10 Least Scary Evil Robots From Old Pulp Sci-Fi Covers

Least Scary Robots

Tex Avery’s early career as a robot designer was short-lived.

It’s a big year for nearly-indestructible robots. With Avengers: Age of Ultron, opening nationwide May 1, audiences will meet the most dangerous robot comic books have ever seen, and then come July our old friend The Terminator will be back on the big screen in Terminator Genisys. Those are the good evil robots—the terrifyingly effective ones. But it took science fiction awhile to really figure out what makes a good evil robot. Along the way, several extremely lame evil robots made appearances on the newsstand, and despite their best efforts they were just not scary at all.

1. His Seeds is People!

If January 1953

“If,” January 1953

He’s a cruel, heartless machine, casting humans into the furrowed field like so many seeds. He is—a sowing machine! Wait, that’s no good.

2. A Thrilling Tale Not Written by John Grey

Amazing Stories date unknown

“Amazing Stories,” date unknown

This robot is ok—look how easily he destroys that jet—but he’s from the wrong planet. “The Iron Men of Venus”? What kind of second-rate pulp science fiction author creates Iron Men of Venus? Everybody knows Venus is the home of voluptuous, green-skinned alien women. Duh.

3. This Is Falcon Ridiculous

Amazing Stories May 1957

“Amazing Stories,” May 1957

This robot has cornered the frightened futuristic swimsuit model and, judging from his expressive metal face, he looks like a mean one. If only he weren’t stuck holding that bird. Future lady, though she looks a bit helpless, does have a ray gun. This evil-bot has been programmed not to bring a knife to a gunfight, but the whizzes punching his cards neglected to tell him that birds aren’t going to do much good either.

4. In Soviet Russia, Trash Cans Take Out You

Amazing Stories April 1934

“Amazing Stories” April 1934

Jim knew there was something strange about these trash cans, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. That’s when he heard the shuffling. Oh no! These weren’t trash cans at all, they were robots! Five legless, armless, unarmed robots teetering slowly toward him. As Jim tried to devise a plan, one of the can-bots fell down the steps. Looks like they weren’t too good at steps. Still that left four of them. Four against Jim, just a human guy with a gun and legs. However would he escape?

5. The Knob! Shoot It in the Knob!

Science Fiction December 1939

“Science Fiction,” December 1939

Planet of the Knob Heads. Did this sound scary in 1939? Today it sounds like a party where you’d run into The Situation, J-WOWW and Snookie.

6. Going Nowhere Fast

Amazing Stories February 1932

“Amazing Stories,” February 1932

Sometimes you get to the end of building something and it just looks wrong. Maybe you got confused by the diagrams in the instruction booklet. These robots have cube-shaped bodies, cone heads, and bat wings—that all checks out. But a leg on each of their four sides? There is no way they could walk with a leg on each side. That’s impossible. Check the instructions.

7. The Rise of the Third Leg

Utopia Zukunfts Roman date unknown

“Utopia Zukunfts Roman” #519, date unknown

Leave it to German engineers to improve on the cube with a leg on each side. They’ve come up with a round robot that has three legs. No! Three legs bad! There’s a reason no animals have three legs—natural selection nipped that completely impractical idea in the bud at the start. Three legs only works if you’re a War of the Worlds tripod, but those things are as tall as the Chrysler Building.

8. In Soviet Russia, Vacuum Cleans Up You

Galaxy July 1972

“Galaxy,” July 1972

Props to Galaxy magazine for predicting the Roomba in 1972. Prescient, yes. Scary? No.

9. Robot, Take Me Away

Imaginative Tales January 1956

“Imaginative Tales,” January 1956

Sometimes you can tell that an artist really would have rather been doing something else. This one obviously wanted to be drawing pulp romance-novel covers, but he got the robot job instead, and the rent wasn’t going to pay itself. He had an unused painting of a beautiful woman in a flowing satin gown—paint a robot behind her and presto: science fiction, baby. Is this robot even evil? It’s hard to tell. The woman looks a bit upset, but maybe he’s saving her from fire. He has a friendly robot-face. On the other hand, he’s simultaneously blasting a skyscraper. We’d bet the artist didn’t even read the story.

10. Fowl Play from the Future

"Fantastic Adventures," July 1952

“Fantastic Adventures,” July 1952

Just think, all along, it was the ducks that humanity should have been watching out for. The common waterfowl had been plotting their revenge for decades, assembling their infernal weapon deep below Suicide Swamp.

Roger and Annette knew they and they alone could warn the people, they knew they were the only hope for staving off the Duckmageddon that lay in store. “Run, Annette, run!” Roger implored.

“Quack,” said the Duck-Death-Bot 6000.

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Published on: April 22, 2015

Filled Under: Articles

Views: 8572

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One Response to 10 Least Scary Evil Robots From Old Pulp Sci-Fi Covers

  1. Whoa, the bots in number 6 look like the inspiration for the Modrons of D&D mythos.

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