Anime Boston 2019: Retro Never Goes Out Of Style – A Conversation With Atomic Robo’s Brian Clevinger

by Tito W. James

At Anime Boston 2019, I was able to have a long chat with the writer/creator of Atomic Robo, Brian Clevinger.

Tito W. James: Can you give the elevator pitch for Atomic Robo for those unfamiliar with the comic?

Brian Clevinger: The comic is about Atomic Robo (big surprise). He was built back in the 1920s by Nikola Tesla. The book follows Robo’s life ever since.

We don’t tell the stories in any specific order. You can start with any volume, read them in any order, and it’s always a fun adventure.

TWJ: What were some of the early influences for the character?

BC: Indiana Jones definitely, but also a little of Ghostbusters and early Captain America. You know, like a man out of time but in this case, he’s a robot.

TWJ: Atomic Robo is a very funny series. What techniques do you use to communicate humor in comics?

BC: Oh my lord, that’s hard to do. How do I do it? You know, there’s silent beat panels, where a character just looks at somebody else. That can be hilarious.

You can set up expectations with dialogue and then subvert them with imagery. Creating humor in comics is just something you have to practice. But it’s a lot of fun to play with.

TWJ: What attracted you to Pulp when you were designing the characters and the world?

BC: I wanted something timeless. Part of the problem with mainstream American comics (X-men, Marvel, DC) is that it’s a story that’s always set in the now but it’s constantly updating. It doesn’t feel timeless. Every single story feels very much of its moment.

I don’t know that there’s anything wrong with that. But I knew that I didn’t want to do that myself. The Pulps, while they are very much of their time, they have a certain timeless element to the sense of adventure.

With Atomic Robo’s design, he was built in the 20s but he doesn’t look out of place in the 50s, the 90s or today. Robo has a retro-look but it’s a timelessly retro-look.

TWJ: What advice do you have for aspiring comic creators?

BC: Always put out into the world the images that you want to see in it. If you’re not seeing it, then you should be the one to do it. If you want to see it, then there are other people who want to see it too. You’ll find them and they’ll find you. It’s quite an adventure!

I’d like to thank Brian Clevinger for taking the time to do this interview. Atomic Robo is available now.

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