Perfecting Kelex

If you only casually know about Superman stuff, it is entirely possible and understandable that you don’t know who Kelex is. Kelex is essentially Superman’s Alfred, but since Superman is a more sci-fi concept than Batman, Superman’s butler is a robot, so he’s also kind of Alfred and the Bat Computer all rolled into one.

As with anything in Superman’s long history, there are contradictory explanations of Kelex, but there’s enough in common that we can basically distill it down to this: Kelex is a Kryptonian robot that belonged to Kal-El’s parents before that planet exploded. Through some manner or another, Superman acquired Kelex decades later on Earth and the robot now lives in the Fortress of Solitude to take care of things around there and perform scans and stuff.

This is all well and good. I like Kelex, even though most of his appearances consist of him either floating around the Fortress to make it look cool and futuristic, or being destroyed to show how powerful some threat is.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t do better. Here’s what I’d do to give us a perfect Kelex:

Kelex Was In Kal-El’s Spacecraft:

When we first learned the origin of Superman, we saw young Kal-El’s parents desperately trying to save their son while their planet fell apart in minutes. Over the decades stories have added to that simple concept by suggesting that Jor-El, Superman’s father, had had years of setup for this. Sometimes we’re told he’d scouted out planet Earth (or even visited it). He had sent out test rockets with dogs and monkeys. He’d made plans for what his son would do on Earth and so on and so on.

I hate all of that stuff. I like it when saving the baby in a rocket is an act of desperation by people who just couldn’t make the world listen to reason in time. They tried other ways to save Krypton for years and this is not something they were ready for. Now they have maybe ten minutes to save the kid via rocket, and that’s it. And maybe they need an AI in the rocket to keep life support systems in the running and steer it away from stars or whatever? And maybe they improvise by using the AI from the household robot? This works a lot better for me.

(Incidentally, I remember reading a script for one of the failed Superman film projects over the years (maybe it was Flyby?) and it included an AI on the ship called K. The movie was never made, but I felt this justified my preferred method of getting Kelex to Earth. I legitimately don’t remember what happened to K later in the script, though, so for all I know they turned him into Brainiac‘s stooge or something.)

Kelex Taught Clark About Krypton:

Most of the most prominent tellings of Superman’s origins have Clark learning his origins from some sort of AI recreation of his father that was included in a crystal that came in the rocket with him. I don’t like that. In part, it’s related to my complaint above about Jor-El having accomplished way too much in what should have been far too short a time. But it just isn’t my preferred origin for Superman. Maybe it’s because I’m such a fan of the Golden Age Superman who didn’t know or question his origin much until he was an adult, but I like teenage Clark to be uncertain where he came from, let alone have a whole talking encyclopedia devoted to his origin. It also bugs me that the Jor-Elogram origin also tends to serve as a replacement for Clark going to university and I like Clark to be a student.

Here’s what I’d do: We have Kelex’s AI in the ship and perhaps he is damaged in the crash. Kelex is inactive for decades while Clark grows and becomes a superhero who doesn’t know his origin. At some point he learns of Kelex and activates it. Kelex becomes a sort of super-teacher from Krypton then, but isn’t an omnipotent repository of all Kryptonian knowledge, but rather a household robot that was damaged in a rocket crash. Kelex and definitely lay down the basics, reveal the name Kal-El, explain who his parents were, what happened to the planet, but Clark and Kelex will have to work together to learn more about what the lost world.

* I should clarify, I don’t mind Clark having AI simulacra of his parents at the Fortress when he’s an experienced hero who has been through hundreds of fantastical adventures. By that point in his career, those should be one of the most mundane things in the Fortess. I just don’t like it being a factor in his origin.

Kelex Never Calls Clark “Master”:

I think this is just something some writers like, having robot servants call the people they work for “Master”. Superman, as I prefer him, should never allow anyone to call him “Master”. I won’t say this is one that Kelex is always shown to do, I’ve seen him use “Kal-El” as well, but it has happened and I don’t care for it.

Kelex should have a protective attitude toward Clark, as if he’s a robotic aunt who is cooking for a child they used to babysit, but in no way should Kelex act like a slave of Kal-El. Even an employee relationship goes too far for me. They may not biologically be family, given that one isn’t even biological, but they are family. One of them just happens to like taking care of the Fortress of Solitude an awful lot.

Kelex Is Friends With Natasha Irons:

At some point in the 2000s there was a running joke in the comics where Natasha Irons upgraded Kelex’s program so that it would use contemporary urban slang. The main joke was that we were seeing an uptight robot talking “street” and that’s not how they usually talk. But it also gave Kelex a friendship that wasn’t related (directly) to Kal-El. I don’t know that Kelex would enjoy going out on the town (Kelex may, in fact, not enjoy leaving the Fortress at all by nature), but having a friendship with a tech-based superhero genius is an opportunity to socialize. I liked it a lot and want it back. We don’t need the “street” talk thing to continue, but it could. As long as Kelex has someone to talk to.

Kelex Doesn’t Get Along With Jimmy Olsen:

I just think it’d be funny if Kelex sees Jimmy and all his foolishness as a bad influence on Clark. That would amuse me.

This has been a long one. Maybe those four things won’t perfect Kelex, but I feel like they’re a good start. Look how Alfred is now this father figure who raised Bruce Wayne and serves as a father figure to him. Then remember that for the first four decades that wasn’t an aspect of the character. Until the 80s, Alfred was just some guy that dull-grown Batman hired to butle his lonely mansion. If Batman’s Alfred can move from that to such a prominent role, then Superman’s equivalent character can be made into something really great.

Super Sunday: Squarbok and Abigail Red

Squarbok

Hiding on Earth to avoid having to pay off his gambling debts in his native demonic realm, Squarbok now lives in a cheap apartment above a Thrakodacian restaurant in Miami. He likes to keep it low key, he generally eats food that gets thrown out at the end of the night, but lately a detective from his demonic world has been sniffing around and asking questions. Squarbok is going to need help, but who would help a demon like him?

As always, I am drawing inspiration from elsewhere. I drew the guy just because I wanted to draw a weird bighead demonguy, but when it came time to give him a story, I recalled the way that in the Buffy and Angel shows, a lot of demons were basically just weird looking dudes with average lives. So thus so is Squarbok.

Abigail Red

Ghosts greatly outnumber the living, that’s obvious. The Secret Government doesn’t like any group that outnumbers them. To help keep SecGov City safe, the Secret Government has declared it a No Ghost Zone. All SecGov robots randomly gain special abilities at their “birth” and Abigail Red is a 2003 Generation SecGov Robot whose powers included seeing beyond the normal light spectrum, auditory enhancements, and control of a strange otherworldly energy field. In a rare competent move, the Secret Government put her abilities to a good use, making Abigail the official Ghost Hunter of SecGov City. In a more typically incompetent move, the fact that she couldn’t locate any ghosts in the City led her bosses to send her abroad to hone her skills under the teaching of some monks. SecGov City is currently unprotected from ghosts.

This is the first time I’ve done a Super Sunday post for a character in a work I’m actually doing (admittedly slowly during the school year). I just don’t think I’m likely to have a reason to introduce this character in the story of that strip any time soon, so I figured why not? It’s my website. I do what I want.

Super Sunday: Champion of Doom and K-Roy

Champion of Doom

The Greater Toronto Area is basically gone. Too many robots, monsters, and supervillains over too long a time, and the city could not last. That part of Canada now resembles a post-apocalyptic wasteland filled with roving gangs and mutant troublemakers. The Champion of Doom, having proven himself among the toughest of this hellscape’s denizens, is the leader of an especially violent biker gang. Often lending his services to criminals outside of the Toronto Wasteland, for things like smuggling or human trafficking, the Champion of Doom and his servants frequently come into conflict with Justice-Man and his allies.

The idea that Toronto is destroyed by all the supervillain activity in Toronto led to its destruction was not originally part of my Junior-High-Era notes, but things like the surviving Justice-Man comic, in which young PDR wrote “an estimated 90 000 000 dollars” of damage is done to the city, kinda led me down that road. It presents some story possibilities that I think would be interesting to explore.

K-Roy

K-Roy was an early creation of Dr. Blade. One of only a few dozen robotic intelligences the villain created before he left the Earth altogether to found an orbital city. Before leaving the planet, K-Roy and the other intelligent machine soldiers fought against superheroes in various world conquest plots, but in space Dr. Blade’s robot army has grown sedentary. They prevent any human exploration of space, but apart from the occasional hit and run raid, they have been content to simply live in their city much like the humans do below, as ordinary civilians. K-Roy himself has made a space for himself as a philosopher and educator of other new intelligences.

K-Roy himself is not all that important a robot. He’s just one of an army of hundreds, maybe thousands, created by the mad scientist Dr. Blade. Since my goal on Super Sundays is to create sketches of characters who have not appeared elsewhere, I could not use Dr. Blade himself. He has shown up in the old Justice-Man comic, as well as one Little Choy. So, I found a robot among my notes and used him as an example of Blade’s greater army. Other Dr. Blade robots have been seen Hanging out in space and another was also a Little Choy victim.

The orbital robot city of Dr. Blade would function in stories as one of those fantastic locations that heroes have to visit from time to time. Still, as Dr. Blade gets older, he could perhaps find his desire to rule the world more urgent and he could be a significant thorn in Justice-Man’s side once more.

Super Sunday: R and Eddie Legit

R

Anybody who can provide specific details about the creation of the artificial intelligence called only “R” is dead. What we can tell is that that R wants nothing more than to wipe out all biological life forms on the planet Earth. It seems, simply, to find them gross. Perhaps disgust is an emotion unexpected in a being otherwise operating on pure logic, but it remains. Existing as a computer intelligence, R would seem perfectly capable of avoiding living things. But no. The knowledge that we’re out there, living, it creeps R out. R needs us to be dead.

R has managed to keep its method of creating robotic bodies a secret, but routinely a new one will pop up somewhere, attempting to kill as much as possible before the inevitable arrival of the superheroes who may destroy it, but only temporarily.

When I was young and just ripping off Marvel characters for inspiration, this was my Ultron rip-off. I can only hope that my attempt (created just now) to make the robot’s desire to wipe out all living things an act of revulsion is at least somewhat less played out than ominicidal robots usually are.

Eddie Legit

The gods of old are dead. Gone is the time when a god of war would take a stake in a human conflict or a god of love would select an ideal couple. But a new force stands in the place. Eddie Legit is that new force.

If the gods of myth thought of humanity as slaves or playthings, Eddie Legit is worse. Eddie Legit doesn’t even have a pantheon of other gods to reign him in. Standing alone as, perhaps, the most powerful entity in the world, Eddie Legit has no reason to not be a total dick.

A “god of dickishness” can gain a bit of a following in a world without hope, and that’s what has happened. Eddie Legit has become something of a hero to swarms of oppressed people who admire his self-serving attitude. And this is exactly why Raid Force Zero intends to bring down Eddie Legit and prove that being a dick is not the way to improve the world.

I had no idea where to go when I drew Eddie Legit. I looked at him and I was like “who is this guy?” I detected a bit of a Mxyzptlk vibe, so I thought he could be an all-powerful trickster type. Then I decided, less of a trickster, more of a total ass. And then I made him an opponent of the most “grim” set of heroes I created last year. I admit, I kinda like how it turned out.

Super Sunday: Kill-A-Lot-Bot and Fireclops

Kill-A-Lot-Bot

When the robotics wing of Astounditech Incorporated was the victim of serious financial cutbacks, the staff decided, in a moment of anger, programmed one of their most advanced robots to go on a killing spree. Unfortunately for them, it was very good at it. The robot killed the heads of the company, the programmers and engineers, and just about everyone it came across. It killed a lot. Eventually, the authorities were able to stop the robot’s rampage, but just then the Robotic Raiders arrived to recruit Kill-A-Lot-Bot to their goal of human extinction. Taken to the machine team’s secret base, Kill-A-Lot-Bot continues to join the serve.

I have opinions on the idea that Artificial Intelligences would want to destroy all human life. To greatly simplify those opinions: I figure they probably won’t have much reason to want do that. This character is the opposite of that. Unlike most of the villains I’ve done so far, this one is neither a villain assigned to one of my heroes from previous Super Sundays, nor meant to stand alone. The Robotic Raiders have appeared in one of my Robexor stories. Why make another robot for a team already staffed with several robots in a story I already did? Honestly, I mostly just wanted to draw a robot, so I did.

Fireclops

In this corner, from the Isle of Mystic Fire, the terrible daughter of the Burning Sky, the flaming creature with a hunger for roast human: Fireclops! Striding forth from the vortex that leads to the Magic Realms, Fireclops tears through cities and towns setting fire and eating people. This is the exact kind of magical threat that Konwaag the Magic Hunter seeks to put to an end. Which of these two powerful beings will come out on top? And how much damage will the human race suffer in the meantime?

Nothing much to say about this one. Just drew a cyclops, then added fire. That happens sometimes. If Konwaag is meant to be a rival hero to Noblewoman, Fireclops is the kind of threat that makes us know that Konwaag is still a relatively good guy. And that way, Fireclops and Noblewoman can work together to fight.