Robot Archie – now owned by Rebellion – is an iconic character that must surely be in the running for collection next year, but did you know he was possibly as popular in Holland as he was here, and like Janus Stark, new stories were created for overseas publication?
Robot Archie (initially known as “The Jungle Robot”) originally appeared in the weekly comic Lion‘s launch issue, cover dated 23rd February 1952, a robot was “operated” by Ted Richie and his best friend Ken Dale. The strip ran until the 1970s, his creation is credited to writer Edward George Cowan, aka Ted Cowan, and artist Ted Kearon, whose amazing, detailed art still delights to this day. (Cowan also created “The Spider” for Lion, and “Saber, King of the Jungle” for Tiger later reprised in France as “Yataca”).
His last strip in Lion concluded with the issue cover dated 18th May 1974, although he continued to appear in annuals and specials, as well as turning up in Valiant, mostly in reprints.
The strip began running in the Dutch weekly Sjors in 1963, reprinting tales from Archie’s original appearances in Lion, and when Archie disappeared from Lion in 1971, new stories continued to appear in Holland.
These were largely written and drawn by leading Dutch artist Bert Bus, who died in 2017, aged 86, a creator who whose widow described him for whom “drawing was everything”.
Bus worked on ten action-filled adventures with the man of steel, his two human companions and their time travel tower, which the comics database site Lambiek notes were initially a joint production by Bus and fellow artists Nico van Dam and Harry Balm, while most of the plots were still based on later Lion stories.
Bus later made the comic all by himself, the latter two stories (“Archie in de ijstijd”, published in 1973-74 and “Archie contra mister Magneto” in 1974) written by Tina editor Fenna Ridderbos.
A collection of two of Bus’ stories was published under the Amsterdam Boek imprint in 1973 and Oberon released the artist’s entire run on the series in nine books between 1980 and 1982.
Sjors‘ original publisher N.V. De Spaarnestad also collected “Robot Archie” as comic albums in the 1960s, De Man van Staal, producing seven such collections before Sjors moved to a new publisher, taking Archie with it.
On Bear Alley, Steve Holland, who features covers of the later Dutch collections, notes Bus also produced another Archie story, published in 2004 (“In de ijstijd” – “in the Ice Age”, the same year he was awarded the Bulletje en Boonestaakschaal for his contributions to Dutch comics.
Robot Archie apparently proved quite a hit in Holland, with one Dutch fan claiming the mechanical marvel was the only robot his mother could name!
In addition to his Dutch adventures, Archie has been translated and published in French, where he is known as both “Archie Le Merveilleux Robot” (The Marvellous Robot) and “Archie l’homme d’acier” (The Man of Steel).
While Archie’s continuing adventures ended in the 1970s in the UK, the Bert Bus Dutch stories appeared in Vulcan, the IPC reprint title that launched in Scotland in 1975, later published nationally in 1976.
Elsewhere, an analogue made a brief appearance, as Android Andy, among the victims of the Fury in Marvel UK’s “Captain Britain” strip written by Alan Moore. (Both Android Andy and Robot Archie would later feature in the Wildstorm-published limited edition series Albion, plotted by Alan Moore, scripted by Leah Moore and John Reppion, drawn by Shane Oakley).
The robot also made an appearance as a memorable acid freak version, working with Black Flag, in Phase Three of Grant Morrison‘s “Zenith” in 2000AD. (He also makes a cameo in an early issue of the SF comic as one of the worker droids in Tharg’s editorial offices).
Robot Archie © Rebellion Publishing Ltd.