Harold the faithful assistant
Strange Tales of the Unusual was a short-lived, mid-1950s comics series from Atlas Comics.
It was published concurrently with their Strange Tales comics, and followed a similar formula. But Strange Tales endured much longer, and would eventually transition into the “Marvel Age” as Atlas became Marvel.
Harold is from a four-pages story in issue #4 – one typical of the book.
It was from the “aliens come to Earth to evaluate how dangerous Humans are” subgenre, which had scores of iterations in 1950s and 1960s horror and super-hero tales.
Near-Human aliens on Jupiter are threatening to revolt, due to their excessive workload. Their leader sends a spaceship to Earth, as a recon before enslaving Humans.
(Yes, that’s clearly impossible. But the alien civilization seemed very small – and assuming that they live in some sort of pressurised enclosure floating on the outer layers of Jupiter helps the story make more sense.)
The scouts land near the house of solitary genius Damon Keller.
As it happens, Prof. Keller is preparing a flight to Jupiter with his laconic and unobtrusive assistant, Harold. Harold is obsessively double-checking his camera, since his task will be to photograph what’s on Jupiter.
The Jupiterians kidnap Harold, and after a few weeks in space return to their ruler.
Wreck it like Maciste
After landing, Harold casually breaks free of his chains. He agrees to help with some construction work, again demonstrating amazing strength. But he refuses to stay — his job is to take photographs and return to Professor Keller.
The soldiers attempt to restrain him, but this is impossible. Continuing to photograph everything, Harold then uses his great strength to collapse the palace by pushing against loadbearing columns.
(This scene alludes to the “strongman movie” subgenre of peplum. I assume it specifically quotes from the 1949 Samson and Delilah movie by Cecil B. DeMille. But Maciste, Hercules, Ursus, etc. did that stuff all the time.)
Terrified, the aliens help Harold leave. Some weeks later, he lands back in front of the house to deliver his photographs.
Professor Keller is glad to get these photos – and happy to see that his faithful robot aide has returned !
Powers & Abilities
He seems intended to help with handling heavy objects, and simple physical tasks.
Harold seems to have “Class 20” strength or higher, and be tireless. However, he requires some maintenance after he exerts himself heavily.
He has a metallic shell under his clothes and pseudo-flesh, so he likely is superhumanly durable.
It seems likely that he could ignore severe environmental conditions, even on alien planets… but we don’t really know.
Harold looks quite lifelike. He doesn’t talk much, obsesses over carrying out directives, and has a simple body language. But it comes across like he has a mild intellectual disability, rather than being a robot.
Harold likes being helpful, but helping Professor Keller is always a priority compared to others.
He could formulate working plans. For instance, wrecking the palace seems to have been intended to force the aliens to send him back. But he tended to forget small things unless he focused on repeating his instructions.
“I cannot stay ! I must go to the Professor with the photographs !”
DC Universe Adaptation
(This section proposes ways of using this character in Marvel Universe stories).
This story exists in the “far penumbra” of the Marvel Universe. That is, there’s nothing against deciding that it happened in the Marvel Universe, but it would be an unusually deep cut.
First take that comes to mind — Professor Keller was actually the Tinkerer (Phineas Mason). And the aliens observed on Jupiter directly inspired the costumes, props, etc. that the Tinkerer would employ during his first clash against Spider-Man (Peter Parker).
Harold eventually ceased functioning. Distraught at the loss of his friend, the Tinkerer built a similar robot, called Toy.
He could also easily be related to the X series of robots, whose only known survivor is Machine Man.
DC Heroes RPG
Tell me more about the game stats
|Dex: 05||Str: 10||Bod: 08|
|Int: 02||Wil: 01||Min: 06|
|Inf: 02||Aur: 01||Spi: 06|
|Init: 009||HP: N.A..|
Self-Link (Gadgetry): 10 and possibly more.
Harold may have had some Skills – say, as a chauffeur.
None demonstrated, but probably some Life Support assets. Harold may also have a Familiarity with 1950s photography, but one suspects that his camera was a more advanced one
Professor Keller (Low).
Laws of robotics.
Source of Character: Strange Tales of the Unusual Vol. 1 #4.
Helper(s): Darci, Adam Fuqua.
Writeup completed on the 31st of May, 2021.