BOZO THE ROBOT (aka HUGH HAZZARD AND HIS IRON MAN)Medium: Comic books
Published by: Quality Comics
First Appeared: 1939
Creator: George Brenner
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either the hero, or a device used by the hero, of a comic book series full of mad scientists, spies, mob bosses, and all the other accoutrements readers of adventure comics in the late 1930s and early '40s had come to expect, and there wasn't a clown in sight.
Bozo the Robot was invented by a Dr. Van Thorp, whose plan was to use the innocent machine in a scheme to conquer the world. Like many would-be world conquerors, however, he was in the habit of talking to himself just a little too loudly. He was overheard by a stalwart young man named Hugh Hazzard, who thereupon vanquished the villain and glommed the robot for himself. From that day forward, Hugh has used Bozo only in the cause of thwarting evildoers.
That's how readers heard it in Smash Comics #1 (August, 1939), where the cover-featured story starred "Hugh Hazzard & His Iron Man". It was written and drawn by George Brenner (also responsible for The Clock, the first masked hero in comic books), using the name "Wayne Reid". Hugh and Bozo shared adventures in no less than 40 subsequent issues, but their billing shifted. In fact, after several alterations, it became simply "Bozo the Robot" — which was the title used whenever the series was mentioned but not featured on the cover, even at the very beginning.
Tho Bozo was prominently featured on that initial cover (in fact, Overstreet's Comic Book Price Guide alleges him to be the first robot featured on a comic book cover), not a glimpse was seen of Hugh. He was inside, manning the controls — making Bozo a very early harbinger of an entire genre of anime in which giant robots with human pilots in their heads tower over Tokyo. Bozo wasn't that big a giant, tho, standing only a foot or two taller than Hazzard himself. In fact, with Hugh inside, it seems like there would scarcely be room for the mechanical stuff, especially when you consider they didn't have transistors back then, let alone microcircuits.
In essence, then, Bozo was a precursor to Marvel Comics' Iron Man in more than just half his original series title. He was more-or-less a suit of high-tech (for the time) armor, just like Iron Man's. He could be controlled from outside, but so can Iron Man's armor when the story requires it. Despite a vast difference in appearance (Iron Man didn't share Bozo's silly facial expression, and looked like a walking pile of scrap metal only in his first appearance), Iron Man is simply Bozo the Robot redux.
This is not to say Iron Man is a copy of Bozo — in fact, it's quite likely the more successful metal man was a completely independent creation, because despite having been plastered across the cover a dozen times, Bozo was about as obscure as a superhero-like Quality Comics character can be. He disappeared as of Smash Comics #42 (April, 1943), replaced by Lady Luck stories reprinted from the back pages of The Spirit's newspaper sections, and was never seen again.
Presumably, he's now (like other Quality Comics properties) owned by DC Comics, which practically never lets go of a super-powered character. The fact that he hasn't been seen since his Smash Comics series, not even as a Who's Who in the DC Universe entry, makes Bozo the Robot not merely obscure — it makes him very nearly uniquely obscure.