Friday, July 27, 2007

Atomic Robo, Behind the Comic

I posted this on a forum a while back, but still struck me as kind of neat so I'm sharing. Mostly because the few webcomic heads out there might dig it, trivia-wise.

If you read the comic 8-bit Theater (nuklearpower.com...that sprite comic with characters and visuals from Final Fantasy Uno) and have for a while, you'll know that Brian the creator is/was a huge City of Heroes fan. That was the game that swallowed my soul and free time earlier this year. Anyway, years ago he posted pictures of his character, Atomic Robot doing all sorts of things in City of Heroes and generally was the reason I heard about this game in the first place.

Now, his character on City of Heroes is getting his own comic. It kind of raises a weird copyright question. If I build and design my character to exist within someone else's game, do I have ownership or not? Is there some clause in the agreements that gives me copyright of whatever I create? It's kind of weird territory as one's log in name is, in some circles, a real character. A real character that eventually gets his own comic series.

There use to be more Atomic Robo stuff online, but now that the comic book is out, they've revamped the sites to not have any of the City of Heroes screen captures that used to be there.
I just did a bit of digging through the archives and found one of what I was looking for:

http://www.nuklearpower.com/daily.php?date=040601

That was from June 2004. And now, Red 5 comics is launching "Atomic Robo" the comic. Like, yesterday.
http://www.red5comics.com/?p=60

And art!
http://www.nuklearpower.com/images/bw_color_animate.gif
http://www.mechapolis.com/?p=156

This may be one of the first times someone has created a character in City of Heroes and, 3 years later, is getting their own adventures published in comic book form. Obviously the character has evolved, but it's still fun to know I'm playing an online MMRPORG (or whatever) game that inspired something like this. Because the world needs more robots that fight nazis...and this gives people addicted to games hope. Well, creative people that is. You other losers are screwed.
-jared

Edit: In drama news, Brian of Nuklear Power might have actually done this for his friend Michael Buonauro who committed suicide back in 2004. Check out the comments under that old Atomic Robo page in that first link. Interesting, right? I'd post a link to his live journal but it's since been deleted. The creepy thing about the live journal was that he posted in it just before he killed himself. Final post:
"Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda,"
Spooky but, well, yeah. I'll say no more.

6 Comments:

Blogger Liam said...

According to most terms and service. you acctualy pay the people to use their tools and charactors. when you create the hero it instantly becomes copyright of the company that runs CoH. they never refer to things as products in video game terms and aggrements...you are paying for the service to play the game and use 'thei' heroes. Sucks but thats the way it is.
It is a great idea though, Brian is an awesome writer and his comics always make me smile.

Now get on AIM once in a while you bum and upload that article!

6:02 AM  
Blogger Jared said...

To the first thing: Which sort of explains why he's burned the internet for most references to the origins of Atomic Robo. I'm sure Brian's talked to his publishers about this though, so hopefully all goes well.

To the 2nd thing:
Never, because then you'll yell at me for my slackitude!
-jared

9:01 AM  
Anonymous Brian! said...

Heh, some interesting speculation here. All of it very far off base!

1. Atomic Robo is a character I came up with about a decade ago. When City of Heroes came out I quickly figured out how to make a character in the game that resembled him. It really wasn't accurate in terms of detail, but the basic idea was there -- robotic, no mouth, short, wears clothes. It was close enough to make me happy. I used Photoshopped images of Robo from the game because it was easy to get source images from it. I also found it fun/challenging to alter the images to my needs.

2. I've done some work for Cryptic Studios (a few comics in the print run of CoH, unrelated to Robo or 8bit). I spoke with them about the possibility of doing my own Atomic Robo comic in print and the short version of the answer is this. If the character never existed before it was made in CoH or if the character's appearance/powers were VERY similar to what's found in the game, it'd be theirs or, at the least, they'd have grounds to take action to claim ownership. Since I made up Robo ages before CoH was ever thought of and made a character that only vaguely looked like him in the game, I'm in the clear.

3. There was no "burning the internet of references to the origins of Atomic Robo." At least, it certainly wasn't done for the sake of the meager City of Heroes connection.

I kept an online journal as an experimental method to explore and flesh out Robo and his world before tackling the comic scripts. I found that much of the material from those early journal entries would form the basis of the print comics. But since quite a lot of the material would change in the translation from Brain Storming Journal Entry to Final Product, I decided it best to remove the journal entries so that people wouldn't be confused about which was the "official" version.

10:02 PM  
Blogger Jared said...

Awesome response Brian. Thanks for clearing that up. Seriously...I was kind of curious how the legal end of all that worked.

I never heard of Atomic Robo outside of the City of Heroes context you mentioned fleetingly on 8bit now and again over past few years...had no idea the comic project had been over five years in the making.
Which is awesome. Good luck with Robo and may his animated TV series and toy line haunt you one day.
-jared

( By the way, as wrong as it is factually, Atomic Robo is what got me originally interested in City of Heroes. So, well, thanks for introducing me to an online addiction.)

12:13 AM  
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