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The Original Astro Boy is a 1987 comic book series produced by independent American studio NOW! Comics. The series ran from 1987 to 1989, lasting 20 issues. The first eight issues are based on the first episode of the 1963 anime, with many characters retaining their names from that series' English dub. Many other Tezuka characters were adapted from the 1980 series. While the series ran for two years and contained many of Osamu Tezuka's licensed characters, it was never officially authorized by Tezuka or his family.

Production

NOW! Comics began a comic series based on Speed Racer, which became very popular and led many readers to suggest the studio make a series based on Astro Boy. Studio owner Tony Caputo bought the American comic rights from a group named Suzuki & Associates; this firm was the western distributors of the 1963 anime in the mid-1980s. However, Suzuki & Associates were only legally entitled to the English dub of the anime, not the actual Tezuka characters therein. Caputo and NOW! staff did not know this, and used a large roster of characters from the Astro Boy manga and two anime of the time.

Originally, the comic was going to be written and drawn by Brian Thomas, who was openly an Astro Boy fan. Canadian cartoonist Ken Steacy was hired to create cover art, much like he did for NOW!'s The Real Ghostbusters series. Jobs were hard to find at the time in the independent comic market, and Steacy offered to be paid in Canadian dollars (which, at the time, had a very low conversion rate from American dollars) if he was offered a full comic art contract. As a result, Caputo moved Steacy to lead artist, and added Michael Dimpsey as the lead writer.

Dimpsey wrote the first eight issues, which make up the first story arc of the series. He left the studio shortly after for unknown reasons. Ken Steacy and Andrew Pratt took over as artist, writer, and letterer respectively until issue 16. When Steacy's contract ended, Brian Thomas was readded to the crew as the lead writer and artist. Around this time, NOW! Comics was picked up for newsstand distribution, where their comics would be produced in greater numbers and sold in regular comic and magazine shops, as opposed to only selling through niche shops and mail order. This meant that NOW!'s fantastic sales numbers were now only average to below average with the higher print requirement. They begun to lose profit, and as a result, The Original Astro Boy was cancelled in June 1989. NOW! Comics filed for bankruptcy in 1990.

Story

Somewhere in the future, Dr. Boynton creates a robotic replica of his deceased son Astor. When the replica is far too robotic and emotionless, Boynton rejects the robot and plans to wipe his memory and sell him off. Astor begins to develop his own personality after getting into fights against other robots, and rebels. A now terrified Boynton implants a robotic bomb spider named Bruno into Astor, and sells him to Cacciatore's Robot Circus under the name "Astro Boy."

There, Astro meets a humanoid robot named Simon, who tells Astro about the injustices that human-like robots and cruder robots alike face against humans in the rest of the world. With Simon as his only friend, Astro becomes bored with having to fight robots for humans' entertainment. Cacciatore informs Boynton about Astro's behavior, and out of desperation, Boynton triggers Bruno's bomb function just as Simon has pulled it out of Astro. In light of Simon's death, Astro lets the other robots destroy the circus, but can't bring himself to let Cacciatore die.

Astro and the other robots wind up leading a robot revolution, with the intention of confronting the Institute of Science. This spirals out of control into a fight between the military and robots from the city, and Dr. Boynton has a mental breakdown and attempts to kill Astro. Suddenly, Boynton has a flashback to his son's death, and breaks down, hugging Astro and letting go of his fear of him. Soon after, Dr. Elefun arrives with word of upcoming robot rights, and rescues Astro from the scene. Now under the care of Dr. Elefun, Astro begins to live with robot parents and a sister as he goes on more adventures.

Legacy

The comic suffered through budget problems and staff pay problems, the reasons of which have never been publicly announced; accusations have risen in years since that Caputo would purposely shift company budgets to NOW!'s higher selling comics (such as Rust or Speed Racer), or delaying employee paychecks.

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