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Black Gate
Robot Columns
BlackGate magazine.JPG

Robots in American Popular Culture may be 140,000 words long even without the footnotes, bibliography, and index, but I kept finding bits and pieces about robots and almost robots that didn't quite fit the narrative. Yet they were were so often wonderfully  weird that that I couldn't bear to neglect them. The solution? A column on the wilder and zanier corners of robotdom at the web magazine (Back when it was a print magazine, I had a story in issue #2, pictured above.)  I've been producing the column biweekly for going on two years. These pieces are a bit shorter and looser than my robot articles, but just as heavily illustrated. More robot ephemera pops all the time, so I plan to keep the column going as long as possible. Stop back every once in a while to see what's new.

Sidney, the Screwloose Robot, illustrati

Sidney, the Screwloose Robot, was a true pioneer. (Nov. 1, 2017)

1937 W.P.A. Federal Music Project The ro

An opera about a robot's love affair, financed by the government. (Nov. 8, 2017)

Rube Goldberg promotion cartoon for 1935

How advanced was radio in the 1930s? It had a robot announcer. (Nov. 22, 2017)

Other Worlds Science Stories, September

Three stories about a Martian super-robot... or maybe a wonderful magazine editor. (Dec. 6, 2017)

Amazing Mystery Funnies #10, June 1939,

An early robot story by the creator of the Human Torch. (Dec. 20, 2017)

1905-01-01 Pittsburgh Press 24 The Balky

Robots will take over baseball. A prediction from 1905! (Jan. 4, 2018)

Lilliput toy reproduction with box.jpg

The very first robot toy and his atomic successor. (Jan. 24, 2018)

Frank Reade's Electric Man in Australia.

The very first robot toy and his atomic successor. (Jan. 24, 2018)

The Silver Eggheads, Ballantine F561, 19

Fritz Leiber's wild satire of the future of writing and publishing. (Feb. 21, 2018)

The Wild Weird World of Dr. Goldfoot tit

Thought that Dr. Goldfoot and His Bikini Machine was bonkers? Try this half-hour commercial for it. (March 7, 2018)

Axle and Cam on the Planet Meco introduc

A sitcom robot father and son comic, from the pages of Popeye.  (March 21, 2018)

Mahlon Blaine, Cowering Nude With Robot

"Cowering Nude with Robot" and other proposed murals from a deeply eccentric artist. (April 4, 2018)

Ultron on Avengers cover.JPG

Roy Thomas pulled the look of Ultron from... a Captain Video comic book? (April 18, 2018)

The Amazing Magic Robot.JPG

The world-wide board game sensation with an all-knowing robot at its center. (May 2, 2018)

Baum The Magical Monarch of Mo, and His

L. Frank Baum's first robot, long before Tik-Tok. (May 16, 2018)

Servotron Meet Your Mechanical Masters c

Indie band Servotron ignites the robot revolution. (May 30, 2018)

Hangman Comics #4 Fall 1942 p1 T-Rex.png

Forties' comics had everything - including matching Nazi robot dinosaur war machines. (June 13, 2018)

1913-02 The Black Cat cover.JPG

For the first time in 100 years: a lost robot story by H. P. Holt. (June 27, 2018)

Other Worlds Science Stories, September

How to defeat intelligent robots? Use stupid robots, of course! (July 4, 2018)

Sinclair Oil Dinosaur exhibit color post

The biggest animatronic robot show of all time, indelibly set in the minds of millions. (July 18, 2018)


The Labor Dept. invented a robot to tell people why it was OK for machines to take jobs during the Depression.  (August 1, 2018)

Shirley Manson the-world-is-not-enough s

Garbage lead singer Shirley Manson is a double of herself in The World Is Not Enough music video.  (August 15, 2018)

Crypt of Civilization cartoon.JPG

In the far future our survivors may turn to a robot to learn about our culture.  (August 29, 2018)

1933-03-19 San Francisco Examiner 72 buy

The trials of living with a household robot in an imaginary future as seen from 1933.  (September 12, 2018)

1929-10-22 New York Daily News AFM Robot

Music hath charms, but not when robots play it. (September 26, 2018)

1916-03 Popular Science Monthly 16 John

The first serious attempt at a real, working robot was a dog. But that was a good thing. (October 9, 2018)

Oom-a-Gog on TWA.jpg

Some lucky kids got to watch robots on afternoon children's shows in the 50s and 60s. (October 24, 2018)

Space Conquerors Boy's Life July 1966 pa

They didn't conquer much except the hearts of teen boys in Boy's Life magazine for 20 years. (November 7, 2018)

Gismo publicity photo.jpg

Back to the halcyon days when a boy could build a robot in his basement and become a national hero. (November 21, 2018)

Canco Charlie.JPG

The American Can Company asked: what is a robot but a series of cans? And rolled out Canco Charlie in 1950. (December 5, 2018)

Showcase #37, March-April 1962, p7 panel

The loony Metal Men get killed off in their first appearance. But you can just make more, right? (December 19, 2018)

sexbot vibrate pulse.png

The loony Metal Men get killed off in their first appearance. But you can just make more, right? (December 19, 2018)

Boris Artzybasheff brings machine to lif

The brilliant Boris and his wonderful machinalia. (January 16, 2019)

Mr. Rivets promo card c1954.jpg

The brilliant Boris and his wonderful machinalia. (January 16, 2019)

Book of Space Adventures 1963 cover.jpg

British kids in the 60s thrilled to "Space Ace," "Rex from Planet X," and "Rob the Robot". (February 13, 2019)

Frank Dale patent 2,180,951 figure 3.jpg

There was only one place to buy robots in 1938 and it wasn't U.S. Robotics.  (February 27, 2019)

The Monster and the Ape still.jpg

The monster's a robot, the ape's a gorilla, and the fate of the industrial future is in their hands. (March 13, 2019)

Tilie the Toiler, Large Feature Comics #

Is a robot a better worker than a human? If the human is Tillie, the answer is a definite yes. (March 27, 2019)

Telling a Clock illustration.JPG

The clock's a microphone, the table an elevator. Spies? No, an early automated hotel. (April 10, 2019)

Robonic stooges DVD cover.jpg

The Three Stooges as robot superheroes? Not a fever dream, but a real 70s cartoon show. (April 24, 2019)

The Iron Teacher.jpg

A robot teacher may not cut you any slack, but it's sure handy to have around when the bad guys attack. (May 8, 2019)

Rastus promo photo 1.jpg

The same robot in two very different bodies, leading to endless confusion - cleared up here for the first time. (May 22, 2019)


Superman vs. Metalo, and also Metallo, and another Metallo, and Metallo's brother. Comics! (June 5, 2019)

1937-10-17 San Francisco Examiner [Ameri

A peek into the future where robots will be our servants... unless they kill us all. (June 19, 2019)

Otto 2013.jpg

The robot mascot of the University of Florida is a baby boomer still wowing them in the 21st century. (July 3, 2019)

Arthur C. Clarke, July 20, 2019 robotic

Arthur C. Clarke predicts how futuristic the world would be on the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. (July 17, 2019)

Arok vacuuming.jpg

A magic house with dilating doors and hidden panels, tended by a vacuum-cleaning robot. (July 31, 2019)

Ralph Mosher Handyman with hula-hoop.jpg

The Army wanted cyborgs who could lift 1500 lb. They got one that could twirl a hula hoop. (August  14, 2019)

1962-07-24 Allentown [PA] Morning Call 2

Army cyborgs that walk on the Moon or in Vietnam and have the strength of a platoon. (August 28, 2019)

Superworld Comics #1, April 1940 cover.j

Amazingly, Hugo Gernsback also wanted to start the first science fiction comic. (September 11, 2019)

1930-11-02 Buck Rogers header.JPG

Science fiction: isn't that that Buck Rogers stuff? Most people said yes, enthusiastically. (September 28, 2019)

Four Color Comics #1047, Nov.-Jan. 1959

Carl Barks, the greatest Disney comics artist, created the greatest robot sidekick of them all. (October 9, 2019)

NASA The Power-Driven Articulated Dummy

The PRAD, NASA's crash test dummy. (October 23, 2019)

1903-03-01 Adventures of Inventor Wheelz

Inspector Wheelz had a Wonderful Dummy all the way back in 1903.  (November 6, 2019)

1931-10-04 Des Moines Register 18 Diamon

What better way to boast about your improved gas than with a a squad of robots?  (November 20, 2019)

Henry A. Hering Adventures and Fantasy 1

Perhaps the first computer crime story: from 1898!  (December 4, 2019)

1899 En L'an 2000 floor sweeper.JPG

The half-century chase to have a device in your living room that your cat could ride on. (December 18, 2019)

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