Monday, 21 September 2015

The Giant Robo Alphabot, part one

After mentioning the ABC Warrior, Hammerstein, in my previous post, now seems like a good time to introduce a side project I've been working on. It's an A to Z of giant robots and mechanised walkers from comics, video games, films and any other media I can get my hands on. 

The plan is to present 26 of my favourite robots, each representing a letter from the alphabet, with each pairing of robot and letter being both a poster in its own right, and part of a greater whole. Thus, when they're all finished, they can be combined together to form a single, larger poster showcasing the entire alphabet.

In no particular order, other than the first poster I made was 'M is for Mecha' and, in the light of my last entry, Hammerstein seems relevant right now, here are two of the completed designs:

I told myself I was doing it as an interesting learning aid for my kids (the poor blighters are doomed to be into geek stuff), but there are four facts that might dispute this stance:

1) My kids are still way too small to give any kind of damn about learning.

2) My kids are still way too small to give any kind of damn about things that aren't fluffy toys, cartoons with animals, expensive and easily breakable objects that don't belong to them, edible foodstuffs or non-edible thingamajigs which are small enough to fit in their mouths.

3) Some of the robots on the final list are a little scary-looking, and I have a feeling if the missus knew I'd shown the kids, she would get a little scary-looking too.

4) And the clincher, this project dates back to before I even figured on being a dad. Back to when I didn't want the responsibility of looking after tiny people that weren't made of plastic or resin.

So, as much as I'd like to claim otherwise, it's unlikely that I started this project with the kids in mind. It's pretty obvious I did it for me. I guess I was trying to scratch some kind of nerd-fuelled, obsessive, creative itch, that my thousands of unpainted wargaming miniatures somehow weren't reaching. There are two other telltale signs that the main person I was trying to please was myself:

1) The selection criteria for the 'bots was basically whatever appealed to my tastes at the time. Thus, for example, with my design preference for ominous, dangerous-looking machines, and the fact that the original version of The Day the Earth Stood Still scared me witless as a child (watching reruns after school), but I never saw Forbidden Planet, Gort made it in, but Robby the Robot didn't. 

2) I wanted to write about the characters as I like to believe they existed. ie. with a little artistic licence. So Hammerstein was definitely the robot in Judge Dredd, and he definitely fought the Judges at the Battle of Armageddon, even though that story seems to have since been ret-conned out of continuity. There are plenty of other examples of me massaging the truth, but you'll have to spot them as I reveal the continuing work.

Also, seeing as I've turned this entry into lists of numbered bullet points, there are a couple of confessions I have to make:

1) I had to tweak the odd name, within what I felt to be reasonable limits, in order to find a suitable entry for all 26 letters. So, for example, Robot Probes designed to mine Quantonium (from the animated film Monsters vs. Aliens), became Quantonium Robot Probes. That kind of thing.

2) I originally wanted this to be a list, or possibly a glossary, of walkers or piloted robot suits. That's why I started with mecha. But the focus was too narrow and I soon found myself struggling to find entries for every letter. So I opened it up to include regular robots as well. Surprisingly, it was still quite difficult to find entries for a whole bunch of letters that you'd imagine would lend themselves to the names of robots: Q (see above), X and Y spring to mind. You'll see what I settled upon as I get more images posted here.


  1. Superb work Mr Tenebris, or may I call you Torva? (Although I see your real name is Tod Butler – oh well.) It’s a fantastic idea and judging by the excellent execution of it, it’s the process as much as the subject matter that’s close to your heart. Be intrigued to see the final compilation/poster. And let’s face it – the kids will love it once it’s on the bedroom wall!
    I started an A-Z list once. It was an A-Z of letters of the alphabet, but once I started feared it may create a continuous loop that by association would fashion a wormhole of infinite feedback from which there would be no self-extraction. I had to stop. I had cinema tickets for that evening.

  2. My secret is out! Thank you Mr Friend, or should I say Buffalo Bill? Or Fool's Gold? Or Jame Gumb? Kind words about the posters. 24 more to follow, then the compilation poster. Please try not to fashion that all-consuming wormhole till I get them done. I hate unfinished business.