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Issue 40: Machine Teen

Jessika: Tell me you have a comma collecting problem without telling me. What has this podcast done to me? Hello, and welcome to Ten Cent Takes, the podcast where we mechanically build the love and affection that we seek, one issue at a time. My name is Jessica Fraser, and I'm joined by my co host, the robotic reader Mike Thompson.

Mike: Shut up. Um, baby, you know it well.

Jessika: The purpose of this podcast is to study comic books in ways that are both fun and informative. We want to look at their coolest, weirdest, and silliest moments, as well as examine how they're woven into the larger fabric of pop culture and history. And if you're enjoying the show so far and want to help us grow, it'd be a huge help if you'd rate and or review us on Apple podcasts, Pod Chaser and Good Pods, because that really helps. With discoverability friendly reminder, we've pulled our content off of Spotify, given how the platform is continuing to actively promote voices spreading vaccine. Uh, disinformation.

Mike: My least favorite kind of disinformation.

Jessika: Indeed. Today we are going to the Build a Kid workshop and discussing Marvel's Machine Teen. We'll look at the history and influence that went into his creation, his appearances in comics, and our thoughts on, uh, this mechanical minor. But before we shift gears in that direction, Mike, what is one cool thing you've read or watched lately?

Mike: I started reading a comic from Image called Nailbiter. It is written by Joshua Williamson and Mike Henderson, with Henderson pulling art duties as well. Lettered by John J. Hill, colored by Adam Grzowski, and it's edited by Rob Levin. It ended in 2017, and it's since been collected in giant ten issue volumes, which are all available on hoopla. So I've been binging through that for the last couple of days. I'm about halfway through the series. And the idea is it starts out with a serial killer getting arrested. And he's kind of like a serial killer from popular media, where he's got, like, a very visceral thing that he does, which is he basically eats people's nails after he grows them out, and he wears it down to the bone and then kills them. Um, and so he's got, like, 42 kills to his name, and he's acquitted. And then he moves to his hometown. And it's revealed that his hometown is actually, like, the hometown of Serial Killers for America. There's, like, 16 or 17 that they know of. And so the agent who busted him goes there and then calls his friend, and he's sitting there and he's saying, I figured it out. And so his friend comes up to help him kind of lock things down, and then there's this whole sinister conspiracy going on. It's really good.

Jessika: That sounds fascinating.

Mike: Yeah. You know, it's funny because I remember I had a date who was telling me about it, and it was one of those things where I texted her afterwards, and I was like, I'm really sorry, I didn't really feel that connection. But I just wanted to say thank you so much for the comic recommendation. And so I'd read the first volume years ago, but now I'm catching up again on everything else and it's just really great. Um, highly recommended, especially as we're starting to get ready for fall and all things spooky.

Jessika: Spooky season. As far as I'm concerned, we are end of July. As far as I'm concerned. It's already spooky season. Okay.

Mike: Right. Mhm. Yeah. So that's what's been taking up my time lately. What about you?

Jessika: Well, I recently took myself to a movie by myself. I know, I love going to the movies by myself. We have a really nice theater here in town and it's got the really nice seats that like, recline and are soft. And it's got a little tray in front of you so you don't have to get your stuff all goopy. Oh, amazing. So I watched everything everywhere all at once.

Mike: Bitch. I really want to see that. Sarah and I, it's so good.

Jessika: Uh, I will not give any spoilers. I mean, I'm sure you already know it's a multiverse movie and so that's all you need to know. It's incredibly well done. And like I said, I know a lot of people haven't seen it.

Mike: I've heard nothing but good things. Yeah, but it's got data from the goonies in it. I know, and I didn't realize he did a bunch of stunt stuff after that. So he gets to show some martial arts shops and Sarah and I are really interested in it. We just haven't gotten around to watching it yet. But we also haven't been going out to movies. Turns, um, out we're still in the middle of a pandemic. And I work in healthcare now and the new variant that's going around is apparently more infectious than measles.

Jessika: Yeah. M. Um, on that note, yeah, I did watch it when there were like, literally two other people in the theater. I went during a very not busy time and it had been out for a while.

Mike: Yeah. You know what the last movie it was that I saw in the theater?

Jessika: Oh my gosh, tell me.

Mike: It was the first Sonic the Hedgehog movie.

Jessika: Oh God.

Mike: Which movie was not bad? The second one was god awful. The second one was, I think, one of the worst things I've ever seen with the kids. But the first one was, uh, tolerable, like, I didn't sit there and feel like I needed a good stiff drink afterwards.

Jessika: I have not seen either. But it's movies like Sonic the Hedgehog Two that make me just so glad that I don't have children.

Mike: There's a lot of really bad kids media out there and we try to expose the kids to the good stuff. Like, I got the kids really interested in the Spectacular Spiderman series from around 2011, 2012 because it just came to netflix, and it's great, and the kids were really into it. But at the same time, there's a lot of really terrible stuff like Sonic, too.

Jessika: And you also have to get to the point where they're able to consume that media. That doesn't happen. It's not like they can just pop out and be like, oh, look, infant, enjoy the spiderman media. And they're like, this is great. They're all web slinging around as babies.

Mike: So many of my friends have very young children, and I am so glad that I got to skip that. And I just inherited two tiny humans that I could bargain with, right?

Jessika: Yeah. If they're not old enough to a certain point, if I can't, like, have some sort of a small conversation or communicate in some way, if you have a need and you can tell me, that's where I need to be. None of this guessing. Don't ask me for things and change your mind. I'm not here for any of this.

Mike: Yes, exactly.

Jessika: We're on borrowed time here, child. All right, well, let's move on to another child. Well, a teen.

Mike: I mean, that's arguably worse.

Jessika: Now, if you've listened to the show at all, you've probably figured out that I'm a Marvel fan girl through and through. I figured this out kind of through the podcast, but DC is really just meant for me. It's fine. But the Marvel universe is the one that really calls to me. So with that in mind, I have been searching around for Marvel characters that have not had as much exposure as many of the main stable heroes that we habitually see in comics and film. So today, our focus is going to be Adam Aronson, the machine teen. Ever heard of him?

Mike: So you texted me about this, and when I sat down to read the series last night, I was like, this feels kind of familiar looking at the COVID And then I realized on Marvel Unlimited, I had read this entire series and I had completely forgotten it.

Jessika: Yeah, I get that. I understand that.

Mike: Yeah. Uh, did you pick up the series as, like, a dollar bin find?

Jessika: Yeah, it was like, one of the sets. It wasn't a dollar. It was basically a dollar bin kind of set find. But yeah, I did get the whole series of five all at once.

Mike: Yeah, I've seen that at a couple of stores. I was at Flying Colors recently, and I think I found the same thing. And I was like, no, I don't want this. I don't feel like I need this.

Jessika: Well and I was like, I've never heard of this person. I think I'm going to pick it up and see if I can do something with it. Yeah, we can do a little something with it.

Mike: I'm so excited to just rip this apart.

Jessika: So the machine teen character was created for a five issue limited series, with the first issue being released in July. Of 2005. While the machine he and himself, as well as the supporting characters were new to Marvel, adam was actually inspired by another Marvel hero named Aaron Stack, who first appeared in Jack Kirby's 2001 A Space Odyssey. Number eight in 177 in that he was first called Mr. Machine, but he was actually called Machine Man and later went on to star in his own self name series beginning in 1978. Also written by Kirby, and without going too into, uh, detail about this dude, the character went on to be affiliated with Shield, the Avengers, Next Wave, and other groups in the Marvel Comics universe. Oh, look what you have. Holy shit. Why do you have those?

Mike: So I love Aaron Stack. I absolutely adore him. And for the viewers who aren't on the camera feed, I was just holding up both the issue of 2001 Number Eight that I own, as well as Machine Man number One.

Jessika: He is a snap way to pull that out of a bag.

Mike: Yeah, he's a weird, interesting character. I really became aware of him because of the comic Next Wave, which was this very funny, kind of like, dark comedy satire on superheroes written by Warren Ellis. And Warren Ellis we have talked about in the past, he's acknowledged as being generally very terrible mhm. So if you want to read Next Wave, I would recommend going and picking it up at the library as opposed to buying it and possibly putting more money in his pocket.

Jessika: Yeah, don't do that.

Mike: But Aaron Stack was part of the crew, and he was this really the whole team was this kind of group of obscure and new characters that were kind of like the delisters of Marvel. And the comic made them really funny, but also really cool in their own ways. And Aaron Stack in that one was made to be kind of like a crazy badass who had a very sarcastic, witty tone, which just hit all of my checkboxes. And Marvel has since really kind of like, pulled from that version of him and made him a recurring character throughout the universe. Like, at one point, he led a team of robots into the Marvel zombies universe to kind of deal with them because since they're not zombies, they're immune. But he's just this goofy, weird character. I have a soft spot for him, which, I mean, going back to the whole point of this podcast, it got started because I was just sitting there and gushing about all these weird, interesting moments in comics history that are outside of kind of like the collective cultural zeitgeist that most people know to you. That's always been kind of how I've collected comics, is. I've always liked the weird shit. So I was reading the series, and it reminded me a lot of also, back in the 80s, they gave Machine Man a four issue miniseries. That was not great. It's fine. Honestly, the most memorable part of it is a, the covers are really cool, and they're all done by this powerhouse artist named Barry Windsor Smith. Basically, each issue is Aaron Stacks had getting rebuilt and assembled until the final issue is, like, him complete. And then I think that series was also the first appearance of Iron Man 2020, who's, like, this villainous mercenary descendant of Tony Stark or nephew or something, who has recently been coming back in comics.

Jessika: Yeah. Was Tony Stark ever a hero?

Mike: Oh, he was back then.

Jessika: Well, back then. You're right. I'm inflating.

Mike: But, yeah, as soon as I saw you talking about Aaron Stack in the notes, I was like, well, got to break these out and show them off in the video because they're a lot of fun.

Jessika: Color me impressed, Mike. I was not anticipating that. That was a Shamalon esque twist. What a dog. So Machine Teen has pretty much all of the same abilities and weaknesses as Machine Mankind for the most part. So let's start with weaknesses. There's pretty much just one, because the kid can take some blows and he can take some bullets. No biggie. But he is susceptible to that's. Uh, right. Electromagnetic pulses, everyone. Pew, pew, pew. So village with a pulse gun are no fun, as they say. Or as Machine teen says, I guess. So let's talk strengths. We're looking at superhuman strength, super speed, advanced mental computation, and processing. And we don't find this out during our five issue series. But Machine Teen also has telescoping arms and legs, and we find this out during his appearances in Avengers Academy, where he was in a class of new students when the Avengers Academy moves into the former West Coast Avengers headquarters.

Mike: I have read that whole series, and I do not remember this character.

Jessika: Well, he is only in there very briefly. It's literally two issues of that.

Mike: Okay.

Jessika: And he was also listed as a potential recruit for the Initiative.

Mike: Yeah, I mean, they really would sit there and do a lot of kind of deep balls where they're like, oh, so and so is a candidate for one of the 50 state initiative of superheroes. And you're like, okay, that's a nice reference, but yeah.

Jessika: So he hasn't been in much.

Mike: I'm not surprised. I cannot imagine that this series really lit a lot of fires.

Jessika: Yeah, I mean, those spoiler, those were his only crossovers. Wait, in this reality? That's right, folks. Somebody called Dear Watchers because this boy has an alternate version in the House of M M reality where he gets experimented on and he and his dad joined Aim, um, and, like, work with the Hulk and shit. Standard alternate reality family business.

Mike: God. So House of M was right around the same time as this. So that makes sense.

Jessika: It was 2005.

Mike: Yeah, that checks out. So maybe they were trying to do that kind of cross story synergy.

Jessika: I think so. Which, speaking of dads, what a good segue into the five issue limited series, which delves deep into how Adam Harrinson, the Machine teen, was first created. So the Machine Teen was published under Marvel in July of 2005 and was created by Mark Sumerick and Mike Hawthorne. Mike, I'll let you suss out the frame of the plot, but Dr. Aaron Isaacs created a hyper intelligent and sensient AI, which he named Adam A-D-A-M-M which stands for Autonomously Decisive Automated Mechanism, creating him to think he was as human as those around him. So would you mind giving a brief overview of the plot of the comic?

Mike: I mean, thank you in advance. Okay, I gotta get this off my chest. Like, this is a five issue miniseries, and it feels like you could have cut a lot of fat and exposition from this story and really dropped it down to, like, three, maybe even two issues.

Jessika: 100%.

Mike: There is so much that feels like just unnecessary padding, and it's a lot of talking not showing.

Jessika: Yes.

Mike: Don't get me wrong. Like, Abortion Eve had a lot more exposition and dialogue, but it felt like it served a purpose, as opposed to this, where it's just like, well, let me tell you about this. I'm like, no.

Jessika: There was a lot of that. I agree.

Mike: Yeah. Okay. The comic starts out with a prologue where we see that scientist, Aaron Isaacs. He's trying to escape a top secret facility that's, like, there's a lot of shadows. It's very clearly nefarious. And he's being chased by armed guards, and he gets shot in the leg. I think there were even dogs chasing him, um, at one point, I can't remember, but I feel like they were.

Jessika: Yeah, it was the whole thing.

Mike: It's been a long time since I was so just kind of disappointed by all the tropes that were hit in, like, the first two pages.

Jessika: It was great.

Mike: He managed just to conveniently hop on a train that's passing by this top secret facility, which okay. And then he escapes, and he's got this high tech thing with him, and he looks all relieved. And then we cut to an indeterminate amount of time later where he has changed his name to Erinson. And then he's, like, obviously changed his appearance a little bit. And he's watching a football game where his son Adam is the quarterback and wins with this epic touchdown pass that's so powerful, it knocks the receiver into the goalpost. And then everyone is, like, surprised. The kid's super strength. And it's also revealed that he has seizures from time to time. So then there's this rumor going around that he's started taking steroids or some other performance enhancers. And then it's revealed shock and surprise that Adam is really a robot who isn't aware of his existence. And he eventually becomes aware of this when he rescues his best friend TJ from a bully who's, like, assaulting him in an alley. And the bully tries to stab at him with a pipe, and it impales.

Jessika: His hand that escalated so fucking quickly. Who's. Like, You've got a fucking pipe now? What? Uh, okay.

Mike: Every one of these characters were not actually characters. They were so flat and one dimensional. They're not even props. They're all just tropes masquerading his characters. And nothing happens with the bully after this. Nothing. And the bully is just really mad because, I don't know, adam was better than him in football, so he was, like, grumpy about the fact that Adam was the starting quarterback or something. I don't know.

Jessika: Yeah, it did amount to that. It was pretty ridiculous. I mean, if that isn't toxic masculinity for you, I don't know what it is to beat you with a pipe because I didn't make freaking quarterback.

Mike: I will say, I did enjoy all of the mid oughts fashion choices that were made. Like, Adam's got the it's not like a hookah shell necklace, but it looks like dried macaroni that he's wearing. Uh uh, and he's got, like, the cargo pants, and it's okay, whatever. Every decade had a look. Um, yeah. And so from here, we learned that Adam's best friend, TJ, actually knew he was a robot because he was working as a sort of lab assistant to Adam's dad that had been sworn to secrecy. Adam's dad is on the run from the evil corporation that was running that facility that he escaped from. And then the corporation has been searching for him. And then they have, like, a mole in place at Adams High School who is the security officer, which pick a.

Jessika: More obvious mole, don't we?

Mike: Oh, yeah. It's very weird. And there's a whole thing early on where the security officer is asking Adam's girlfriend about him. And I'm like, I don't know. Like, everything about this feels real hinky and weird and, like, not very sensible.

Jessika: Yeah, he was giving off you shouldn't be around school's vibe.

Mike: Yeah, it definitely seems like the dude who'd be hanging out in a windowless van outside the school instead of whatever he was doing. And then we have a couple of issues where there's a lot of kind of suspenseful drama that is neither suspenseful or dramatic, but it ultimately ends up with Adam learning the truth about himself. And then he, his dad, his girlfriend, and his best friend all get captured. The evil corporation, they, like, hack Adam's programming because they want to take him over. Adam kind of pretends to be going along with it for a second. He reveals, uh, that the hacking didn't actually take. He rescues his family and friends, but he's, like, mortally wounded in the escape. And he basically, like, has his dad take his data core, or central core, whatever it is, and then he activates a self destruct sequence, which apparently kills all the pursuers in an explosion. And then we cut to a year later where, uh, like, a newly rebuilt Adam is starting over at a new high school, and he's talking with his dad. And then he's like, yeah, I'm, like, ready for anything. And then that's it. It's like, fade to black. And we don't get any update about maybe we did get an update about his friend and his girlfriend. I don't know. I don't remember. Uh, I have already forgotten most of what I read. I'm sure that a year from now, people will be like, oh, you read Machine Team? I'll be like, I did, yeah.

Jessika: You came for good sake. Way into what are your thoughts on the plot, the art? How does this rate for you?

Mike: I'm trying to be a little bit kind because I try not to tear people's hard work down, but I'm going to call this serviceable at best, everything feels like it was just putting together a plot based on a checklist, and the art feels very unenthusiastic. It's not bad. It's not terrible. But I was sitting there going through the issues, and I was sitting there thinking, it would not take a lot to make these individual panels look so much more dramatic if you just changed the angles a little bit or exaggerated.

Jessika: The motion or captured more like motion. You know what I mean? Like them doing different motions than what they were doing.

Mike: Yeah. I mean, it's all the same camera angle, for lack of a better description. It's all, like, the same kind of head on shot. Even the dramatic reveals aren't that dramatic. They don't look that good, honestly. They do a moment where they have this big reveal where Adam is on this table in his dad's workshop, and he's plugged in, kind of pulled apart of it, and I'm like, you could have gone really cool and made this look like very body horror or just, like, crazy cybernetics. And it's missing a lot of detail. It feels very flat and kind of straightforward. The more I think about this. I think they were really trying to use this to capture a younger audience, but they didn't want to commit a lot of time or effort or money to it, because this was the same era as Smallville was really huge and roswell. I don't think it was the CW yet. It was the WB was still doing all that stuff.

Jessika: Um, sure was.

Mike: But there's that surge in teen entertainment that was getting real big, and everything about this feels like a CW pilot from 2005 instead of masquerading as a comic book.

Jessika: Uh, you're so not wrong. I don't see the lie.

Mike: Yeah, let me check on something. I think this may have been because Marvel had a label that was, like, geared towards teens called, I think, Marvel Next.

Jessika: Yes. This was part of the marvel. Next.

Mike: Okay. Yeah. So Marvel Next was, like, their imprint that they were launching certain series in or doing collections of books to try to, like, get newer readers in and they had some good stuff, like, uh, Aranya, which had originally launched an amazing fantasy, was a Baller series. And that was a series that had kick ass art and a really interesting, different storyline with a teen superhero. I loved that series. I think Young Avengers might have also been associated with that, but I'm not sure. I don't know.

Jessika: Okay.

Mike: But, yeah, it was a label that did some notable stuff, but, uh, man, this was a thing.

Jessika: Yeah, actually, I read it and I took some notes on my thoughts, and then I didn't sit down to do the outline right away, and then I did sit down to do the outline and went, what the fuck happened in that comic? And I literally had to go read a synopsis real quick to remind myself that, yes, I truly did read this.

Mike: It's so generic. This plot line has been used so many times with the teenager who has the parent who's keeping secrets for his own good or her own good. And then they've got powers or they're special or whatever. Um, and then there's an evil, shadowy organization trying to capture them or kill them or use them for their own game. It's not a bad trope. There's a reason that people still use it. But this is squarely in the middle of all the other ones that have done it, and there's just nothing that really makes it stand out.

Jessika: Yeah, no, uh, I agree with that. I do. And like you said, even the art is just kind of like I mean, it exists.

Mike: There's a lot of shrugging going on on the camera right now, guys.

Jessika: Yeah. So speaking of parental deception for your own good, there's quite a bit of that in this. How do you feel about Adam being left out of so much knowledge of who he is?

Mike: I kind of hate it, but not because of the concept, but just because it felt really lazily implemented. Like, we're not really given much of a reason for why he can't know other than it just it ups the drama. And that was what I really disliked about it.

Jessika: Yeah. Because it feels like it would have taken less time to have a five second conversation and explain his creation than it probably took for him to implant fucking fake memories. Really? Honestly.

Mike: Not only that, on top of that, it would make pulling off the deception a lot easier because he's like the star student where he's kicking ass in all of his classes and he's the star football player and he's dating the most popular girl in school. I don't know, maybe get him to understand that he should stand up, take the incredibles approach where it's like, I don't know, take second place, like right, right, exactly.

Jessika: And then he wouldn't, you know, uh, his seizures stopped when he figured out that he was a robot, because it was the whole issue of he couldn't comprehend as a human why he was able to perform these feats. Well, it's because you're not a human. And once he understood that, there go.

Mike: The seizures, I guess. I don't know, whatever.

Jessika: Well, how do you even think Dr. Isaacs intended to have Adam grow up? Or do you think he ever intended to let him?

Mike: I don't think he planned that out. That's the thing, is he literally did not seem like much of a planner because he was just like, yeah, I'm going to let my kid be the standout student that everybody loves and knows, as opposed to a face in the crowd. I'm being charitable by assuming that he had a plan of some kind, because the whole idea was that he had, like, escaped from this corporation with the core drive or whatever, and I think he was really just trying to keep it out of their hands and keep it from being a weapon. No, I don't think he really had much of a plan beyond that, to be perfectly frank. Maybe my judging this is influencing me, but I don't know. What do you think of it?

Jessika: Hear me out. Hear me out. Sure. He's super smart. Like, I will give him the fact that he's created he's made this breakthrough with AI. Okay. I'm very happy for you. That being said, your name is Aaron Isaacs, and you change your name to Isaac Aronson, your dumbass.

Mike: Yeah, he seems like someone that really buffed up his intelligence step, not his wisdom.

Jessika: Right. And can we, however, not give very much credit to the villains who he didn't do very much to change his name. And it's taken you this long to fucking find him. That's kind of on you.

Mike: Yeah, well, and my favorite was they were like well, the only thing that we're not sure about, it looks like the guy and the name lines up, but he has a teenage son and he didn't have one when he worked for us. I'm like what I know.

Jessika: I like how that was there in no way do they ever ask any questions. He could have adopted this kid. This could have been a kid from a previous marriage. It could have been anything.

Mike: Uh, whatever.

Jessika: Yeah.

Mike: Villains are dumb.

Jessika: Villains are dumb sometimes. Okay, so let's talk more because I'm m just fascinated with the idea of this teen just not knowing that he's a robot. Right. Does he have full bodily functions? Big question. Here's the big question. Do we think this kid can poop? He must be able to eat if he's living like a normal male teenager. The expectation is he's eating, he's having snacks with his friends, he's having lunch in the lunchroom can he poop?

Mike: He's on sports teams. So he's got to be consuming the gatorade when he's out on the field.

Jessika: Right.

Mike: But they specifically avoid all of that. And I was thinking about that because there's a whole bit where he goes to. The nurse's office because she's checking him after one of his seizure incidents. And I think she was going to do a blood test, but someone came in with another injury and he was let go. But she was trying to hear his heartbeat. And we don't ever find out what she heard. But something was weird, and they hinted stuff, but then I think they just were kind of like, now we're not dealing with, uh, that they just kind of handwaved it because they're like, well, we don't have to show him in the lunch room or whatever, but at the same time, he is making out with his girlfriend a lot. It is relatively implied that they have a healthy sexual relationship, which, I mean, like, high schoolers have sex. That is a thing that our parents generation seemed unwilling to acknowledge. But our generation, I think, is a little bit better about it. I don't know. There's a lot of unknowns there, and I'm wondering if they're kind of approaching it from the data perspective of Star Trek, where it's like you could consume things and then store it. And then I think there was a whole thing where at one point, he was like, well, I can store it, and then I can basically remove it on command. Sorry, Trekkies. I can't remember this for certain, but I vaguely recall there was something about this.

Jessika: Right. I think I recall something of that nature as well. But, yeah, I was thinking, because I'm a logistics person, I'm a logic person, and I'm just like, I want to know, how does this guy work? You've told me that this is the most advanced robot. And my question to you is, if this is the most advanced robot that's most like a human, why does it not look more like a human on the inside? It just looks like gears and parts. That doesn't scream most advanced robot to me. It's like I've made, like, a fake heart in a petri dish and then put it into this partially mechanical it's a little bit more than that, but this is just like, oh, no, he's figured out that he's all the pipes and wires, and it's like, what? He has to be more than the pipes and wires.

Mike: The way that they make him look. He looks almost like a Terminator skeleton. He, uh, looks like the T 800 without any skin. And that's the thing, is it's basically just implied to be, like, synthetic skin on top of this machine that looks like it is pistons and parts rather than something more organic looking.

Jessika: Right.

Mike: It goes back to the whole thing where I'm like a lot of it feels just hitting checkboxes. Not a lot of thought. What does a robot look like? What does a robot with skin look like? Okay, we'll draw that, right?

Jessika: Yeah. Which, again, makes me think about him making out with that girl. Like, that had to have been a realistic feeling tongue.

Mike: Yeah. And it's interesting because at the same time, I think it was the comic Runaways by Brian Cave on they had a character named Victor Machina who showed up and he was basically like, uh, a teenage son of Ultron. And his character design, the way that his robotics would reveal themselves, was much cooler and much more imaginative. All right.

Jessika: Uh, it's somewhat disappointing, for sure. So question do you think that we can consider Adam's data core, his soul? And second part of this question, if so, if his entire actual body was completely obliterated by this explosion at the end, is he really the same person or is this a theseus ship situation? Uh, that's more left to philosophy. I don't know.

Mike: Mhm yeah, I mean, he has the potential to be shout out to Dan DG. Chychester from our Halloween episode last year, where he raised this very idea with the concept of a character Terror. But I think that as opposed to Terror, where Terror was like replacing all of his parts over time, except for one, which wasn't his soul, but it was just a part of him that he never wanted to replace. So it was kind of like his masthead, almost. I think Adam, if his data core is intact, then it's not quite the ship theseus I think he is much more of. He's like it's like that is the thing that is driving the vessel, and that has never changed. So the vessel can change it's basically, it's like swapping out a hard drive and putting it in a new computer casing where you still think of it as it's the same computer, as opposed to you've swapped out all the parts and now it's something new or something different, even though it's got the same data in place.

Jessika: Yeah, I can see that.

Mike: Yeah. I mean, now let's say that the data core is destroyed and then rebuilt from a backup, or a copy is created and put into a new body. Which one is the real one? Uh, that's where you start getting into the more metaphysical philosophical questions. But I think at this point in time, it's the atom that we see at the end that's been rebuilt. It's still the same atom driving the body, even though he has a different terrible hairstyle.

Jessika: That's fair. No, I can see that. I can see that. Yeah, I was definitely thinking of that data chorus as soul, as kind of what makes him like his essence.

Mike: Yeah, and that's the thing, is if the essence hasn't changed, but the vessel containing the essence has, I don't think you're quite at the point of asking if it's a brand new thing because you still have that central part driving it. But yeah, it's a good question. I like it. It made me think a lot more than the rest of this comic did.

Jessika: I'll take that credit. So, can you think of any other crossovers that he might be a good match for.

Mike: I mean, there's so many they could have done that would have been so good. Like, honestly, I'm really kind of grumpy that they didn't do a crossover with him. And Machine Man, I think that would be great these days. You could totally do it with Vision and his daughter Viv from the Vision series that Tom King wrote a while back, which is also very good. I think he would have been great with the young Avengers or Runaways or I would have loved to see him. There was a great series that was not Avengers Academy called Avengers Arena, and it was basically The Hunger Game starring teen superheroes.

Jessika: That's cool.

Mike: It's very dark. It's great. It's all on Marvel Unlimited, if you want to read it. And then they did a sequel to it called Avengers Undercover, which was pretty good, but not quite. But I really enjoyed Avengers arena. And one of the things is that they had no problem killing off characters.

Jessika: Hey, if you're going to have an alternate reality, if nothing matters.

Mike: Well, one of the things they did was they actually introduced a number of new characters to kill off. But then they had but then they had existing ones, too, that they brought in. So, like, one of them was they brought in I think they brought in Laura Kinney X 23, you know, Wolverines clone slash daughter. They had Dark Hawk. They had Chase from The Runaways, which was a lot of fun. They brought in a new character, Cullen Bloodstone, who is the younger brother of Elsa Bloodstone. They are the children of, uh, Ulysses S. Bloodstone, who is this, like, classic monster hunter character from 70s Marvel. Like, there was a lot of fun that they could have done with that. And I'm actually really surprised now that Machine teen wasn't included in that. I don't know. There were so many teen properties that they were really trying to do at that point in time, and they could have done something so much better. And instead, we got this. You know what this reminds me of? This reminds me a lot of that Tom Swift pilot TV show that we talked about with Deer Watchers recently, where.

Jessika: I was like, I couldn't ever consume any more than that one episode. I couldn't ever go back to it.

Mike: I watched two, and I refuse. I refuse to go back. Everything about it felt very uninspired, and everything about this feels very unenthusiastic. It's so tough.

Jessika: I wanted to like that show so much. I loved all of the actors in that show, and they were just done such a disservice.

Mike: So here's we talked about this. If you guys want to go listen to the full episode, go to Dear Watchers. Look up the Pride episode that we did with them talking about Robin 3000. It's great fun. But we were talking about Tom Swift because there's a whole tie in with that. And the CW has a new show about Tom Swift, and, uh, the big thing in the second episode is Tom is being lowered very slowly down a mine shaft, and then he gets stuck, and then he has to wait for his friend to get lowered very slowly down the mine shaft to get him loose. And it's this very slow plotting moment, and it's so boring.

Jessika: Is it what we call a suspend? I don't know about that.

Mike: Can you keep them?

Jessika: They were technically suspended.

Mike: They were technically suspended. God. Yeah. And, uh uh, that's the thing. I can think of so many ways this character could have been so much cooler and this series could have been cooler. I think it could have been really neat if they explored the ideas of AI. Self awareness and the concept of a soul, and then maybe they could have followed it up with him seeking out other AIS in the Marvel universe and trying to figure out what path he needs to take. Does he go down the path of a hero or a villain, or does he choose neither and try to just be a person? I think they could have done so many good things with this, and they just didn't. It feels it's very soulless. Yeah, it kind of bums me out, but this is like, what we got from this. And I'm like, man, now that I'm thinking about where we could have gone with it, it could have been so much better.

Jessika: Yeah. No, I agree. It is kind of a bummer. I do wish that we had gotten a little bit more out of it than we did for five issues. Like you said, not a lot happens. No, I mean, I think you summed it up pretty well, and you weren't explaining for very long.

Mike: Yeah.

Jessika: What do you say we get the fuck out of here? Onto our brain wrinkles, maybe?

Mike: Yeah, I love it. Let's go.

Jessika: Perfect by machine. Teen peace. Well, we have reached brain wrinkles, which is that one thing comics or comics adjacent that has been rolling around in our noggins. Mike, why don't you start us off?

Mike: Yeah, i, uh, have been thinking a lot about Dungeons and Dragons lately. If you want to hear about our collective involvement with Dungeons and Dragons, go back and check out the issue of the realm where we talk about our personal history with the brand. But we are now on the other side of Comic Con. And during Comic Con, they dropped the trailer for the new movie dungeons and Dragons Honor among Thieves, which has Chris Pine and Michelle Rodriguez and Hugh Grant is weirdly in it, and it looks really fun, to be honest. It's giving off some very Guardians of the Galaxy vibes, which, if you've ever actually played Dungeons and Dragons, is kind of a faithful read of how the party will always muck up the DM's plans.

Jessika: Yeah, that sounds right.

Mike: Yeah, I'm here for it. And it looks very fun. And I can't help but, uh, think about how DND has gone through this cultural 180 over the past decade where people used to really look down their nose at it if they weren't into DND. And now everyone is kind of getting into it. My stepson and his friend really fell in love with it when they went to the DND workshop that, uh, our friend Kelly hosted over at Goblin Bros. Recently. And they're totally into it. They want to go back and do another one. They want to bring more friends. They're interested in having a game. And they were like, well, we don't have a DM. And I was like, boys, boys, I will jump on this grenade. It's fine.

Jessika: Yeah, right?

Mike: But yeah. I'm really hoping we're kind of at that tipping point where DND is just going to all of a sudden be totally mainstream after this. Kind of like how video games hit that point in the we're about to have like a new generation of players who are never going to judge this thing. It's just going to be something so normal and they're never going to look back. And I'm really here for it. I'm really excited for it. I think it's going to be great.

Jessika: I think so too. I mean, there's already such a shift. I'm on TikTok and I'm on DND talk. So there's people doing, like, role playing, what has happened during campaigns, or people making dice or lots of different things. But there are so many different aspects of the game itself. DMs telling stories about their players or fuddling something up, or DMs like being mischievous or players being mischievous and mucking up the plans. And it's so much fun. And I think it's such a good place for people to connect because we can all have these separate experiences and connect it back to each other in the same way.

Mike: Yeah. Well, I definitely talked more than I was intending to. So how about you? What have you been letting rattle around in your head?

Jessika: Well, the last couple of days I've been thinking about AI. And not just because of this comic, but I have been thinking about consciousness and what it takes to be fully sentient. I don't know if you heard, but like two days ago from when we are recording this, there was a chess robot that broke a child's fingers during so Entertained.

Mike: When I heard about this funny shit, I felt so bad for the kid. But oh my God. Here's the thing.

Jessika: My question to you is they're saying that the child moved too fast and didn't give the robot a chance to make its move. Whatever. I don't think that's the case. I think the child was very close to winning. That robot has not lost in like, 15 years to a human. I think that kid got too close to winning and that robot's? Like, not today, you tiny fuck.

Mike: So Sarah and I were talking about this and I was like, I honestly think that's just kind of like following its programming. If it wants to win. How do you take out, uh, an opponent in chess? You break his fucking finger.

Jessika: That's what I'm saying. And which leads me to the kind of moral question of sentience. Like, okay, well, we don't really know if this robot knows what it is, but it knows that its goal is to win, potentially. I don't know that this was the robot's motive. If this was the situation, if the robot very truly acted on that motivation of I need to win. Okay? Now was that a motivation that it itself created, mhm? Or was this a motivation based on this programming? Okay, but wait, where does the difference lie?

Mike: I don't know.

Jessika: When does it become its own decision? Like, I just think it's such a cool question. And also, robots be breaking children's fingers. Dude, that kid's a savage, though. To that kid's credit, he went on later that day with a cast on and continued to play. And he played the fucking next day in these tournaments. Like, good, fucking good on him. Good on him. He's like, no, I'm here to win too. That bitch robot can't take me out. Please cast me.

Mike: Here'S. My thing is, I was like, I don't know. Why did they make the robot, the chess robot strong enough to break a kid's finger? I don't know. Uh, maybe that was a bad idea.

Jessika: M exactly.

Mike: But yeah, I may have cackled a lot when I read that. And then Sarah was like, did you hear about this? And then I cackled again. And I was like, yeah, I heard about that.

Jessika: He probably cackled again when you saw it on my list here.

Mike: It's funny because the high school right down the street from us where our kids are going to go, has a robotics club. And I'm pretty sure my stepson going to want to get into that. And I don't know, there's a part of me that's like, do you want to build a killer robot? Because I could get behind that. As long as it likes us.

Jessika: This is the start.

Mike: Yes. The robot apocalypse. Be nice to all of your, uh, smart devices.

Jessika: That's true.

Mike: When you say good morning to Siri or Google or your Amazon echoes, be nice. I always make a point of thanking our echo when she provides us with facts or data.

Jessika: No, I refuse to get one of those. Although I did go to a sushi robot place with a sushi robot the other day. I got a comment, like, uh, on my TikTok about like, I mean, close to might as well have been like, this is how the uprising starts, basically. Or it was either that or was more along the lines of this is how the robots take all of our jobs. It was one of one or the other. I mean, pick your poison, right?

Mike: Yeah.

Jessika: Well, listen up, folks. I'm going to dance the robot out of here. But we will be back in two weeks with a little something new. We will be starting our dollar bin discoveries, which we're going to be doing every other week between our regular episodes. So guess what, everyone? You're going to start getting weekly content from us starting in September. Um, so get jazz for those of you who have wanted more content from us. We hear you, we hear you, we're listening to you, and we love you. Have more content from us.

Mike: Yeah. So these are going to be episodes where we just talk about a random issue or two that we have found in the dollar bins, because we raid them all the time, where they're fun or they're weird or they're interesting, but they don't necessarily deserve an entire deep dive like we would normally do for one of our episodes. And it'll allow us to also bring in a lot more of our friends to talk about interesting stuff that they found, too.

Jessika: Yeah, so we're super jazzed about that. So watch out. A, uh, comic book stores in our area because we're going to be hitting you up more soon. I won't tell the lady. Don't worry. She knows. She knows. We don't keep secrets. All right, folks. Well, we will see you in two weeks. And until then, we will see you in the stacks.

Mike: Thanks for listening to Tencent Takes. Accessibility is important to us, so text transcriptions of each of our published episodes can be found on our website.

Jessika: This episode was hosted by Jessica Fraser and Mike Thompson. Written by Jessica Fraser and edited By Mike Thompson. Our intro theme was written and performed by Jared Emmerson Johnson of Bay Area Sound. Our credits and transition music is Pursuit of Life by Evan McDonald's and was purchased with a standard license from Premium Beat. Our banner graphics were designed by Sarah Frank, who's at

Mike: If you'd like to get in touch with us, ask us questions, or tell us about how we got something wrong, please head over to Tencent or shoot an email to Tencent You can also find us on Twitter. The official podcast account is Tencent Takes all one word. Jessica is Jessica, and Jessica is spelled with a K and Mike is Van Sau. V-A-N-S-A-U.

Jessika: If you'd like to support us, be sure to download, rate, and review wherever you listen. Stay safe out there and support your local comic shop.


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