Indie comics have become the go-to source of inspiration for studios looking to jump in on the success of comic book movies and TV shows. desde hell boy to invincible to TheBoys, there have been plenty of incredible indie comic adaptations made over the last few decades. And with even more, such as Bone, coming sometime soon, it seems like eventually every great comic will be given some kind of film interpretation. But one comic in particular has been almost entirely left out of the conversation; and yet, it could just serve as the greatest comic adaptation yet.
Atomic Robo, created by Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener, tells the story of a sentient, nuclear-powered robot created by Nikola Tesla way back in the 1920s. The comic chronicles his adventures throughout the decades, with all sorts of exciting stories, endearing characters, and ridiculously wonderful villains. Fans get to see Robo develop from a young kid cleaning vacuum tubes into the leader of an entire company of “action scientists,” tasked with studying all kinds of scientific phenomena in the most bombastic and outlandish ways possible. All of this combines to create perhaps one of the greatest comics of a generation, and it could translate perfectly all television
For starters, the comic is an anthology series – stories aren’t told chronologically, meaning it’s very easy for nearly any issue or story arc to serve as a jumping-on point. One story will have Robo fighting Nazi Brains inside robot bodies in the 1940s, the next will have him battling talking dinosaurs in the 90s, and the one after that will be a duel against interdimensional vampires in the 20s. This kind of storytelling would lend itself well to the television medium, with each episode or two-parter potentially being an entirely self-contained story. It would make it easy to keep audiences engaged, with ever-changing settings and villains keeping the series fresh and accessible to newcomers.
This also gives the show the opportunity to tell completely new stories; Because the format allows the continuity of the series to stay in flux, there’s no real reason for an adaptation to feel obliged to make 1:1 recreations of existing arcs. (Although, there’s nothing wrong with that either – those comic stories are great.) The important thing here would be to maintain the spirit of the comic. The comedic flair, absurd conflicts, and sincerely amazing characters are all integral to what makes the comic so fantastic; and as such, they become the things that a potential adaptation shouldn’t deviate from.
Because ultimately, what makes the comic worth reading (and potentially adapting) is the perfect blend of brilliant concepts and exceptional writing. The premise of the series, and indeed the premise of each individual story arc, is exceptional. But it’s the writing that really brings it together and makes it work. The comedy is almost always on-point, the villains are always unique with their own personalities and motivations and the same can be said about the side-characters. Plus, the action is as smart as it is exciting, and of course, Robo himself is an incredible protagonist that fans easily fell in love with. His personality, sense of humor, and fascinating history of him, combined with hints at a much more tragic side to him, make Atomic Robo Tesla extraordinarily endearing and compelling.
There’s also the concept of art direction: Scott Wegener’s art style is distinct and dynamic, incredibly clear and visually interesting without ever over-cramming in SW much detail that it would be difficult to translate to animation. This art style could be the cornerstone of a 2D animated series, similar to how the recent invincible series did it. This, combined with an ever-shifting color palette thanks to its wide array of time periods, locations, and comic colorists, would add a constant sense of freshness without ever straying away from what makes Wegener’s art special.
With all this in mind, it seems clear that an adaptation of Atomic Robo has the potential to be truly great, and could seemingly go in a multitude of directions. As such, the notion that it apparently hasn’t even been considered for adapting is a tragedy in its own right. Between the sheer quality of the comic itself and the magnitudes of potential it has for a fully-fledged TV series, it’s a surprise no one’s picked the series up already. And considering that both Clevinger and Wegener have expressed interest in an Atomic Robo adaptation already, it seems like it would be an incredible fit. Fortunately, while fans wait for the day that adaptation comes, the comic will still be there, continuing to be the masterpiece that makes an adaptation worthwhile in the first place.
Atomic Robo is available to read for free on the official comic website.
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