Creating Comics: Revisiting the original Robot Archie, by E. George Cowan and Alan Philpott

Robot Archie and the Time Machine

Rebellion have just released a fantastic collection of “Robot Archie” adventures, reprinting several stories from his time travelling days with companions Ted Ritchie and Ken Dale. Despite being a top notch, well presented selection of stories, unfortunately, the collection has incorrectly credited artist Ted Kearon as co-creator of Britain’s much-loved mechanical marvel.

Don’t let this put you off from buying it, though – the collection is, otherwise, fantastic!

As comic archivist Lew Stringer recently reminded us, “Robot Archie” was one of the original stars of Lion comic when it launched in 1952. The name of the strip back then was “The Jungle Robot”, but Archie was still the name of the robot, and Ted Ritchie and Ken Dale were the co-stars from the outset.

The opening page of “The Jungle Robot” by E. George Cowan and Alan Philpott, from the first issue of Lion. The early stories reflect the culture of the time
Above: One of the earliest episodes of “Robot Archie”, drawn by Alan Philpott, from Lion No.8, dated week ending April 12th 1952. With thanks to Lew Stringer

“Robot Archie” was co-created by writer E. George Cowan – credited in the comic – and drawn by Alan Philpott, aka F.A. Philpott, who later drew “The Deathless Men” for DC Thomson’s Hornet, and “Tough of the Track”, for Victor.

Initially intended as a one-shot adventure serial, the Lambiek profile for Philpott notes he and Cowan moved on to other serials, Alan drawing “Rebels of Ancient Rome”, for Lion, as well as drawing strips for Super Detective Library and Cowboy Comics Library titles.

A. Forbes affords this look inside Robot Archie’s innards, on this page from “Robot Archie and The Mystery of the Veiled Arab” | Via 2D Galleries

Cowan revived “Robot Archie” in 1957 in “Archie – The Robot Explorer”, perhaps a reflection of interest in robots spurred not only by longtime interest in mechanical men by Lion’s readership and SF in general, but their popularity in other comics, and at the cinema then. (Forbidden Planet, for example, springs immediately to mind).

The mechanical marvel became a fixture in the weekly comic’s pages, initially drawn by A. Forbes, followed by the redoubtable Ted Kearon, the artist most associated with the strip’s enduring success and legacy.

Reprinted abroad in several countries, including France and India, Bert Bus continued the robot’s saga in the Netherlands, redrawing and updating some strips for Sjors, some of those adventures reprinted in the UK in the 1970s reprint anthology, VULCAN. Bus drew the cutaway of Robot Archie featured on the cover of the new Treasury of British Comics webshop, which we highlighted recently.

Robot Archie and the Superons

It’s unfortunate Philpott’s co-creation of the strip has been missed in the new collection, but that shouldn’t put you off checking it out. With three full length stories and two short strips included, the superb SF tale, “Robot Archie and the Superons”, set in a devastated future London among them, it’s still a worthy addition to the bookshelf of vintage British comic fans!

• Order your copy of the regular edition of Robot Archie and the Time Machine now (AmazonUK Affiliate Link) |ISBN 978-1837861699

• Order the Treasury of British Comics webshop exclusive hardback edition here

Further Reading…

On downthetubes: Cutaway Magic with Robot Archie!

On downthetubes: Robot Archie’s Dutch Adventures as “Der Man van Staal” 

Lambiek Profile: Alan Philpott

Lambiek Profile: Ted Kearon

Lambiek Profile: Bert Bus

Bear Alley: Little Known Artists – A. Forbes

• Treasury of British Comics Archive Feature: From robot servant to acid house: the fantastical life of Robot Archie



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