Rusty with The Big Guy. Artist: Geoff Darow.

THE BIG GUY AND RUSTY THE BOY ROBOT

Original Medium: Comic books
Published by: Dark Horse Comics
Creators: Frank Miller (writer) and Geoff Darrow (artist)
First appeared: 1996
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When manga started getting popular in America, its style began influencing U.S. comics. At first, this took the form of just one of many influences on comics like Elfquest and Doomsday +1, but later, series such as Gold Digger and Ninja High School demonstrated that the full manga style could be reproduced, and find popular acceptance, in America. In The Big Guy & Rusty the Boy Robot, it …

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… wasn't just the style that was emulated. The content, too, owed much to its Japanese forebears.

The basic premise, a huge, apparently non-human being associated with someone who looks and acts like a young boy, is straight out of the Japanese Gigantor, every bit as much as is that cartoon's direct American imitator, Frankenstein Jr. (and even more so than the Gigantor-influenced King Kong). The major variation was also Japan-influenced. The boy-like entity, Rusty, was also a robot, reminiscent of Astro Boy. Even the ironic twist, the fact that the huge robot-like being was (unknown to Rusty) actually a human-piloted huge robot-like vehicle, was straight from the Japanese mecha genre of comics and animé.

Big Guy and Rusty made their first appearance in a two-issue comic book mini-series, published in 1996 by Dark Horse Comics (Hellboy, The Mask). In it, a huge reptilian monster, of the sort that often menaces Tokyo, menaced Tokyo. Rusty, who functioned as a national superhero, was unable to deal with the threat, so the Americans helped out by bringing in what they do best — massive, destructive technology, in the form of the giant robot-like Big Guy. Rusty was a completely new character, but The Big Guy had appeared earlier with Mike Allred's Madman, among other places.

The comic was created by writer Frank Miller (Daredevil, Sin City), in a departure from his former usual role as artist; and artist Geoff Darrow, whose earlier work included animation design on Richie Rich, Super Friends and other Hanna-Barbera shows. Darrow is also the cartoonist behind Shaolin Cowboy.

They were also animated by Columbia Tristar Television (Annie, Sheena). On September 18, 1999, their show debuted in Fox Network (The Tick, Mad Jack the Pirate). The Big Guy's voice was done by Jonathan David Cook (The Ant Bully, Return to Castle Wolfenstein). Pamela Adlon (Spinelli in Recess, Lucky in 101 Dalmatians) was Rusty. Other voices include Tim Curry (Nigel Thornberry), Nancy Cartwright (Bart Simpson) and Brian Doyle-Murray (The Flying Dutchman in Spongebob Squarepants).

The show lasted two seasons, for a total of 20 episodes. The characters haven't been seen in several years.

— DDM

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Text ©2009-11 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Frank Miller and Geoff Darrow.