Robotman (Robert Crane)
|First appearance||Star Spangled Comics #7
|Created by||Jerry Siegel
|Alter ego||Robert Crane|
|Team affiliations||All-Star Squadron|
|Abilities||Superhuman strength, speed, and endurance
Superhumanly sharp vision
Robotman is a Golden Age DC Comics superhero. He first appeared in Star-Spangled Comics #7 (April 1942) and was created by Jerry Siegel, the co-creator of Superman. Despite his name, Robotman is actually not a robot; he is a cyborg.
The first Robotman was a scientist named Robert Crane whose brain was placed inside a robotic body after he had been fatally shot. Since Crane had to be legally dead for his assailants to be charged with murder, he created a civilian identity as Paul Dennis, accomplished with lifelike face mask and gloves. As Robotman, he was a member of the World War II-era team, the All-Star Squadron. He also fought crime solo with help from his canine sidekick, Robotdog. His stories were mostly lighthearted in nature, featuring whimsical situations and plenty of comedy relief (usually provided by Robotdog).
In 1951, Crane helped Charles McNider, the original Doctor Mid-Nite, make the devices McNider needed to become Starman. McNider used the devices in that guise for a half a year and then gave them to David Knight, a Starman from the future who used them for the rest of the year before returning to the future and dying there.
Robotman was revealed to have been one of several other heroes involved in the first meeting of the charter members of the Justice League of America prior to the official forming of the team, an event which was suppressed from the public record.
Robotman's career came to an end by unique means. His former lab assistant, Charles Grayson, discovered that he was dying of a brain disease which left the rest of his tissues unharmed. He therefore bequeathed his body to Robotman to give him the possibility of a new life. Robotman had been trapped in suspended animation after being caught in a rockslide. His mechanical body shut down to preserve his brain, and it took twenty years for enough power to build up for him to reactivate and free himself. A power surge revived him, and after adjusting to being twenty years in the future, he learned what Grayson had done for him and gladly regained the humanity he'd thought lost forever.
No longer a cyborg, he resurfaced in the first issues of Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. and lent Pat Dugan some components of his own disassembled robotic body in order to perfect the S.T.R.I.P.E. suit of armor.
In the Elseworlds series The Golden Age, Robotman figures prominently as a troubled hero and later villain. The series depicts that after World War II Robotman purposefully ignores his humanity, developing an inhuman mental state, focusing on being a robot. He is depicted stopping a robbery with deadly force, and later being approached by Tex Thompson (Mr. America), the current form of the Ultra-Humanite. It is unsaid what the Ultra-Humanite promises or uses to recruit Robotman, but Robotman becomes his unquestioning servant, committing murder, and often staying close to Thompson during his political appearances. Thompson even berates him without any objections from Robotman. Publicly, Robotman is hailed as one of the few heroes to go public and serve with Thompson. In the final battle Robotman brutally kills Miss America before she reveals Thompson is the Ultra-Humanite. An enraged Hourman rips off one of Robotman's arms and finishes Miss America's public accusation. While the other heroes face Dynaman, a transformed Dan the Dyna-Mite, Paula Brooks (a reformed villain, the Tigress) and Lance Gallant (Captain Triumph), who had become lovers over the course of the story, confront and defeat Robotman. During their fight Robotman states he always knew the Ultra-Humanite was in Tex Thompson's body and that he does not care. In the end, Gallant, refusing to transform into Captain Triumph, shoves one of the Tigress' wooden crossbow bolts further into Robotman's head. This causes Robotman to explode and fatally electrocutes Gallant, much to the Tigress' and Gallant's deceased brother's sorrow.
In the alternate timeline of the Flashpoint event, Robert Crane is a human scientist, never becoming a Robotman in World War II. Recently Robert's government services are shutting the Project M down of Frankenstein and the Creature Commandos. In the modern era, Robert Crane is still alive and now a doctor, and he helps the government revive G.I. Robot to join the soldiers to eliminate Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown after they escape from the lab facility.
- Rozakis, Bob, "Heroes Who Wouldn't Die!," The Brave and the Bold #116, December 1974-January 1975, p.71.
- Englehart, Steve, Dick Dillin, & Frank McLaughlin, "The Origin of the Justice League—Minus One!," Justice League of America, #144, July 1977.
- Rozakis, Bob, Alex Saviuk & Vince Colletta, "Whatever Happened to Robotman?," DC Comics Presents #31, March 1981.
- Wells, John (May 2013). "Flashback: Whatever Happened to...?". Back Issue!. TwoMorrows Publishing (64): 51–61.
- Flashpoint: Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown #1 (June 2011)
- Flashpoint: Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown #2 (July 2011)