Robotman (Steele).jpg
Portion of the cover of Secret Origins Annual #1 (1987). Art by John Byrne.
Publication information
PublisherDC Comics
First appearanceMy Greatest Adventure #80 (June 1963)
Created byArnold Drake
Bruno Premiani
In-story information
Alter egoClifford "Cliff" Steele
SpeciesHuman Cyborg
Team affiliationsDoom Patrol
Justice League United
Notable aliasesAutomaton
Robotman II
Cliff Fix-It
Planet Cliff

Robotman (Clifford "Cliff" Steele, called Automaton in first two appearances) is a superhero appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics. He is best known as a member of the Doom Patrol, being the only character to appear in every version of the team since its introduction in June 1963.

Robotman has appeared in numerous cartoon television shows and films. Robotman made his first live adaptation as a guest star on the Titans television series for DC Universe played by Jake Michaels. Riley Shanahan took over from Michaels in the role. He is part of the main cast of its spin-off Doom Patrol, which is also on HBO Max. Brendan Fraser provides the voice of Robotman and portrays Cliff Steele in flashbacks in the series.

Publication history

Robotman first appeared in My Greatest Adventure #80 (June 1963) and was created by Arnold Drake and Bruno Premiani.[1] According to Drake, the issue's co-writer Bob Haney was not brought on to the project until after Robotman was created.[2] He commented on the character's original name, Automaton:

That name was pretty stupid. I've been responsible for a lot of stupid things, but that was one of the stupidest, so, within two issues, I figured that out and changed his name to Robotman.[2]

At the time, Drake didn't realize that there had been a previous character named Robotman, published in 1942-1953 during the Golden Age of Comic Books. DC's previous Robotman also had a human brain.[3]

Robotman was the only original member of the Doom Patrol to appear with the team's second incarnation, which debuted in Showcase #94-96 (Aug. 1977 - Jan. 1978). The reboot was accompanied by Robotman getting a new body, which was designed by artist Joe Staton at writer Paul Kupperberg's request. Kupperberg explained:

I was looking to update the strip, I suppose, [and] wanted to put my mark on it. There was nothing wrong with the original body designed by Bruno Premiani. In fact, ain't no one come up with a better design. Like the team's roster, I should have left that alone, too.[4]

Staton said he patterned Robotman's new body after a young John Byrne's fanzine contribution (Contemporary Pictorial Literature) of the robot character Rog-2000 "as a joke".[5]

Fictional character biography

Robotman is one of the founding members of the Doom Patrol, along with Negative Man and Elasti-Girl. He is unique for being the only character to appear in every version of the Doom Patrol.[6]

Pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths

Cliff Steele became Robotman, initially dubbed Automaton,[7] after the daredevil and race car driver was in an accident during the Indianapolis 500, destroying his body. Caulder subsequently placed Cliff's intact brain into a robotic body.[8] After the operation, Cliff suffered from frequent depression because he viewed himself as less than human. A background serial in Doom Patrol #s 100, 101, 103 & 105 (December 1965 – August 1966) retconned that Caulder made a mistake in the operation, causing Steele to go on a rampage, which Caulder corrected when he recruited Steele for the Patrol.

Sales of Doom Patrol had waned, and the creative team chose to kill off the entire team, including Robotman, in the final issue, Doom Patrol #121 (September–October 1968). The Doom Patrol sacrificed their lives to Madame Rouge and General Zahl (who pushed the actual kill button) to save the small fishing village of Codsville, Maine.

In Showcase #94 (Sept. 1977), it was revealed that Cliff's brain had survived and that Will Magnus, the robotics expert who created the Metal Men, had recovered his brain and built him a new body. Cliff then joined a new Doom Patrol headed by a woman claiming to be Niles Caulder's wife, Arani. Refusing to believe that Niles was dead, she formed this new team to search for him and took his place as leader, calling herself Celsius due to her temperature-based powers.

Post-Crisis on Infinite Earths

Robotman's origin remained largely the same as his pre-Crisis origin save for the fact that it was revealed that Niles Caulder had caused the accident that destroyed Cliff Steele's body. Cliff Steele was born in Brooklyn.[9]

This team was eventually almost all killed in action, with Cliff voluntarily committing himself to an asylum in Doom Patrol (vol. 2) #19 (Feb. 1989), having fallen into a state of depression due to his condition and the loss of his teammates. In particular, he was angry about being in a metal body and unable to enjoy the feeling and senses that humans take for granted. Caulder sent Magnus round to try to help Cliff. Magnus introduced him to a person with "worse problems than [his]": a woman called Crazy Jane. Cliff became Jane’s guardian, eventually falling in love with her. Near the end of Grant Morrison's creative run on the title, Robotman’s human brain was revealed to have been replaced with a CPU, making him a robot in reality.

In Rachel Pollack's creative run, Cliff's artificial brain began to malfunction so Dorothy Spinner's Imaginary Friends "rebuilt" Cliff's old brain.[10]

Cliff later met and began a relationship with a bisexual, transgender woman named Kate Godwin. At one point, Kate and Cliff merged and shared his memories.

Blackest Night

In the Doom Patrol's Blackest Night tie-in storyline, Robotman and Negative Man are attacked by Negative Woman, who has been revived as a member of the Black Lantern Corps. While they try to fight off their former comrade, Cliff is approached by his own brainless corpse, which has also been revived as a Black Lantern.[11] Cliff correctly surmises that the ring powers his corpse, but finds removing it only causes a new body to regenerate instead. He and Negative Man trick the Black Lanterns into entering a warp gate to a JLA checkpoint then try to put the incident behind them.

The New 52

In The New 52 reboot, a different version of the character debuted in the My Greatest Adventure miniseries in October 2011, written by Matt Kindt. This version of Cliff Steele is an adventurer and daredevil who agrees to be injected with experimental nanomachines designed to improve and repair his body. When he is involved in a fatal car crash during a high-speed race, the nanomachines respond by creating a robotic body to encase and protect his still living brain. Though he is initially distraught over his condition, the nanomachines prevent him from being able to kill himself. After coming to terms with his new body, he becomes a freelance hero, assisted by a woman named Maddy, who was involved in the nanomachine project and blames herself for Cliff's condition.

Cliff has since re-appeared as a supporting character in the Metal Men comic featured in the Legends of Tomorrow anthology.

Young Animal

In the "Young Animal" reboot, Cliff reappeared as a member of the latest incarnation of the Doom Patrol. In the iteration both his origin and romance with Crazy Jane return and saw Cliff and the new Doom Patrol protect Danny, a sentient 'world' within an ambulance, and the many citizens within Danny. When the universe was reset after the events of Milk Wars, Cliff briefly regained his human body but being unable to readapt to his old way of life Cliff drove himself off a cliff, destroying his biological body and returning to a robot one. During the Doom Patrol: Weight of the Worlds story arc Cliff constantly upgraded his new robot body so that he could better protect others, stemming from his insecurities about failing to protect others and being unable to live a 'normal' life.[12] Cliff's upgrades escalated until he became an entire planet that threatened to integrate entire worlds within him so that they would be 'safe from hurt'. Cliff was eventually persuaded to stop by Crazy Jane who helped to deconstruct him into a childlike robot body so that she could better emotionally heal him.

Powers and abilities

Cliff's original robot body possesses immense strength, stamina, durability, and speed. It was equipped with electromagnetic feet that enables him to scale upon metal walls, heat coils in the palms capable of melting dense materials, and an oxygen tank for sustaining his own human brain. Robotman once utilizes a mobile video transceiver strapped on his chest plate to keep in constant communication with the team. Later bodies have featured other various functions, such as tool and weapon systems.[13] Before the operation, he has excellent racing skills.

The New 52 version of Cliff's original robotic body is nanomachine based, allowing him to change its shape when needed or repair itself from even the most severe damage.[14] He is also capable of flight, as well as underwater travel. After becoming human and destroying his body...again, his new one was constructed by Keeg Bovo, who programed it to unlock different upgrades whenever Robotman performs a good deed, such as self-duplication and elemental control.[15]

In other media

Robotman as he appears in Teen Titans.
Robotman as he appears in Teen Titans.

See also


  1. ^ Cowsill, Alan; Irvine, Alex; Korte, Steve; Manning, Matt; Wiacek, Win; Wilson, Sven (2016). The DC Comics Encyclopedia: The Definitive Guide to the Characters of the DC Universe. DK Publishing. p. 251. ISBN 978-1-4654-5357-0.
  2. ^ a b Browning, Michael (July 2013). "The Doom Patrol Interviews: Arnold Drake". Back Issue!. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing (#65): 38–41.
  3. ^ Wells, John (2015). American Comic Book Chronicles: 1960-64. TwoMorrows Publishing. pp. 129–130. ISBN 978-1605490458.
  4. ^ Browning, Michael (July 2013). "The Doom Patrol Interviews: Paul Kupperberg". Back Issue!. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing (#65): 43.
  5. ^ Johnson, Dan (April 2014). "Showcase Presents... Again". Back Issue!. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing (#71): 51.
  6. ^ Beatty, Scott (2008), "Doom Patrol", in Dougall, Alastair (ed.), The DC Comics Encyclopedia, New York: Dorling Kindersley, p. 109, ISBN 978-0-7566-4119-1, OCLC 213309017
  7. ^ Robotman (1963) at Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on August 31, 2015.
  8. ^ Wells, John (2015). American Comic Book Chronicles: 1960-64. TwoMorrows Publishing. p. 129. ISBN 978-1605490458.
  9. ^ Secret Origins (vol. 2) Annual #1 (1987)
  10. ^ Irvine, Alex (2008), "Doom Patrol", in Dougall, Alastair (ed.), The Vertigo Encyclopedia, New York: Dorling Kindersley, pp. 61–63, ISBN 978-0-7566-4122-1, OCLC 213309015
  11. ^ Doom Patrol (vol. 5) #4
  12. ^ Way, Gerard (2020). Doom Patrol Weight of the Worlds (Young Animal). DC Comics. ISBN 9781779500786.
  13. ^ Who's Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe Vol 1 #19 (September 1986)
  14. ^ Justice League Vol 2 #30-33 (July-October 2014)
  15. ^ Doom Patrol: Weight of the Worlds Vol 1 #1-6 (September 2019-February 2020)
  16. ^ "Henry Rollins to Join the Doom Patrol in 'Batman: The Brave and the Bold' - ComicsAlliance | Comic book culture, news, humor, commentary, and reviews". Archived from the original on 2011-07-26. Retrieved 2011-05-31.
  17. ^ Burlingame, Russ (February 22, 2018). "'Titans' Casts the Doom Patrol's Robotman (Exclusive)". Retrieved February 22, 2018.
  18. ^ Shaw-Williams, Hannah (August 21, 2018). "DC Universe's Doom Patrol TV Show Casts Brendan Fraser as Robotman". Screen Rant. Retrieved August 21, 2018.
  19. ^ Martin, Michileen (January 15, 2020). "Every Crisis on Infinite Earths cameo ranked". Looper. Archived from the original on April 2, 2020. Retrieved April 2, 2020.