Marvel’s Rambunctious Robots

Robots are not only cool but they’re a staple of interesting and provocative science fiction. They ask fundamental questions about the sanctity of life and whether or not it can belong to any being that’s artificially created.

Of course, these themes have been explored very successfully recently by movies like Her (2013) and Ex Machina (2015).

With this in mind, I’d like to peruse Marvel’s cool collection of androids, synthezoids and robots!

Science fiction has always been about exploration of the human condition, and since its inception Marvel has had science fiction influences woven into its very fabric.  As artificial intelligence grows increasingly sophisticated we find ourselves considering in real life the notions of whether an artificial life form can be considered ‘alive’ that scifi writes like Isaac Asimov dreamed several decades ago. Again, Marvel are no strangers to this concept and even proved once that even an android can cry as Vision joined The Avengers.

So let’s take trip to take a technological trip through Marvel’s memory banks shall we?

Alkhema

The robotic ex-wife from hell. Think Bride of Frankenstein meets Ex Machina and you’re not far off. Alkhema was the second bride of Ultron, created by Ultron co-creator Roy Thomas after he thought that Jocasta was a bit of a wet fish. See, as much as Ultron hates humans, he also perceives how lonely he would be if the world was filled with his mindless automatons. So Ultron has, throughout his history, tried to upload the brain waves of Avengers into robot bodies much like Hank Pym did to himself to create Ultron.

Hawkeye’s ex-wife Mockingbird’s brain pattern was used on this particular companion bringing up all that resentment and rage to the surface in an ice cold adamantium shell.

Arguably more crazy and sadistic than even Ultron himself, she takes great pleasure in stalking and killing humans one by one as opposed to Ultron’s more detached and clinical forms of genocide.

Like all of Ultron’s creations she is sub-consciously pre-programmed to recreate him… much to her chagrin. She is known as The War Toy and proved it when she handed The Black Panther his ass! Alkhema is death on legs, pure and simple.

Albert & Elsie Dee

Created by Donald Pierce, Albert was a robot doppelgänger  of Wolverine and Elsie Dee a robot in the form of a little girl who was basically a walking bomb. Charged with the specific task of blowing up Wolverine but created with a super intelligence; Elsie Dee saw no logic in suicide and instead decided to go on existing, reworking Albert into a robot as intelligent as she.

After being saved by Logan himself Elsie started Looking for various ways around her own and Albert’s programming, overriding the directive to kill Wolverine and even teaming up with him. Probably two of the weirdest and most bizarre marvel creations in the universe their odd looks belie their strength and intelligence. Speaking of weird, they once ended up in the distant past leading a group of Native Americans against an evil spirit…

Yeah, don’t ask.

Tri-Sentinel

What’s better than three giant mutant hunting robots?

How about when they are combined into one?

On a particularly dull day, Loki God Of Mischief was in the mood for some hi-jinks and magically created this monstrosity. During the late 80’s Spidey was imbued with cosmic powers of an unknown origin only to find out when this robot triplicate showed his multi-face, that his cosmic powers turned out to be The Enigma Force (get it?); a sentient form of energy that grants people superpowers to tackle a specific threat, transforming our favourite web-slinger into Captain Universe.

Spidey sacrificed theses abilities in order to stop The Tri-Sentinel, which was unfortunately rebuilt and went on a rampage that was only just halted just barely by Spidey and Nova The Human Rocket.

Unlike every other robot on this list, because of his creation by Loki he’s able to discharge mystic bolts.

The fusion of science and sorcery always makes a unique addition to any story and proves that a three-way is not always a great idea…

Golden Age Human Torch

Johnny Storm named himself after this synthetic superhero.

Marvel’s premier superhero Jim Hammond was created by Prof. Phineas Horton who shocked the world in the late 30’s by creating artificial life. Despite being a miracle of modern science, whenever exposed to oxygen his creation would burst into flames.

The public cried out for him to be destroyed (those Frankenstein parallels again) but Horton instead encased The Human Torch in concrete, isolating him from humanity and all the while teaching him about the outside world via recorded tapes.

He eventually broke free over time, finding the ability to eventually control his powers and even pass for human. He soon became a hero and famously halted The Sub-Mariner’s invasion of New York in the first ever battle between two superheroes in a double-sized epic.

Not long after this clash of titans, with the world at war, The Human Torch found himself teaming up with Namor and Captain America to found The Invaders, the first super-team of the Marvel Universe. In the closing days of the war, he was the ‘man’ to finally kill Hitler in the MU… and that alone should put him in anyone’s good books!

After the war he fell into a form of stasis only to be awoken and brainwashed by The Mad Thinker to attack his teenage successor Johnny Storm. Since then he has been reborn several times and been a key team player in groups like West Coast Avengers and Heroes For Hire.

A great character but unfortunately there just ain’t room for two of them…

Dragon Man

Neither a dragon nor a man, he is in fact an advanced android with the mental capacity of a child brought to life by an immortal alchemist… Which has to be one of the more bizarre origins for of the most unique characters in MU history.

This gentle yet powerful simpleton has often been manipulated by various villains to their own nefarious ends. Much like a child he craves guidance from any parental figure whoever that may be, but if you cross him you’re in for one hell of a terrifying tantrum!

Imagine if The Hulk could fly and breathe flame and you’ve pretty much got it!

Props have to go Jack Kirby for his unusual design; as much as I love a classic metallic, nuts & bolts looking robot I love biomechanoid designs just as much.

With his gigantic bulbous head Dragon Man is a little like a bumblebee; capable of flight no matter un-aerodynamic he is.

I do love his stories but they do tend to drag-on…

I’ll go immolate myself now!

Arsenal

‘The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children…’

During the final days of World War 2 Howard Stark created the ultimate Doomsday Weapon in Arsenal; a killer robot that whose activation was intended as a last resort if the allies lost.

Hidden beneath The Avengers Mansion it awoke; believing everyone to be Fifth Columnists, it tore into The Avengers like nobody’s business, with only Iron Man able to even make a dent in it. Arsenal, which was designed to have independent thought retreated only to return and ruin The Avengers yet again.

It was discovered that the original Arsenal was only the beta model and The Avengers had to face the Alpha version which may have caused WWIII if not for The Golden Avenger.

Bi-Beast

You know the saying two heads are better than one? Well here’s the proof!

Created by an avian offshoot of humanity to safeguard their city and protect their culture, both skulls refer to each other as ‘brothers’ . One is more aggressive and exclusively holds all information on combat and warfare while the other is more diplomatic and contains mostly cultural knowledge.

This has often lead to many comical disagreements between heads, especially when one head once fell in love with She-Hulk. Bi biast isn’t a purely cerebral creature, though. His size and strength are nothing to be sneered at and he’s proved himself more than match for Thor, Iron Man and even the Hulk.

Having almost stolen The Heli-Carrier from SHIELD it just goes to show that when they do decide to put their heads together they can accomplish pretty much anything.

Deaths Head

In the ’80s Marvel UK had the rights to produce “Transformers” comics. This particular run has an almost iconic status as the best depiction of the franchise ever, but Simon Furman considered his creation, Deaths Head, to be too good for it to be tied into the “Transformers” franchise so introduced the character into the Marvel Universe .

This witty yet brutal intergalactic bounty hunter (though he prefers the term Freelance Peacekeeping Agent) with a strange speech pattern was a breath of fresh air on the comics scene in the 90’s. Totally different from anything being published at the time, he soon became a cult classic character that has had run ins with Dr. Who, the Autobots and Iron Man… he’s clearly no pushover, Yes?

Super-Adaptoid

Adapt to survive. The Adaptoid is a walking evolutionary time bomb, created by Advanced Idea Mechanics (A.I.M) with a portion of The Cosmic Cube (Tesseract) this particular robot takes imitation to a whole new level. Not only can it replicate any weaponry it encounters but any organism’s biology as well, once absorbing all of The Avengers’ abilities and making itself a huge threat to everything that lives.

It’s not without limits though, it does have limits when it comes to imagination and memory storage… just like my iPhone!

There have been various models over the years and the technology has been incorporated into human beings including Norman Osborn and Yelena Belova but no matter what the iteration, Adaptoid is always a handful for The Avengers!

It just goes to show that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Red Ronin

He’s a 100 ft Mecha Samurai designed to kill Kaiju with a gigantic laser sword..l What’s not to like?!?!

M-11 The Human Robot

Without a doubt the most enigmatic robot on this list. Commissioned by Plan Chu, The Golden Claw (originally, offensively, called The Yellow Claw) M-11 was designed to be an unstoppable killing machine.

The scientist who built it, concerned about handing over such a powerful weapon to such an evil man, took the extremely drastic step of having M-11 kill him and so his human essence would be drawn into the robot’s neural network, granting him sentience and free will.

Escaping and lying dormant for four years, M-11 was soon recruited into The Agents Of Atlas (the 1950’s Avengers) and continues to fight crime in the modern era.

Never so much as saying a word (well, he hasn’t got a mouth) and sometimes seemingly not paying attention, M-11 nonetheless possesses incredible intelligence… still waters run deep, I guess.

M-11 can match his brains with brawn too, having the deadliest abilities in Atlas including electrified telescopic limbs… oh, and a disintegration ray!

Wolverine is the best at what he does and M-11 almost killed him.

You’d best hope when you meet him he’s more human than killer robot.

H.E.R.B.I.E

The legend goes that in the development of the 70’s Fantastic Four cartoon, the producers were concerned about children trying to emulate The Human Torch’s abilities by setting themselves on fire (total bollocks BTW, it was actually a rights issue)!

With Johnny Storm off the table, the decision was made to replace him with an affable robot as comic relief… and the rest is history.

Much like Harley Quinn, H.E.R.B.I.E made the jump from an animated series into comics. A cute, quirky cute robot probably modelled after the likes of R2D2.

He didn’t stay cute for long, though, as he was taken control of by Dracula’s old foe Dr. Sun; an evil genius who is nothing more than a disembodied head in a jar. H.E.R.B.I.E was subsequently destroyed, but has made periodic comebacks and even starred in The Super Hero Squad TV show. Sure some fans might decry the lack of Human Torch in the animated series but I’ll always have a soft spot for this little guy.

Thanks for reading this microchipped Marvel memory bank of mine, until next time true believers!!!

Honourable Mentions:

Doomsday Man, Crypto Man, Thermal Man, Nimrod/Bastion, Master Mold, The Fury, Torgo, Spider-Slayers, Warstar, Quasimodo, Machine Man, Galactus’s Punisher, Sleepers, Max Fury, Ultimo, Kree Sentry, Doombot, Dreadnoughts, The Recorder, Air-Walker.

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