Topless Robot, otherwise known as The Robot’s Voice, died suddenly on December 18, 2015, at age eight. Ironically, I got the news while I was writing an article for it on the impending yet planned end of Gravity Falls. WHOSE RESPONSIBLE THIS?
Once I won an original Topless Robot t-shirt in gray by positing that Peter Milligan’s X-Men was the worst comic book run. (If I was entering that contest today, I’d say Brian Bendis’s entire X-Men oeuvre fails with an intensity & focus normally seen only in success.) I was wearing that shirt when I met the site’s creator & original editor, Rob Bricken, over drinks & inquired how I could become a successful nerd journalist just like him. He said I just had to send him some listicles he liked the gist of. Shortly after I graduated law school, Topless Robot published “The 13 Best Lawyers In Comic Books.” This was my first paid professional writing gig.
I wrote several more articles for Rob until he abruptly left for io9. I applied to become the site’s new editor, but the position was granted to Luke Y. Thompson instead. Similar to the Mike vs. Joel debate among MST3K fans, you can know find bands of warring TR loyalists who swear by Rob or Luke. I was fortunate enough that Luke kept me on as a freelancer following the regime change. While Rob only required me to email in my articles as attachments that he somehow transmogrified into webpages, Luke insisted I upload everything myself via Movable Type. (The site eventually upgraded to WordPress.) I initially balked at this strange new responsibility since it didn’t include a raise for the additional effort, but it did teach me how to compulsively hyperlink.
So losing Topless Robot right before Christmas really cut me to the quick. Not only did I enjoy reading & commenting on its articles, it also laid the foundation of my career. Learning how to format articles online allowed me to figure out how to do this blog. Without my Topless Robot portfolio, I wouldn’t have been invited to guest blog for io9. All of that convinced Booktrope that publishing The Dolorous Adventure of Brother Banenose was a worthwhile risk.
I’ll miss Topless Robot economically because it gave me money to rant about stuff I like. I was counting on writing many more articles for it, including the two about movie helmets & Gravity Falls that were not published. It’s extra frustrating because Village Voice Media shut it down before I could convince Luke to run any promotional articles on The Dolorous Adventure of Brother Banenose in the spirit of cronyism. Now I have to compete against Luke & all the other TR freelancers out of jobs for nerdy writing gigs, & I don’t have enough contacts to be good at competition. So if anyone out there reading this is hiring geeky writers in this over-saturated market, please pick up the receiver so I can make you a believer.
Raise your glass in honor of the labor of Rob, Luke, & all the contributors. Alas & alack! We really shook the pillars of Heaven, didn’t we, Topless Robot?