H.E.R.B.I.E. (Humanoid Experimental Robot, B-type, Integrated Electronics) is a fictional character, a robot and an ally of the Fantastic Four in the Marvel Universe. The character was initially conceived for the 1978 Fantastic Four animated series and was integrated into the comics continuity shortly afterwards.
Fictional character biography
H.E.R.B.I.E. was created by Mister Fantastic
and Master Xar of the Xandarians
, who hoped that the robot could aid their search for Galactus
, who they sought for aid in defeating the villain known as the Sphinx
What neither of the creators realized, however, was that Doctor Sun, an enemy of Master Xar who had his consciousness trapped within Xandarian computers, was able to escape by jumping from the computer to H.E.R.B.I.E.'s body. The little robot was his sleeper agent, whom he could control whenever he wished. Although an alien pirate mysteriously died in H.E.R.B.I.E.'s presence, and the villain Blastaar suddenly escaped from the Negative Zone, nobody suspects that H.E.R.B.I.E. was responsible.
After Sun's attempt to assassinate the Fantastic Four with Blastaar failed, Dr. Sun reveals himself at last, trapping the Invisible Woman and the Human Torch within the Baxter Building's security system and besting Mister Fantastic and the Thing with H.E.R.B.I.E.'s weapons. He then abandons H.E.R.B.I.E.'s body and transfers his consciousness into the Baxter Building's main computer, which would allow him to control the entire building, and all of the weaponry within. Fortunately, Mister Fantastic is able to lock Dr. Sun away from the rest of the computer system, but H.E.R.B.I.E., now himself again, realizes that Dr. Sun could always simply return to his body. Not wanting the villain to cause any more trouble, the little robot heroically throws himself into the computer, destroying it, Dr. Sun, and himself.
Later, Franklin is shown with another H.E.R.B.I.E robot, that Ben refers to as a 'flying frog'. It is explained that this one had been built partly to keep an eye on Franklin's developing powers. Said powers fluctuate due to Franklin's failure to solve a Rubik's Cube and a nearby TV show urging someone to 'grow up'. The resulting power surge destroys H.E.R.B.I.E.
Other H.E.R.B.I.E. robots are eventually built throughout the years, serving general duties around the Baxter Building. Most recently, on the pages of Marvel Knights Fantastic Four, H.E.R.B.I.E. has served as the guardian and companion for young Franklin Richards.
When the Fantastic Four property was made into an animated series in 1978, the character of the Human Torch was unable to be used, as at the time the character had been optioned separately for use in a solo movie (which never materialized). A popular urban myth
contends that the Torch was replaced due to fears that children might attempt to emulate him by setting themselves on fire, but that is not true.
Needing a fourth member to round out the team, Stan Lee pitched the idea for a cute robot sidekick, and artist Dave Cockrum was commissioned to design it. However, Cockrum disliked the character so much he was eventually replaced by Jack Kirby, who first designed and illustrated the Fantastic Four a decade previous. On the Fantastic Four cartoon, H.E.R.B.I.E. was voiced by Frank Welker. Shortly after the cartoon premiered, the little robot was introduced to the comics continuity by writer Marv Wolfman and artist John Byrne. As within the Marvel Universe, the Fantastic Four have marketed their likenesses for a successful in-universe comic series -- H.E.R.B.I.E.'s physical appearance was likewise explained as being based on the animated series based on that comic.
Franklin Richards: Son of a Genius
In the humorous, out-of-continuity
series Franklin Richards: Son of a Genius
, H.E.R.B.I.E. is portrayed as the fully intelligent and beleaguered nanny of a mischievous, Calvin
-esque Franklin Richards
, and is forced to aid Franklin in stopping/cleaning up after any number of fiascoes caused by Franklin's use without permission of his father's (Mister Fantastic) hi-tech inventions. Though this H.E.R.B.I.E. can be high-strung and even neurotic at times it is also capable of level-headed thought and quick action in an emergency; H.E.R.B.I.E.'s efforts are often all that keep Franklin from punishment for abusing his father's equipment.
In the retelling of the Power Pack
origins, set in the Marvel Adventures
continuum, H.E.R.B.I.E. is portrayed in a role similar to his Son of a Genius
one, acting essentially as a nanny and a "big brother" friend to Franklin and his superpowered friends. He harbors an unrequited crush for Friday
, the sentient ship acting as the "guardian" of the Power Pack, coming to help Franklin in saving the Power Pack by Skrull
impostors only to have an excuse to see "her" again.
In this continuity, H.E.R.B.I.E. is the entirety of the security system for the Baxter Building
. It has small, familiar flying units as extensions of its computer core. The Watcher
activates it as a way to gain the team's attention.
In the alternate universe of Marvel Zombies
, specifically in Marvel Zombies 2
, a handful of active HERBIE robots show up as security for the Baxter Building, even though the Fantastic Four have left it empty and abandoned for some time.
In the setting of Marvel's Ultimate
comics, versions of H.E.R.B.I.E. appear as a numbered series of small, hovering helper robots in the series, as well as a few oversized mech-like guard drones.
In other media
- H.E.R.B.I.E. appears in the 2006 version of the Fantastic Four TV series voiced by Samuel Vincent. In this version H.E.R.B.I.E. is not a robot, but a supercomputer that monitors Mr. Fantastic's lab.
- A deactivated H.E.R.B.I.E. makes a cameo in the extended cut of the 2005 Fantastic Four film.
- He's parodied in The Venture Brothers as "H.E.L.P.eR." and as H.U.G.G.I.E., a much larger and imposing, but still friendly, creation of Mr. Fantastic parody Professor Impossible.
- H.E.R.B.I.E. has made several appearances in Toyfare magazine's comic feature, Twisted Toyfare Theater, and is portrayed as a sadistic, anal rapist.