When you’re seen as a poor man’s Gobots, your brand is in DEEP trouble – Robotix #1
Remember Robotix? Yeah, neither did I. A toy ship passing in the 1980s robot craze night, they were rather shoddily made transforming robots that you could put together yourself (every child’s — and parent’s — dream). Like their more famous Transformers and Gobots kinsmen, they also had de rigueur cartoons and comic books to help develop the line and get kids invested in the lumps of plastic. Actually, “comic” (singular) would be more apt for the Robotix book, which only made it through the first tentative issue before fading into the four color mist.
The cartoon was a bit of an oddity in that it eschewed the standard half-hour format in favor of shorter chapters broadcast in the midst of Saturday morning cartoon blocks. The intro (narrated by the same guy he did the Transformers cartoon stuff) does yeoman’s work in giving you the cliff notes mythology of Robotix (a YouTube commenter points out that it’s also one of the few intros where the good guys lose every fight — VALID):
Herb Trimpe, who wasn’t unfamiliar with being saddled with man-meets-robot comic book translations (see Shogun Warriors), was the one man writer/artist band on this comic, slamming the drum, strumming the guitar and puffing the harmonica like a newsprint Neil Young. It’s good Trimpe too, and his shining beacon of hope burst through the “don’t really care” tripe that was the Robotix universe.
The story starts out when a band of space-faring Earthmen crash on a distant planet (Skalorr). While they’re trying to figure out a way to get their crippled craft off the ground, they find themselves caught in the middle of some juvenile turf war, with Terrokors and Protectons standing on for Greasers and Socs (try to guess from the names which are the good guys and which are the bad):
When things settle down and about twenty seconds pass, the humans find out that they can bond with these sentient machines:
THEY TRANSFORM. HOW ORIGINAL. (If you squint real hard that kind of looks like Brainiac’s skull ship. Okay, REAL hard.) Also, if I might quibble, I don’t understand how a human pilot would make things work better for the Robotix. They’re functional people in a sense, and it seems that putting another individual in charge of certain functions would mean they’d both be tripping over one another. This isn’t Voltron, where goofy teens are piloting lifeless lion-bots. I move about fairly well, and I don’t know whether putting a little dude inside my skull when I’m walking to the grocery store would help me all that much. Then again, maybe it would make everything easier. Forget I said/wrote anything.
Battle lines are further demarcated when the Protectons take the humans into their confidence and start explaining how they used to be flesh and blood beings and how they came to be locked inside giant machines (coming global catastrophe/put aside our Protecton/Terrokor differences to save lives blah blah blah). And some of the less trustworthy men start getting evil ideas:
I don’t want to judge a book by its cover, but that may be one of the least trustworthy faces I have ever seen. EVER.
Perhaps the finest moment of Trimpe’s forgotten contribution to a forgotten property came on this page, as the Protectons further detail the process and cataclysm that put them in their current predicament:
The rest goes along just as you’d expect, with the bad humans joining up with the bad Terrokors and setting up many more installments to come, which are teased in the last question mark punctuated panel. Incidentally, it looks like Argus would be the type of man/machine to score very high on the Brotherhood Quotient:
Let me answer you, comic book. Yes. Finis.
Despite Trimpe’s best efforts — and his best efforts are better than most — nothing can keep this from reading like a watery ripoff of the Transformers saga, what with the crash landing and ancient hatred and human friends. I’m surprised one of the guys wasn’t named Witwicky. “Hey Optim- I mean Argus. Argus.”
Some of the art is nice, though. Can’t take that away.
All the brief segments that formed the cartoon series were eventually glued together and released on the home video market as Robotix: The Movie. Apparently the first several of those chapters are replicated to various degrees in this comic. I can’t vouch for that, because I’ll be damned if I sit through any 1980s animation which lacks even the barest hint of nostalgia.
There you go. Robotix. Your transforming robot world is more complete than it was a few minutes ago. YOU’RE WELCOME.