Remain Calm. Trust in Science. Atomic Robo Overview.

My gaming group has been experimenting with Evil Hat's Atomic Robo RPG. I've been itching to try out Fate for ages. I'm somewhat surprised to discover Aromic Robo as the setting, being as it is a comic book series I only had peripheral awareness of. Essentially, what I'd heard of the RPG as a good introduction to Fate got me to check out the RPG, figuring even if I didn't use the setting I could mine it. But the RPG is designed to greatly emulate the comic which caused me to go on a Comixology binge and obtain all of the digital Atomic Robo collections. I was hooked pretty quickly.

I'll be talking about the RPG in the future (I hope - I also still plan on writing about some of the Delta Green stories I've read and my update frequency has been horrible of late.) Here I'll want to talk a bit about the Atomic Robo comics.

Atomic Robo is the creation of writer Brian Clevinger and artist Scott Wegener. Atomic Robo is the creation of Nikola Tesla, "born" in 1923. The comic books follow his life through different eras of history. Though physically he does not change, Robo's personality does change depending on the era. Stories set in the 1930s have him acting like an older teen rebelling against the father he still loves. The 1940s see lots of war stories, with Robo matching up against Nazi super-science. After the death of his father Tesla Robo founds the Tesladyne Corporation which evolves into an organization dedicated to science - action science. Lots of smashing things, dealing with various threats such as horrors from other dimensions, leftover Nazi superweapons, mobile pyramid monsters, artificial intelligence dedicated to destroying all life, etc. As he grows older Robo becomes more confident of his ability to handle crises and becomes a mentor to the employees of Tesladyne (though still often goes out in the field, being near indestructible).

The key to these stories is both the planning and execution. The stories bounce throughout Robo's life. Some all take place in one period and others span multiple periods, such as when he confronts a monster  from beyond space-time. The creators have mapped out (and even published) this timeline, avoiding the dreaded cosmic retcon so common to comic books. Beyond the great planning the stories are just fun to read. They embrace the eras they are set in with guest stars like HP Lovecraft, Charles Fort, Thomas Edison, Carl Sagan, Bruce Lee, Annie Oakley, etc. The stories are optimistic - to quote the creators -
ATOMIC ROBO is not a comic that will be 100% sunshine and jokes, but we aren’t going to delve into melodrama either. You are not going to see Robo mope about his lack of emotions, or pine to be human, or throw a tantrum over daddy issues.
The creators also have a "no cheesecake" clause. Women are drawn will realistic proportions and wearing realistic clothing. Women Action Scientists wear the same outfits in the field as their male counterparts, an all female fighter squadron in the aftermath of World War 2 wears normal aviator clothing with their mechanic wearing a non-formfitting jumpsuit. I do wish they would make use of more historical female characters - the historical domain guest starts have been overwhelming male but the original female characters have been written and drawn excellently.

The stories have a love of science. That seems obvious but with all the mistrust placed on science in the political arena over the past several years it is refreshing to see. We see Tesla embracing failure as a step in the path to knowledge. The stories don't shy away from the fact that science can be used to build weapons but our heroes use science for the betterment of humanity (even when they destroy things with science - they're bad things!)

And the stories themselves are fun to read. Lots of action, fun dialogue, and awesome baddies. My own favorite is Dr. Dinosaur, an intelligent time-traveled velociraptor right out of Jurassic Park. He claims to be a velociraptor but Atomic Robo doesn't believe him, pointing out he's little in common with the fossil record and a lot in common with Jurassic Park. Robo suspects him to have been genetically engineered but as of now his origin is still a mystery. However he's always a blast to read with his obsession with crystals and his bizarre logic.

I can see why Evil Hat wanted to do an RPG based on Atomic Robo. Fate, with its emphasis on narrative play and player control is an excellent fit for the setting.

Reading what I've written it seems I've written a commercial for the comic book. No one asked me to - it's just a ton of fun. And the good thing is you can check it out for free - the Atomic Robo website has its Free Comic Book Day comics archived. Also if you use the ComiXology app they have the Free Comic Book Day comics for free as well as all issues and collections. Completed stories are also collected into volumes which you can find at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.

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