Skipper The Robot Kid

I was a weird child.

When I was twelve, I saw an episode of Duck Dodgers called "The Menace of Maninsuit", in which a parody of Astro Boy fights a parody of Godzilla, followed by Duck Dodgers in a bootleg Mazinger Z. For some reason, I got inspired to create my own robot child comic (this was a time in my life when I wanted to write about anything possible), and thought the best thing to do was deliberately copy the parody Astro and rename him "Skipper".

...This is not good, Twelve Year Old Me. I am not impressed.

I attempted brainstorming an origin for him, and all I came up with was having him be a kid killed in a car accident and rebuilt as a robot, which is extremely Astro Boy-esque, but I didn't even know Osamu Tezuka existed at the time. I believe I tapped into the vague memories of watching Astro Boy when I was very, very young, but the premise I'd come up with in 2005 disturbed me and I set the whole show aside.

In April 2006, I recalled the concept, and decided to flesh it out to see if it were worthwhile. I created the three kids Trisha (12), Ted (13) and Kaen (7), these being Skipper's human friends whom worked at a Vietamese restaurant and taught him about human life. I had seen a clip from the short-lived show That's Funny, which was basically a Vic Di Bona clipshow, filmed by a group of Japanese kids at a restaurant who put live goldfish in bowls of water and handed them off to foreigners, pretending that was their order of noodles. For some reason I found that clip fascinating and took the whole premise for later; Trisha was also partially modelled after the girl leading the stunt. Anyways, I had a scene of these kids goofing off in my mind, and suddenly, I planned to make Skipper human.

I also tended to forget what I originally named my characters, forcing me to rename them later on.

If you read the early comic version, which I started in September 2006, it's pretty verbatim to what I planned in the very beginning, with the exception that I didn't cut Kaen yet for being completely useless. However, in the months between April in September, the Skipper cast exploded and then shrunk several times; it was pretty insane, but at the same time, that was the best summer of my early pubescence, since I got into Sailor Moon (Naoko Takeuchi's style has greatly impacted mine) and Osamu Tezuka's works.

I had some image in my mind of Skipper the Robot Kid being a five-parter...the stories included were Skipper's origin, Skipper meeting Robby and A.M.Y.'s disc (that's what she used to be called, and she was a girlfriend built for Robby), Robby and Skipper having to fight a robot sent by a mysterious man named Dr. Mann while Skipper's sister Trisha had her birthday, A.M.Y. getting a computer virus and the kids having to go into her head, and A.M.Y. finally being upgraded to an android body. Aside from small changes and two of these stories being removed, it was all pretty much the same in the comic version. I made that when I was thirteen-through-fifteen, so be prepared to see lopsided and disproportionate people amongst a story far too angsty than it should have been. It's pretty straight forward on the matter of the comic, but I will tell you that I truly loved it at one point. I tried to explore all sorts of stories, even one scene questioning the fears of humanity (see second-last image below), and I tried as much as I could to make it good, but it was my biggest endeavor to never be finished.

I tried submitting Skipper the Robot Kid to DiC Entertainment with the childish hopes they'd make it cartoon, and I drew all these model sheets that are currently just sitting around in a padded envelope because I never sent it in. DiC got bought up by the corrupt Canadian production company Cinar, now the asininely-named Cookie Jar Group, so maybe my procrastination was a good thing. I started remaking the whole story, and had it upgraded by early 2009. Then I put it aside until late 2010 when even more changes were required, including a massive cutting and replacing of the cast. It was during this time that I realised A.M.I., the character I always had plenty of fun drawing and writing for, would be a much more interesting main character. Why did it take five years to make a unique robotic child story?

With her as the lead, I didn't have to go with the original origin of Skipper getting cyborg implants in his legs after the car accident...that's a little too gruesome for some people, and besides, the implants are to make his legs heal, not to give him powers. In fact, a good lot of things in the old comic are dark and disturbing, and it takes me by surprise when I reread the comic. What really gets me is the fact that Jonathon and Xavier's interactions and general past have an odd lot of sexual tension. I was thirteen when I made this character dynamic, among other things. Did I have any idea what it would later look like? It's things like this that I rediscover in the comic that make it so fascinating to rediscover.

Or, a little upsetting.

Pictured: child abuse, disturbing imagery, robotic torture, a man being fatally shot, alcoholism, strippers, and Skipper almost dying in a robotic snake made of industrial waste. I drew all of these when I was fourteen.

Skipper Hansen was too plain and hard to develop, and with A.M.I. as the lead, the story can take on a more well thought-out route, with the goofier aspects of the series free to emerge. Here's a quick chart of changes I made for anyone who's read the comic...

Skipper Hansen Downgraded to background character, younger brother of Robby's friend Lana
Bunny2000 Now the assistant to a middle-aged Italian scientist. She is frequently moved between an adult android body and a portable bunny head
Merlin Hansen Lana's father, shown infrequently
Robby Phillips No longer rediscovered by Skipper in a toolshed basement, rather A.M.I. goes into Hugh Phillips' preserved secret lab. Was not born in 1993 and hidden in 1996, rather 1999 and 2004 respectively
A.M.I. Phillips Mizuno Lead character, now with family name of Miyama. Has an alternate outfit, with the same shawl and a pink sleeveless bodysuit
Sarai Mizuno Now Sarai Miyama. No longer in hiding or formerly using her Anglicized immigrant name, now Robby and A.M.I.'s mother. Alterations to her design and personality to make her more mature, including a curvier body and longer hair. Runs RobotX with a bigger focus on constant advancement and exploring the new in robotics
Hugh/Elliot Phillips Finally decided on a bloody name, Hugh, and altered design to make him look older. Presumed to have died in an explosion around the time of A.M.I.'s initial activation that had been said to have been rigged by RRE
Epsilon No longer designed by Jeff Anderson. Renamed Hyperion, now female, and built by Dr. Clay Emmett (I hope this sounds familiar to you)
Xavier Marse Last name is now "Marte". Calmer, more reserved and with loner tendencies, with various alterations to design. Runs RRE to have more of a focus on bringing life into old or broken robots, in contrast to RobotX. Keeps a team of field agents rather than picking up and discharging them at will
Jonathon Lewis Taller, more robust-looking. Guilts Xavier into taking the sole blame for orchestrating Robby's beating, when the two were the only ones involved
Alex Hart No longer fired after failing an RRE mission. Remodelled with an erratic, trigger-happy personality as Klide Kawashima, basically a Yankii verson of his former mode. Now has a younger sister named Bonnie
Peter Harewood No longer has a younger friend. Not as arrogant as he used to be, a little more clumsy, and is Xavier's secretary

Terminated Characters: Dr. James & Cordelia & Jeffery Anderson, Trisha & Ted Hansen, Mary Jones, Muttski, Kitkat, Robert, Deborah Roseate, Roslyn Lewis, Lieutenant Samantha Oxford, Desi Hart, Megatox, Mr. Buskins, Scratch (I actually copied this character from The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog. I'd love to find out why I thought that was a good idea.)