Maker Comics: Build a Robot! | Review
Maker Comics: Build a Robot!
written by Colleen AF Venable, art by Kathryn Hudson
First Second, $12.99 (paperback), $19.99 (hardcover)
I was curious to see what kinds of projects we’d find in Maker Comics: Build a Robot!, as the subject is a bit more ambitious and unusual than the other comics in the line. Many people think they could, with a little guidance, plant a garden or bake cookies or draw a comic, but few people think about building their own robot. These projects, though, seem very achievable and, as a bonus, serve as an excellent introduction to principles of engineering.
Our host is Toaster 2, a robot who has been pretending to be a toaster in order to study humans. T2 starts by explaining what defines a robot (instead of a machine) and providing a brief history. This timeline contains a sentence that will likely make adult readers feel very old: “Hal 9000, a talking robot like the one in your cell phone, appears in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.”
T2 explains the approach of this book, with a focus on encouraging simplicity, reuse, and solar energy. “You do not need pants full of paper faces to create robots!” (That’s T2’s term for lots of money.) Instead, readers learn to turn a vibrating toothbrush into a cleaning brushbot. Other projects include an artbot that makes multi-colored scribbles, a hydraulic-powered cardboard spider, magnetic LEDs, a noise-making ball, Arduino coding, and a simple car (used to scare the cat).
There’s plenty of humor throughout, from references to giant movie robots trying to destroy cities to dad jokes. Sometimes the digressions are educational, as when T2 explains how batteries or solar panels work, or how to continue improving your projects.
Hudson’s art is friendly and welcoming. The cartoon faces given to objects, particularly T2, keeps them approachable and makes the book fun to read. That goes well with the writer’s tendency to, for example, name bits of a motor. The counterweight is “Larry”.
There were occasional times that I wanted to know more, as when swarm behavior is briefly mentioned after making the brushbot. “You will start to notice patterns,” we’re told, but not what those might be. For the most part, this is an excellent introduction to robot building and programming. If the reader brings plenty of patience, they will find themselves making some impressive projects and learning a bit of computer programming.
Johanna Draper Carlson has been reviewing comics for over 20 years. She manages ComicsWorthReading.com, the longest-running independent review site online that covers all genres of comic books, graphic novels, and manga. She has an MA in popular culture, studying online fandom, and was previously, among many other things, webmaster for DC Comics. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.
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