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DC Universe Classics
by yo go re

The word "robot" (Czech for "worker") entered the English language in 1923, and immediately began showing up in science fiction stories - typically as minor characters, little more than window dressing. When they did have larger roles, it was often as the villain, because technology is something to be feared. By the late '30s, though, they started to be shown as the hero, beginning with Otto Binder's Adam Link (January, 1939), and the trend soon expanded to comics, though most of the early examples were actually more cyborgs than robots: they had metal bodies, but human brains.

Once one of the greatest, and wealthiest, race car drivers in the world until a devastating racing accident destroyed his body. The mysterious Doctor Niles Caulder saved Cliff Steele by transplanting his brain into a ceramic metal body. Cliff eventually took the leader's role in the Doom Patrol, Caulder's team of "super-misfits," alongside Negative Man and Elasti-Girl, battling strange menaces and protecting humanity.

The Doom Patrol uses the same formula as their more famous cousins, the X-Men: leader in a wheelchair, team of outcasts shunned because of their abilities, protecting a world that hates and fears them, fighting their arch-enemies The Brotherhood... it's all very similar. And the Doom Patrol showed up three months before the X-Men, so they're not a ripoff - of the X-Men, at least. Writer Arnold Drake was apparently convinced Stan Lee "knowingly stole the X-Men from the Doom Patrol," but that's a crock. If anything, Doom Patrol is a ripoff of a different group: four-man team, scientific genius leader, flying fire guy (who went so far as to get his powers by piloting his ship through a radiation belt in space)... sounding familiar yet? How about this: the fourth member of the team was a guy who resented being stuck in a freakish orange body.

Rather than one of the standard bodies, Robotman gets a new torso, sculpted with his little shoulder bumps, a thick collar, and wires running around his chest that hold on... a portable radio? Probably some kind of control unit for the robot body. His arms are a clever combo of DCU7 Superman (the wristbands) and DCU4 Cyborg (the hands), but judging by how well those particular figures sold, they might as well be new molds. The legs are plain and undetailed.

The head is entirely new, of course, with its ridiculous skeletal cheeks and heavy underbite. The ears are just flat discs, which is as it should be, and his red eyes have black pupils. Mattel said they wanted to make the top of Robotman's head removable, so you could see his human brain, but it doesn't look like that happened - because the seam where the skullcap comes off is hidden below the ridge on his head! The brain inside is more purple than gray, but it looks appropriately squishy.

Cliff has no accessories, unless you count the top of his head (we don't), but he does come with the biggest bit of the Series 19 BAF, Imperiex. Or maybe that's "M"periex, judging by the M-shaped bits on the costume. Robotman has the torso, which includes a skirt and butt-length cape. Everything's painted well, and the assembled figure is going to look sharp!

Robotman is the first member of the Doom Patrol to make it into the DC Universe line, but he's not going to be the last: Negative Man has already been announced, and it would sure be easy to turn the Giganta BAF mold into Elasti-Girl. That would just leave us with Mento (whose only new sculpt would be the head) and the Chief to be made. Even if no more ever came out, Robotman would be a great figure in his own right. The solid gold body creates a unique look, and the new chest fits the character perfectly. The only downside is that he has the same badly designed neck joint as many recent DCU figures.

-- 03/31/10

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