Robotman as he appeared in the Sunday comics. Artist: Jim Meddick.


Original medium: Animation
Distributed: Straight to video
First Appeared: 1984
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The original idea was for Robotman to be kind of like Bozo the Clown or Rainbow Brite, a cross-media star, with books, records, animation, comics, toys etc. all …

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… working to sell one another. He wound up like Fritzi Ritz or Barney Google, a comic strip star that eventually got shoved out of the way while a supporting character took over the operation.

Robotman (completely unrelated to a DC Comics character of the same name) didn't go over very well in cartoons, Little Golden Books, toy lines and other places he was marketed. But part of the promotional push (which began in 1984) was to approach United Feature Syndicate (Gordo, Li'l Abner) about developing a newspaper comic strip around him. After considering several young cartoonists, United hired Jim Meddick, who had submitted several strips to the syndicate over the previous few years and was just then doing odd jobs in its art department, to try his hand at the pre-sold property.

One of the reasons Meddick took interest, if that's the proper word, was, ironically enough, the fact that he didn't think it would go anywhere. This would give him a good working relationship with the syndicate, while he worked on creations of his own. Also, the licensor wasn't giving much in the way of concrete guidelines, allowing Meddick to develop the strip pretty much the way he wanted to. He was surprised and reasonably delighted, tho not without mixed feelings, when the strip got a green light. It opened in about 250 papers — United's biggest send-off to date, tho it's since been passed by U.S. Acres, which got a lot of initial interest because it was by Jim Davis (Garfield) — on Monday, Feb. 18, 1985.

Meddick expected it to last just long enough for everyone to realize Robotman wasn't going to be raking in the licensing dollars everyone was hoping for. He was right about the franchise drying up, but wrong about the strip not making it. In fact, within a couple of years, Robotman the licensing phenomenon was pretty much dead in the water, but Robotman the comic strip was just getting started — a fact that can be explained only by public interest in Meddick's cartooning.

With licensor guidelines, already tenuous, evaporating completely, Meddick dropped the family setting the strip had started out with and started adding characters of his own. One of them, in fact, wound up taking over the strip — Monty Montahue was introduced January 20, 1993 as Robotman's roommate, and was still there when Robotman moved out.

In 2000, Meddick involved Robotman (whose strip, by then, was titled Robotman & Monty) in a lengthy and complicated extraterrestrial story, certain aspects of which were strongly reminiscent of various Star Trek episodes. Monty didn't go along, but watched on some sort of high-tech monitor, alongside his new roommate, an alien named Mr. Pi. In the course of the adventure, Robotman met and fell in love with a female contrivance named Roba. Instead of returning to Earth, he went to live on the planet Diskelion, with her.

Robotman and Roba were last seen Saturday, March 24, 2001. Immediately afterward, the strip was re-titled Monty. Those two mechanical lovebirds are off in the land of defunct merchandising icons now, presumably living happily ever after.


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Text ©2004-07 Donald D. Markstein. Art © United Feature Syndicate.