Robots aren't robots. They never have been.

Since the 1921 publishing of RUR by Czech writer Karel Capek, who incidentally made up the term robot (from the Czech, 'robota', meaning 'servitude'), from Lang to Asmiov, robots have always been a stand-in for the darker side of humanity. The narrative theme seems to rear its shiny head whenever things start looking a little uncomfortable in the real world.

The Basic Virus is a story that I've been dying to tell for a while now, every since I did some agitprop posters about it back in 2003, brought about by my incessant reading of old Buck Rogers comics while the radio buzzed about civil liberties in my ear. And while I remained obsessed with the notion of robots, I have been very dissatisfied with the treatment they get in our media. While most (all?) previous robot stories have involved robots as The Bad Guys, I remain more interested in robots playing a far more developed role than 'the other'.

The notion of robot-as-other is born of a 20th century, pastoral mindset, when electricity and the automobile threatened our bucolic way of life with the family and hearth. And the resulting robots stories have reflected that: the robots go awry and cause mayhem! Woe be to us and the arrogant minds of science!

But something has happened. Our way of life has changed, as predicted. The internet. RSS feeds. Txt chatting. Blogging. Cell phones. Data mining. Google Maps. RFID imprinting. And instead of creating an apocolypse of human folly.... we found we kind of liked it.

So I propose our thinking of robots if flawed. They aren't just the side of us we fear , automatons devoid of emotion. They are building our cars. They are performing our surgeries. They are waging our wars. They are in our homes. They monitor our children. They are inside of us, in the form of artificial limbs and pacemakers. We have become the robots.

Don't be afraid. Don't quake and quiver, and shake your uncomprehnding fists at the cold technology, like our simple agrarian ancestors. It's evolution, baby.

And maybe it's time to stand up for ourselves.

The Basic Virus is a serial webcomic by Joe Alterio, based on his popular 2004 agitprop poster series.

To see more of Joe's work, check out his website at