Note: Once again we return to the dusty corners of the comics bin, finding those discarded characters that have fallen into the public domain and brought them back with new life, new vigor — and a new design! Project: Rooftop’s RetroFix returns with Mekano by Chris Arrant and Daniel Irizarri! – Chris Arrant
Who (or What) was Mekano?
“Mekano was a mechanical man invented by young scientist Bill Foster. Unfortunately, Nazis stole the robot, planning to use him as an unstoppable weapon. The Germans, however, were no match for Mekano, who defeated them before returning home to his creator.” – from the Public Domain Super Heroes Wikia
Chris: I’ve always had a love for older characters in the pantheon of super-heroes, especially those that have fallen by the wayside. Consider it an underdog complex played out by tracking down old issues and buying public domain twists like Alex Ross’ Project: Superpowers and Image’s Next Issue Project. Pouring over the archives, Mekano jumped out at me for the unique twist on the Frankenstein’s Monster trope with robots and Nazis. Mekano was created by Bob Oskner, a veteran comics hand who mostly worked in licensed comics but did create the version of Marvel Boy that’s appeared in Marvel’s Atlas minis. You can read Oskner’s full Mekano story over on this website. Mekano only appeared once — in Nedor’s Wonder Comics #1 (1945) — but in a way that lone appearance gave you all the set-up and no potential for waning glory. Instead of retooling that existing origin, I thought “what happened after the story ended?”
Note: Check out the RetroFix and final design after the jump! – D.T.
Chris: With only 15 published pages to his comics resume, Mekano was little more than a blank slate; he was the first chapter of a book that was never told. So when I decided to RetroFix the robot, I postulated how Mekano and his inventor Bill Foster would have developed as World War 2 ended, through the Cold War and into the Internet Age. What I thought is that after the events of Mekano’s origin (above), Foster repurposes him in light of the microchip revolution and Mekano becomes a brand name. Daniel, For the redesign itself – imagine what Mekano would be if he was self-aware, and could improve himself.
Daniel: Is he the bad guy in the 21st century? the corporation needs a logo. What about these Foster descendants. a book smart family trying to keep their ancestor’s name from being tainted?
As for the robot, there really is an evilness to his design. that face is frankly terrifying, like a soul-less Robotman from Doom Patrol. As far as his design goes, there’s a lot of space for improvement and innovation. considering that now, Mekano can basically be anything. any of the products this corporation produces are in essence Mekano, himself. So even though he may have a main anthropomorphic body (probably sleek and streamlined) his programming runs through all of the technology used and created in the corporation. This kind of reminds me of the self-aware sentinels in Grant Morrison’s New X-men run, in which all of these different creations all in some way resembled sentinels. Assuming the Mekano brand is used and sold as a terror-fighting equipment and weaponry, there are probably a crap ton of very dangerous Mekanos of different shapes and sizes available to that original Mekano that gained sentience.
Chris: Yeah, Mekano is full-on bad guy now. Basically, keeping with his original origin…. Foster made him in the 40s, Germans captured the robot and tried to subvert him but Mekano rebelled and came back under Foster.. but as it turns out, maybe some of the Third Reich sentiment rubbed off on Mekano and he left Foster in the late 40s/early 50s. Maybe Mekano adopted the Nazis idea of a perfect person – maybe Mekano things all humans are weak and robots are the only pure thing.
So in the 40s when Foster gets Mekano back from the Germans – maybe he sees what Mekano could become and shelves him. Maybe Mekano was dormant until the late 80s or 90s. Foster’s grandson dug him out, resurrected him and Mekano went rogue then. So son is trying to relearn the theories of his tech-smart grandfather while Mekano becomes a robot-driven company ala Stark Enterprises & Apple.
Like Neal Stephenson’s Cryptnomicon – jumping back and forth between 40s era world of the original inventor and a cold-war era Mekano and the 21st century where Foster’s grandson tries to make up for bringing Mekano back to life in the 90s or something.Mekano’s company could now be the equivalent of Haliburton, but with subsidiaries in consumer electronics (the Mek phone!). When it’s Tech – think Mek. Mekano.
Daniel: OK, i think i have a pretty good idea of whats going on. I’m going to work on some sketches off of this. maybe some Mekano company logos, and a couple of different forms for Mekano to inhabit.
Daniel: These are the sketches i cobbled up. what do you think?
Chris: Great!Definitely a good first start. For the final image, what I picture is perhaps a big digital screen with a digitized version of the Mekano head displayed on it. See this second panel for a good shot of his head.
Standing in front of that screen in an almost Wizard of Oz kind of relation would be a Mekano-bot or something; that’s where we could use your design. I like the screen-like globe helmet that can change from the Mekano face to a more human appearance. Maybe have the Mekano-bot in an arms-crossed kind of thing, which would allow you to show off that great shoulder harness at an angle.
Here’s an idea for a logo for Mekano’s company. I tried to make the big M be a stylized amalgam of the letter M and Mekano’s original helmet.
I think we’re doing something good here.
Daniel: I like it. Here’s my first draft of the final image.
Chris: Wow. Looks great to me! I say wrap it up!
Daniel: This is pretty much the finished image unless you have any additional thing to say about it. I pixelated the display on the helmet-screens, eliminated the antennae and made all the drone lights neon-blue. oh additionally I incorporated the logo and I think it looks pretty awesome. the image is nice and clean so that’s also a plus. I thought it would look cool if the big screen version of Mekano had like this 3d projection style I think it adds color, it makes it aesthetically interesting and surprisingly it doesn’t make him any less intimidating.
Chris: Agreed. This would be a shot across the bow — a prototype cover telling people what was coming down the pike. I imagine Mekano’s technology and constructs seeping their way into every facet of life, and a story be told simultaneously in modern times and through the Cold War era of the eternal chess match of the Foster family versus Mekano.