Aug 23, 2011

It Came From The Dollar Bin: A Boy And His 'Bot

Hope you brought insulin!
When I was in high school, I spent far too much time in used book shops scrounging for out-of-print Lensman paperbacks and trying to complete my set of the original Marvel run of Transformers. I thought it would be an amazing place to work. I would sit behind the counter going through boxes and boxes of obscure books and comics and CDs, never knowing what apocryphal bit of nerd history I would find next. It was my 15-year-old idea of heaven. Then I grew up, got a job at a used book shop, and spent 95% of my time explaining to people that their old John Grisham hardcovers aren’t actually worth anything.
There were gems, though, and once a week I’ll be highlighting the obscure and notable things I’ve found over nearly twenty years of scrounging through the dollar bins. I’d like to inaugurate this feature with a comic that warmed my grungy little teenage heart, a small press one-shot “Holiday Special” from 1987 called A Boy and His ‘Bot written and illustrated by Gary Thomas Washington.

Never heard of him? Not surprising, considering the poor man doesn’t even rate a Wikipedia page. In the late 80s he did a handful of books for assorted smaller publishers, including NOW’s Speed Racer series and another creator-owned series called Cyberhawks. He also did some Battletech sourcebook art for FASA. Sadly, he's faded into obscurity since then.
Pretty much every kid's fondest wish right there.
A Boy And His 'Bot feels more like a #1--or a pilot episode--than a holiday special. Written while Washington was attending the Columbus (OH) College of Art and Design, the main point of the story is to round up the cast and set the stage for a hopeful ongoing series. It starts with the titular boy, Rick, and the titular 'bot, who narrates and is only referred to at the end as Explorer Bot A241. When the robot crashes Iron Giant-style near where Rick was stargazing, he offers to take the human child on an adventure. Since the typical token child character was still filled with awe and wonder back in 1987, he eagerly goes along, only fretting occasionally that his parents will be worried. They save some astronauts in a stranded space shuttle, then travel to an Earth-like planet to add a fairy-like alien girl named Bea and a frankly obnoxious spherical AI named Smiley to the cast. The robot finally brings Rick home to his parents to find his mother serving lemonade to a pair of commanders from the Korenmi Cyborbot Force who have come looking for their missing robot. Naturally, they're happy to make Rick a cadet, and he and his robot friend and Bea and Smiley all fly off with the alien commanders, ready for their next adventure.
This is, without question, a children's comic. Everyone except Smily is painfully polite and friendly, and even his attitude only extends to calling Bea things like "twit" and "midget". It makes no pretensions of depth. That's the charm of it, though. Among all the gritty grim heroes and stories of rape and murder, it's a nice change to find something shining and bright.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Speaking of cheapo bin finds, the first thing I thought when I saw this was "wait, Dynamo Joe?"

  3. Heh! I've picked up a few issues of Dynamo Joe, too. There are definitely stylistic similarities in the robot designs, though I think a lot of that is a matter of having the same influences.