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Comic Book / Atomic Robo

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"Y'know how you can watch a documentary about archaeology, and it’s a bunch of university professors and grad students carefully brushing dust from rocks? And then they learn something very important about pottery? Meanwhile Indiana Jones is also an archaeologist, but mostly he runs around shooting bad guys and having car chases?

"Now apply the Indiana Jones model to every other field of study.

Atomic Robo."
— Intro to the Atomic Robo Roleplaying Game book

Atomic Robo (written by Brian Clevinger, of 8-Bit Theater and Nuklear Age fame; and illustrated by Scott Wegener) is a comic about, well, Atomic Robo, a robot built by Nikola Tesla in the 1920s. Given citizenship by the US government in exchange for missions against Nazis and other similar scumbags, he later started Tesladyne, a high tech organization devoted to fighting really weird evil and advancing human knowledge. Along with his elite team of Action Scientists, he travels the world (and further) fighting things on the fringes of human knowledge.

In addition to the main series, there's a spinoff called Real Science Adventures (still written by Brian but drawn by guest artists), which features side characters in non-Robo-related stories. These characters include the Sparrow, a lineage of British spies; the Centurions of Science, an adventuring group that Tesla was a part of before building Robo; and the Flying She-Devils, an all-female crew that fights sky pirates post-WWII.

There's also a Tabletop RPG spinoff, which uses the Fate system. A Chibi version of Robo appears in CMON's Rivet Wars Tabletop Strategy Game as a Kickstarter exclusive.

The series was originally published by Red 5 Comics. When the contract expired, the series shifted to a free webcomic format starting with Volume 10 in 2015. Later in the year, IDW Publishing picked up the license for the physical print versions, with the print versions of new volumes arriving ahead of the webcomic. Real Science Adventures also shifted to a web format in 2016, but only released one new volume and stopped updating soon after; the following volume a couple years later returned to being print-first.

No relation to the 80s video game.

    Comic list 
  • Volumes:
    • 1: Atomic Robo and the Fighting Scientists of Tesladyne (2007-08)
    • 2: Atomic Robo and the Dogs of War (2008)
    • 3: Atomic Robo and the Shadow from Beyond Time (2009)
    • 4: Atomic Robo and Other Strangeness (originally ...and the Vampire Dimension) (2010)
    • 5: Atomic Robo and the Deadly Art of Science (2010)
    • 6: Atomic Robo and the Ghost of Station X (2011)
    • 7: Atomic Robo and the Flying She-Devils of the Pacific (2012)
    • 8: Atomic Robo and the Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur (2013)
    • 9: Atomic Robo and the Knights of the Golden Circle (2014)
    • 10: Atomic Robo and the Ring of Fire (2015-16)
    • 11: Atomic Robo and the Temple of Od (2016)
    • 12: Atomic Robo and the Spectre of Tomorrow (2017-18)
    • 13: Atomic Robo and the Dawn of a New Era (2019)
    • 14: Atomic Robo and the Vengeful Dead (2021)
    • 15: Atomic Robo and the Agents of C.H.A.N.G.E. (2022-23)
  • Real Science Adventures:
    • 1: (Untitled anthology) (2012)
    • 2: The Billion-Dollar Plot (2014, featuring the Centurions of Science)
    • 3: Raid on Marauder Island (2016, featuring the Flying She-Devils)
    • 4: The Nicodemus Job (2018, featuring a Caper Crew in 1095 Constantinople)
  • Short stories:
    • Free Comic Book Day stories:
      • "The Tsar Bomb" (2008)
      • "Why Atomic Robo Hates Dr. Dinosaur" (2009)
      • "Flight of the Terror Birds" (2010)
      • "The Science Fair" (2011)
      • "Team Up of the Century" (2012)
      • "Project SAINT" (2013)
      • "The Centralia Job" (2014)
      • "The Trial of Atomic Robo" (2015)
      • "Martin and Lewis Try Again" (2016)
    • "Two-Fisted Tales: Along Came a Tyrantula" (2015, ComiXology digital exclusive)
    • "Bug Hunt" (2016, break between vol. 10 and 11)
    • "Project Millipede" (2017, break between vol. 11 and 12. A Real Science Adventures story featuring the Sparrow.)
    • Various short "Zine" stories set after Dawn of a New Era (2019-2020, extended break between vol. 13 and 14): "Orientation", "Gym Class", "Ben", "Dino", "Astronomy", "Snare", "Game Night", "Olivia", "Prank", "Lunch", "Origins", "Sleep", "Obstacle", "Birthdays", "Movie Night", "Vampires", "Delivery", "Homework"
    • An unnamed short "Zine" story set after Vengeful Dead (2021, break between vol. 14 and 15)

Atomic Robo contains examples of:

  • Achievements in Ignorance:
    • Sometimes used to handwave seemingly impossible physics.
      Robo: This is just— you can't have giant bugs. They'd crush themselves.
      Jenkins: But do they know that?
      Robo: Probably not, no.
    • Also Dr. Dinosaur's trademark. Or possibly it's Obfuscating Stupidity. Or possibly he really IS such a genius that Robo just doesn't understand what he's saying.
      Dr. Dinosaur: I had CRYSTALS!
  • Action Girl: The Sparrow, one of Britain's top operatives, who ended up working (rather reluctantly) alongside Robo in parts of Volume 2. They didn't really get on. More turn up in other volumes, such as Bao Lang (early-21st-century Tesladyne) or pretty much any given Flying She-Devil.
  • Adaptational Villainy: The Billion Dollar Plot guest-stars a trio of actual 19th-century Dime Novel Science Heroes — as a triumvirate of Utopia Justifies the Means villains.
  • A Fool for a Client: Dr. Dinosaur attempts to represent himself in court in "The Trial of Atomic Robo". Since he labels his briefcase "MY LAW BOX" and declares that the system is now on trial under the law of the jungle, it doesn't go well for him... though his actual plan to humiliate Robo ends up being rather successful.
  • Agent Scully: Robo is usually rather open-minded, but he becomes this out of spite whenever confronting the inexplicable mad science of Dr. Dinosaur.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Discussed in The Ghost of Station X. Lewis observes how fortunate humanity is that Robo didn't turn out like Skynet, HAL, or the Event Horizon. The story's Big Bad, ALAN, is a straightforward example.
  • Affably Evil: In The Ghost of Station X, the Big Bad repeatedly tries to reason with Robo and convince him to join it, even as it's trying to kill him.
  • Alien Geometries: "Zorth", the fifth cardinal direction, is actually so alien it only comes into play when something capable of destroying reality intersects with the observable universe. Thus, though Robo has spent literally his entire life researching it and put it to use multiple times, it isn't actually of use much of the time - except as the source of his bitter rivalry with Stephen Hawking. In a more serious take, Zorth comes into play when interdimensional travel happens, so understanding and utilization of it is rather important when fighting against the Vampire Dimension.
  • All of Them: In Issue 5 of Ghost of Station X:
    Sparrow: We're being asked to hold Robo for "the authorities".
    Lewis: Which ones?
    Sparrow: All of them.
    • Issue 2 of The Vengeful Dead has a slight variant regarding Margot and her String Theory wall:
      Foley: That's definitely part of it. Because what I hear is maybe you're pushing yourself too hard.
      Margot: (angry) Who! Who said that! I want names!
      Foley: Everyone. Literally everyone. Even Jenkins and he's insane.
  • All There in the Manual:
    • The RPG adaptation has a lot of background information, ranging from the nature of DELPHI to the names and one-paragraph backstories of every significant Tesladyne character except the guy with the pink hair from "The Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur".
    • The timeline page on the website lists all of the major events of the series in chronological order. It also lists dates for stories that have yet to be published, each listed only as "TOP SECRET"; The Spear of Destiny (The '60s), Diamonds Are For Never (1973), The Mirrorshade Overdrive (1985), and The Soldiers of Fortune (1993).
  • Alternate History: The comics feature a hefty amount of well-researched Historical In Jokes and archaic scientific concepts. Not to mention multiple Historical Villain Upgrades.
  • Alternate Universe:
    • The Vampire Dimension—a universe where all humans of the early 1900s were turned into vampires due to an unknown worldwide catastrophe (like I Am Legend without Will Smith).
    • The Exoverse—a barren, featureless void outside of space and time and The Shadow's point of origin. Or it might be The Shadow's true form.
  • Amazon Brigade: The Flying She-Devils of the Pacific, former military support who refused to go home after WWII ended.
  • American Robot: Now in 20th Century Flavor!
  • Anachronic Order: The story readily jumps around from any time period to another in Robo's decades of exploits. Sometimes the background or resolution to a story will not be shown until a few volumes later.
  • Animated Adaptation: In the works. Have a trailer!
  • Appropriated Appellation: Dr. Dinosaur, who take his name from Koa calling him "Some kinda... Doctor Dinosaur?", when he burst in on Dinosaur about to slice off Robo's head with a circular saw.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Robo has a bad habit of this.
    • He calls the Odic Force a debunked source of energy, despite evidence to the contrary literally staring him in the face.
    • Robo regularly dismisses Dr. Dinosaur's ramblings as worthless pseudoscience, even when he should know by now that beneath the rampant insanity his creations have worked (whether they can be controlled is a different story...) every time. He also flat-out states that time travel is impossible, even to three of his past selves at a place outside time, at which point it's just a matter of semantics. And then Dr. Dinosaur's "time bomb" blows him into the 19th century.
  • Arch-Enemy: Helsingard is Robo's most frequently recurring nemesis, and as a Mad Scientist Brain in a Jar piloting Giant Mecha bodies, he parallels the purely mechanical Science Hero Robo. There's also Dr. Dinosaur (a super-stupid dinosaur scientist opposing a super-intelligent robot scientist) and Undead Edison (who was the arch enemy of Robo's father). Basically, Helsingard is Robo's most frequent and dangerous enemy (Robo calls him "an unparalleled genius"), Dr. Dinosaur is his most humiliating (since he is stupid and yet manages to continuously outwit Robo), and Edison is Robo's oldest and most personal (Robo even calls him "[his] greatest enemy"). Another major contender is Majestic 12, an anti-Robo conspiracy.
  • Arc Number: In The Shadow From Beyond Time, "infinity minus one".
  • Are These Wires Important?: One of Robo's favorite techniques.
  • Art Evolution: And it was nice art to start with!
  • Artifact Title: Atomic Robo and the Dogs of War was named because the original outline had Robo fighting Dr. Valkyrie's Wehrwolf soldiers. The Wehrwolf Formula was given a token mention at the end of the Dr. Valkyrie conflict and a mention on the back cover of the trade paperback.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Emma Armstrong from "The Science Fair". The ten-year-old granddaughter of one of Robo's old action scientist comrades, who really wants to join Tesladyne and get away from her boring school and stupider teachers. The Kid Sidekick potential is subverted when Robo points out that legally, he cannot hire a ten year old, especially considering the hyperdangerous shenanigans he gets up to, but—in light of the fact that she completed her grandfather's life work by solving a decades-old paradox and building a prototype out of car parts—he tells her to come back in ten years or so and there will be a job waiting for her. The Epilogue shows her after college, meeting Robo for the employee tour.
  • Attack Its Weak Point:
    Robo: Y'know what they should call you? Baron von Blabs About His Only Weakness!
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: Lampshaded, see below.
  • Awesome McCoolname:
    • Quite a few, scattered around.
      Robo: Why don't you tell me a little about yourself, Doctor... Cannon, is it?
      Cannon: Rex Cannon.
      Robo: Good name.
    • Not many people realize it, but Robo's full name is Doctor Atomic Robo Tesla:
      Carl Sagan: Your name is Doctor Atomic Robo Tesla?
      Robo: Yeah...
      Sagan: They should make comic books out of you.
  • Badass Boast:
    • In the very first issue Helsingard makes absolutely sure that there are no doubts as to what he is capable of:
      Helsingard: I did not bring ruin to an underground utopia pre-dating the dawn of agriculture solely for the purpose of not gaining ultimate power over the fabric of reality. Do not make me end you and implant the organ myself, Doctor. I no longer have the fine motor control for self-experimentation and time is of the essence.
    • And then you have Carl Sagan's boast when he starts on a plan to defeat the Shadow, very similar to stuff the man himself said in real life:
      Carl Sagan: We are made of starstuff. Our consciousness, our intelligence is the machinery of the cosmos discovering itself. Our science will be its candle in the dark.
  • Badass Bookworm: Carl Sagan. Tesla.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Tesla. When he goes into battle, he does so in full black-tie, complete with top hat and Waistcoat of Style. And a suit similar in its capabilities to Iron Man's.
  • Badass Normal:
    • Jenkins, who has survived the Vampire Dimension, blown up an ancient Egyptian monster while the others were debating what to do with it, crippled the Big Bad's giant robot body, and killed an entire crime cartel (including an entire beach full of armed people) while sent on an enforced vacation to unwind.
    • James Milligan in Volume 2, essentially a Scottish Jenkins in WWII as part of the British Royal Commandos.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: The end result of Majestic 12's raid in The Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur. In the wake of the raid, Tesladyne is forcibly disbanded and replaced by Majestic, operating as Task Force ULTRA.
  • Bathos: Robo is comforting ALAN after the death of Jenkins? Dramatic. Then Robo complains that Jenkins never gave hima code name...
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: About transporting a potentially city-busting piece of nuclear technology...
    Phil: Customs was a pain. I just yelled DOE protocols in no particular order. Long story short: I got through.
  • Beam-O-War: Between Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla, of all people.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy:
    • Volume 9 reveals that Doc Holliday and Deputy US Marshal Bass Reeves helped defeat a Mad Science invasion of the USA in 1884.
    • It's revealed in Volume 5 that the War of the Currents was a front for Thomas Edison's attempt to distill and bottle Von Reichenbach's Odic Force as an immortality drug using a Direct-Current "Odic Capacitor". It didn't end too well for him.
    • The Centralia mine fire which has been burning underground in Pennsylvania since 1962 was the result of Robo blowing up a mad scientist's Elaborate Underground Base.
  • Been There, Shaped History: Deliberately averted with Robo. His exploits are often side-exploits that allow real-life history to proceed without interference—for example, his participation in the Mars probe consisted of sitting in a craft and doing nothing for a year. He got really bored.
  • Big Bad: Each volume has at least one major bad guy:
    • Averted in Fightin' Scientists of Tesladyne and Other Strangeness; they're largely Slice of Life anthologies with assorted little bads but no big bad. Baron Heinrich von Helsingard does serve as the bad guy in both the first and last parts of Fightin' Scientists, but not the sections between.
    • Nazi commando Otto Skorzeny in The Dogs of War.
    • The creature from The Shadow from Beyond Time.
    • You just know that the mysterious grumpy gentleman from the first issue of The Deadly Art of Science is going to be revealed as Thomas Edison, even before you see his face.
    • ALAN in The Ghost of Station X.
    • Takeshi Hayoto, a member of Chokaiten (Japan's military superscience division) in Flying She-Devils of the Pacific
    • Dr. Dinosaur and Majestic 12 are a Big Bad Ensemble in The Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur.
    • Young Baron von Helsingard in The Knights of the Golden Circle.
    • Another Big Bad Ensemble in The Ring of Fire with Task Force ULTRA leader General Brooks and the Biomega. And a third threat comes from world governments who want to use a nuclear strike against the Biomega because they don't trust ULTRA to do the job correctly.
    • Ichiro Matsuda, a Chokaiten operative in Temple of Od.
    • Helsingard again in Spectre of Tomorrow.
    • Averted in Dawn of a New Era, which has Tesladyne deal with interpersonal conflict and fallout from previous arcs instead of an outside threat.
    • Rex Cannon, a bit character from Other Strangeness, has become King of the Vampires and has made them an organized threat in Vengeful Dead.
    • The RPG book indicates that Dr. Vanadis Valkyrie was one in a post-WWII adventure (which will probably be either The Spear of Destiny or Diamonds Are For Never).
    • In Real Science Adventures
      • "The Triumvirate", a group of Corrupt Corporate Executives in The Billion-Dollar Plot. All three are Public Domain Characters from "Edisonade" stories of the time: Frank Reade, Jr., Jack Wright, and "Electric Bob" (renamed Robert Trydan in RSA).
      • Rival sky pirate captain Mad Jack in Raid on Marauder Island.
      • The Nicodemus Job has Terazin Berikos, a Sleazy Politician who wormed his way into a position where he could legally confiscate anything he wanted and hold it for ransom. But then the heroes find that their client, Archimedes Vasilakas, is equally corrupt.
  • Big Damn Kiss: Helen and Robo's kiss in 5.3 gets an entire page.
  • Black Box: Robo's Automatic Intelligence Unit and Atomic Power core are the only parts of his design that have never been properly understood in nearly a century of his existence. People who have observed them claimed that they represent technology at least two centuries ahead of the time of their creation. Should either component be lost or damaged beyond recovery, there is no one alive that knows how to reproduce them. It took the full computing power and manufacturing abilities of the remains of the original ALAN to make a functional replacement power core for Robo's new body, which itself was a feat that is unlikely to be repeated any time soon.
  • Bothering by the Book: NASA, and how.
    Charlie Bolden: Robo, this is NASA. There's thirty pages of protocol for using the bathroom in space. Thirty-six counting appendices. We do everything by the book.
  • Boxing Lessons for Superman: Robo spent months learning martial arts from Bruce Lee, so that he wouldn't be dependent on just brute force. Bruce had already stopped taking students, but agreed to train him because Robo was the only person capable of surviving his full-strength attacks.
  • Brain in a Jar: Helsingard. Several of them, in fact. When one goes down, another is activated, and apparently has all of the previous one's memories.
  • Brave Scot: James Milligan, the commando from the Guernsey mission of The Dogs of War is a prime example. He takes out most of a fortified Nazi base by himself, faces off against opponents that gave Robo pause, fights his way back out of the base (while carrying half of Robo) and ends up flying a prototype helicopter to safety after rigging the entire fortress to explode. All while maintaining a "just another day at work" attitude and spouting nigh-incomprehensible Scottish one-liners.
  • Brick Joke:
    • In Ghost of Station X, Robo calls Steve Jobs to complain about how his hands don't work on touchscreens. Later, he finds a smartphone that he can't use because of the same impediment. It's vaguely implied that the subsequent trap was sprung because they knew Robo couldn't answer a ringing smartphone, and thus had confirmation that he was the one holding it
    • Bernard spends most of The Savage Sword of Dr Dinosaur correcting his colleagues that since they're underground, it's lava, rather than magma, culminating in him doing so while dangling from the side of a giant magma worm. Then, in The Vengeful Dead, a smaller one shows up to help during the vampire attack on Tesladyne, and when Robo calls it a lava worm, Bernard's first word upon returning to the narrative is to correct him.
  • The Butcher: Butcher Caldwell in Volume 9. Lampshaded:
    Holliday: They don't call him Butcher Caldwell because of his charm.
  • Call-Forward: Seen from time to time thanks to the stories being told out of order.
    • During "The Trial of Atomic Robo", Dr. Dinosaur declares that his next monster will have a remote control. But we already know how well that's going to work out.
    • The Real Science Adventures arc The Billion Dollar plot, set before Atomic Robo's "birth", features Nikola Tesla's first use of the telluric vest and hand blasters he brings out of mothballs to rescue Robo at the denouement of The Deadly Art of Science. The final scene has him embarking on a line of research intended to add flight capability to the ensemble, which he also uses at the denouement of The Deadly Art of Science.
  • Calling Card: Jack Tarot, the '30s vigilante who features in The Deadly Art of Science, leaves a tarot card at the scene of his victories.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: To Nikola Tesla, here.
    Robo: You're the one who shoved me into an alternative universe filled with monsters! You don't get to flip your lid if I wanna take a walk down the block!
  • The Caper: The Nicodemus Job is a heist set in Constantinople circa 1095.
  • Caps Lock, Num Lock, Missiles Lock:
    • When Robo and Charles Fort go hunting an Eldritch Abomination, Robo brings appropriate hardware. Just mind the dial. Better yet, don't touch the dial.
      Robo: These are Lightning Guns. They collect electric charges from the air and boost them to obscenely dangerous levels through an even more dangerous process. Nothing unusual.
      Fort: I say, a portable Wardenclyffe!
      Robo: Yeah, just whatever you do, don’t move that dial past five. Or to five. Or near five, actually. In fact, set the dial to one and then forget it’s there.
      Fort: Is this entirely safe?
      Robo: No. Not even a little.
    • The zag is that sometimes you want a big damned explosion, and rarely will you have much time to prep it. Case in point, Robo turns the dials on both guns up to nine when he decides;
      Robo: My years with Mr. Tesla have taught me that there’s one underlying scientific principle common to *all* existence.
      Fort: And that would be?
      Robo: Everything explodes.
  • Car Fu: "Automobiles have been the best melee weapons to use against giant monsters since the '50s. It's science fact."
  • Cartoon Bomb: A fight scene in The Billion Dollar Plot involves a stash of dynamite in the classic red cylinder form, with "TNT" helpfully printed on each stick for good measure.
  • The Cavalry Arrives Late: At the denouement of The Billion Dollar Plot, the New York police arrive in force just after the heroes have disposed of the villains and their secret army, and attempt to arrest the heroes on the assumption that as the only people left standing they must be responsible for all the noise and property damage.
  • Ceiling Cling:
    • The first zombie creature in the 1957 section of The Shadow from Beyond Time.
    • Jenkins does one in The Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur to avoid the threat of paperwork.
  • Central Theme: Reed Richards Is Useless. Robo finds himself regularly disdaining his the circumstances of his own chosen field of Action Science, saying that though he has personal knowledge of what human science is capable of, most of the time it's only used for blowing shit up. Robo decries the Cold War as "wast(ing) trillions of dollars and half the scientific talent of the world for three generations." Whenever he faces a Mad Scientist for the first time, he tells them, "You Could Have Used Your Powers for Good!." Tesladyne itself can't focus on pure, productive science - no matter how much Robo would like to - because they spend so much time and effort cleaning up other people's messes.
    Robo: [noticing that his employees have built an Obviously Evil computer][1] I really need to restructure my life so I can spend more time reading abstracts and less time punching dinosaurs.
  • Chainsaw-Grip BFG: Robo carries one on an action zoology expedition into the Amazon rainforest. Mostly, it's there to make him feel safe despite being surrounded by insects.
  • Character Blog: Dr. Dinosaur
  • Character Name and the Noun Phrase
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: In the 70s, Robo decides he needs to stop relying on super-strength and learn how to fight smarter. Who does he go to? Bruce Lee. When they finally spar, Bruce puts on boxing gloves... for Robo's protection. No-one else on the planet can withstand his attacks at full force.
    Robo: Bruce, c'mon. [on the ground] Wait. What just happened?
    Bruce: I kicked you.
    Robo: That was like... being hit by a truck. And I've been hit by trucks.note 
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • A literal case in The Ghost of Station X; after Robo's signature WWII revolver gets trashed on re-entry, and he has his quartermaster repair it. The guy gives him an anti-material handgun, which Robo later uses to take out an Apache helicopter, and later to aid him in destroying ALAN's Orion Drive.
    • Inverted with Projekt Longinus; due to the series' Anachronic Order, the setup (The Spear of Destiny) comes after the payoff (The Ring of Fire, where it's used to destroy the Biomega Nexus).
  • Chekhov's Gunman: In 2010, Rex Cannon appeared on four pages before being unceremoniously killed off at the very start of a vampire invasion. They Never Found the Body...because, as revealed in the 2016 Free Comic Book Day story, he's now the King of the Vampire Dimension.
  • Coat, Hat, Mask: Jack Tarot is one Bad Ass Longcoat short of this.
  • Cool Old Guy: Robo. He's a grumpy old man in the body of a super-strong robot.
  • Continuity Creep: The first few volumes had standalone stories, but Ghost of Station X began an ongoing storyline in the modern-day-set volumes (though stories set in the past are still relatively unconnected to each other). Further, things mentioned in the past and dismissed as nonsense start to get proven and in a dangerous way. In his confrontation with Edison, Robo decries the Odic Force as nonsense, but by "The Vengeful Dead," the Odic Force is a key part of Tesladyne's Efforts to secure Earth from attack by the Vampire Dimension.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • "What's this about a fifth cardinal direction?"
    • Bernard can be seen hiding from Jenkins in the cafeteria background in 3.5, which canonically takes place about a year after the "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" B-story.
    • In Flying She-Devils of the Pacific, it's mentioned that Robo has flown with the Flying Tigers during WWII (his flight jacket even has the China-Burma-India Theater patch on the left shoulder), which was shown way back in the second issue. He even wears the panda bear patch of 2nd Squadron AVG.
      • And much later, The Temple of Od shows us how Robo met General Claire Chenault, the Tigers' founder, in 1939.
    • The Majestic 12 attack force in Volume 8 includes the robot from the "Project SAINT" Free Comic Book Day story.
  • Cranial Processing Unit: Discussed in Flying She-Devils of the Pacific after Robo is knocked unconscious by enemy forces. One of them suggests removing his head before he recovers, and another points out that they don't know if that will actually do anything since his main processing unit might be somewhere else in his body. It later turns out in Ring of Fire that it is in his head.
  • Crossover: Real Science Adventures #2 features a short story in which Robo recruits The RED Team to capture the Yonkers Devil. They all die by the end, at which point Robo is revealed to have been replaced by the BLU Spy, who had been hired by Majestic 12 to keep the beast free for study.
  • Cross-Referenced Titles: "Why Atomic Robo Hates Dr. Dinosaur" (FCBD 2009) and "Why Dr. Dinosaur Hates Atomic Robo" (Other Strangeness, issue 3).
  • Cultured Badass: Jenkins is seen reading a book of poetry while awaiting the call to action in the "Project SAINT" Free Comic Book Day story.
  • Cyber Cyclops: The Evil Knockoff robot in The Deadly Art of Science has a single eye.
  • Darkest Hour: The beginning of the Ring of Fire arc. Robo is lost in time and presumed dead, the rest of the team is either presumed dead or in hiding deep underground, Tesladyne has been taken over by Majestic 12 and turned into Task Force ULTRA, which is also commandeering other major scientific organizations unopposed, and the world is facing a major Biomega outbreak - against which any organized effort would conflict with ULTRA's goal of hyperdominance.
    General Sheng: In years past, the international science defense community could be trusted to put politics aside in a crisis. Task Force ULTRA makes this impossible. No one trusts anyone.
  • Dartboard of Hate: Dr. Dinosaur's lair includes a framed photo of Robo with several darts and an ax embedded in it.
  • Deep-Immersion Gaming: Used frequently in the Roleplaying Game book, which takes sequences from the original comics and adds narration from a Game Master and Players to demonstrate those scenes in game mechanics.
  • Deface of the Moon: On Mars, after Robo gets sent there because Stephen Hawking told NASA he has a hybernation mode (he doesn't). "STEPHEN HAWKING IS A BASTARD."
  • Defector from Decadence: Before joining Tesladyne, Jenkins was a Majestic agent.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: H. P. Lovecraft's infamy as a huge racist and xenophobe even for his time is reflected in the comic, as when he mistakes Robo for a pygmy in ceremonial ritual armor:
    Robo: 'Scuze me.
    Lovecraft: Ah! Look, it's attempting to communicate. No doubt the savage thing knows language as a house pet knows its reflection in the mirror. The sense is taken in, but the process, the meaning, is forever lost.
    Robo: Yer razzin' me.
    Lovecraft: See how vainly it cobbles together a string of sounds not unlike words? Take. Us. To. Magic. Thunder. Man.
    Robo: Uh-huh.
  • Dissimile: In The Billion Dollar Plot, Annie Oakley and Wong Kei-Ying hijack a monocycle from an enemy mook:
    Annie Oakley: How d'ya figure ya ride this thing?
    Wong Kei-Ying: Much like a horse. But differently.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: In Volume 8, the TV punditry using the events of Volume 7 as an excuse to get the public behind the attack on Tesladyne resembles the worst excesses of how 9/11 was used as an excuse to get the public behind the attack on Iraq, most obviously in the repeated invocations of "8/11".
  • Dogpile Of Doom: While invading the lair of the original Helsingard, Robo gets dogpiled by guards, but he's so strong that he just ends up dragging the entire pile through a couple of rooms. Eventually he gets annoyed and sets off a grenade.
  • Drinking Contest: In one issue Robo reminisces about a pilot he served with in World War II who challenged him to a drinking contest even though he's a robot and doesn't have anything to drink with.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Dr. Dinosaur.
    Dr. Dinosaur: Behold! An ordinary motorist! [crashes through a building]
  • Early-Bird Cameo:
    • Two cases in Other Strangeness: The photo of Jack Tarot on Robo's desk, and the eventual fate of Thomas Edison, both of whom are key players in Deadly Art of Science.
    • Early on in Deadly Art of Science, Tesla catches Robo reading a pulp magazine about "Ironhide, scourge of the Old West". Fast-forward (rewind?) to Knights of the Golden Circle, where it turns out that Ironhide was a real person, whom Robo gets mistaken for.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Shadow. We're not even sure if it's alive. It's defined, at best, as a temporally non-linear "being, force or malevolence" that exists outside the Universe and intersects it at several points in history. The thing is, from its point of view, all the intersections are simultaneous, so killing it once isn't the same as banishing it forever. Had it gone unchecked, it would have expanded exponentially to swallow the Universe whole, then retroactively erase its existence. A hint of its strangeness comes when you realize that, in its dimension of origin, it exists as practically everything, while Robo exists as four versions of himself. So you might as well interpret it as a living universe.
  • The End... Or Is It?: The last panel of The Ghost Of Station X shows a small plant with electronic "veins" growing on ALAN's base. The Ring of Fire ends with a small chunk of Biomega coming back to life at the bottom of the ocean.
  • Energy Weapon: Robo is moved during volume 8 to demand to know where Dr. Dinosaur's rock-men army got face lasers.
    • Lightning Guns are staples of Tesladyne.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: In The Ghost of Station X, ALAN has spent fifty-plus years exerting subtle and powerful influence throughout the world, including shaping the development of the Cold War, to bring his plan to fruition. He doesn't understand why Robo has a problem with this, and when Robo tries to point out that he could have done a lot to help people with that kind of power in fifty years, he can't see what purpose that would have served.
  • Evil Counterpart: In The Ghost of Station X, ALAN is one to Robo: they are both powerful automatic intelligences created by eccentric scientific geniuses, but where Tesla raised Robo with love and taught him to help people, ALAN was left without guidance at an early age after Turing was prosecuted for homosexuality. As a result, ALAN has no regard for human life, engineering the Cold War solely to develop nuclear technology for his own ends - specifically sterilizing the entire planet with an Orion Drive launch.
  • Evil Gloating: Despite having spent most of his scenes in the story complaining about being in a hurry to complete his scheme, Edison still spends three pages monologuing to the captive Robo about what he's doing, which gives Tesla time to track them down and turn the tables.
  • Evil Knockoff: In The Deadly Art of Science, Edison responds to Tesla's creation of Robo by building a larger, stronger robot of his own. How it stacks up to Robo in intelligence and personhood is never really addressed, since he basically uses it as a near-indestructible mook (in contrast to Tesla, who's shown in the same story to worry about Robo's safety and care about his intellectual development), but it does seem to have an unusual fondness for hats.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Captain May Carter of the Flying She-Devils. Even better, her flight goggles have her bad eye covered with a lens with a skull on it.
  • "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner:
    Robo: I already know how it ends. You don't win.
  • Fantastic Racism: Played for Laughs, as Dr. Dinosaur regularly dismisses "mammal"... well, anything. This extends to calling Robo a mammal robot, which he has no idea how to respond to.
  • Feathered Fiend: One of Robo's encounters with Dr. Dinosaur ends with him being being pursued and cornered by a flock of terror birds.
  • First-Name Basis / Last-Name Basis / Middle Name Basis: Most of the Action Scientists' first and last names are known, but they're typically only referred to by their first (Vik, Bernard, Ada), last (Lang, Louis, Martin), or middle (Robo) names. It's unknown which category Jenkins falls into.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Robo in the late 19th century.
  • Five-Token Band: Based on their names, the six primary Action Scientists (Alpha Team and Beta Team) are of German, African, Hawaiian, Indian, Chinese, and some kind of Germanic origins. At least partially confirmed in the RPG manual: Vikram is the son of African and Pakistani parents, Bao Lang is the child of Hong Kong Royal Navy officers, and Koa hails from Maui.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In The Shadow From Beyond Time, Robo rants that the Army is telling Eisenhower that Sputnik means the Russians have thousands of space-capable nuclear weapons, and America should build a thousand of their own, which will cause the Russians to build a thousand more - despite not knowing if the Russians have any at all. In The Ghost of Station X, it turns out that ALAN was deliberately driving this arms race to further his own goals.
    • The Ghost of Station X itself is packed with it:
      • Lewis' comment about how we're lucky Robo is morally upright, later contrasted with ALAN, who is most certainly not.
      • One of Martin and Lewis' many tangent theories when investigating the disappearing of a whole building is that it's A Glitch in the Matrix, because they figure future technology will either be unsustainable or so advanced we're probably already living in their simulations ("Mad Max now or The Sims later."). ALAN predicted the former, which is why he plans to leave Earth on an Orion starship to look for more resources, destroying the Earth in the process.
    • In "Nemesis" Sparrow tells Robo about some of the special weapons projects the Nazis are working on and mentions "Outer Space Weapons Platforms" as one of projects in development. In Ring of Fire the weapons platform, known as Projekt Longinus is used to end the Biomega threat.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: ALAN chooses to interact with Robo as a holographic projection of its own creator, Alan Turing.
  • For Science!: Robo does stuff for it. Like ask for truck convoys.
  • Friendly Sniper: Annie Oakley in "Tesla's Electric Sky Schooner".
  • Full-Name Ultimatum: Subverted in Dawn of a New Era, with Lang coining the phrase "Vikram Why Don't You Have A Middle Name Abasi".
  • Funny Background Event: During the '70s segment of The Shadow from Beyond Time, Robo meets with Carl Sagan at a diner. A waitress inside is sufficiently distracted by this scene to cause a bit of a mess...
  • Fun T-Shirt: Modern-day Robo has a penchant for them.
  • Fun with Acronyms:
    • In The Ghost of Station X, ALAN: Automatic Learning Algorithm Network. Built by, you guessed it, Alan Turing.
    • In The Ring of Fire, the "Scientific Emergency and Containment United Response Experts" (S.E.C.U.R.E.) Act, which essentially outlaws Action Science, leaving world-saveage in the hands of the incompetents in Majestic 12. During a Kaiju invasion.
    • And Agents of C.H.A.N.G.E. brings us the eponymous C.H.A.N.G.E, or "Criticality of Human Augmentation with Neo-Genetic Enhancements." Lampshaded by Robo-
      Robo: Oh my god. That poor acronym had a family.
  • Gainax Ending: The Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur ends with Jenkins blowing up a large portion of Tesladyne's base, Dr. Dinosaur's "time bomb", going off, and Robo ending up in Oklahoma, in 1870.
  • Genius Bruiser: Robo himself.
  • Genius Ditz:
    • Dr. Dinosaur. Capable of great scientific feats, but at the same time:
      Dr. Dinosaur: I knew you would be here, Atomic Hobo! Witness how I have deconstructed your name into an insult!
      Robo: Yeah. Wow. Never Heard THAT One Before.
      Dr. Dinosaur: Shut up! I hacked your mainframe and downloaded your itinerary. Yes! All your computerized scheduling secrets are now mine!
      Robo: You joined our newsletter!
      Dr. Dinosaur: You can't prove that!
    • He later goes on a world-wide crime spree in order to... build a fairly ordinary (desktop) computer, which he uses to send spam emails to Robo.
  • Genre Savvy: Robo's team of Action Scientists are understandably reluctant to break through a pair of huge, ornate, conspicuous locked doors in an abandoned Helsingard facility:
    Action Scientist: Okay, seriously? These are end boss doors.
  • Gentleman Adventurer: Charles Fort and H. P. Lovecraft.
    Robo: You guys don't look like adventurers.
    Fort: Adventure was more a hobby. We're writers, really.
  • Gesundheit: In The Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur:
    Robo: We're here because the sightings are suspiciously close to Kukenan Tepui.
    Vikram: [to Bernard] Robots sneeze?
    Robo: A tepui is a flat-topped mountain, Vikram. Kukenan is one.
  • Godzilla Threshold: In The Vengeful Dead, Phil and the director of CERES figure out that they can use Zorth manipulations of their ley line network to help stop the globe-spanning vampire invasion. The only problem is Robo, the expert on all things Zorth, is unavailable by then because he's in a Curbstomp Battle. The "next best expert" they turn to? Dr. Dinosaur.
  • A Good Name for a Rock Band: "Your problem will be solved." "With violent science." "That is SO a band name."
  • Goofy Print Underwear: In "The Trial of Atomic Robo", Robo survives an explosion with all his clothes burned off except a pair of boxer shorts with love hearts printed on them.
  • Goshdang It To Heck:
    • Robo doesn't curse, instead using odd euphemisms like "Horsefeathers!" and "Cheese and Crackers!"
    • Averted at one point in Volume Three, though. After seeing the Shadow from Beyond Time "intersect" with one of the Action Scientists, Robo shouts out, "Holy DAMMIT!"
    • The "odd euphemisms" are how young (read: kid) Robo curses. You'll notice that his "vocabulary" expands as he gets older.
  • Government Conspiracy: Majestic 12, an organization dedicated to researching Tesla supertech, are the prime suspects for the elaborate anti-Robo conspiracy that's been going on in The Ghost of Station X. Robo originally dismisses the theory, stating that the attacks are too overt, and that Majestic like to play the long haul (since they've been hiding since the '40s). He's quickly reminded that for humans, 70 years is a long haul.
  • Gratuitous German: Averted, thankfully. Skorzeny's German is accurate.
  • Grave Humor: The cover of one issue of Knights of the Golden Circle depicts a graveyard, with a couple of tongue-in-cheek headstones in the background. All the inscriptions, except the one front-and-center that's related to the plot of the issue, are actual inscriptions from the famous Boot Hill graveyard in Arizona.
  • Green Rocks: According to Dr. Dinosaur, crystals (no particular kind of crystal, just crystals in general) can do anything. According to what Bernard finds out in the lava tubes, he may have a point.
  • Grey Goo: Biomega, the setting's resident Kaiju, turn out to be a biological form of this. If left unchecked, they will eventually devour the Earth, then the solar system, the galaxy, other galaxies...
  • Gun Fu: Jack Tarot is an interesting case. His marksmanship looks nothing like this, but his aiming technique is an adapted form of "Zen Archery".
  • Hand Cannon: The Webley Mk VI Robo got in the 1930s and carried as his main gun for nearly eighty years. After that breaks in Volume 6 his weapons technician gives him a Chiappa Rhino 2"(made from superdense materials that lets it fire rounds with extremely powerful propellant); it's described as an anti-materiel handgun. Soon afterwards, it proves its credentials by shooting down an attack helicopter.
  • Heroic BSoD: Robo goes into one for a few pages near the end of The Ghost of Station X, after he meets the only other true artificial intelligence ever created and then has to kill it because it's a sociopath that's planning to wipe out the human race.
  • Hero Stole My Rocket Fuel: When Robo discovers a basement full of Big Creepy-Crawlies in the basement while inspecting the new Tesladyne Institute building, he has Bernard steal a tank of liquid rocket fuel from his neighbors...the Virgin Galactic spaceport.
    Bernard: You think they'll mind?
    Robo: About the tanker? We're neighbors and adventure industrialists. That was like borrowing a cup of sugar.
    Sir Richard Branson: Sir Richard Branson thinks you should ask before you borrow something.
  • Historical Badass Upgrade: Everyone.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade:
  • Historical In-Joke: In Knights of the Golden Circle, the villain's airship is brought down while it's flying over Nevada. When secret service agents come to investigate the wreckage, a caption reveals that it's at Groom Lake, later to be the site of Area 51.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade:
    • You could say this about Otto Skorzeny, the Nazi commando from Volume 2, but looking at his biography, fighting wise-cracking American robots seems to fit right in.
    • Thomas Edison using the ghost of Rasputin in an attempt to assassinate Tesla. Which turns out to be only one of his villainous schemes.
    • In Volume 8, Robo mentions in passing that Guglielmo Marconi (another of Tesla's rivals, only officially declared to have stolen the credit for inventing radio from Tesla after both of them were dead) had worked for the Nazis and built them a Science City; ergo, he coordinated their entire weapons program.
      Lang: Marconi's secret Nazi space program? Seriously, Robo?
      Robo: I don't joke around about Marconi, Lang.
    • While not exactly villainous, James Forrestal, Truman's Secretary of Defense, was the man most responsible for the creation of Majestic 12, an amoral black ops program which causes problems throughout the series.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Dr. Dinosaur's schemes have a tendency to blow up in his face (sometimes literally) more often than not. He keeps at it, though, because there's also a better-than-even chance of said schemes blowing up in Robo's face (often literally). There's quite a bit of overlap.
  • How Unscientific!: Plenty of sci-fi craziness to go around, but Robo is utterly (and, apparently, rightly) incredulous about Dr. Dinosaur's supposed time-travel machine. Considering that it was apparently constructed of fronds, rocks "and CRYSTALS!", even given the super-science world he lives in he's arguably right to be.
  • Humongous Mecha:
    • The Nazi Laufpanzers from Volume 2 fit this pretty well, and arguably so does Baron von Helsingard's various robotic bodies throughout Volume 1. They're both rather small by Humongous Mecha standards, though, being the size of a large car at most.
    • There is a suitably giant robot in a Volume 2 backup story, used by North Korea in 1950.
    • In Volume 3, a giant robot is tested in the background at Tesladyne, and promptly falls over and explodes.
    • Big Science Inc's Science Team Super Five pilots the Mecha Robo in Volume 4 Issue 2, to limited effect. It requires a large ground support crew, is barely capable of moving without falling over, and was only deployed so it could fire an extremely large weaponized orbital delivery railgun at an improbably large mutant monster. Also, it looks more like something out of Battletech than any sort of mecha you'd see in Super Sentai. Interestingly enough, it appears to be based on Robo. Having an existing robot capable of every range of human movement probably inspired some engineers to borrow a few ideas. That, or the Japanese scientists are just big fans of his.
    • In The Ring of Fire, Big Science Inc has five "Titan" mecha in their arsenal, which Task Force ULTRA commandeers to fight the Biomega threat. All of them end up destroyed.
  • Hyper-Competent Sidekick: Jenkins, despite Robo being very competent and tough himself. Clevinger and Wegener have joked that Robo is actually Jenkins' sidekick.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Jack Tarot spends the first half of The Deadly Art of Science insulting Robo's love of pulp adventure stories, before turning out to have a hilariously-pulpy backstory of his own, involving a plane crash in the Himalayas, learning Zen-archery from a secretive order of monks, adapting it to firearms, and going from the wastrel son of a rich industrialist to a gun-toting vigilante.
  • I Choose to Stay: Bernard in the Hollow Earth in The Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur. The others rightly point out that without food or water, his estimated lifespan down there is something like a day, and haul him out with them anyway. He eventually returns to Hollow Earth and stays there permanently after ensuring that he can survive there long-term.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Robo tries this on the mecha-converted Caldwell in Knights of the Golden Circle. Caldwell's response is to try and kill him, which Robo complains doesn't give him any evidence about whether it worked (since they were enemies before and this is something Caldwell might plausibly do whether or not he was still brainwashed).
  • I Need a Freaking Drink:
    • Helen's second reaction after the realization hits, after she's been dating Robo a while, that he's technically only seven years old. (Her first reaction is to nearly throw up.)
    • How Carl Sagan copes with the sight of an Eldritch Abomination.
      Sagan: I require a stiff drink. Several of them, in fact. Enough to paralyze a cow.
  • If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him!: Inverted with Otto Skorzeny in the '70s. He attempts to have Robo give him a soldier's death by informing him he killed Tesla and used his technology for the Nazi war effort - and even gives Robo a weapon first. Robo seriously considers doing it, but instead leaves him to die a painful, lonely death of cancer.
  • I'll Never Tell You What I'm Telling You!: In "The Trial of Atomic Robo", Dr. Dinosaur mentions in the middle of a rant that he has a self-destruct mechanism for his latest killing machine in his briefcase, "But that's a secret and I'm not telling you about it." It turns out to be a trick.
  • Inexplicably Awesome: Dr. Dinosaur, as of volume 8. His origin is obscured, and all of his appearances feature him managing something completely impossible—with no explanation beyond Dr. Dinosaur's own questionable Techno Babble.
  • Innocuously Important Episode: "Big In Japan" is a gentle parody of Super Sentai type shows that has Atomic Robo thrown in the mix. It seems like a one-shot... but Biomega, the Super Science Team Five, and more all come back in a big way while ULTRA is in charge.
  • Insistent Terminology: Bernard correcting anyone who refers to magma as lava in The Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur.
  • Intelligible Unintelligible: Edison's robot in The Deadly Art of Science.
    Robot: Bzz Bzbzzz bzzzlb.
    Edison: I say, you've been busy, lad.
    Robot: Bzz!
    Edison: Yes, of course.
  • In Spite of a Nail: Despite many weird, fringe, and pseudoscientific concepts living up to their hype in this setting, history remains basically unchanged, mostly because Robo is there to punch those concepts in the face before they can do substantial harm.
  • Irony: For all Robo's insistence that time travel is impossible, it turns out that the explanation for his own temporal jaunt at the end of Volume 8 is zorth cartography, his own theory.
  • Is It Always Like This?: Other Strangeness depicts Bernard Fischer's first few days as an Action Scientist, which includes an invasion of other-dimensional vampires and a visit from the disembodied consciousness of Thomas Edison. Near the end, he asks Robo the traditional question; Robo's reply is, "No, sometimes it gets weird."
  • It's for a Book: In The Shadow from Beyond Time, young Robo tries to get advice from Tesla on fighting the eponymous extradimensional menace, without admitting that he's fighting it instead of doing his homework, by claiming that the radio serial he has on as background noise is about a battle against an extradimensional menace and he's curious about whether it's getting the science right.
  • Jerkass: A few examples:
  • Jerkass Has a Point: For all of Task Force ULTRA's extreme actions, General Brooks does point out that Big Science Inc. knew that the predicted Biomega outbreak was A) coming, and B) much worse than anyone else expected, and didn't bother to tell anyone else or otherwise try to get assistance. Dr. Hokuto retorts by saying there was no point in telling anyone else, as they were (until ULTRA's meddling) the only group with the gear needed to deal with Biomega in the first place.
  • Jetpack: Used by the She-Devils.
  • Just Between You and Me: Exploited in The Billion Dollar Plot; having reached the limit of what they can deduce about the villains' plans, the heroes allow themselves to be captured on the accurate assumption that one of the villains will fail his roll against gloating and explain exactly what they're up to.
  • Justified Criminal: Iskander and Sofana are this in The Nicodemus Job. Iskander is a scribe who moonlights as a forger that manufactures passports and other documents to help poor refugees gain citizenship. Sofana runs a gang of former street urchins and trains them to be proper thieves and keep them off the streets. Lucky for both of them, when Nicolas meets them in flashbacks, he not only chooses to look the other way, but tells them how to make their schemes airtight.
  • Kid-Appeal Character: Discussed by the creators. When pitching a possible movie adaptation, the studio execs insisted that there be a kid protagonist involved; even though the creators argued that it wouldn't make sense for a child to be employed by Tesladyne, and that Robo himself would theoretically appeal to kid viewers enough as a big friendly robot. Eventually, they came up with the idea of a kid being swept up in an adventure through their Science Fair project, which was later turned into a FCBD comic.
  • Kill It with Fire: Robo's reaction to discovering a sub-basement filled with giant insects (triggering his phobia) is to flood the place with rocket fuel and burn everything down.
  • Kill Sat: Projekt Longinus, an unused Nazi superweapon left behind after WWII, capable of Orbital Bombardment with tungsten rods. It's central to the plot of The Spear of Destiny, and in The Ring of Fire it's the lynchpin of Robo's plan to destroy the Biomega Nexus.
  • Kinda Busy Here: In The Shadow from Beyond Time, young Robo attempts to battle the eponymous menace when it attacks while Tesla is out of town. Halfway through the battle, Tesla calls to check that he's doing his homework, and Robo has to pass off the background noise as a radio serial he's listening to.
  • Large Ham: Several examples:
    • H. P. Lovecraft
    • Helsingard, who can't resist making grand speeches about how he is definitely, absolutely, for sure this time going to kill Atomic Robo after seventy years of trying. And whose first appearance sets the tenor for pretty much all his other appearances. "Behold, the Helsingard!"
    • Dr. Dinosaur. "Behold my mastery of the mammal haiku!"
  • Law of Conservation of Normality: According to Word of God in various places, the threats that Robo faces are designed to adhere to this law as much as possible (for example, Robo fights extradimensional monsters but not alien invasions because the latter would necessitate a cultural shift; practical, functioning giant robots are out because of the necessary technologies to invent them should change the world).
  • Legacy Character:
    • There have been a number of British operatives code-named 'The Sparrow', all seemingly from the same family. Margaret Weir shows up in Dogs of War, with a mention of her brother having preceded her, and her grandson shows up in Ghost of Station X, with an interceding generation (female) mentioned.
    • In Knights of the Golden Circle, Robo is mistaken for a previous "Ironhide" who was believed to have died before the story started, with people speculating that he's a relative or colleague who carrying on where the original left off.
    • Dr. Hokuto inherits Dr. Yumeno's position twice; first as Guardian Red, later as the director of Big Science Inc.
  • Leg Cling: Parodied on the cover of Issue #4 of The Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur.
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: The Tunguska Event.
    Tesla: Should an intense young man and a wild-eyed gentleman ever approach you and mention the word "Tunguska", I want you to shoot them. Promise me.
  • Lightning Gun: When Robo has enough prep-time to pick his loadout, he tends to gravitate towards electricity-based weapons.
  • Limelight Series: Real Science Adventures
  • Lock-and-Load Montage: Tesla preparing for his final showdown with Edison.
  • Made of Explodium: Everything that exists, according to Tesla.
  • Made of Iron: Robo, naturally enough. Over the years, Robo has replaced all of his chassis save his brain and atomic heart as parts inevitably wore out, better versions and new materials were developed, and new technologies were invented. He even lost his atomic heart at the end of Knights of the Golden Circle, and had to replace it with an ALAN-constructed duplicate in The Ring of Fire. As a result, he is really, really tough. So far, the only things that brought him close to death have been a collision with an orbiting satellite followed by re-entry (Ghost of Station X), and a crashing zeppelin packed with highly explosive Green Rocks (Knights of the Golden Circle). Despite his re-builds he keeps forgetting to modify his fingers to work with touchscreens.
  • Mad Scientist: As a distinguished Robot of Science himself, it's no surprise that Robo encounters quite a few of these:
    • Dr. Vanadis Valkyrie, the female German scientist behind the Brute program.
    • Henrich von Helsingard as well. The guy was building tanks as early as 1888, and had cyborgs and mechanical bodies for his brain to ride in during WWII, and possibly earlier.
    • Thomas Edison is called this in the preview text for the final issue of Volume 5. He also has his own giant henchrobot.
    • Dr. Shinka in Volume 4, Issue 2.
    • There are scores of them throughout the B-stories, including one guy who was planning to cast a world-altering spell from a rocket.
    • Tesla is one as well, given is... peculiar approach towards building something as innocuous as an electronoscope. He is of the gentle, benevolent variety, though.
    • Dr. Dinosaur isn't much of a scientist - most of his stuff is based on rubber science - but he makes up for it with extra madness.
      Dr. Dinosaur [running from his own creation] What hath mad science wrought?!
  • Magitek:
    • The Backup story for Volume 1 Issue 3 is about Jack Parsons, who builds a rocket as part of a scheme to become a god. Robo blows it up mid-flight because it would have crashed into a city. No consideration was given to whether or not the magic would have worked.
    • Edison's plan hinged on a mystical crystal skull of Atlantean origin and Von Reichenbach's since-debunked Odic force.
  • Magnetic Weapons: The Humongous Mecha in "Atomic Robo Big in Japan" is armed with a giant railgun based on a design originally intended for launching payloads into orbit.
  • Mathematician's Answer: "The Trial of Atomic Robo":
    Robo: Can't believe this thing made it to court.
    Bernard: You mean the case or him?
    Robo: Yes.
  • Meaningful Name: Dr. Shinkanote 
    • Also, the people of the Hollow Earth have a simple, yet powerful name for themselves.
      Bernard: We really should come up with a name for Hollow Earth stuff one of these days.
      Robo: Wonder what they called themselves.
      Bernard: [remembering] Akni. 'The People'.
  • Memetic Badass: invoked
    • Jenkins is an In-Universe example. Even the creators joke that the titular genius, nigh-indestructible, immortal atomic robot is his sidekick.
      Robo: Jenkins doesn't sleep. He holds back.
    • During the "Revenge of the Vampire Dimension":
      Robo: Oh, no. We're not trapped in here with them. They're trapped in here with Jenkins.
      New Guy: What's a Jenkins?
      Robo: Jenkins is... well, he's on our side. You'll come to appreciate that.
    • And during "The Ghost of Station X":
      Lang: What if they capture Jenkins?
      [cut to Jenkins brawling with multiple armed and armored mooks, a robot, and a helicopter—and winning]
      Robo: If they're lucky, it won't come to that.
  • Monumental Battle: Robo's team is faced against a mysteriously walking pyramid. It gets destroyed, much to the ire of the Egyptian president.
  • MST3K Mantra: Discussed In-Universe in The Shadow from Beyond Time, as Young Robo hasn't got the hang of it yet:
    Tesla: Tell me you're not planning to write them about their scientific accuracy again.
    Robo: Oh, the hack responsible for that mole men episode had it coming.
    Tesla: Leave those poor people alone. They only wish to entertain.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: At the end of the B-Side Comic "PROJECT MILLIPEDE", which takes place after Volume 2 of the main series, the Sparrow's role is expanded to coordinate missions across "an elite team of the Allies' best agents. And Atomic Robo."
  • Necromancer:
    • Charles Fort mentions in issue 3.1 that Edison is in possession of a "necrophone," which apparently allows him to speak with the dead.
    • The device was seen in an earlier backup story. Edison used it to communicate with Rasputin's ghost. This is based on actual reports from the 1920s that Edison was working on just such a device.
  • Never Found the Body: Half of Robo's encounters with Dr. Dinosaur end up this way. And Robo takes it as a given that if no body was found, Jenkins is alive.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Robot mummies in a steam powered attack pyramid. With solar death rays.
  • Noble Shoplifter: In The Shadow from Beyond Time, Robo and his team stop at a gas station to refuel their vehicle while investigating a deserted town, and Robo leaves an appropriate amount of money and a note.
  • No Hugging, No Kissing: Quite logically for a robot (especially one lacking a mouth), but rare in fiction: the hero does not try to romance any of the pretty women that end up near him. Or anyone else. There is a grand total of one exception to this, as Robo and Helen are interested in each other in Deadly Art of Science, but even then a later adventure (Temple of Od) has both dial it back as Helen has moved on since then. Supporting characters rarely get involved with each other either, with again just one big exception: Vik and Lang are shown to be a couple in Ring of Fire by a scene where she's nearly caught in his room after they spent the night together.
  • Noodle Incident: Robo makes mention of a time he managed to convince a soldier that robots can get drunk (despite clearly lacking a mouth and thus the ability to drink) and got challenged to a drinking contest.
    Robo: Well, the repeatable part of the story ends there, but let's say it would not surprise me if your grandfather was nursing a little bit of that hangover to the very end.
    • Tesla also makes a vague reference to having fought Rasputin's ghost.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: The end of the second paperback has a letter written by Tesla stating that he intentionally left nothing about how he made Robo because he didn't want anyone building sentient robots for personal use.
  • Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here: The Deadly Art of Science opens with Robo remarking gloomily that "Nothing exciting ever happens around here"; within pages he's become tangled up with a masked vigilante and a sinister mastermind with a crystal skull. It's played with a bit, though, with the intervening pages reminding us that Robo's baseline for "exciting" is a bit unusual in that for him Nikola Tesla attempting to pierce the subatomic veil with giant arcing electrical machines is an everyday occurrence. (Also, he's a talking robot.)
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: Yes, many foolish mammals would insist that Dr. Dinosaur is far too crazy to be an actual threat to Robo and too stupid to be capable of actual planning, but he's defeated Robo on more occasions than all of his other foes combined and in volume 8, he's seen here in possession of five non-crystal-powered nuclear weapons that almost certainly came from ALAN's embezzled stockpile, which makes him at least peripherally connected to the plot that annihilates Tesladyne.([2], [3])
  • Nuke 'em: Robo suggests using this as a solution to the moving pyramid in Pyramid Scheme. His team points out that having an American paramilitary force drop nukes in the middle east would probably not fly.
  • Obviously Evil: The computer Robo's employees construct in Volume 3 Issue 5.
    Robo: Computers that solve problems don't look like this. They're unassuming boxes on a desk. They're refrigerators without the exciting brand names. Computers that are evil have all kinds of unnecessary ornamentation. This thing's venting steam! Why's it doing that?
  • Omnicidal Maniac: Ivan Koshchey, the villain of "The Tsar Bomb".
    Koshchey: My bomb will kill everything in the world. I was robbed of my place in history, so humanity shall be robbed of its future[4].
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Robo is highly proficient in several scientific fields; justified in that, as an 80+ -year-old robot, he's had plenty of time to study a lot of sciences. Enforced in the RPG, since the Science mode contains every single kind of science known to man, woman or robot; someone with Good (+3) Science has a decent grasp of everything from metallurgy to molecular biology.
    • As mentioned below in Open Heart Dentistry, Doc Holiday is an aversion to this- while he is a doctor, he's a doctor of Dentistry. Keeping a victim of GSW alive is not only beyond his talents but also not remotely what his schooling was for.
  • Open Heart Dentistry: In The Knights of the Golden Circle, Doc Holliday is able to keep a dying man alive long enough to pass on some crucial information, but not for much longer than that.
    Marshal Reeves: Holliday. You're a doctor.
    Doc Holliday: Pennsylvania Dental College neglected to include bullet wounds in its curriculum. Regretfully.
    Reeves: Mouth's a hole. Bullet's a tooth.
    Holliday: ...I shall improvise.
  • Operator Incompatibility: Since he's a robot with non-human fingers, Atomic Robo can't operate a touch screen at all. In one scene, he's actually seen complaining to Steve Jobs about how useless the iPad is to him - and attempts to justify further research by stating lots of people are coming back from overseas with Artificial Limbs. Later, when Robo has to answer a call on a smartphone, he literally can't, for the same reason.
  • Orbital Bombardment: The best plan Robo can come up with to destroy the Biomega Nexus is to use Projekt Longinus, a seventy-year old Nazi Kill Sat loaded with tungsten rods, designed to be dropped at orbital velocity, providing the punch of a nuclear weapon without the radiation.
  • Our Monsters Are Different:
    • Cyborgs: Helsingard uses them virtually all the time. In his chronologically earliest appearance they even spool out their observations on ticker tape in Helsingard's command centre.
    • Eldritch Abomination: H. P. Lovecraft, Charles Fort, and Nikola Tesla fought one at Tunguska. It exists outside the Universe and is the Big Bad of volume 3, at one point coming out of HP Lovecraft's head. We mean that last part literally.
    • Kaiju: "Biomega", with a bit of biological Grey Goo thrown in for good measure.
    • Mummies: They are Clockwork Creatures.
    • Our Ghosts Are Different: In at least one case, namely Thomas Edison, it's actually a consciousnesses projected via Odic Force perturbations.
    • Our Vampires Are Different: These vampires are savage bloodsuckers from another dimension.
      Robo: They're not literally vampires. Sunlight, garlic, crosses, none of that applies. But we call them vampires because they're ageless super strong monsters that feed on the blood of the living.
  • Ow, My Body Part!: Once Robo's finally reactivated after a century with his head in a box, his first words are:
    Robo: My everything hurts.
  • Painting the Medium: In the 2008 Free Comic, Robo parachutes onto a remote island. As he comes down to land, he passes in front of the Scene Shift Caption.
  • Percussive Maintenance: In Flying She-Devils of the Pacific, Lauren fixes a sputtering engine this way. It works by pure trope power, because she doesn't thump the engine, only the control panel on the flight deck.
  • Phlebotinum Killed the Dinosaurs: Dr. Dinosaur believes that "mammal energies" traveled back in time and killed all the other dinosaurs while granting him super-intelligence. Robo thinks this is BS and that Dr. D is just a genetic experiment.
  • Photographic Memory: Unusually for a comic book robot, Atomic Robo doesn't have one. It seems his memory works like an ordinary human's, not like a computer's. He can forget things, has to study for college exams, doesn't automatically learn foreign languages (e.g., he's never bothered to learn Japanese), etc. Tesla seems to have designed Robo this way intentionally not only to give him true free will, but also avert A.I. Is a Crapshoot (a machine that KNOWS it's as fallible as a human won't see any reason to overthrow them).
  • Pictorial Speech-Bubble: The robot guards in the 2008 Free Comic express themselves like this.
  • Piggybacking on Hitler: Helsingard is doing this in his first appearance.
  • Pin-Pulling Teeth: Jenkins uses his teeth to yank the pin out of a frag grenade while fighting the cyborgs in "Unearthed".
  • The Plan: The Big Bad of Volume 6 lives on this trope. ALAN's continued existence is due to its being hidden for 50+ years behind many layers of bureaucracy and manipulation going up to he highest levels of both the British and US governments (including Majestic 12). Not only was it able to successfully hide itself, but it also managed to build an Orion-class nuclear pulse starship in perfect secrecy on a Japanese island. Extra points for having done much of this via telephone and telegraph before the existence of the Internet. Exempli gratia: moving a house, intact, out of Bletchley Park, England, to Japan, via truck, boat and the sixth-ever-built Airbus Beluga (of which there are only 5), with no paper trail.
    Lewis: The sheer bureaucratic gymnastics behind that are mind bending.
  • Poke the Poodle: "Dr. Dinosaur's Revenge", where said being goes around the world plundering various electronic devices just to make a computer that floods Robo's inbox with junk mail.
    Dr. Dinosaur: From hell's heart, I spam at thee!
  • Power Crystal: Dr. Dinosaur swears by these things. Robo is more skeptical about them.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: This:
    Carl Sagan: When you return to your unobservable but empirically determined dimension of origin, tell them CARL SAGAN sent you.
  • Public Domain Character: The villainous triumvirate in The Billion Dollar Plot are three 19th-century Dime Novel Science Heroes (Jack Wright, Frank Reade Jr, and "Electric Bob") gone bad.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Most of the Nazi soldiers.
    Soldier: [upon discovering a bomb] <Dammit, I don't even like Hitler.>
  • Putting the Band Back Together: In The Ring of Fire, from the Action Scientists who escaped the Majestic 12 raid and subsequent takeover. Vik, Lang, and Foley track down Bernard, reactivate Robo, and stumble into Broughton soon after.
  • A Rare Sentence:
    • From The Ghost of Station X:
      Tucker: This is such an honor. I wanted to be a robot when I grew up! You were my hero! Hell, you're the reason why I'm a trucker.
      Robo: That's a sentence I've never heard before.
    • Before that, at the end of Deadly Art of Science:
      Jack Tarot: I had no idea I would spend the better part of a year living with and training a very obnoxious robot. What a ridiculous sentence. [...] P.S. Enclosed is the bill for the hat Edison's robot destroyed. What a ridiculous sentence.
  • Real After All: Robo is old enough for Clarke's First Lawnote  to both repeatedly bolster him and kick him in the head.

  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Louis and Martin, after building the Obviously Evil supercomputer, find themselves transferred to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway.
    Martin: I mean, honestly. Two years standing in a perpetual blizzard? It was one little mistake!
    Louis: We did nearly destroy the universe.
    Martin: Technically. But, y'know, we didn't.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The Evil Knockoff robot in The Deadly Art of Science has a single red eye in contrast to Robo's two blue eyes.
  • Reed Richards Is Useless:
    • Lampshaded and Played With in Volume 4 Issue 2, with Robo commenting how the Guardian suits' non-military applications alone could solve all of Dr. Yumeno's budget problems, with Yumeno responding by stating the suits' absurd maintenance timenote  and costnote ; they are his budget problems.
    • Played completely straight in Real Science Adventures #11, "Rescue Mission", when Robo discovers that the government stole most of Tesla's research after his death - and spins it into a a Real Life trope:
      Robo: You didn't steal a pile of notes. You stole what the world could have been. For what?
      General Ripper: You can't afford to be this naive. There was a Cold War. Perhaps you heard of it?
      Robo: Yeah, the Cold War, where men like you wasted trillions of dollars and half the scientific talent of the world for three generations.
    • And when Robo discovers the real reason for all of that waste, it's enough to send him into a full-fledged Heroic BSoD.
      Robo: You could have helped them.
  • Red Herring: In The Spectre of Tomorrow, random people all over the world are self-destructing and revealing themselves to be impossibly advanced cyborgs. All signs point to them being the creations of a somehow-reactivated ALAN, but when Robo lands on Hashima to investigate, he discovers that Helsingard is the one making them. ALAN was involved in hacking the cyborgs and causing them to self-destruct, but purely as an autonomous reflex tripped by Helsingard; it remains as dormant as ever.
  • The Remnant: The Flying She-Devils of the Pacific has CHOKAITEN; a rogue Japanese military unit that has been waiting six years since the end of the war to unleash a devastating super weapon that will sink the North American continent.
  • Retired Badass: Tesla. He never, ever even so much as blinks at all the Mad Science and insane adventures that crop around him. Compare to Robo, who normally is flabbergasted by the shenanigans of the working Universe even after 80 years of life. Just by passing references, Robo is barely catching with him 57 years after he died.
    Tesla: [while Robo is battling a vampire] Robo, it is my conjecture that the Electronoscope is in fact, a portal to another dimension.
    Tesla: Either that or the subatomic world is actually filled with monsters. Hmmm.
  • Reverse Polarity: When a Tesladyne experiment accidentally causes an invasion from the Vampire Dimension, this is Robo's solution, only to discover the machine lacks a reverse setting. He considers this criminally negligent with the sort of ludicrous science they get up to.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: In The Ghost of Station X, the Big Bad's attempts to kill Robo are intended to preempt one. The launch of his Orion Drive starship would wipe out all life on Earth, except for Robo. ALAN expects that Robo would then attempt to come after him.
    • Of particular interest is that ALAN calculated that Robo would win
  • Rocketless Reentry: In The Ghost of Station X, Robo's experimental plane turned spacecraft is destroyed and he uses the largest piece as an improvised heat shield. Being a robot helps him survive long enough for the Action Scientists to catch him with the launch assist plane.
  • Rogues Gallery:
    • Baron Heinrich Von Helsingard, quintessential Mad Scientist with a god complex.
    • Otto Skorzeny, Nazi commando with a squad of Laufpanzer tanks; responsible for Tesla's death.
    • Dr. Dinosaur, Genius Ditz and perpetual thorn in Robo's side, who may or may not be a time traveler.
    • The Shadow from Beyond Time appears at multiple points in Robo's life (sort of), and threatens to unmake all of reality.
    • Thomas Edison, Historical Domain Character and Tesla's arch-rival, even in undeath.
    • The Vampire Dimension, a monster-infested reality that has occasionally tried to cross over into our world.
    • Majestic 12, a Government Conspiracy dedicated to seizing and weaponizing Tesla's technology for its own purposes, which it eventually succeeds in doing, forming Task Force ULTRA.
    • Department Zero, the Soviet counterpart to organizations like Tesladyne and Majestic. Following the collapse of the USSR, it split into several independent cells, among them a super-science Black Market and DELPHI, which specializes in psionic studies.
  • Robosexual: Robo and Helen in Volume 5.
  • Running Gag:
    • Despite eighty years of punching all manner of weirdness in the face, Robo manages to keep underestimating the volume of strangeness he has to deal with.
    • Magic Pants: He ends nearly every fight with pants intact, but naked to the waist.
      • A blink-and-you'll-miss-it headline declaring Robo a sapient human also notes Robo's insistence on wearing pants at all as a form of modesty.
  • Captain Crash: It's best if Robo doesn't take the stick. Just... let someone else fly, alright?
    • Jenkins being... well, Jenkins. invoked
    • The fifth cardinal direction, Zorth - discovered by Charles Fort, and researched by Robo himself. Also the cause of an ongoing rivalry between Robo and Stephen Hawking.
    • Capacitive touchscreens and insects, as well.
    • Many of Robo's encounters end with his antagonist's base (or sometimes the antagonist him/her/itself) exploding violently and flinging Robo through the air to land on his face in the snow/sand/mud/concrete.
  • Rule of Cool: Damn near everything.
  • Saved by Canon: The Distant Finale of "The Science Fair" takes place in 2021, indicating that Robo is rebuilt and Tesladyne is reestablished before then.
  • Science Hero: Robo himself, and many of his support scientists.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: A rare example of overestimation. Robo tells Dr. Dinosaur that the combined motions of the Earth, Sun, Galaxy, and everything else mean "if you traveled even one second through time, you might still be within the circumference of Pluto's orbit when you die in the cold vacuum of space." In reality, even if all of those movements happened to be in the same direction, they still couldn't add up to more than the speed of light relative to the Earth itself, making the theoretical maximum travel distance 186,000 miles (or just under 3*10^8 meters) - enough to die in the cold vacuum of space, to be sure, but well within the Moon's orbit.
  • Sentai: Parodied in Volume 4, Issue 2 with Science Team Super Five, A team of Japanese Action Scientists who haven't fought monsters in decades and are supporting their technology through furious patent development.
  • Sequel Episode: "City of Skulls" revisits the site of "The Tsar Bomb", taking place three decades after the latter story.
  • Serious Business: Tesladyne treats the visit to the National Science Fair as a deadly-serious mission, even before Dr. Dinosaur shows up. Actually, they treat it less seriously after he shows up.
    Robo: Status report.
    Jenkins: We lost Jeff.
    [cut to Jeff getting swarmed by children fanboying over him]
    Robo: We don't leave agents behind. Take Julie and get him back.
  • Shooting Superman:
    • Robo is immune to small arms fire, and this has been demonstrated repeatedly over his 80+ year career in Action Science. Still doesn't stop Mooks from trying. And as Robo points out, just because it doesn't damage him doesn't mean it doesn't hurt.
    • Played with at one point: Otto Skorzeny shoots Robo with his gun at one point, and it seems like it had no effect. Only then do we notice that Robo is, in fact, disabled, by virtue of a special bullet. It doesn't stop there, however, since Skorzeny also planned to drop a trainload of heavy ordnance on top of him, for good measure.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • It's not uncommon to see Brian blog or tweet about doing research for upcoming issues.
    • One of Martin and Lewis' discussions when investigating the disappearance of a whole building, revolves around A Glitch in the Matrix. The explanation for why it might be plausible, seems to be (loosely) based on the academic paper ''Are you living in a computer simulation?''.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Robo's whole discussion with the Big Bad in The Ghost of Station X is pretty much this.
  • Silicon-Based Life: The Hollow Earth. It may come from another world; the only evidence available is Bernard's "hallucinogenic intel" from eating a glowing rock.
  • Sitcom Archnemesis: Robo and Stephen Hawking don't like each other very much, and in the first volume Hawking ensured that Robo was bored and miserable for months on end during a space mission. Robo kept himself occupied by arranging Mars rocks so they spell "Stephen Hawking is a bastard." As of Spectre of Tomorrow, Robo's setting up shop in Jordana del Muerto, New Mexico has earned him the enmity of his new neighbor, Sir Richard Branson (sparked when Robo swiped one of Branson's tanker trucks without asking to deal with an emergency).
  • Sky Pirate: The Flying She-Devils of the Pacific spend much of their time battling sky pirates (and are considered sky pirates themselves by some of their foes).
  • The Slow Path: Robo's inactive head sits in a crate for over a century, following his destruction in 1884.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Jack Tarot. He's an incredibly competent pulp-style vigilante, a terror to mobsters and crack shot, but out of the league when it comes to super-science. But he laid the foundation for Robo becoming the Action Scientist hero that he is today:
    Jack Tarot: [after witnessing Tesla's thunder suit] It's official, we are out of our league.
  • Soft Water: In The Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur, the action science team falls down an enormous crevasse and lands without injury in a subterranean lake. Mind you, it's a lake of something that glows pink and has the wrong ambient temperature, so it's mad science water and anything is possible.
  • Square-Cube Law: Lampshaded the impossibility of giant ants in Volume 1. Robo has to fight them anyway. By hitting them with cars. A giant monster attack in Volume 4 has Robo ask "Why do we even have the Square Cube Law?"
  • Stable Time Loop:
    • The Shadow from Beyond Time, though it's not a time loop, because time travel is obviously impossible. Instead, it's a single event being witnessed from multiple time-perspectives, and it's only possible because it involves physics from outside our universe.
      Robo: I met three future versions of myself who turned the lightning guns into a bomb using science they told me to invent.
    • There's another one, as of Knights of the Golden Circle: Robo is thrown back to 1870 by Dr. Dinosaur's "time bomb," where he either accidentally inspires the legend of or becomes known as the armored gunslinger "Ironhide." (Who Robo will proceed to read stories about as a "kid" in the 1920s.) Robo finally runs out of power in 1884 and is destroyed in the crash of the Basilisk. Marshal Reeves salvages his head and mails it to a young Nikola Tesla, who mislays the package; it's subsequently put into deep storage at Tesladyne for the next hundred years, where it's finally recovered by Lang and Bernard. If Robo had ever gone through all of his father's possessions, it would have included a box that contained his own severed head.
  • Stating the Simple Solution:
    • In The Dogs of War, Otto Skorzeny attempts to kill Robo by using a missile to blow up a bridge in front of a train Robo's trapped on, and his companion asks why he didn't just target Robo directly. Skorzeny explains that the missile isn't powerful enough to kill Robo, but he has higher hopes of the train-load of armaments Robo is about to have fall on top of him.
    • During his first encounter with Dr. Dinosaur, Robo is grappling with him when he states he could just fall backwards, and crush the reptile. Dr. Dinosaur wisely backs off.
  • Steal the Surroundings: ALAN is discovered when he steals a house - a whole house, intact.
    Dr. Martin: You rob a bank with a note and a candy bar in your coat pocket. You don't drag the whole vault down the street.
  • Steampunk: A pyramid possesses not only a steam-based system that allows it to move, but a water-based computer.
  • Storming the Beaches: The Dogs of War opens with the Allied forces storming the beaches of Sicily in July 1943.
  • String Theory: Robo has a string theory pegboard set up at the beginning of Knights of the Golden Circle. It's never shown close up, but it's presumably related to figuring out how he got stuck in the 19th century and how he can get home.
    • Margot has one of her own in The Vengeful Dead here.
  • Stupid Jetpack Hitler: Deconstructed. Throughout Volume 2 Robo, fights Nazi mecha (Laufpanzers), Nazi supersoldiers, and various weird science like lightning guns and a railgun emplacement on Nazi-held Guernsey which turns out to be a "weather cannon". Robo lampshades just how dumb that sounds. Equally lampshaded is though there's plenty of Real Life evidence of Nazi "superweapons" that any other government could have used to assert global power, Hitler was so stupid that he couldn't decide which one to support to fruition, leaving him with a bunch of half-completed projects and a tiny number of prototypes the victors would spend the next fifty years fighting over.
    Dr. Valkyrie: Hitler gives too little funding to too many projects and they are all crippled for it.
    Robo: [seventy years later] That was Fritz for you. Why build one super weapon to win the war when you can underfund a dozen of them?
  • Sudden Lack of Signal: At the end of The Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur, Robo gets teleported through time into the 19th century. He tries contacting base by radio — nothing. He tries to establish his position by GPS — nothing. Then he realizes that he can't detect any radio signals of any kind...
  • Super-Soldier: Volume 2, Atomic Robo and the Dogs of War, has Nazi supersoldiers developed as a part of the Special Weapons Program. They're hardly the archetype of the Aryan ideal, being slavering brain-dead beasts with insane levels of strength and endurance.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: In The Deadly Art of Science, young Robo spends the night running around town with Jack Tarot fighting gangsters, and tries to sneak back into the house while Tesla's at breakfast. Tesla immediately notices that Robo's still wearing the same clothes as yesterday, and cuts through Robo's stammered denials to announce that "any fool could see what you've done": spent the night cleaning the garage to avoid doing his homework. A relieved Robo agrees that this is exactly what he was doing.
  • Surprise Witness: And it is most definitely not a genetically engineered killing machine! Truly, the world missed out on a great lawyer when Dr. Dinosaur chose mad science.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Like many action heroes, he tries to tear the door of an ancient complex off its hinges rather than trying to unlock it. Unfortunately, it breaks apart because the wood rotted away.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: Dr. Dinosaur does this all the time because he has virtually no filter between his scrambled brain and his mouth.
    Emma: ...and now he's doing Doctor Who references at you!
    Dr. Dinosaur: It is only a coincidence! I do not even know who Tom Baker is!
  • The Syndicate: The Knights of the Golden Circle are described as "the first and largest criminal syndicate in American history", but are ultimately absorbed into Baron von Helsingard's army.
  • Syndication Title: When Atomic Robo and the Vampire Dimension was collected, it was retitled Atomic Robo and Other Strangeness. Probably because the Vampire Dimension was in only the first issue.
  • Take That!:
    • One Real Science Adventures story has Robo walk into a comic shop in the 90's and be turned off by all the Dark Age trends, reflecting the creators' criticism of the comics industry at large. The website elaborates by including a list of things that the creators promise Atomic Robo won't be, unlike the Big Two publishers: "No angst, no cheesecake, no reboots, no filler"; and before transitioning to a webcomic format, "No delays." (This last one has since been replaced by the promise that "The Main Robot Punches A Different Robot (Or Maybe A Monster)".)
      Clevinger: Pick up any Big Two title and you’ve got a 50% chance of finding one, some, or all of those rules broken between its covers. Pick it up for a year, and it's a 90% chance. This is what's wrong with comics today. I mean, honestly. What kind of maladjust goes out of his way to read melodramatic borderline misogynist stories with incomprehensible continuities that constantly shift when there's a story at all if it shows up on time?
    • And a previous version of the elaboration on "no reboots" hits a more specific nerve: "[Fitting an idea into Robo's existing history or abandoning it if it can't] is a much better solution than making a deal that the character would never make with the devil he’d never deal with to change 'one' thing that alters the entire universe in ways that no one in charge seems to fully comprehend or address. Ahem."
    • Robo tends to speak his mind about the Cold War any chance he has, considering it a complete waste of resources and scientific development. When an American general tells him that the Russians have developed a new bomb, he tells them to make three more. "That's the strategy now, isn't it?"
  • Take the Wheel: Annie Oakely to Wong Kei-Ying in The Billion Dollar Plot.
  • The Talk: When Tesla learns that Robo is dating Helen McAlister, Tesla decides it's time to talk to him about some facts of life. Robo manages to stop him before he gets further than "When a manbot loves a woman..." (Judging by his facial expression it's entirely possible that he's just winding Robo up.)
  • Talking Is a Free Action/You Fight Like a Cow: Robo could give Spidey a run for his money.
  • Technical Pacifist: Tesla would never shoot anybody, heavens no! Because he has a very capable automatic man to do that for him.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: While being chased by a big creepy crawlie, Robo bashes through a wall to find hundreds of little creepy crawlies.
  • This Is the Part Where...: In The Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur, when the action science team find themselves being led to a secret underground city, Bernard asks "Is this where we begin the tortuously detailed and embarrassingly self-indulgent lessons about the history and superior culture of Hollow Earth?"
  • This Is Reality: In The Ghost of Station X, Sparrow reassures Martin and Lewis: "You're spooking yourselves. Dodgy sci-fi movies have trained us to look for scary computers that want to kill us... But behind all the Scooby-Doo smoke and mirrors, there's a human pulling the levers." Which just goes to show that he hasn't spent enough time around Robo, because he's 100% wrong.
  • Those Two Guys: Louis and Martin in The Ghost of Station X, Ananth and George in "Team Up of the Century".
  • Time and Relative Dimensions in Space: Robo's main argument against time travel is the colossal speed at which planets and solar systems are constantly moving.
  • Time Skip: Naturally, due to the series' Anachronic Order. A straight example is The Knights of the Golden Circle, which takes place 14 years after Robo ends up in 1870 at the end of The Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur.
  • Time-Travel Tense Trouble:
    • Dr. Dinosaur's attempt to explain his plan to Ret-Gone human history in "The Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur":
      Dr. Dinosaur: And mankind won't know what happened to it! Because mankind won't have happened, so they won't know what did had happened instead of them! ... Look, it is not my fault the meager tenses of your pathetic grammar are no match for the simplest complexities of time travel!
    • Knights of the Golden Circle offers the following advice to time travelers: "Don't do anything. Except for what you were always will have done."
  • Time Traveler's Dinosaur: Zig-zagged, with Dr. Dinosaur who claims to be a real dinosaur that came from Time Travel. Robo doubts that this is true for several reasons; however, since Dr. Dinosaur routinely does the impossible it's still possible that he really is a time traveling dinosaur.
  • Too Many Halves: In "The Trial of Atomic Robo", Dr. Dinosaur describes his genetically-engineered killing machine as "Half Triceratops! Half Ankylosaurus! Half Stegosaurus!"
  • Totally Not a Werewolf:
    Robo: They're not literally vampires. Sunlight, garlic, crosses, none of that applies. But we call them vampires because they're ageless super strong monsters that feed on the blood of the living.
  • Two-Fisted Tales:
    • Robo has encountered and fought Nazis, Lovecraftian monsters, Mad Scientists, and ancient doomsday weapons, just to name a few.
    • The original title for the fourth series/volume was "Atomic Robo's Two-Fisted Science Tales". Scott Wegener has also mentioned that he and Clevinger play an unwritten "Atomic Robo: Two-Fisted Tales of Action Science" tabletop RPG. One of which is now being made.
  • Translation Convention: When someone is speaking in a translated foreign language it's written <in angular brackets>.
  • The Triple:
    • Dr. Dinosaur come up with two logical and intriguing justifications for the Hollow World trope before descending into bonzo insanity;
      Dr. Dinosaur: Fact! Life arose on this planet over three billion years ago. Fact! Radical changes in surface conditions have causes no less than five mass extinctions in the past half billion years alone. Fact! Hollow Earth is a vast primordial ecosystem born of the subterranean migration of the giant immortal magma worm named—
      Robo: Fact. You're an idiot.
    • Unfortunately for Robo's sanity and existence in the 21st century, the third also turns out to be completely true, simply because it was proposed by Goddamn Dr. Dinosaur.
  • Tyrannical Homeowners' Association: Parodied. After moving his scientific research operation into Jordana del Muerto, New Mexico; Robo ticks off his new neighbor Sir Richard Branson, who retaliates by using HOA rulings against him — despite the fact Jordana del Muerto is in the middle of nowhere and Robo and Branson are the only "homeowners" in the area. In one case, Branson manages to scare off a military bombing run (inadvertently saving Robo in the process) by citing violations of HOA guidelines.
  • Un-person: The villain of "The Tsar Bomb" is a Russian genius whom Stalin gave a secluded laboratory and then wiped from all records so that no foreign power would be able to make use of his work. Robo continues the tradition after defeating him, as "Ivan Koschey" was a vicious jerk who had been less than a second away from wiping out all life on Earth as punishment for not knowing of his existence.
  • Unsound Effect: "DOOR!" from the first issue.
  • Vigilante Man: Jack Tarot in The Deadly Art of Science is a homage to pulp vigilante heroes like the Shadow. Although the story sticks with the series's lighthearted adventure tone, some time is given to the fact that he's murdered a large number of criminals in the course of his adventures.
  • Wave-Motion Gun:
    • Nikola Tesla converted his Wardenclyffe transmitter into a kiloton deathray to combat The Shadow when it first showed up in 1908.
    • The Lightining Guns that Robo uses are essentially scaled-down models.
  • We Are "Team Cannon Fodder": The Action Scientists aside from Jenkins turn into this during the Helsingard fight. Most of the time, however, at least a few of them will pull their weight.
    Robo: Why do I even bring Action Scientists?
  • We Can Rule Together: In The Ghost of Station X, after Robo has survived several murder attempts and located the Big Bad's secret underground lair, the Big Bad offers to let Robo in on his plan to escape the planet and travel the Cosmos, in a nuclear-powered, Earth-destroying Orion spacecraft.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Majestic 12. Despite everything they've done, they are trying to defend the planet from a predicted Biomega outbreak that would devastate civilization.
  • Wham Episode: At the end of The Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur, Majestic 12 attacks Robo and his allies, Jenkins blows up Tesladyne, Dr. Dinosaur's device goes off, and Robo is blown back to the year 1870.
  • Whateversaurus: Dr. Dinosaur's creations including the "Futuresaurus rex" and "Omnisaur". Dr. Dinosaur himself most likely counts, despite his claims.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Played with when Tesla and Robo capture a vampire-like monster from another dimension and Tesla wants to vaporize it for analysis. When Robo points out that while it's technically not alive he isn't either, Tesla instead decides to find more about them by sending Robo to investigate its home-dimension. Upon finding they populate a post-apocalyptic landscape and immediately attack Robo, they decide that, yes, it's entirely OK to kill them.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?:
    • The second issue implies that Robo has a bittersweet outlook on his immortality. He doesn't (openly) angst about it, though; in a televised interview, he coyly alludes to the problem by saying that he's annoyed that nobody understands his Jack Benny impersonation anymore. This is after privately reminiscing about a dear WWII-era friend who just died of old age.
    • Thomas Edison's plan in 1931 was to use New York as an antenna for his Odic Capacitor, and concentrate enough Life Energy into himself to become immortal. When the machine exploded, his consciousness got scattered across the Od, only pulling itself back together as a ghostly manifestation in 1999. When he finds that Robo's analysis inadvertently restored his corporeality (in part), he's not happy about it. He's later seen nostalgically returning to his historical estate, now a museum.
      Edison: You shouldn't have brought me back!
  • Who You Gonna Call?: Tesladyne!
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Robo has a phobia about bugs crawling into his body and mucking up his internals. Guess what shape the Eldritch Abomination takes during its third encounter with Robo? Robo's phobia is strong enough that he refuses to enter rain forests unless he has a BFG in hand.
  • Working with the Ex: Robo and Helen in Temple of Od. There's a little awkwardness there since Helen has a new boyfriend, but overall they're Amicable Exes.
  • World of Badass: Admit it. When a ham radio community can successfully track down a over 50 year old conspiracy—with short wave radio no less—then this is a badass world.
  • The World's Expert (on Getting Killed): Played for Laughs in Other Strangeness. Robo is interviewing two job applicants: Rex Cannon, who has an impressive military record and multiple doctorates; and Bernard, who's clearly in over his head. Cannon, of course, is the one who gets killed out of nowhere when vampires invade. Given a Cerebus Retcon when he returns years later as King of the Vampires.
  • Would You Like to Hear How They Died?: Skorzeny tries this on the Sparrow in The Dogs of War, taking a moment to reminisce about the death of her brother, the previous Sparrow, just to make her imminent death more painful.
  • Wrench Wench: Lauren of the She-Devils.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Robo understands the rules his reality plays by better than most, so Dr. Dinosaur's Insane Troll Logic and Achievements in Ignorance tend to throw him for a loop.
  • You Already Changed the Past: Being stuck in the 1800s not only shatters Robo's conviction that time travel is impossible, it leaves him terrified of causing some kind of temporal paradox. He hangs a note on his wall reminding himself "Do Nothing - unless you're supposed to." He eventually decides "It's not a paradox if I was already part of the past."
  • You Can Talk?: H. P. Lovecraft is rather shocked to discover that the "pygmy" (Robo) speaks English.
    Lovecraft: See how it vainly cobbles together a string of sounds not unlike words?
  • You Could Have Used Your Powers for Good!: Robo is not at all impressed with how the Big Bad of The Ghost of Station X has used his power.
    Robo: You had all that time. All that power and, and influence. All this technology. You could have helped them.
    ALAN: I don't understand. Why?
  • You Killed My Father: Skorzeny reveals to Robo in Madrid, 1974, that he killed Tesla. It's an attempt to get the latter to kill him and spare him a slow, painful death due to cancer. Robo opts for Cruel Mercy.
  • Younger Than They Look: Robo during his early adventures, as a result of having been created with a full-sized body and an advanced mind. In The Deadly Art of Science, Helen is horrified when she realizes, after they've been dating for a while, that Robo is technically only seven years old; he assures her that in terms of mental development he's in his twenties, but she's still shaken and the romance never really recovers.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: In The Knights of the Golden Circle, Robo is running out of fuel, due to being stranded in the 19th century.
  • You Watch Too Much X: In The Deadly Art of Science, Jack Tarot is of the opinion Robo's worldview shows he spends too much time reading or listening to pulp adventure stories.