Humanoid Experimental Robot B-Type Integrated Electronics (H.E.R.B.I.E.)

h-e-r-b-i-e-filmFollowing Brick89‘s list we find another character from the Fantastic Four myth, but a pretty controversial one: H.E.R.B.I.E. the friendly robot. Originally, the character was created for the FF animated tv series to replace the missing Human Torch (an urban legend says that it was because the producers feared the children could have set themselves on fire to emulate the hero), but it was later integrated in the comics as well. H.E.R.B.I.E. only appeared in a deleted scene from the 2005 Fantastic Four movie, as a sad-looking decommissioned robot put in a storage full of old inventions by its creator, Reed Richards. An early script included the robot even in the 2015 reboot, but it didn’t make it to the final version. H.E.R.B.I.E. isn’t exactly a character we’d miss too much in future installments of the franchise, but the possibility that he’ll make another appearance does exist. In the meanwhile, let’s take a look at the original.

When the Fantastic Four started a mission to defeat the cosmic supervillain Sphinx, their adventure brought them to the alien planet Xandar, where they resolved to call for the help of Galactus against their enemy. In order to find the Devourer of WorldsMister Fantastic built, helped by the Xandarian Master Xar, a highly advanced robot able to locate the unique energy signatures of Galactus; Richards decided to shape the little robot like the one that on Earth some cartoonist had created in the animated tv series based on the FF’s adventures, and named it like the fictional one, H.E.R.B.I.E. (the short version of Humanoid Experimental Robot B-Type, Integrated Electronics). Unfortunately, the villain Doctor Sun‘s consciousness was still trapped in the Xandarian mainframe, the Worldmind, and when H.E.R.B.I.E. was activated, Sun exploited the situation to free himself from his virtual prison and to “possess” the little robot. H.E.R.B.I.E. was unaware of Sun’s presence, but the h-e-r-b-i-e-comics1villain could take control of it whenever he wished; when the FF’s spaceship was boarded by pirates, it was Sun, through H.E.R.B.I.E., that killed them in order to protect himself, and he even managed to manipulate the villainous Blastaar to make him escape from the Negative Zone and attack the FF, but nobody suspected that the tiny robot was the one responsible for all these events. Eventually, H.E.R.B.I.E. managed to locate Galactus, and he even found another herald for him in order to convince him to aid the FF in defeating the Sphinx. Back on Earth, H.E.R.B.I.E. was now considered an integral part of the team by everyone (except The Thing, who still didn’t like that “flying frog”), and Sun exploited the situation to infiltrate the Baxter Building‘s mainframe, abandoning the robot’s body after a failed attempt to kill the Invisible Girl while in H.E.R.B.I.E.. Finally, the Fantastic Four realised the threat, and battled Doctor Sun: Mr. Fantastic managed to block him in the computer, but H.E.R.B.I.E. realised that the villain could have always entered his body again and hurt his friends. In a selfless act of heroism, H.E.R.B.I.E. destroyed himself along with the computer, killing Doctor Sun and saving the FF.

Mister Fantastic didn’t forget the heroic robot, and rebuilt it in many variations, usually used for houseworks in the Baxter Building and as lab assistants. When Reed’s son Franklin turned out to be an extremely powerful mutant, needing constant monitoring of his powers, he rebuilt H.E.R.B.I.E. to be the child’s friend and playmate, and instructed the robot to secretly upgrade him on his child’s progresses in the development of his powers. Unfortunately, Franklin still didn’t have control over his abilities, and his power fluctuated depending on his feelings and mood: when the infant prodigy failed to solve a Rubik’s Cube, and immediately after he saw a program he didn’t like on the tv, he lost control, and emitted a powerful burst of energy…that ended up destroying his poor robotic nanny. Again, since Franklin had become fond of H.E.R.B.I.E., Richards rebuilt him again, and soon the tiny robot became the friend and tutor not only of Franklin, but also of his little sister Valeria. At a certain point, even h-e-r-b-i-e-comics2an “evil” version of H.E.R.B.I.E. appeared, as the evil corporation Gideon Trust managed to legally force Richards to sell them some of his patents, including the schematics for the Fantasticar, the portal to the Negative Zone (which was the one and true purpose of the corporation)…and even H.E.R.B.I.E., who was serialised in an army of odd military robots resembling, as The Thing would have said, “flying frogs”. When the problem with the Gideon Trust was solved, H.E.R.B.I.E. came back to be a property of the Fantastic Four, and the robot even received an upgrade to look “more human” and to accompany Franklin to the Stern Academy. The robot became so iconic that the Smithsonian Museum bought the rights for his image, and displayed it besides the Spider-Mobile. Eventually, for the entire world H.E.R.B.I.E. had effectively become a member of the team.

H.E.R.B.I.E. is a loyal and sympathetic robotic assistant, designed to be friendly with any human (the members of the Fantastic Four especially) and to be appealing for children, in order to be able to stay with young Franklin and Valeria Richards; in fact, he is so friendly and gentle that many people, especially The Thing, find him annoying. In every incarnation, H.E.R.B.I.E. is able to store and analyze a great amount of data, as well as to connect to many computers at once; depending on the version, he can fly, and disposes of a variety of gadgets, such as retractable tentacles, infra-red and thermal visor, lasers, electricity generators, even a flame thrower and a television. In any form, shape and mode he assumes, however, one thing never changes in H.E.R.B.I.E.: he’s blindfuly loyal to Reed Richards and to the rest of the Fantastic Four, whom he considers his one and true family.

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