so probably visiting Doctor Doom in Latveria is not a good idea but that doesn’t seem to deter the Fantastic Four in the least.

Doctor Doom may have a nation on his side but Luthor tops that big time by having a whole planet on his side!  In the Silver age, In Superman Vol 1, #164, Luthor challenged Superman to a fight on Lexor.  Lexor is a planet that has a red sun so Superman has no powers on Lexor!  Also, on Lexor, Luthor is a hero and Superman is considered a villain!  In Superman, Vol 1, #168, Luthor even manages to find some ancient technology that allows him to temporarily gain super powers on Lexor!  Lexor is an extreme example but supervillains are often luring the super heroes into their lairs in order to have them fall into some death trap or another.  This is especially the case with Batman.

Arcade is an assassin for hire that uses custom built amusement parks filled with deadly traps named Murderworlds in order to kill superheroes.  Arcade has a sporting side and does deliberately leave a small chance for escape from his deathtraps.  Arcade at one time or another has tried to kill Adam X , Angel, Apex, Avengers Academy, Chase Stein, Colossus, Courtney Ross , Darkhawk, Dazzler, Deadpool , Doctor Doom, , Excalibur , Gambit , Green Goblin, Hazmat, Hercules, Human Torch , Iceman, Impossible Man., Iron Man, Johnny Blaze, Juston Seyfert and his Sentinel, Kid Briton, Meggan, Mettle, Micronauts, Nara, Nico Minoru, Nightcrawler Northstar,, Red Raven III, Reptil, Shadowcat, Shatterstar, Spider-Man, The Thing, Wolverine, X-23 , X-Factor, X-Force , X-Men  and the Young Allies.

Deathtraps are a comic book cliché and part of the cliché is the supervillain’s monologue that allows the super hero time to escape.  Why doesn’t the supervillain just shoot the captured super hero?  The answer is that the super hero needs to escape for plot purposes.

16) Let the adversary off in order to snare him.  Do not arouse their spirit to fight back.

16 36 Stratagems Let the enemy off in order to snare him

In Silver Surfer Vol 1, #5, there is a Tales of the Watcher back story, titled “Run Roco Run”.  Roco ends up serving a life sentence in Jupiter but is hypnotized into believing he has escaped and therefore no longer tries to escape!  This story is a retelling of “Run, Rocky, Run!” drawn by Bob Forgione in Tales to Astonish (Marvel, 1959 series) #26 (December 1961).

25-36-stratagems-as-portrayed-in-comic-books-silver-surfer-v1-05-page-62

17) Toss out a brick to attract a piece of jade.  Trade something of minor value for something of major value.

17 36 Stratagems Toss out a glazed tile to draw a jade Cast a brick to attract a gem

In Irredeemable, the Hornet gives the Vespan aliens a list of other habitable planets that they can conquer in exchange for leaving Earth alone and imprisoning Plutonian, a super hero gone bad.  Hornet is ironically a Batman type super hero without super powers but via this stratagem turns an alien invasion around and defeats the Superman type hero Plutonian.  With the right stratagem, the weakest member of the team physically can be the most important team member in terms of results.

28-36-stratagems-as-portrayed-in-comic-books-irredeemable-18-2010-page-21 29-36-stratagems-as-portrayed-in-comic-books-irredeemable-18-2010-page-22 30-36-stratagems-as-portrayed-in-comic-books-irredeemable-18-2010-page-23 31-36-stratagems-as-portrayed-in-comic-books-irredeemable-18-2010-page-24 32-36-stratagems-as-portrayed-in-comic-books-irredeemable-18-2010-page-25 33-36-stratagems-as-portrayed-in-comic-books-irredeemable-18-2010-page-26

18) To catch bandits, nab their ringleader first.  Convince the leader and the rest will follow.

18 36 Stratagems To catch rebels, nab their king first

Supervillains do love to kidnap the President of the US.  Occasionally, supervillains take over the UN in order to blackmail the whole world and not just the US.  Overall, the comic book world of super heroes and supervillains is very egalitarian and chaotic.  For example, Superman isn’t really the leader of the super heroes but kind of a moral guide.  Reed Richards is supposed to be the leader of the Fantastic Four but he definitely has to run things by the other members especially his wife the Invisible Woman.  The Avengers has a rotating leadership but Captain America generally acts as an informal leader on the battlefield at the tactical level.  The X-Men do have a real leader, Professor X and occasionally Professor X is targeted as a leader.

There is no real leadership structure for the supervillain side either.  Norman Osborn did create the Cabal which led to the Dark Reign storyline.  The Cabal did effectively control most of the supervillains in the Marvel Universe and Hawkeye did try to assassinate Osborn (Dark Reign: The List – Avengers) and hoped that this would bring the Cabal down but failed.  Lex Luthor became the President of the US and during that period could call on an army of supervillains in order to take out Superman and Batman but that didn’t last long.  Leadership for both the bad guys and good guys in comic books is a network lacking central nodes that can be removed to take down the whole system.

19) Remove the fire from under the cauldron.  Eliminate the source of their strength.

19 36 Stratagems Take away the fire from under the cauldron

The source of power for some super heroes is certain environmental conditions.  If you can’t find any Kryptonite then you can always remove the yellow sun which is the source of Superman’s powers.  Lex Luthor does this to Superman twice in Superman Vol 1, #164 and #168.  In World’s Finest, Vol 1, #163, the villain Jemphis turns the yellow sun of his planet into a red sun via atomic explosions activated by a button on his person.

34-36-stratagems-as-portrayed-in-comic-books-worlds-finest-comics-163-1966-page-10

DC has Aquaman who will lose his strength and die if he is out of water for extended periods of time.  So of course super villains are always trying to dry dock Aquaman!  Marvel has Namor the Submariner and has a similar weakness to Aquaman but while Namor’s strength will diminish out of water, Namor will not die out of water.

Green Lantern has a Power ring that is one of the most powerful weapons in the DC universe.  However, the power ring needs to be recharged every 24 hours from a battery that looks like an old style lantern.  Hide the lantern and you can take out the Green Lantern.  Problems with the lantern are a central plot device in Green Lantern V1, #9, #20, #32, #74, and #116.  If you want to take down the whole Green Lantern Corps then take out the Central Power Battery which charges all the other lanterns.  When Hal Jordan went mad temporarily, he destroyed the Central Power Battery and effectively destroyed the Green Lantern Corps.

The best article on the internet about comic book weapons at:

DC vs. Marvel: Weapons

20) Muddle the water to catch the fish.  Do something surprising or unexpected to unnerve them, and then take advantage of that situation.

20 36 Stratagems Fish in troubled waters

The Joker does crazy stunts that keep Batman and other supervillains off balance.  Deadpool is a Marvel supervillain that does similar stunts.  Crazy gives supervillains an advantage in the comic book world.

21) The cicada sheds its shells.  When you are in trouble, secretly escape.

21 36 Stratagems The cicada sheds its skin

The idea is to escape but leave the lights on so the enemy still thinks you are home.  In the Young Justice TV series, most of the Justice League and all of the heavy hitters have to appear before an off planet court.  In episode #33 titled “Depths”, Young Justice impersonates the Justice League at a Mars satellite launch in order to fool any super villains that might be watching into thinking the Justice League is still on Earth.

22) Fasten the door to catch a thief.  Completely destroy them by leaving no way for escape.

22 36 Stratagems Bolt the door to catch the thief

Prisons are largely ineffective in comic books since jailed supervillains do not make good reading.  Arkham Asylum seems to be a place where the Joker rests between bouts with Batman rather than a place of incarceration.  An extreme solution to problem of bad guys breaking out of jail in the DC universe was explored in the Salvation Run miniseries.  The DC supervillains are imprisoned on a distant planet. The same off planet imprisonment solution was applied to the Hulk but failed spectacularly in the World War Hulk story arc.  Over in the Marvel universe, Iron Man decides enough is enough and with Reed Richards creates a prison in the in the Negative Zone labeled Project 42.

23) Befriend a distant state while attacking a neighboring state. Build strategic alliances with others that will give you the upper hand.

23 36 Stratagems Befriend a distant state while attacking a neighbor

In the TV series, Young Justice, The Light is a group of supervillains that ally themselves with the Reach, aliens, that they plan to betray after they destroy the Justice League and Young Justice i.e. superheroes on Earth.

In Irredeemable, the Hornet makes a deal with Vespan aliens to take out, a super hero gone bad, named Plutonian.  Hornet also gives the Vespan a list of other habitable planets that they can conquer in exchange for leaving Earth alone and imprisoning Plutonian.

24) Borrow a safe passage to conquer the Kingdom of Guo. Attack Hu by a Borrowed Path.  Temporarily join forces with a friend against a common enemy.

24 36 Stratagems Borrow a route to conquer Guo Borrow the right of way to attach the neighbor

Spider-Man has had any number of temporary team ups with any number of superheroes in Marvel Team-Up for plot purposes but generally the rationale if any is offered is stratagem 24.  Batman basically does the same thing over at DC albeit not as consistently as Spider-Man in The Brave and the Bold comic book series starting in issue #50, volume 1, and more notably in the TV series Batman: The Brave and the Bold.  In general, Super heroes are better team players and friends than super villains.

Supervillains are always trying to betray their partner.  Marvel had a title named Super-Villain Team-Up and actually generally ended up being the supervillain betrayal of their team member.  The Secret Society of Supervillains has always been much more unstable than their counterpart the Justice League.  Norman Osborn was very briefly able to unite the Marvel supervillains via the Cabal but that system soon broke down in part due to psychic sabotage of Osborn’s sanity by Loki, a fellow Cabal member.   Any favor done by one supervillain to another super villain must be treated with suspicion.  For example, in Superman, Vol 1, #167, Luthor increases Brainiac’s intelligence from a 10th level to a 12th level but puts in some hardware in Brainiac’s computer brain that allowed Luthor to control Brainiac!

25) Steal the dragon and replace with the phoenix. Steal the beams and pillars and replace them with rotten timber.  Sabotage, incapacitate, or destroy them by removing their key support.

24 36 Stratagems Borrow a route to conquer Guo Borrow the right of way to attach the neighbor

If you take the saying literally which is not necessarily correct then Catwoman has been known to leave a fake jewel in the place of a real jewel she has stolen so the owner doesn’t know they have been robbed.  Supervillains love to blow things up.  That is kind of what comic book supervillains do and there are too many examples to list here.

26) Point at the mulberry tree but curse the locust tree.  Convey your intentions and opinions indirectly.

26 36 Stratagems Point at the mulberry only to curse the locust

The Riddler literally talks in riddles.  The Etrigan the Demon talks in rhyme and his true message is difficult to understand.  These are not so much examples of ruses but aspects of the characters of the villains presumably created to make them more interesting.

27) Feign madness, but keep your balance. Pretend to be a pig in order to eat the tiger.  Play Dumb, then surprise them. Let them underestimate you.

27 36 Stratagems Feigning foolishness

Superheroes often have secret identities.  Clark Kent is the secret identity of Superman and in order to fool Lois Lane, among others, Clark will play the part of the bumbling idiot.  Bruce Wayne is the secret identity of Batman.  The role of Bruce Wayne is played in such a way as to convince others that Bruce Wayne cannot possibly be Batman.  Bruce Wayne often feigns drunkenness in particular.  Bruce Wayne has been known to use models who don’t speak English as alibis.  Tony Stark is the secret identity of Iron Man but is not feigning drunkenness but actually has a drinking problem and is probably a sex addict problem as well.

My last name is fox and I am going to translate this stratagem as the idioms “clever as a fox” or “crazy like a fox”.  Batman’s enemy, the Joker is probably actually crazy rather than pretending to be crazy but do not underestimate the Joker!  Batman has a lot of enemies that appear crazy but are actually pretty effective as super villains.  Two-Face has some sort of personality disorder that causes him to flip a coin during crucial moments in the struggle with Batman.  The Riddler has a compulsion to leave a riddle about his crime before doing the crime.  Announcing your crime however cryptically is probably not a good characteristic of a criminal.  The list Batman enemies that suffer from criminal insanity just goes on and on and about half his enemies are housed in the Arkham Asylum for the criminally insane and actually belong there rather than faking madness.  What we learn from Batman is that being nuts might actually give you an advantage in martial situations.  The Batman nutcase situation differs from this stratagem in that his opponents are really crazy rather than feigning craziness.

28) Remove the ladder after your ascent. Lure the enemy onto the roof, then take away the ladder. Cross the river and destroy the bridge.  Lead them into a trap, then cut off their escape.

28 36 Stratagems Remove the ladder after the ascent

Luring Batman into death traps is a Batman cliché at this point.  The Batman TV series used a death trap cliffhanger in a formulaic manner that became boring over time.  The nemesis of Austin Powers, Dr. Evil has a pathological need to use death traps.  The son of Dr. Evil, Scott Evil states the reason he never kills Austin Power is “Because you never kill him when you have the chance and you’re a big dope”.

29) Decorate the tree with fake blossoms. Flowers bloom in the tree.  Reframe deceitfully.  Expand the pie with objects of little value.

29 36 Stratagems Putting fake blossoms on the tree

When Doctor Doom was a young and fun loving gypsy, he sold luxury goods that appeared to be of great value to the local nobility using sorcery.  When the luxury goods disintegrated then the local Baron was not happy (Annual Fantastic Four #2 )!

35-36-stratagems-as-portrayed-in-comic-books-annual-fantastic-four-2-1964-page-7

30) Turn yourself into a hot from being a guest. Host and guest switch roles.  Turn your defensive and passive position into an offensive and active one.

30 36 Stratagems Host and guest reversed

This is a bit of a stretch but super hero sidekicks start out as the guest of the super hero and then often become super heroes in their own right.  However, the original super hero almost never retires.  Robin can become Nightwing but Batman isn’t going anywhere!  The best article ever written on the topic of comic book sidekicks at:

DC vs. Marvel: Sidekicks

31) Use a Beauty to ensnare a man. The honey trap. Beauty Trap.  Provide alluring distractions.

31 36 Stratagems Beauty trap stratagem

Obadiah Stane used Indries Momji as a honey trap to destroy Iron Man.  Indries Momji causes Stark to fall in love with her and breaks his heart in order to cause him to resume his alcoholic ways leaving Stark Industries and its Iron Man technology easy prey for Stane (The Invincible Iron Man V1 #167).

36-36-stratagems-as-portrayed-in-comic-books-the-invincible-iron-man-167-page-28 37-36-stratagems-as-portrayed-in-comic-books-the-invincible-iron-man-167-page-29 38-36-stratagems-as-portrayed-in-comic-books-the-invincible-iron-man-167-page-32 39-36-stratagems-as-portrayed-in-comic-books-the-invincible-iron-man-173-page-21 40-36-stratagems-as-portrayed-in-comic-books-the-invincible-iron-man-173-page-27 41-36-stratagems-as-portrayed-in-comic-books-the-invincible-iron-man-173-page-28 42-36-stratagems-as-portrayed-in-comic-books-the-invincible-iron-man-173-page-29

Loki used Lorelei in “For the Love of Thor” story line to manipulate Thor.  In the 1978 graphic novel by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby titled the Silver Surfer: The Ultimate Cosmic Experience, Galactus created a golden clone, Ardina, of his true love Shalla-Bal, with Silver Surfer powers in order to successfully force the Silver Surfer to become his herald again.

32) Open the gate of an undefended city.  Deliberately displaying your weakness can conceal your vulnerability.

32 36 Stratagems Empty city stratagem

In The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, Batman muses how he has a bright yellow target on his chest so the bad guys will aim at his chest where he has a bullet proof vest rather than his difficult to armor head (Batman-The Dark Knight Book #1).

44-36-stratagems-as-portrayed-in-comic-books-batman-the-dark-knight-book-1-1986-page-45

33) Use adversary’s spies to sow discord in your adversary’s camp.  Provide inaccurate information to mislead them, especially through informal channels.

33 36 Stratagems Sow discord in the enemy's camp

In Fantastic Four #2, Reed Richards and the rest of the Fantastic Four pretend to be Skrull spies and trick the Skrull captain with pictures from Journey into Mystery and Strange Tales into believing Earth is defended by monsters (Fantastic Four V1 #2 ).

43-36-stratagems-as-portrayed-in-comic-books-fantastic-four-2-1962-page-19

34) Inflict pain on one’s self in order to infiltrate the adversary’s camp and win the confidence of the enemy.  Appear to take some hits. Feign weakness while arming yourself.

34 36 Stratagems Inflict injury on oneself to win the enemy's trust

In The Dark Knight Returns, Batman pretends to die of a self induced heart attack in order to fake his death and get off the radar.  This is the third instance of the use of a stratagem in The Dark Knight Returns and perhaps this is one of the reasons among many this work is a masterpiece in the world of comic books (Batman-The Dark Knight Book #4 ).

45-36-stratagems-as-portrayed-in-comic-books-batman-the-dark-knight-book-4-1986-page-45

n researching this stratagem I found out there is a lot more self-inflicted pain in comic books than I would have imagined!  Captain Carnage pretended to be a super villain in order to get beaten up presumably for masochistic reasons in the Watchmen universe.  Etrigan the Demon also presumably has masochistic tendencies.  Penance has a superpower that requires pain on his part to work!  When the flesh of Penance is raked with one of the 612 internal bolts in his suit, he can project explosive blasts from his body!  OMG!  Who comes up with these characters?  Odin sacrificed his right eye to gain wisdom from Mimir as how to stop Ragnarök (Twilight of the Gods) in Thor #274 (August 1978).

35) Lead your adversary to chain together their warships. Stratagem on stratagems.  Devise a set of interlocking stratagems to defeat them.

35 36 Stratagems Interlocking stratagems

The Kingpin discovered Daredevil’s secret identity (Matt Murdock) in the born Born Again story arc.  The Kingpin then launched several lines of attack at the same time.  The Kingpin uses his influence to have the IRS freeze Murdock’s accounts.  The Kingpin also has the bank foreclose on his apartment.  Finally the Kingpin coerces police lieutenant Nicholas Manolis to testify that he saw Murdock pay a witness to perjure himself.  The Kingpin overreaches himself when he blows up Daredevil’s house.  At that moment Daredevil realizes the Kingpin is behind the attacks on Matt Murdock and must know his secret identity.

36) Retreat is the best option.  If all else fails, run away. 

 36 36 Stratagems When retreat is the best option

Old Man Logan decides that when faced with a world that the super villains have taken over then it’s time to retreat to a little patch of land rather than get killed. Old Man Logan does eventually get around to fighting another day and killing all the villains!   Supervillains run away from super heroes all the time but the reverse is rarely true.  Even allowing supervillains the option of retreat is considered an unacceptable stratagem for super heroes.  In Thunderstrike Vol 1, #2, the hero Thunderstrike allows the Juggernaut to just go away rather than having the city get destroyed in a fight and is later admonished by Captain America (Thunderstrike #4 ).

46-36-stratagems-as-portrayed-in-comic-books-thunderstrike-2-page-20

47-36-stratagems-as-portrayed-in-comic-books-thunderstrike-4-page-4

Conclusion 

What is surprising upon the analysis of stratagems in comic books is how rarely stratagems are used by supervillains.  If I was a supervillain fighting the likes of Superman and Thor then I would use every trick in the book.  Even the criminal masterminds like Luthor, the Kingpin and Loki do not use stratagems all that much.  My theory is that comic books are still largely a visual medium and it’s hard to “draw” a stratagem.  A fist fight is more interesting visually than a stratagem.  Also, the comic book writers may have a limited knowledge of stratagems.  A systematic comparison of cons, ruses of war and stratagems might yield interesting and synergic results conceptually which in turn would have practical value in competitive situations.

Document at:

Additional Reading:

List of Frauds

Check out my other website at:

Fox Superpower List

More comic book articles on this blog at:

https://foxhugh.com/?s=comic

My Articles About China and/or Chinese Culture

16 Basic Desires: China versus US

35 Accomplishments of Modern China

36 Stratagems

Acronym for Eight Types of Chinese Regional Cuisine

American versus Chinese Culture

American versus Chinese Culture

Astrology Chinese

Chinese Astrological Analysis of Nations

Chinese Astrology 60 Year Cycle

Chinese Do’s and Don’ts

Chinese Dream and American Reality

Chinese vs. Western Astrology

Confucius in Thailand 2012

Extending China’s One Belt One Road Initiative to Latin America

Table of Chinese Astrology 19th – 21st Century

The 36 Stratagems as Portrayed in Comic Books

Virtual Chinese Reunification Palace

 

Hugh Fox III - Blood

WereVerse Universe Baby!

 

Advertisements

DC vs. Marvel: Robots

Braniac ponders the God/Sandwich paradox

Introduction

This is the third post in a series dealing with technology in the DC and Marvel universes.  The first post dealt with weapons at:

https://foxhugh.wordpress.com/2010/04/06/marvel-vs-dc-weapons/

The second post dealt with transportation technologies at:

https://foxhugh.wordpress.com/2010/04/08/dc-vs-marvel-transportation/

This post deals with robots in the DC and Marvel universes.  Robots come in three flavors: good guys, bad guys and funny.  Which universe has the coolest good guy robot and which universe has the coolest bad guy robot?  Which universe has the funniest robot?  I refuse to make a distinction between robots and androids in this post.  The terms are used haphazardly in both universes and basically in comic books the only real difference is that the androids are more human looking than the robots.  This is fairly superficial distinction and even this is not a consistent factor.  In more sophisticated science fiction universes there is some attempt to also distinguish between robots and androids using some quality of sentience rather than mere appearance.  Below is a list of DC robots with at least their first appearance in parentheses.

List of DC Robots

  1. Ajax ,Wonder-Man, Superman #163
  2. Aluminium, Metal Men #2
  3. Amazo, The Brave and the Bold #30
  4. Amazon Tin Queen, Metal Men #4, #5
  5. Automan, Robot 32198, Tales of the Unexpected #91
  6. Barium, Metal Men #2
  7. Batman Machine, Detective Comics #224
  8. Batman’s Robot Twin, Detective Comics #239
  9. Batman Robot, Detective Comics #281
  10. Black Widow Robot, Metal Men #17
  11. Bozo the Iron Man, Smash Comics #1
  12. Brainiac, Action Comics #242
  13. Brainiac 12, Superman Vol. 2 #200
  14. Brimstone, Legends #1
  15. C.A.P.D., Computerized Automatic Patrol Dog, Weird War Tales #116
  16. Calcium, Metal Men #2
  17. Carbon Dioxide, Metal Men #10
  18. Chemo, Metal Men #14, #25
  19. Chloroform, Metal Men #10
  20. Cobalt, Metal Men #31
  21. Computo, Adventure Comics #340
  22. Construct, Justice League of America #142
  23. D.A.V.E. –Digital Advanced Villain Emulator, The Batman: Episode #039
  24. Death Metal Men, Metal Men #2
  25. Derek Reston, Ace of Spades, Justice League of America #203
  26. Doctor Bedlam, Mister Miracle Vol. 1 #2
  27. Drone, New Teen Titans Annual Vol. 2 #1
  28. Duke of Oil, Outsiders Vol. 1 #6
  29. Dybbuk, Suicide Squad vol, 1 #45
  30. Electrical Warrior, Electric Warrior Vol. 1 #1
  31. Eradicator, Action Comics Annual #2
  32. Eterno, Action Comics #343
  33. Female Amazon Robots, Metal Men #32
  34. Floating Furies, Metal Men #9
  35. Gas Gang, Metal Men #6
  36. Giant Robot, Tales of the Unexpected #68
  37. G.I. Robot, Star Spangled War Stories #101
  38. Gallium, Metal Men #31
  39. Gold, Showcase #37
  40. Gonzo the Mechanical Bastard, Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters #2
  41. Healer, Action Comics #387
  42. Helium, Metal Men #10
  43. Hourman, Android, Justice League of America #12,
  44. Ilda, Star Hawkins, Strange Adventures #114
  45. Indigo, Titans/Young Justice Graduation #1
  46. Kelex, The Man of Steel #1
  47. Kid Amazo, Justice League America Classified #37
  48. Krakko, Weird War Tales #113
  49. Krydel-4, Green Lantern Corps Vol.2 #1
  50. L-Ron, Justice League International #14
  51. Lead, Showcase #37
  52. Living Robots, Mystery in Space #99
  53. Lord Havok, Justice League Europe #15
  54. Man Horse of Hades, Metal Men #19
  55. Manhunters, 1st Issue Special #5
  56. Mechanical Masters of Rann, Mystery in Space #65
  57. Mekanique, All Star Squadron #58
  58. Mercury, Showcase #37
  59. Metallo, Action Comics #252
  60. Missile Men, Metal Men #1, #12, #54
  61. Mister Atom, Captain Marvel Adventures #78
  62. Osmium, Metal Men #31
  63. Oxygen, Metal Men #10
  64. Platinum, Showcase #37
  65. Plutonium, Metal Men #2
  66. Plutonium Man, Metal Men #45
  67. Pulsar Stargrave, Superboy #223
  68. Red Tornado, Justice League of America #64
  69. Red Volcano, DC Universe #0
  70. Reverse-Flash, The Flash Vol. 2 #134
  71. Robbie the Robot Dog, Star-Spangled Comics #25
  72. Robby Robot, House of Mystery #164
  73. Robin, Young Justice #1000000
  74. Robin Robot, Detective Comics #290
  75. Robo, Superman #132
  76. Robot Cop of Gotham City, Batman #70
  77. Robot Eggs, Strange Adventures #197
  78. Robot Master’s Robots, Superman #152
  79. Robot Juggernauts, Metal Men #9
  80. Robot Raiders, Mystery in Space #53
  81. Robot Renegades, Metal Men #2, #3
  82. Robot Space Ranger, Tales of the Unexpected #73
  83. Robot Town, Strange Adventures #164
  84. Robot Who Lost His Head, Strange Adventures #136
  85. Robot Woman, Wonder Woman #48
  86. Robot Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman #111
  87. Robot Wonder Woman 2, Wonder Woman #137
  88. Robot World of Ancient Rann, Mystery of Space #102
  89. Robot X-1, Strange Adventures #169
  90. Robotica, Legion Worlds #1
  91. RRU-9-2, Guy Gardner #11
  92. Servitor, Kobra #1
  93. Shaggy Man, Justice League of America #45
  94. Shaolin Robot, 52 #6
  95. Silver, Metal Men #31
  96. Skeets, Booster Gold Vol. 1 #1
  97. Skyscraper Robot, Metal Men #13
  98. Sodium, Metal Men #2
  99. Solaris, DC One Million #1
  100.  Stel, Green Lantern Vol. 2 #11
  101. Superman Robots
  102. Synthetic Men, Strange Adventures #17
  103. Termite Robots, Metal Men #16
  104. The Metal Mods, Metal Men #26
  105. The Rebel Robot, Metal Men #15
  106. Thor the Thunder Dog, Police Comics #8
  107. Tin, Showcase #37
  108. Tomorrow Woman, Justice League of America #5
  109. Torgola Robot Eater of Metalis, Metal Men #29
  110. Toyman, Action Comics #837
  111. Urthlo, Adventure Comics #300
  112. World Wreckers, Strange Adventures #50
  113. Zirconium, Metal Men #2
  114. Iridium, Metal Men #31

One robot stands out in the DC universe as the ultimate baddie and that’s Brainiac.  Brainiac is so famous that the word is now derogatory slang for someone who is too brainy.  Brainiac has changed from the golden age and is currently human.  Brainiac also changed from being green skinned humanoid with studs in his head and wearing a pink yes pink outfit to being made of metallic silver and looking a lot more robotic.  For me the classic Brainiac will always be the green guy with pink tights.  This Brainiac went around shrinking cities and putting them in bottles.  The guy collected cities!  I collected comic books and this guy is collecting cities.  How cool is that?  One of the cities was Kandor which Superman confiscated and kept in his Fortress of Solitude.  Kandor was the source of many, many adventures with the Superman family in the silver age which seem silly now but were great fun when I was a kid.  Brainiac also had an indestructible force field that he could project around himself via a belt or around his space ship.  Superman could not penetrate this force field and Brainiac was basically impervious to attack from Superman.  Brainiac also teamed up with Luthor on and off and of course each one tried to prove he was more brilliant than the other.  Brainiac had a twelfth level intellect which I guess is pretty smart.

I do want to mention the Metal Men.  The Metal Men were a team of good robots that had their high point in the sixties.  The Metal Men included the Gold, Lead, Mercury, Platinum and Tin and they premiered in Showcase #37 but soon got their own title.  The one adjective I would use to describe the Metal Men is zany!  They were shape shifters and had the personality traits of their respective metal.  Mercury was volatile.  Lead was steady and so on. Platinum was female and of course was in love with her creator Dr. Magnus.  This love was not reciprocated and was an ongoing plot line.

The Metal Men mostly fought other robots which makes no sense whatsoever except that in sixties logic the robot title should have lots of other robots.  The Metal Men inhabited their own little corner of DC robot land.  The second most famous good robot in the DC universe is the Red Tornado.  The Red Tornado is a long standing member of the Justice League of America and spent a lot of time spouting robotic angst about not being human.  I really don’t like the Red Tornado at all.  The name is stupid.  The costume is stupid.  The angst rhetoric is forced and not well done.  The Metal Men win!

DC has used robots for comic relief a great deal.  The Metal Men were basically a funny tile if you consider zany to be a shade of funny.  DC did have at least one ongoing character that was a funny robot.  Star Hawkins was bumbling private eye of the future who first appeared in Strange Adventures #114 in 1960.  Ilda was his robot secretary and the brains of the team.  Ilda provided consistent comic relief in a manner similar to Rosie the Robot in The Jetsons.  As I have pointed out in other posts in this series, DC has a much greater willingness to mix genres for extremely silly effect.  This isn’t even the silliest DC private eye title of this period.  That honor belongs to Detective Chimp.  These silly early silver age DC titles do not age well.

You have not one but three robot dogs: C.A.P.D. Robbie the Robot Dog and Thor the Thunder Dog.  Robot Man of course has to have Robbie the Robot Dog instead of a regular dog.  Why?  No reason just more DC zaniness.  Robbie can talk and Robot Man and Robbie had some very surreal conversations.  L-Ron is a robot that works for the Justice League and is obsequious to the point of hilarity.  Skeets is the side kick of Booster Gold and is not as funny as L-Ron but has his moments.  L-Ron wins the funny robot category in the DC universe.

There are some pretty powerful robots in the DC universe including Amazo, who has all the powers of the original Justice League of America but can absorb more powers beyond that.  The Shaggy Man is another scary robot who has vast strength and vast recuperative powers and is a mindless fighter who can take on the whole Justice League at the same time.

For sheer weirdness, G.I. Robot is probably the winner in the DC universe.  G.I. Robot is a robot that runs around in standard G.I. gear.  This is a mix of science fiction and the war comic genre.  Not a lot of companies have the guts to mix these two genres and perhaps this is just as well.

The winner of the best DC evil robot is clearly Brainiac.  The winner of best DC robot hero is not a hero but the Metal Men group as a whole.  The funniest robot is L-Ron.

 

List of Marvel Robots

 

  1. Acidroid, Earth-616, Cable #65
  2. Adam II, What If #4
  3. Adap-Tor, Earth-616, Iron Man #217
  4. Agent Cheesecake,Earth-616, She-Hulk Vol. 2 #15
  5. Air-Walker, Automaton, Earth-616, Fantastic Four #120
  6. Albert, Earth-5211, Exiles #85
  7. Albert, Earth-616, Wolverine Vol. 2 #37
  8. Alchemoid, Earth-616, Captain America #187
  9. Alex Ellis, Earth-616, Amazing Spider Man Annual #27
  10. Alkhema, Earth-616, Avengers West Coast #90
  11. Alpha, Earth-616, Marvel Team-Up #129
  12. Alpha Ray, Earth-616, Storm Breaker: The Saga of Beta Ray Bill #1
  13. Analyzer  As Recorder Thor #132, As Analyzer Thor #422
  14. Android Andy, Earth-238, Daredevils #7
  15. Android Man, Earth-616, Fantastic Four #79
  16. Aquarius, LMD, Earth-616,
  17. Arch-E-5912, Earth-616, World War Hulk: Front Line #1
  18. Aries, LMD, Earth-616
  19. Arsenal, Earth-1610, Ultimate Comics Armor Wars #4
  20. Arsenal, Robot, Earth-616, Iron Man #114
  21. Arthur Zix, Earth-616, She-Hulk Vol. 2 #19
  22. Assassin, Mimeyoshi, Earth-616
  23. Avalon, Caretaker, Earth-616, Thor #219
  24. Awesome Android, Earth-10102, Exiles Vol. 2 #4
  25. Awesome Android, Earth-616, Fantastic Four #15
  26. B’nee and C’cll, Earth-616, X-Men #137
  27. Bastion, Earth-616, X-Men #5
  28. Baymax, Earth-616, Sunfire and Big Hero Six #1
  29. Behemoth, Atlantean, Earth-616, Tales to Astonish #77
  30. Benedict, Inner Guard,, Earth-616, Avenger #398
  31. Bi-Beast, Original, Earth-616, Incredible Hulk #169
  32. Big Brain, Earth-982, What If Vol. 2 #105
  33. Billy Bird, Earth-616, Marvel Comics Presents #34
  34. Biotron, Earth-616, Micronauts #1
  35. Boak, Earth-4935, X-Factor #67
  36. C-Gram, Earth-928, Ghost Rider 2099 #2
  37. Cancer, LMD, Earth-616
  38. Cavalier, Earth-616, All this and World War II #1
  39. Centrally Located Organic Computer, Cloc, Earth-616,
  40. Cerebrus, Earth-68091, Iron Man #5
  41. Chief Examiner, Earth-616, Questprobe #1
  42. Colosso, Earth-616, X-Men #22
  43. Conscience, Earth-616, Marvel Comics Presents #19
  44. Conserve And Protect, Earth-616, Fantastic Four #554
  45. Cornfed, Earth-616, Livewires #1
  46. Crimson Sage, Earth-9997, Earth X #1
  47. Cyberex, Earth-616, Captain Marvel #8
  48. Cybortrons, Earth-616
  49. Cyclops, A-Chiltarian Robot,, Earth-616, Tales to Astonish #46
  50. Danger, Earth-616, Astonishing X-Men Vol. 3 #9
  51. Dark-Crawler, Incredible Hulk #126
  52. David Jenkins, Livewires #1
  53. Deadeye, Starriors, Starriors #1
  54. Death’s Head, UK #113
  55. Death’s Head, Lupex, Death Head #1
  56. Death Metal, Earth-8410, Death3 #1
  57. Deathlok, Astonishing Tales #25
  58. Destructon, Destruction #100
  59. Diamondback  LMD
  60. Doctor Sun, Earth-616, Tomb of Dracula #16
  61. Dominus, The Uncanny X-Men #21
  62. Doom-Knight
  63. Doombot, Earth-616, Fantastic Four #5
  64. Doomsday Man, Earth-616, Silver Surfer #13
  65. Dragon Man, Earth-616, Fantastic Four #35
  66. Dragorr, Earth-616, Tales to Astonish #94
  67. Dreadnought, Strange Tales # 154
  68. Dynamic Man, Earth-616, Mystic Comics #1
  69. Egghead, Earth-616, Dark Reign: Young Avengers #1
  70. Electro, Robot,Earth-616, Captain America #78
  71. Elektro, Earth-616, Tales of Suspense #13
  72. Eleven, Earth-4935, Cable #1
  73. Elsie Dee, Earth-5211, Exiles #85
  74. Elsie Dee, Earth-616, Wolverine Vol. 2 #37
  75. Eradikator 6, Earth-616, Punisher Annual #6
  76. Exterminators, Earth-616, Thor #220
  77. F.A.C.A.D.E., Earth-616, Web of Spiderman #113
  78. Factor-X, Earth-616, Nova #23
  79. Fixer, Strange Tales #141
  80. Flexo, Earth-616, Mystic Comics #1
  81. Frankenstein’s Monster, Silver Surfer #7
  82. Fury, Earth-238
  83. Galactus’ Cat, Earth-616
  84. Gargantus, Tales of Suspense #40
  85. Gawain, Earth-616, Knights of Pendragon Vol. 2 #1
  86. Ghost Rider 2099, Ghost Rider 2099 #1
  87. Godseye, Earth-616, Incredible Hulk Vol. 2, #89
  88. Gol-19, Earth-616, Bishop the Last X-Man #7
  89. Gothic Lolita, Earth-616, Livewires #1
  90. Growing Man, Earth-6311, Thor #140
  91. Guardian Robots
  92. Guns Gummy, Earth-616, Marvel Comics Presents #34
  93. H.E.R.B.I.E, Fantastic Four #209
  94. Hardwire, Robot, Earth-616,
  95. Hate-Monger, Psycho-Man’s Creation, Earth-616, Fantastic Four #279
  96. Hollowpoint Ninja, Earth-616, Livewires #1
  97. Homebrew, Livewires #1
  98. H.U.B.E.R.T., Fantastic Four #38
  99. Hugo Longride, Earth-616,
  100. Hulk, Arcade Robot, Earth-616, Eternals #14
  101. Hulk, Robot,, Earth-616, Incredible Hulk #4
  102. Human Torch, Jim Hammond, Marvel Comics #1
  103. I.S.A.A.C., Earth-616, Iron Man #55
  104. Invader-1, Earth-616, Avengers Vol. 3 #83
  105. Invincible Robot, Earth-616, Fantastic Four #85
  106. It the Living Colossus, Tales of Suspense #14
  107. Jack Rollins, LMD, Earth-616, Nick Fury vs. S.H.I.E.L.D. #5
  108. Jahf, Earth-616, X-Men #108
  109. Jocasta, Earth-616, Avenger #162
  110. Jocasta, Earth-943
  111. Katherine Pryde, Earth-811
  112. Klag Tales of Suspense #21
  113. Leo, LMD, Earth-616,
  114. Libra, LMD, Earth-616,
  115. Life Model Decoy
  116. Livewires
  117. Living Brain
  118. LYrate Lifeform Approximation, Earth-928, Spider-Man 2099 #11
  119. M-11, Earth-10102, Exiles Vol.2 #44
  120. M-11, Earth-616, Menace #11
  121. M-21, Earth-616, Agents of Atlas Vol. 2 #44
  122. Machine Man, 2ZP45-9-X-51, Earth-10102, Exiles Vol. 2 #3,
  123. Machine Man, Earth-2149, Marvel Zombies vs. Army of Darkness #1
  124. Machine Man, 2ZP45-9-X-51, Earth-616, 2001, A Space Odyssey #8,
  125. Machine Man, 2ZP45-9-X-51, Earth-8410, Machine Man Vol. 2 #1
  126. Machine Teen, Machine Teen #1
  127. Machinesmith, Marvel Two-In-One #47
  128. Macro-Men
  129. Magneto, Arcade Robot, Earth-616, X-Men #124
  130. Magus, Technarch,, Earth-616, New Mutants #8
  131. Mainframe, Earth-982, A-Next #1
  132. Mammoth, Hydra, Earth-616,
  133. Man-Slayer, Earth-616, Captain Marvel #18
  134. Mandroid, Kree,, Earth-616
  135. Manipulator, Earth-616, Avengers #178
  136. Maria Petrova, Earth-50701, Marvel Nemesis: The Imperfects #2
  137. Master Mold, Earth-5700, Weapon X Days of the Future Now #1
  138. Master Mold, Earth-616, X-Men #15
  139. Mastermind, Computer, Earth-616,
  140. Maxis, Earth-93060, All New Exiles #8
  141. Mechadoom
  142. Mechano, Earth-616, Strange Tales #86
  143. Megalith, Incredible Hulk #275
  144. Mekkanoid, Thor #482
  145. Mekkans, Fantastic Four #91
  146. Mendel Stromm, Earth-616,
  147. Metalloid, Earth-616, Fantastic Four #179
  148. Micro-Sentry, Marvel Fanfare #114
  149. MK-9, Earth-616
  150. Mogul, Earth-616, Incredible Hulk #127
  151. MX39147, Earth-616
  152. N-ME, Earth-93060
  153. Nanny, Magneto’s Robot, Earth-616, X-Men #112
  154. Nicole, Robot, Earth-616, X Factor Vol. 3 #16
  155. Nimrod, Earth-811, Uncanny X-Men #191
  156. Number Two, Sentinel, Earth-616, X-Men #59
  157. Omega, Android, Earth-616,
  158. P.L.A.T.O., Earth-616,
  159. Pacifier Robot, Fantastic Four #57
  160. Paradox, AI, Earth-616,
  161. Pisces, Male LMD, Earth-616,
  162. Prime Mover, Earth-616, Strange Tales #167
  163. Prosh, Earth-616, X-Factor #24
  164. Protector, Rhunian Android, Thor #219
  165. Punisher, Galactus’ Robot, Earth-616, Fantastic Four #49
  166. Pyronanos
  167. Quasimodo, Quasi-Motivational Destruct Organism, Earth-10102, Exiles Vol. 2 #4
  168. Quasimodo, Earth-616, Fantastic Four Annual #4
  169. Recorder, Earth-616,
  170. Red Ronin, UJ1-DX, Earth-616, Loners #5
  171. Remnants, Earth-616, Beta Bill – The Green of Eden #1
  172. Replica Model X-2, Thor Vol. 2 #9
  173. Replica Model X-3, Earth-616, Thor #141
  174. Robot X, Amazing Adventures #4
  175. Robota, Planet Terry #1
  176. Robotron, Dazzler #4
  177. Roger Bochs, Box, Earth-616, Alpha Flight #1
  178. Rooster Cockburn, Earth-616, Marvel Comics Presents #34
  179. S.H.I.V.A., Earth-616, Wolverine Vol. 2 #50
  180. Sagittarius, LMD, Earth-616,
  181. Scavenger, Earth-616, Fantastic Four #69
  182. Scorpio, Android,, Earth-616, West Coast Avengers #1
  183. Seeker, Android,, Earth-616, Fantastic Four #144
  184. Sentinel Mk I, Earth-616, X-Men #14
  185. Sentinel Mk II, Earth-616, X-Men #57
  186. Sentinel Mk III, Earth-616, X-Men #98
  187. Sentinel Mk IV, Earth-616, Uncanny X-Men #51
  188. Sentinel Mk V, Earth-616, New Mutants #2
  189. Sentinel Mk VI, Earth-616, Alpha Flight #43
  190. Sentinel Omega Class, Earth-811, The Uncanny X-Men #14
  191. Sentinels, Earth-9997, Earth X #0
  192. Sentry, Kree, Fantastic Four #64
  193. Sentry 213, Earth-616
  194. Sentry 459, Earth-616, Fantastic Four #64
  195. Sentry 9168, Earth-616
  196. Servo-Guards, Earth-616, Fantastic Four #84
  197. Ship, X-Factor Vol.1 #19
  198. Sikorsky, X-Men #156
  199. SJ3RX, Earth-10102, Exiles Vol. 2 #44
  200. SJ3RX, Earth-616, Godzilla #6
  201. Skeletron, Earth-616, Quasar #53
  202. Skrull-X, Earth-616,
  203. Sleeper, Nazi Robot, Earth-616, Tales of Suspense #72
  204. Southpaw, Loonies,, Earth-616, Marvel Comics Presents #34
  205. Spider-Slayers, Amazing Spider-Man #25
  206. Sputnik, Captain America #352
  207. Social Butterfly, Livewires #1
  208. Stem Cell, Livewires #1
  209. Starktech 9, Earth-616, Mighty Avengers #2
  210. Super-Adaptoid, Earth-10102, Exiles Vol. 2 #4
  211. Super-Adaptoid, Earth-616, Tales of Suspense #82
  212. Super-Humanoid, Earth-616, Incredible Hulk #116
  213. Supremor, Captain Marvel #46
  214. Swarmbot, Fantastic Four #20
  215. Tabula Rasa, Earth-Tabula, Avengers #359
  216. Tailgunner, Earth-616, Marvel Comics Present #34
  217. Tara, Avengers Vol. 3 #83
  218. Taurus, LMD, Earth-616,
  219. Temujai, Earth-616, Yellow Claw #2
  220. Ten-Thirtifor, Earth-616, Maximum Security Annual #8
  221. TESS-One, Earth-616, Captain America #8
  222. The Ham, Earth-616, Marvel Comics Presents #34
  223. The Living Brain, Spider-Man #8
  224. Thermal Man, Earth-616, Thor #168
  225. Time-bot, Thor #409
  226. Tomazooma, Robot, Earth-616, Fantastic Four #80
  227. Tommy, Sleeper, Earth-616, Plasmer #1
  228. Torgo, Mekkan, Earth-616, Fantastic Four #91
  229. Tracer, Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #1
  230. TransHuman ROBot, Earth-616, Fantastic Four #311
  231. Tri-Sentinel, Earth-616, Amazing Spider-Man #329
  232. Ultimo, Earth-616, Tales of Suspense #76
  233. Ultron, Earth-10102, Exiles Vol. 2 #3
  234. Ultron, Earth-1610, Ultimates Vol. 2 #6
  235. Ultron 8, Earth-90210, Wolverine Vol. 3 #67
  236. Unit, Earth-616, S.W.O.R.D. #1
  237. Victor Mancha, Earth-616, Runaways Vol. 2 #1
  238. Virgo, LMD, Earth-616,
  239. Vision, Earth-161, X-Men Forever Vol. 2 #1
  240. Vision, Earth-2149, Marvel Zombies vs. Army of Darkness #1
  241. Vision, Earth-616, Avengers #57
  242. Vision, Earth-691
  243. Vision, Earth-932, Avengers #359
  244. Vision, Gah Lak Tus, Earth-1610, Ultimate Spider-Man #86
  245. Volton, Earth-616, Invaders  Vol. 2 #1
  246. VOR/TEX, Earth-616
  247. Vostok, Earth-616
  248. Walkabout, Earth-616, Marvel: The Lost Generations #12
  249. Walking Stiletto
  250. Warhawk, Earth-616, Ms. Marvel #12
  251. Warrior Robot, Fantastic Four #85
  252. Watchtower, Earth-616, Wolverine Vol. 2 #154
  253. Widget
  254. Wild Sentinels, Earth-616, New X-Men #114
  255. X, Amazing Fantasy #4
  256. X.E.R.O., Earth-616,
  257. Zero, Earth-4935, New Mutants #86

Some of the top evil robots in the Marvel universe include the Sentinels, Ultron and the Super-Adaptoid. Probably the most powerful evil robot is Super-Adaptoid.  The Super-Adaptoid is a clear clone of Amazo.  The Super-Adaptoid absorbs the powers of the Avengers.  A common what if battle on bullentin boards is the Super-Adaptoid versus Amazo which is basically an extension of the Avengers versus JLA what if battle?  The Super-Adaptoid while a lot of fun visually, due to all his super powers, doesn’t have much in the way of characterization.

Ultron does not have this problem!  Henry Pym, Giant-Man, Yellow Jacket, etc. is the creator of Ultron.  Ultron is one scary looking robot who is made out of adamantium, an indestructible metal, and can project massive energy bolts.  Ultron may be tough looking but he is a big softie at heart and even creates his own robot mate called Jocasta.  Jocasta’s mind was based on the brain patterns of the Wasp, the wife of his “father” Henry Pym.  Jocasta is a robot copy of Ultron’s “mother”.  Ultron is filled with Oedipal rage towards his creator.  Jocasta rejects the love of Ultron because she doesn’t like meglomaniacal sociopaths who want to destroy all organic life on Earth.  What a picky lady!  Ultron is no quitter when it comes to the game of love and creates a second robot lover called Alkhema and was more ruthless than Jocasta but ended up turning on Ultron as well.  Poor Ultron!

Poor Ultron!

The Sentries are created to hunt down mutants and actually there are different models with vastly different power levels.  The Sentinels often try to capture mutants so they have all sorts of gadgets for this purpose including gas, nets, cables, you name it.  The Sentinels have probably appeared in more issues than all other evil Marvel robots put together.  The Sentinels are an interesting plot device but have zero personality with very few exceptions.  The Master Mold was kind of an individual.  There was the Sentinel with a big 2 on his chest so he’s named Sentinel 2.  Sentinel 2 appeared in Avengers # 104 and was mutated when he flew towards the Sun.  A batch of Sentinels had decided that the source of mutation was the Sun so they attacked the Sun!  No one said the Sentinels were geniuses.  That mutated Sentinel was destroyed by his fellow sentries when they realized he was a mutant of sorts.

There is Nimrod who is an advanced Sentinel from an alternate future that takes on a human identity and starts to grow more human.  Nimrod and Master Mold merge to create Bastion and an overly complicated plot line, the great weakness of Marvel plotlines.  However, all in all the Sentinel are a mindless army that is dangerous precisely due to their simple cognitions that often lead to draconian solutions.  I love the Sentinel but just find Ultron more interesting. Ultron wins the evil robot title in the Marvel universe.

The top two good guy robots in the Marvel universe are the original Human Torch and the Vision.  The Human Torch was huge during the Golden Age and current comic book readers are probably not aware of this.  The fist important comic book crossover was a battle between the Human Torch and Namor the Submariner in Marvel Mystery #9 back in 1940.  This is of course a fire versus water theme.  The android Human Torch came back in the silver age in Fantastic Four Annual #4.  Despite this reappearance the android Human Torch is nowhere near as popular as he once was.

Probably the most famous robot of the current Marvel universe is the Vision who is a member of the Avengers.  The Vision was probably created by the same scientist, Phineas Horton, who created the Human Torch but this plotline keeps changing.  The Vision had a long running affair with the mutant the Scarlet Witch.  There was lot of angst in the relationship and Quicksilver, the brother of the Scarlet Witch, and also a mutant, was extremely vocal about his opinion that the relationship was an abomination.  There is of course the irony that Quicksilver is a target of anti-mutant prejudice but this does not stop him from being prejudiced against robots.

I will mention that the Human Torch and the Vision are both referred to as androids probably because they are pretty human looking especially the Human Torch.  The Vision had bright red skin and currently is ghostly white so, minus make up, is not passing for a human.  The Vision used to be chock full of all sorts of deep emotions and existential angst but is currently lacking in emotion much to the chagrin of the Scarlet Witch.  The Vision wins the good robot title in the Marvel universe.

There aren’t as many funny and/or zany robots in the Marvel universe as in the DC universe.  There is the Humanoid Experimental Robot B-Type Integrated Electronics or H.E.R.B.I.E. for short created by Reed Richards who provided some comic relief in the Fantastic Four title and that’s about it.  There isn’t even one robot dog in the Marvel universe and maybe that’s a good thing.  Most of the humor in the Fantastic Four title involving H.E.R.B.I.E. is slap stick rather than verbal and not that funny.

H.E.R.B.I.E. was hilarious in the title Franklin Richards: Son of a Genius.  The art was cartoony and Franklin, the son of Reed Richards was a very Calvin, of Calvin and Hobbes, type character.  H.E.R.B.I.E. plays the serious nanny trying to keep Franklin out of trouble with little success.  The Awesome Android provided comic relief in volume two of the She-Hulk that was a funny title overall.   However, H.E.R.B.I.E. in Franklin Richards: Son of a Genius is funnier and of course H.E.R.B.I.E. is one of the major characters in this title versus the peripheral role of the Awesome Android who changes his name to Awesome Andy.  While the title She-Hulk is very funny, Awesome Andy isn’t necessarily all that funny.  H.E.R.B.I.E. wins the funny robot contest in the Marvel Universe.

Conclusion

Brainiac is one of the top super villains of all time and clearly wins the bad robot category.  A fight between Brainiac and Ultron would be a lot of fun to watch and is the subject of at least one online post (http://www.electricferret.com/fights/issue_186.htm).  Who wins the good robot category?  The Metal Men have a zaniness that the Vision does not but they are definitely an acquired taste and the Metal Men comic book was always a second rate title.  The Vision is an important member of the Avengers.  The Avengers are a first rate title.  The Vision wins the good robot category.

I do want to mention that the Vision and the Red Tornado are both red and androids.  The Vision belongs to the Avengers.  The Red Tornado belongs to the DC equivalent of the Avengers, the Justice League.  Is this a coincidence?  I think not.

L-Ron is funny but H.E.R.B.I.E. is funnier.  Marvel wins the good robot and funny robot contests and wins overall.  DC won the weapons and transportation posts so this is a comeback for Marvel.  I would make another observation about the role of robots in the DC and Marvel universes.

Marvel has a lot more robots than DC!  DC has 114 robots.  Marvel has 257 robots!  I counted all sorts of one-shot robots from the Metal Men title and the DC count was still much lower than the Marvel count.  My after the count theory is as follows.  Marvel has a consistent multiverse, so many robots get double or triple counts depending on which universe in the Marvel multiverse they appeared.  DC’s multiverse is a total mess!  Don’t get me started.

I think the idea of multiple universes to explain away continuity lapses was a great invention that was started by DC but DC decided to use a Crisis of the Infinite Earths comic book series to get rid of the other multiverses and create one universe.  That might have been ok but they then created a brand new 52 system that assumes there are only 52 universes.  There is also something called Zero Hour, and something else called hypertime.  I almost vowed to never ever read another DC comic book after the Crisis of Infinite Earth fiasco but let’s face it I am addicted to comic books and need overpowers reason in the long run.  The way DC has handled their multiverses has led to a destruction of DC universe continuity.

  1. Continuity leads to suspension of disbelief!
  2. Suspension of disbelief leads to much greater reading pleasure!
  3. Greater reading pleasure leads to greater comic book sales!

I urge all comic book writers to repeat the above three sentences at least once a day in a mantra like manner!  Plus there are comic book geeks like myself that love their ability to explain the history of a comic book universe and this is a task that is largely impossible with the DC universe.  I would also like to make a comparison of how DC and Marvel have treated robots in their respective universes from a historical perspective.

In the golden age robots were treated in a similar manner by both DC and Marvel.  Jack Kirby created a slew of monsters in the golden age before the success of the silver age Spider-Man and many of these monsters are robots that have ended up on the list Marvel robot list.  Even the one-shot robots had great names and you remembered them.  The Marvel golden age monster stories often had a Twilight Zone style ironic twist at the end that stuck with you after you read the story.  Marvel titles that featured monsters include Tales of the Unexpected, Strange Tales and Amazing FantasyAmazing Fantasy was a title that was pure monsters until Amazing Fantasy #15.  Amazing Fantasy #15 is the issue in which Spider-Man premiered and this was the beginning of the end of Marvel’s golden age monster stories.  Long before everything was reprinted in graphic novels, Marvel honored their golden age monsters in the silver age with the Fantasy Masterpieces title that I collected avidly having missed the golden age due to my age.

There were plenty of one-shot robots in the equivalent DC titles Strange Adventures, Tales of the Unexpected and Mystery in Space that are on the DC robot list but even their inclusion in my DC robot list did not change the numbers that much.  DC and Marvel in the golden age treated robots in a similar manner.  Overall, the robot stories of Marvel, especially those by Jack Kirby, were superior to those in DC in the golden age.  However, in both universes in the golden age, robots were one-shot characters limited to certain omnibus titles with an ironic twist at the end but things changed in the silver age.

In the silver age, Marvel developed over reaching themes using robots that DC does not have even now.  Overall, humans in the Marvel universe see robots as the equalizer in their dealings with superhumans.  The Marvel universe uses robots a lot more as a tool of government.  Marvel assumes that the relationship between government and superhumans will be antagonistic.  Robots are a major tool of the government to combat superhumans in the Marvel Universe.

The Sentinels versus mutants storyline is a giant one in the Marvel universe that has no equivalent in the DC universe.  There is even a little retcon pre-Sentinel history.  TESS-One is a robot created by the US government to fight super soldiers like Captain America near the end of 1945.  The right hand of the government creates super soldiers and the left hand of the government creates the robot contingency plan to destroy them if they get out of hand. . S.H.I.E.L.D uses Life Model Decoys (LMDs) to infiltrate and spy on enemies but in at least one storyline the LMDs turn on S.H.I.E.L.D because they are tools without conscious who can be controlled by others.  Agent Cheesecake is a quite gorgeous LMD that goes the extra mile and seduces targets!  Agent Cheesecake is probably the sexiest comic book robot and maybe the sexiest robot period.

Agent Cheesecake

You just have to love Marvel’s paranoid vision of the world!  This use of robots by government includes alien governments.  The Kree are an intergalactic empire and their use of robotic Sentries as immortal sentries at the peripheries of their empire, where a Kree humanoid base is not practical i.e. Earth, is also a major storyline that has no equivalent in the DC universe.

All in all, the Marvel universe has a more developed thematic way of dealing with robots than the DC universe.  What makes robots special?  Obedience and functional immortality!  They are the perfect servants of the state that needs obedient servants that can mimic the functional immortality of the state.  Leaders come and go but the goals of the state can be enforced in the long run via robots.  Robots are also tool of state whose obedience and immortality can be the downfall of the governments that create them.  The Sentries in alternate Marvel time lines often outlive the US government that created them and enforce the Mutant Registration Act in a draconian manner that is ultimately harmful to humans and not just mutants.

This idea of technology out of control is of course a major science fiction theme.  I don’t think it’s just science fiction anymore.  The US government seriously looked at a Star Wars ballistic system that would have had to operate at the speed of light to be practical and humans and their command, control and communications systems (C3) cannot operate at this speed.  The C3 of Star Wars would have had to been relegated to computer systems.  Since the Star Wars system is basically defensive that’s ok but sooner or later someone would have decided, well heck why stop there and get rid of that obsolete football the Prez carries and hand the whole shebang to the computers.  I don’t worry too much about Sentries over even Skynet, of the Terminator movie series, but I do worry about a computer in the future with bad code that starts WW III due to a glitch.  Our technology is moving ahead much faster than our international social systems and eventually we will go the way of the dinosaurs.  Bigger computers are great but we also need wiser minds to control those computers.

I think DC is still stuck in a very fifties usage of robots where robots are a novelty and more modern themes of robots as out of control technology due to social rather than novelty reasons is absent.  Individual robots go haywire in the DC universe but the idea that social systems such as the government are haywire and create haywire robots as a result is not explored.  The robot as novelty was highlighted in DC’s Metal Men.  I love the Metal Men! However, the Metal Men are totally dated.  The way Marvel uses robots is just a lot more interesting that the way than how DC does.  This is my third post comparing technology in DC and Marvel and I want to make an overall observation.

Marvel treats technology in a more consistent thematic manner.  Iron Man’s armor leads to the Armor Wars.  Mutants are treated with a consistent pseudo science genetic “Gene X” explanation.  Adamantium, a super metal, is used consistently to create many super weapons.  Robots as institutional servants and the plotlines that follow from this idea are repeated.  The government continues trying to create super soldiers after the success of Captain America and the Weapon X program that creates Wolverine and many other characters is the result.

DC treats technology in a much more haphazard manner.  Technologies are created for one issue and never seen again.  There are far fewer overreaching storylines in the DC universe that tie the different technologies together.  Technology has more continuity in the Marvel universe than the DC universe!  Again!

  1. Continuity leads to suspension of disbelief!
  2. Suspension of disbelief leads to much greater reading pleasure!
  3. Greater reading pleasure leads to greater comic book sales!

I think whatever the results of individual posts in this series, Marvel treats technology in a superior manner compared to DC.

My other website at:

Fox Superpower List

Other DC vs. Marvel Posts

Big Monsters

Fourth Wall Heroes

Funny Animals

Horror Hosts

Kids

Robots

Sidekicks

Spacemen

Superpets

Teenagers

Transportation

War Heroes

Weapons

Western Heroes

Women in Refrigerators

Working Women

WereVerse Universe Baby!