Hugh Hazzard &
Bozo the Iron Man
Created by George E. Brenner
NAME + ALIASES:
Smash Comics #1 (August 1939)
Justice League of America v.2 #60
Smash Comics #1-41 (August 1939–March 1943)
Starman v.2 #64
Bozo the Robot was the third hero created by George Brenner for Quality Comics. Bozo even preceded Quality’s first super-hero, the Doll Man, by several months. Save for its robotic nature, historically significant name, and occasional bursts of excitement, the character was forgettable.
Bozo was an iron robot originally created by the criminal Dr. Von Thorp, who sent his creation to terrorize the city. The police were at their wits’ end and Commissioner Hunt called their go-to guy, Hugh Hazzard, for help by sending a flare into the sky. (Batman’s Bat-signal didn’t appear until 1942.) Hazzard managed to stow away inside the robot, which led him back to Von Thorp’s hideout, and to a hasty take down. Afterwards, Hugh learned that the authorities intended to send the robot to a watery grave. Hazzard rushed to save it and named him “Bozo the Iron Man,” his new crime-fighting partner. (Smash #1)
The character of Bozo has seen no formal use since 1943. James Robinson, who wrote Starman in the 1990s, made cryptic references to several Quality characters. In Starman #64, you can catch a glimpse of Bozo in the DC universe. By the 1970s, Bozo’s body had found its way into the hands of a Japanese collector who specialized in heroic memorabilia. Bozo appears among other historical robots from DC lore.
The fate of Hugh Hazzard remains unexplored. Hugh had no known family, but an unnamed girlfriend made a couple of minor appearances.
In a 2007 interview with Newsarama, Justin Gray revealed, "Gonzo the Mechanical Bastard evolved from Grant [Morrison]’s original proposal into something very different. Instead of an updated version of Bozo the Iron Man, this creature is tied more closely to the events taking place now as we head into Final Crisis. He arrived as a vanguard to the changes, a wrench in the machine so to speak." Gray and his co-writer Jimmy Palmiotti created Gonzo alongside other Quality legacy characters but he never bore any resemblance to Bozo, nor did it mention any relationship between the two. This Gonzo originated in another universe and was manipulated by Father Time into killing and replacing Senator Knight (Phantom Lady's father). (Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters v.1 #1) Gonzo became the primary foe of this story arc, quickly moving out of Father Time's control. (#2-7) Before Gonzo's destruction, Father Time revealed that the tyrant was the creation of the "Mathmagicians of the Anti-Life Equation," shadowy chaos architects. Gonzo was their probe, dispatched to gather data. Ultimately, Time captured Gonzo in a device and the synthesis became an Orphan Box, a source of raw information. (#8)
Then in 2011, James Robinson wrote a story for Justice League of America #60 that referenced Bozo and Gonzo in context of Grant Morrison's original plan. A robot resembling Bozo was shown being ripped apart by Cyborg, but that was "all he wrote."
Many fictional robots from the early 20th century probably trace their roots to Fritz Lang’s 1927 silent film, Metropolis, which presented a unique future-world and featured a robotic woman, the Maschinenmensch. Squarish, human-sized robots can also be found in the 1935 Gene Autry serial Phantom Empire.
Most similar to Bozo was a real-life robot that was contemporary to Brenner’s comics career. The golden robot called Elektro was made by the Westinghouse Electric Corporation, and presented at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. It was seven feet tall, and performed a variety of feats (but could not house a human). Elektro was also wide-shouldered and barrel-chested, though Bozo’s facial “expression” seems a bit more friendly. Brenner referenced the World’s Fair in one of his “Clock” stories.
Bozo the Robot preceded television’s famous Bozo the Clown by several years. Marvel Comics’ character, Iron Man, did not debut until Tales of Suspense #39 (April 1963).
Bozo was powerful enough to maintain a bi-monthly cover spotlight through Smash #26. The name of the feature began as “Hugh Hazzard and His Iron Man.” In Smash #12 the “Iron Man” portion was dropped permanently in favor of “Bozo the Robot” (and often omitting Hugh’s name entirely). Another Bozo-like robot was used by the Japanese in the humor feature “Private Dogtag” in Police #28 (1943).
Bozo’s prowess was mainly quantified by his mechanical strength and ability to fly. It once plowed right through the earth. At first, Hugh Hazzard controlled Bozo by remote control, and even rode on the robot’s back. Soon he added the ability to control Bozo from the inside, wearing it like armor. The robot was airtight and could perform underwater as well. Hugh Hazzard wasn’t afraid to use his own fists, either.