Tag Archives: The Phantom Empire

The Saturday Comics: Bozo The Robot

5 Nov

November 5, 2011

Yes, you read that right. Bozo the Robot.

I stumbled upon this when I was searching for Bozo the Clown. This is way better but if you want Bozo the Clown he’ll come up sometime in the near future. I have a very slight family connection to him, more a seven degrees of Bozo thing, not a direct link, but you’ll read it in a week or two.

Never having heard of Bozo the Robot before, I’ll let wikipedia explain it. I’m sure whoever wrote the entry knows as little as I do but since wiki is public domain no one will scream when I lift it. (Man I hope this information is accurate.) And blame any poor writing on them.

Hugh Hazzard and his Robot, Bozo the Robot (AKA Bozo the Iron Man) was a fictional character featured in issues 1-42 of the Smash Comics comic book from Quality Comics. Hugh Hazzard’s adventures were written and crudely drawn by Quality Comics editor George Brenner. Bozo was featured on the cover of issue #1, the first robot cover of a comic book.

In the first installment, the origin story, Hugh Hazzard is a suit and fedora clad man with connections to a large city police department. He is involved in the investigation of crimes committed by a mysterious robot. Hugh manages to temporarily deactivate the robot, and climbs inside its hollow chest to hitch a ride to the robot’s home base, which turns out to be the laboratory of an evil scientist, who dies in the ensuing battle. The robot is again deactivated, and placed on a garbage scow for disposal at sea, but Hugh Hazzard has ideas of using the robot as a crime-fighting tool. He saves the robot from its watery fate, then names the robot Bozo.

In the next installment, Hazzard is shown examining the robot’s blueprints, and stating that the robot can be modified to fly. The modified robot, shown flying with a spinning propeller on its head, is again used to foil a crime. Flying would be a part of all subsequent appearances.

Hugh Hazzard has a walkie-talkie-like radio that he uses to vocally summon Bozo the Robot, who is sometimes shown standing in a grove of trees when he receives his radio summons. In later stories, Hugh Hazzard would have adventures riding inside the robot, with his voice emanating from the mute robot’s grinning mouth. The robot is shown as human-size in these stories, as if it were a suit of armor. This depiction of the character resembles the Marvel Comics Iron Man character that would debut 24 years later, and anticipates the emergence of the Mecha genre in Japanese manga and anime.

1939 was the year of the New York World’s Fair, which featured Westinghouse’s Elektro robot. This was the major event of the year in New York, and it is likely that George Brenner and most other people involved in New York based comic book industry attended the event. Elektro was well remembered by fair attendees, and could have inspired Brenner to make a robot the star of a comic book feature. Bozo even shares a design element with Electro, a round glass porthole on the chest, which exposes internal circuitry.

That year also saw the release of the movie serial The Phantom Creeps, in which Bela Lugosi portrays an evil scientist that uses a robot and other fantastic scientific devices to take revenge on the world for his wife’s death. An earlier serial, 1935’s science fiction western The Phantom Empire, contained a sequence in which two comedic gangsters wear the shells of deactivated robots to infiltrate a futuristic city. These two serial films contain the story elements of the first Hugh Hazard adventure.

That is totally cool. Here and now, enjoy Hugh Hazzard (OK, even for 1940’s era comics that’s bad) and Bozo the Robot!

Please click on each image to enlarge.

And if you comment, please let me know if you prefer a gallery like this, a slideshow, or my usual method which is just posting everything one atop the other.

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