Robotman (Cliff Steele)

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Robotman (Steele).jpg
Portion of the cover of Secret Origins Annual #1 (1987). Art by John Byrne.
Publication information
Publisher DC Comics
First appearance My Greatest Adventure #80 (June, 1963)
Created by Arnold Drake
Bruno Premiani
In-story information
Alter ego Clifford "Cliff" Steele
Team affiliations Doom Patrol
Abilities Superhuman strength, speed, and endurance
Superior sight, and hearing
Modified robot body grants:
Self-repair capabilities
Underwater travel
Wide array of sensors
Greatly enhanced senses
Ability to recharge itself via consumption of organic material

Robotman (Clifford "Cliff" Steele) is a fictional character, a cyborg superhero in the DC Comics Universe. He is best known as a member of the Doom Patrol, being the only character to appear in every version of the team from the early 1960s to 2010s.

Publication history[edit]

Robotman first appeared in My Greatest Adventure #80 (June 1963) and was created by Arnold Drake and Bruno Premiani. According to Drake, the issue's co-writer Bob Haney was not brought on to the project until after Robotman was created.[1] He commented on the character's original name, Automaton: "That name was pretty stupid. I've been responsible for a lot of stupid things, but that was one of the stupidest, so, within two issues, I figured that out and changed his name to Robotman."[1]

Robotman was the only original member of the Doom Patrol to appear with the team's second incarnation, which debuted in Showcase #94-96 (Aug. 1977 - Jan. 1978). The reboot was accompanied by Robotman getting a new body, which was designed by artist Joe Staton at writer Paul Kupperberg's request. Kupperberg explained, "I was looking to update the strip, I suppose, [and] wanted to put my mark on it. There was nothing wrong with the original body designed by Bruno Premiani. In fact, ain't no one come up with a better design. Like the team's roster, I should have left that alone, too."[2] Staton said he patterned Robotman's new body after John Byrne's robot character Rog-2000 "as a joke".[3]

Fictional character biography[edit]

Robotman is one of the founding members of the Doom Patrol along with Negative Man and Elasti-Girl. He is unique in that he is the only character to appear in every version of the Doom Patrol.[4]

Cliff Steele became Robotman, initially dubbed Automaton,[5] after a race car accident destroyed his body (a retcon had the accident intentionally caused by Niles Caulder). Caulder subsequently placed Cliff's intact brain into a robotic body. After the operation, Cliff suffered from frequent depression because he viewed himself as less than human. A background serial in Doom Patrol #s 100, 101, 103 & 105 (December 1965 – August 1966) indicated that Caulder made a mistake in the operation that caused Steele to go on a rampage, which was corrected when he was recruited for the Patrol. (These are incompatible with Cliff's flashback in My Greatest Adventure #80)

Death and rebirth[edit]

Although initially believed to have been killed by Madame Rouge, Cliff's brain had survived. Will Magnus, the robotics expert who created the Metal Men, recovered Cliff's brain and built him a new body. Cliff then joined a new Doom Patrol headed by a woman claiming to be Caulder's wife, Arani. Refusing to believe that Niles was dead, she formed this new team to search for him and took his place as leader, calling herself Celsius, due to her heat-and-cold-based powers. This new Doom Patrol was eventually almost all killed in action with the exceptions of Cliff, Tempest, Negative Woman, and Rhea Jones (who remained comatose). Caulder had turned up alive by this time, and denied having been married to Arani, although he admitted having known her.

Following this, Cliff voluntarily committed himself to an asylum,[6] having fallen into a state of depression due to his condition and the loss of his teammates. In particular, he was angry about being in a metal body and unable to enjoy the feeling and senses that humans take for granted. Caulder sent Magnus round to try to help Cliff. Magnus introduced him to a person with "worse problems than [his]": a woman called Crazy Jane. Cliff became the guardian of, and eventually fell in love with, Jane. Near the end of Grant Morrison's run on the title, his human brain was revealed to have been replaced with a CPU, making him a robot in reality.

In Rachel Pollack's run, Cliff's artificial brain began to malfunction so Dorothy Spinner's Imaginary Friends "rebuilt" Cliff's old brain.[7]

Cliff later met and began a relationship with a bisexual, transgender woman named Kate Godwin. At one point, Kate and Cliff merged and shared his memories.

Blackest Night[edit]

In the Doom Patrol's Blackest Night tie-in storyline, Robotman and Negative Man are attacked by Negative Woman, who has been revived as a member of the Black Lantern Corps. While they try to fight off their former comrade, Cliff is approached by his own brainless corpse, which has also been revived as a Black Lantern.[8] Cliff correctly surmises that the ring powers his corpse, but finds removing it only causes a new body to regenerate instead. He and Negative Man trick the Black Lanterns into entering a warp gate to a JLA checkpoint then try to put the incident behind them.

The New 52[edit]

In The New 52 (a reboot of the DC Comics universe), a new version of the character debuted in the My Greatest Adventure miniseries in October 2011, written by Matt Kindt. This version of Cliff Steele is an adventurer and daredevil who agrees to be injected with experimental nanomachines designed to improve and repair his body. When he is involved in a fatal car crash during a high-speed race, the nanomachines respond by creating a robotic body in order to encase and protect his still living brain. Though he is initially distraught over his condition, the nanomachines prevent him from being able to kill himself. After coming to terms with his new body, he becomes a freelance hero, assisted by a woman named Maddy, who was involved in the nanomachine project and blames herself for Cliff's condition.

Cliff has since re-appeared as a supporting character in the Metal Men comic featured in the Legends of Tomorrow anthology.

DC Rebirth[edit]

In the "DC Rebirth" reboot, Cliff has reappeared as a member of the latest incarnation of the Doom Patrol, in the iteration both his origin and romance with Crazy Jane return.

Powers and abilities[edit]

Cliff's original mechanical body possessed superhuman strength, speed, and endurance. It was also equipped with electromagnetic feet that enabled him to scale metal walls, heating coils in his hands that enabled him to melt metals, an oxygen tank that could sustain his brain in an emergency, and a video communicator strapped to his chest that allowed Caulder to maintain contact with the team in the field, complete with visual information. Later bodies have featured various other functions, such as tools and weapons systems.

In the early comics, Cliff boasted of superior sight and hearing, though at the start of Grant Morrison's run, he complained of the crudity of mechanical senses as compared to human ones.

The post-reboot version of Cliff's robotic body is nanomachine based, allowing him to change its shape and abilities when needed. In addition, the nanomachines allow his body to repair itself from even the most severe damage. He is capable of flight, as well as underwater travel. His body boasts a wide array of sensors as well as greatly enhanced senses, and is able to recharge itself by consuming and processing organic material.

In other media[edit]


Robotman as depicted on Teen Titans.
  • Robotman (alongside Doom Patrol members Chief, Negative Man, and Elasti-Girl), made an appearance in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "The Last Patrol!" voiced by Henry Rollins.[9] In this version, he has become very downcast about the fact that he is almost indestructible and is constantly trying to commit suicide. Following the Doom Patrol's break-up, he ended up being a crash dummy for a car company. While walking out by the docks, he has a run-in with Arsenal and dares Arsenal to finish him off. Just then, Batman and the Doom Patrol arrive and help fend off Arsenal before being hit with knock-out gas by General Zahl. He and the other Doom Patrol members sacrifice their lives to stop the bomb at Codsville.


  1. ^ a b Browning, Michael (July 2013). "The Doom Patrol Interviews: Arnold Drake". Back Issue!. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing (65): 38–41. 
  2. ^ Browning, Michael (July 2013). "The Doom Patrol Interviews: Paul Kupperberg". Back Issue!. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing (65): 43. 
  3. ^ Johnson, Dan (April 2014). "Showcase Presents... Again". Back Issue!. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing (71): 51. 
  4. ^ Beatty, Scott (2008), "Doom Patrol", in Dougall, Alastair, The DC Comics Encyclopedia, New York: Dorling Kindersley, p. 109, ISBN 0-7566-4119-5, OCLC 213309017 
  5. ^ Robotman (1963) at Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on August 31, 2015.
  6. ^ Doom Patrol (Vol. 2) #19
  7. ^ Irvine, Alex (2008), "Doom Patrol", in Dougall, Alastair, The Vertigo Encyclopedia, New York: Dorling Kindersley, pp. 61–63, ISBN 0-7566-4122-5, OCLC 213309015 
  8. ^ Doom Patrol (Vol. 5) #4
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-26. Retrieved 2011-05-31. 

External links[edit]