1936 to 1946 was the Golden Age of Science Fiction in the United States. This period overlaps with the Golden Age of comics and, not surprisingly, one of the most popular genres of Golden Age comics is the Sci-Fi comic. The first exclusively science fiction comic book was Planet Comics published by Fiction House, but many other companies were willing to publish standalone sci-fi themes.
In this post, I’m looking at a sub-genre within the Golden Age sci-fi camp: Robots.
With Golden Age collecting, as I’m learning (and as outlined, here), something collectors often do is focus on one classic genre and then, for various reasons, they narrow their window of interest by trying to collect all examples of a select theme within that genre. In other words, the focus of some Golden Age collectors might be one or more sub-genres and they will seek books that feature their preferred theme but can otherwise be lumped within a much wider grouping of books.
For many lovers of Golden Age Crime comics, for example, a popular sub-genre is comics featuring bondage covers. With sci-fi, we get a number of classic or weird and lively robot stories.
Throughout the Golden Age, as we’ll see, there were great robot images present; often they could be found in other genres (like the superhero comic). But robots most consistently and reliably appeared within the Sci-Fi genre.
Here, I’ll list some iconic and classic robot covers that are colorful and fun and, if you can find them, valuable to collectors trying to complete a Golden Age robot run.
Timely/Atlas publications was Marvel before there was Marvel. Not only does Human Torch #23 have a robot on the cover, but of course, the Golden Age Human Torch was a robot. To be more precise, he was an android created by Phineas Horton. This Human Torch adventure stands out mainly because of its cover from Golden Age great Alex Schomburg. Born Alejandro Schomburg y Rosa in Puerto Rico, after moving to New York, Schomburg became a commercial artist who eventually branched out into comics. Active between 1946 and 1950 in the comic book world, Schomburg’s covers are coveted by some Golden Age collectors. He also freelanced regularly for Timely and here he gives us one of his classic covers. 60 copies of this comic have been CGC’d. This comic has sold for as high as $6000.00 and as low as $300.00. A 9.2 copy sold on Heritage Auction for $4,063.00 on 08/27/2015.
Published from Nedor Publications, This is another classic Schomberg cover. Featuring the Exciting Comics hero the Black Terror, what’s really exciting about this one is the Schomburg drawn, knife wielding, robot. Nothing beats violent homicidal robots and this one’s got one. Only 20 copies of EC #45 on the CGC census. This comic has seen sparse sales, with the latest, an 8.5, sold on February 21, 2019, and going at Heritage Auction for $1,920.00.
The great sense of menace conveyed by this skyscraper of a robot attacking what looks like a future version of the Golden Gate Bridge is an iconic robot cover on one of the most iconic Sci-Fi comics. Planet Comics was actually better known for their scantily clad space women on their covers. In fact, the shapely legs of a terrified maiden can be seen running from the Giant robot on the cover of issue #48. In short, this comic has all the ingredients to make it a classic Golden Age robot book. 83 issues of Planet Comics #48 have been sent in to CGC and appear on the census. The highest graded copy, [one of two] in 9.6, last sold for a cool $6, 000.00 on Comic Connect on 12/14/2018. Lower grades have sold for as little as $95.00 (see the 2.0 eBay sale of 11/15/2016). On April 1, 2019, a ComicLink auction of Planet Comics #48 sold for $528.00 in 7.5 grade.
Here’s one of my favorite Golden Age robot covers. This cover basically shouts out: ‘Robots are awesome!’ And, when they kidnap scantily clad women, they are even better. That’s just what happens on this classic Avon Comics cover. Why is a robot kidnapping a female human? Who knows…Out of this World #1 has only 37 copies on the CGC census. The most recent sale in March of 2018 sold for $610.00.
Here’s my number one pick for Golden Age robot cover. The robot grabs the slender throat of this woman with obviously sinister intent. The persistent message you should be taking away at this point is that between 1945-1952, robots (perhaps symbolizing an increasingly automated modern society) were viewed as potential threats to human life. The anxiety projected by these Golden Age covers is made all the more appealing by the stylized Golden Age art and kinetic retro-designs. The last Strange Worlds #8 sold on December 2018 in 5.0 for $960.00 on Heritage Auction.