My 10 Favorite Giant Robots

It's just like in the comics! Last week's Kaiju War crossover leads right into Forever Giant Robot this week*! After all, who's going to fight the monsters that rose from the depths or fell from sky in the blog crossover of the moment? What's a giant robot? Well, any kind of mechanical creature that's about the right size to fight kaiju will do, whether piloted "mechs" or self-controlled. Some are monsters themselves, bent on destruction. Others are humanity's helpers, our last line of defense. While anime spawned a lot of giant robots, I'm not into anime enough for a lot of them to make it onto the list (and yes, the only reason Iron Giant isn't on here is probably because I haven't gotten 'round to watching it yet); maybe some of the other participants will take care of that. Who else is participating? Michael May's Adventureblog and That F'ing Monkey (with more to come, watch this space!).
*This blog in no way endorses comic book events doing this.

Honorable mention: RoboPagoda
RoboGeisha is too awful a movie for anything in it to win a spot on my Top 10, but when the family castle turns into a giant robot that, Pacific Rim-style, mimics its controller's every move, well, it's hard not to imagine Osaka Castle not getting revenge for the times it was destroyed by Godzilla and its ilk. For that image, it gets an honorable mention even though it's from a pretty dishonorable flick.

10. Omnidroid
There's nothing I don't love about The Incredibles, so Syndrome's Omnidroid obvious had to land on this list. There are many iterations, of course, each model an improvement based on how it the previous one was defeated. It's the little (big) robot that could! never give up! In the end, the only entity that could destroy it was... itself! And it did! Brilliant!

9. MechaGhidorah
The success of MechaGodzilla meant there would be more kaiju-derived giant robots to come, my favorite of which is MechaGhidorah, in large part because of my love the original monster who made it all the way up to #3 in the previous list. He's a cyborg, really, the original King Ghidorah with spare parts, but he counts in my book anyway. After all, aren't pilots an organic component of many giant robots?

8. Voltron
I never cared for the Season 2 Voltron that was made up of lots of small vehicles, which only seemed an exercise in out-Transforming the Transformers, but the Season 1 Lion Force, that was a fun show with the added bonus of featuring color-coded lion-mechs until the inevitable transformation. Obviously, both robots were only "Voltron" in the American market, edited from completely different Japanese shows (a bit like the Robotech/Macross franchise). Lion Force was really Beast King GoLion, while Season 2 featured material from Armored Fleet Dairugger XV. Season 3 based on Lightspeed Electroid Albegas never aired on this continent, though the toys made it into stores. Thanks Japan, for making so many sword-yielding giant robot shows, but yeah, only the Lions version ruled.

7. Crimson Typhoon
Oh, China's three-armed Jaeger, we hardly knew ye. I loved this design, and my being a bit of a Sinophile (i.e. a fan of things Chinese, not a typo for cinephile, though I'm that as well) made me latch on to this doomed mech more than Pacific Rim's other hero-bots.

6. Deathstork
My kaiju list didn't feature a monster from crossover partner Michael May's Kill All Monsters, but he gets luckier in the giant robot category. I just love Deathstork. Neat design, all spindly next to its bulkier cohorts. A female pilot, tapping into a proud anime tradition. And perhaps most importantly, GREAT name. Yeah! Deathstork!

5. Evangelions
Neon Genesis Evangelion starts as just another happy robot fighting show about kids using mechs to fight "Angels" and turns into a Freudian nightmare when one of the partly organic robots cannibalizes another. It's crazy. It's awesome. It's creepy. It's even disturbing. A great twist on the genre.

4. Sentinel(s)
The big mutant hunters have become iconic despite their simple design and purple color scheme, but I don't think any of them were "favorites" (except Romita Jr.'s Nimrod, but he was hardly a giant) until Juston Seyfert's big lug trundled into the pages of the late, lamented Avengers Academy. A Sentinel programmed to ignore its reason for being yet often surrounded by mutants, you could almost believe there was an emotional struggle there that really applies to our own most self-destructive impulses. And its instinct to protect Juston is just adorable and endearing. Yes, I just wrote that about a killer robot. Should track down their series some day.

3. Tripods
The Martian Tripods from H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds have had as many designs as there have been artists to draw them, and I very rarely come across one that isn't cool in its own way. I couldn't find a picture of the first pulp cover of the story I ever saw, which made them out to be big balls with piston-like telescopic legs, but the krakens of the most recent Tom Cruise movie are striking too. They're wonderful because of how alien they are, inherently menacing; I could look at Google Image pages of them all day and be hard-pressed to choose an absolute favorite.

2. Mechagodzilla
Godzilla's mechanical opposite was the central antagonist of the first Godzilla movie I ever saw, so he holds a special place in my heart no matter the quality of the actual films he appears in. The revelation that he was built around the original 1954 Godzilla's skeleton, which I only heard about last week, is creepy as hell, but raises his cred considerably.

1. Goldorak
The Japanese and Americans know him as UFO Robot Grendizer, and I've been told he's just one of so many anime giant robots and not all that important (finishing move is an AXE, completely different!!!), but for French Canadians, THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE, and we call him Goldorak. I don't think you can understand how important this show was to us. EVERYONE watched it, it's a shared heritage that parents are now passing on to their kids. The call signs for each of the attacks are in the public vernacular. We played at Goldorak vs. Golgoths in the school yard. The unsanitized show took no prisoners and showed real death happening. The villains were creepy and strange. The supporting cast got its own robots which became stars in their own right. The opening and closing theme songs were reprised by pop stars and put on albums. On long drives, we might sing them still, in unison. Ask 100 French Canadians to draw up 100 Top 10 lists and he'll probably top each one.

Now it's up to you! Write your own list or a link to your own space in the comments! The crossover is in full swing! What are YOUR favorite giant robots?


De said...

The short-lived Sentinel series where we first meet Juston is nothing short of printed magic.

Siskoid said...

Then I must seek it out.

Unknown said...

Awesome List!

idiotbrigade said...

No Iron Giant?


Siskoid said...

I did give my feeble excuse.

Madeley said...

Sentinel Squad ONE was a great little miniseries, too. Written by John Layman, no less!

Call me obvious, and a stereotypical child of the 80s, but I would have squeezed Optimus Prime onto the list. Mazinger-Z rather than Grendizer for me.

I don't know how well known the series is outside of Britain, but John Christopher's "Tripods" have a huge legacy here, so I'd put them in (the series is obviously inspired by HG Wells, but goes off in a much different direction. Mention them to Brits of my age, and they'll likely recall the creepy, if flawed, TV adaptation.)

Oh! And BattleTech/MechWarrior's iconic Timber Wolf. I have sunk an insane amount of my life into playing the various MechWarrior computer games.

Siskoid said...

I'm just a touch too old to be a BIG Transformers fan, though one made it into my Top 10 Funny Robots list back in 2010.

LiamKav said...

The problem (well, problem for doing lists) with Transformers is that they are very much individual characters. You have Gloating-Maniacal-Bond-Villian-Who's-Actually-Effective Beast Wars Megatron, bad-ass-smashing-machine Grimlock, Willing-To-Do-Dodgy-Things-For-The-Greater-Good Prowl, Rule-Obsessed-So-Uptight-He-Makes-Arnold-Rimmer-Look-Chilled Ultra Magnus, and my favourite, Spock-If-He-Were-Evil Shockwave. So you're not really voting for a giant robot, so much as a character you really like who also happens to be a giant robot that can transform into something else holy crap that sounds awesome.

Seriously, I would be plugging the current Robots In Disguise comic every single day on every board ever if I didn't think it would get me banned. It's awesome.

Siskoid said...

Sounds like I should give that a shot.

I'm also a bit sad that I couldn't include any of Jeffrey Brown's Incredible Change-Bots, but I just don't see them as giant.

LiamKav said...

Both that and the companion series, (More Than Meets The Eye) are genuinly good, better than a lot of Marvel/DC stuff at the moment. Both series start from the premise that the war is over, the good guys have won, and so what do you do when you have been fighting for the past several million years One is set on Cybertron and involves them trying to create a new government (honestly, better than it sounds) and the other involves a rag-tag bunch on a starship on an epic quest.

I'll stop now.

Siskoid said...

I'm a fan of political comics - Great Pacific, for example - so you did a good job marketing it to me.

A much better argument than "better than a lot of DC/Marvel stuff" which sets the bar pretty low anyway.

Laughing Ferret said...

Have to admit I don't know your top robot, but Tripods would be very high on my list too

Siskoid said...

If you're not following me on Twitter, you're missing out on all the nerd rage over the fact I've never seen The Iron Giant, and consequent loss of geek cred.

Madeley said...

I would second the two Transformers series, and add that they've also got a wicked streak of black humour running through them, too. Art and writing are top notch, not a million miles away from the Battlestar Galactica reboot. They deserve much more attention than they seem to be getting.

Bob Buethe said...


googum said...

I always want to spell it "Grandizer," but it is the greatest by any other name. As a kid, I only saw the Force Five cobbled-together movie version, once; and it still left an impression!

Siskoid said...

I remember going to a movie called Goldorak 3 which confused the heck out of me because though it was all about giant robot fighting (it was very Pacific Rim in fact), it featured none of the characters I knew from the show. I now realize it was probably another of those repurposed animes they slapped the title on and made part of some kind of continuity.

Siskoid said...

Oh yeah, I wanted to ask all the Transformers fans still listening if the two series recommended are complete in and of themselves, or if they have important spin-offs or specials required for the complete story.

Michael May said...

It makes me SO HAPPY to see Deathstork on your list! While I picked a different KAM Bot for mine, Akemi is easily my favorite pilot.

Siskoid said...

Me too! And it's a pleasure!

chiasaur11 said...

On Transformers: The books stand on their own. Don't even have to read both.

There's one shots that have some of the same characters called Spotlights and some are well worth reading, but they're not essential. Just fun.

LiamKav said...

If you were thinking of the trade paperbacks, the first issue of More Than Meets The Eye sets up both ongoings so it's a better starting point.

Siskoid said...

Cool! It's just a matter of finding the time now.

LiamKav said...

If the political stuff intruiges you, one of the first stories the current writer did was to flesh out the start of the war, and it involves a corrupt senate that uses fear of terrorism to clamp down on groups they don't like, a miner called Megatron who tries to argue against the caste system on Cybertron that you alt-mode determines you role in life (so if you transform into a bulldozer, you're going to work in construction), and a young Optimus Prime quoting Tony Benn at the corrupt senate (In whose interests do you exercise power? To whom are you accountable? And how can we get rid of you?) It is awesome.

The current IDW series starting about 8 years ago with ongoing minseries. It then changed direction after 3 years to make it more like 1986. It then had one ongoing which was.. okay and ended in a Big Event which essentially ended the war. The two current ongoings picked up from there. So there is a bit of backstory, but you can ignore it. Being familiar with the characters helps but isn't essential.

Besides, as you've said, you gew up throwing yourself into ongoing Marvel and DC comics where no-one explained backstory, so you'd be fine. :)

But to expand on my previous post, the first volume of More Than Meets the Eye has the "Death of Optimus Prime" one-shot (not what you think), then the first issue of MTMTE sets up the current state of the universe, and then things split in two. After that, you can read either. They're both good, but different.

(Seriously, I'm a Transformer fan, but even I can't quite believe it when I say that they're two of the best books on the market.)

Andrew Gilbertson said...

Yay! the Incredibles! (Only... why is that pic photoshopped?)

Something interesting I learned just a few weeks ago- did you realize that MechaKong (from King Kong Escapes) actually predates Mechagodzilla, technically making it the first (if not necessarily the inspiration) mecha-version in the Toho films?

(Oh, and- revealing my major kaiju-geek side... the original (Showa-era) mechagodzilla was an alien construct, the second (Hesei) a Japanese build based on reverse-engineering mecha-King Ghidorah tech... it was only the Millenium version, from 2002, that was built around the original Godzilla's bones. Which did indeed make for a pretty awesome story.)


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