While on the planet Xandar on a mission to defeat the super-villain known as the Sphinx, Mister Fantastic and Master Xar needed a means to speed up their calculations. The pair co-created a robotic assistant which was the Humanoid Experimental Robot, B-Type Integrated Electronics or H.E.R.B.I.E. was born!
In 1978, when the Fantastic Four was being made into an animated series, the character of the Human Torch was unavailable. Though a popular urban myth contends that the Human Torch was replaced out of fear that children might have attempted to emulate him by setting themselves on fire, the reality was that the Human Torch was one of the characters that Marvel had licensed to Universal Studios for a solo film (which never materialized). Universal was unwilling to allow NBC to use the Human Torch in the show, so that a replacement was needed.
Needing a fourth member to round out the team, Stan Lee pitched the idea of a comedic robot sidekick. Artist Dave Cockrum was originally commissioned to design it, but disliked the character so much he was replaced by Jack Kirby who created the appearance of H.E.R.B.I.E.
Shortly after appearing in the cartoon, H.E.R.B.I.E. made the transition from the cartoon screen to the comic book by writer Marv Wolfman and artist John Byrne and first appeared in Fantastic Four issue 209 (1979) and has since become an indispensable part of the Fantastic Four mythos.
Major Story Arcs
Taken over the the Living Brain
Unknown to either Mister Fantastic or Master Xar, shortly after it's construction H.E.R.B.I.E. was compromised by the Living Brain known as Doctor Sun who had been trapped within the Xandarian Worldmind in his attempt to acquire it's knowledge for himself. When H.E.R.B.I.E. was linked to the Worldmind, Sun secretly downloaded himself into the robot.
H.E.R.B.I.E. immediately proved himself as an asset to the Fantastic Four as he aided them in their space mission to find Galactus despite the fact that the Thing took an immediate dislike to him. H.E.R.B.I.E. saved their space ship from being stolen by a pirate and later proved instrumental in locating a replacement Herald for Galactus in exchange for his aid against the Sphinx. When the FF returned to Earth, H.E.R.B.I.E. as Sun's sleeper agent accompanied them.
A number of strange incidents occurred which was the direct result of Sun's machinations such as Blastaar escaping the Negative Zone was in fact, Sun's attempt to assassinate the FF indirectly. His evil presence was finally discovered when he attacked the Invisible Girl directly. The crafty robot appeared in Susan's bedroom and this concerned her, as he was not programmed to enter the FF's private quarters.
Attacking the Fantastic Four
Sensing danger, the Invisible Girl put up her force field just barely in time to avoid being hit by the robot's built-in blaster. However, H.E.R.B.I.E. warned the blonde girl that he knew how to push her to the breaking point. With the strain of the robot's continual power blasts becoming too much bear, Susan was forced to lower her force field and go invisible in a futile attempt to escape.
Using H.E.R.B.I.E's infrared sensors, he easily saw the fleeing girl's image and he immediately shot a power blast at her, which stunned the Invisible Girl into unconsciousness. He then brilliantly used the Baxter Building's own defenses against the fallen girl, as he directed four large metal coils to come out of the wall and wrap themselves tightly around Susan, to make certain she could not get away.
H.E.R.B.I.E. then went on attacking the rest of the Fantastic Four, using his access to the security systems to take them down. In the end, Sun transferred his consciousness into the Baxter Building's computer, abandoning H.E.R.B.I.E's robotic form and inadvertently restoring his original personality.
Mister Fantastic was able to lock down the computer's control over the security system but H.E.R.B.I.E. immediately realized that Sun would simply download himself back into his robot body to renew his attack. Unwilling to allow himself to threaten the FF again, H.E.R.B.I.E. ended up sacrificing himself, deliberately crashing into the computers in order to destroy not only himself but to ensure that Dr. Sun could no longer be a threat to the Fantastic Four.
A new HERBIE
Even though the original H.E.R.B.I.E. was destroyed, Mister Fantastic would build a number of replacements of the plucky robot over the years; employing them in a number of maintenance and general duties around the Baxter Building for the Fantastic Four.
Mister Fantastic would subsequently create the Hyper-Ultronic Brain Employing Randomized Tracings or H.U.B.E.R.T. that was based on H.E.R.B.I.E. to act as Franklin Richards' nanny and monitor him for any emergence of his powers. Although bearing a strong resemblance to his predecessor, H.U.B.E.R.T. was apparently designed to be more appealing to children.
Later the Gideon Trust stole several of Reed Richards' patents including H.E.R.B.I.E. They used his design to manufacture an entire army of the robots to act as roving security robots for them.
When Franklin Richards was sent to the Stern Academy, H.E.R.B.I.E. was made to look like a boy approximately Franklin's age to be a friend of Franklin by his father. He was named Robert Herbert Marks III, or Robbie for short.
H.E.R.B.I.E. continues to serve as a guardian, nanny, and companion for Franklin and now his younger sister Valeria to this day.
Powers and Abilities
In all of his incarnations, H.E.R.B.I.E. possesses the ability to access a wide amount of data and information to function as a processing node and to perform complex calculations. He can interface with the Baxter Building's computer mainframe as well as most other computer systems. It also incorporates built-in jets that enable it to fly and maneuver in the air, although H.E.R.B.I.E. is not very acrobatic or fast.
Some of his robotic incarnations have had other gadgets and devices incorporated into it such as retractable manipulators and tentacles. One version possessed infrared sensors and could discharge optical neural blasts.
Due to his mechanical nature, he is also immune to psionic and other attacks that are designed to affect organics. H.E.R.B.I.E. is rarely robustly constructed as it is not intended for combat or security purposes and possesses only a limited degree of autonomous intelligence.
Franklin Richards: Son of a Genius
Originally drawn by Chris Eliopoulous and co-written with Marc Sumerak, this is an out-of-continuity humorous series of strips that served as back-up series in certain Marvel comic book titles. The series proved so popular that it has since spawned entire books dedicated to the Son of a Genius which Eliopoulous has taken on both artist and writer duties.
In this series, H.E.R.B.I.E. acts a glorified lab assistant to Mister Fantastic who most often is given the thankless task of keeping a keen optic sensor on the mischievous son of Mister Fantastic and the Invisible Woman, Franklin Richards who loves to misuse his father's numerous inventions for his own benefit and/or amusement.
The fully sentient H.E.R.B.I.E. is often blamed for incidents involving these inventions much to his distress. Franklin often behaves similarly to the adventurous and precocious Calvin of Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes' newspaper comic strip with H.E.R.B.I.E. playing the part of the sardonic and much more sensible Hobbes.
Even though he often protests it, H.E.R.B.I.E. is very fond of Franklin who also views the robot as his best friend. This version of H.E.R.B.I.E. also has developed romantic feelings for Roberta the Receptionist, another robot of the Fantastic Four. He has made attempts to woo her but his comedic attempts result in irritating the robotic receptionist and/or humiliating him.
Marvel Adventures Power Pack
A juvenile reboot of the Power family consisting of a pair of brothers and sisters who gain superpowers from a dying alien. Debuting in 2005, this series ignores the previous continuity of Power Pack and consists of 4 issue miniseries which has focused on them and their adventures as well as uniting them with a number of notable heroes in the Marvel Universe from the Hulk, to the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, Iron Man, the X-Men, and Thor.
As in the previous series, Franklin Richards became a regular supporting cast member and the "fifth" member of the Pack; utilizing his wits and a lifetime of experience of living with a family of superheroes, having developed a keen understanding of strategy and tactics. H.E.R.B.I.E. also became a regular guest in the series as well, fulfilling his traditional role of robotic nanny to Franklin.
H.E.R.B.I.E. appears to harbor a unrequited crush of the Power Pack's Smartship Friday and has even gone out of his way to make sure that Franklin accompanies the Powers so that he has a chance to see 'her'.
In the Ultimate Marvel Universe, H.E.R.B.I.E. exists as a series of assistant robots built by Reed Richards. When the Dark Ultimates conquer the world, the Maker uses stronger, weaponized H.E.R.B.I.E. drones to help keep order.
Fantastic Four (1978) - H.E.R.B.I.E was a member of the Fantastic Four and replaced the Human Torch on the roster. In the cartoon, H.E.R.B.I.E. was voiced by Frank Welker.
Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes (2006) - H.E.R.B.I.E. appears as the supercomputer that monitors Mister Fantastic's lab, voiced by Samuel Vincent.
Super Hero Squad (2009) - H.E.R.B.I.E. appeared along with the Fantastic Four in the episode, "If This Be My Thanos," voiced by Tara Strong.
Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes (2011) - H.E.R.B.I.E. makes a cameo appearance in the episode "The Kang Dynasty."
- Fantastic Four (2005) - A deactivated H.E.R.B.I.E. robot makes a cameo appearance in a deleted scene.
- Fantastic Four (2015) - Concept art indicates that a prototype version of H.E.R.B.I.E. was planned to appear in the film, but ended up being cut.
- H.E.R.B.I.E. appears in Marvel Heroes.
- H.E.R.B.I.E. appears as a playable character in Lego Marvel Super Heroes, voiced by Tara Strong.
- H.E.R.B.I.E. appears in the Marvel Legends Fantastic Four box set from ToyBiz.
- H.E.R.B.I.E. was featured in the HeroClix figure game as part of the "Armor Wars" set.
- H.E.R.B.I.E. was featured in Hasbro's Marvel Universe Fantastic 4 box set.
- H.E.R.B.I.E. was featured in Hasbro's Marvel Legends line as a pack-in that came with the Walmart-exclusive Invisible Woman figure.