In my study, above the black and white blown up photograph of The Beatles’ first visit to Washington DC in 1964 hangs two blocked comic prints of a robot called ROBORT – pronounced with an Afrikaans vernacular to emphasise that last “R”.
In the first print he’s riding on the back of dinosaur and in the second one he’s flying in a hot air balloon that’s powered by flames shooting from his arms. On three of my guitar cases are stickers of ROBORT, I also have an 8-year old ROBORT t-shirt in my closet – still in good condition.
He’s just always been there – standing static, straight and somewhat proud somewhere in my life. The guy who created him is Christian Frauenstein aka Smaatiboy – a computer programmer, fine artist and occasional rapper hailing from J-Bay. He also happens to be a friend of mine.
There’s one comic where ROBORT got swallowed by a whale who couldn’t digest him. You can just see the square outline of his head and shoulders standing inside the body of the dead whale on the surface of the ocean.
Christian told me back in the day that ROBORT transcends time and space and that he’ll just stand there until the whale eventually rots off him and then he’ll probably just stand there for another 1000 years – waiting.
After seeing ROBORT again this morning I wondered what ever happened to him. Google delivered no results – so I decided do the first ever interview with Christian about this mysterious comic character he created 9 years ago. Turns out he’s still standing somewhere – just waiting.
When and where was this idea of ROBORT born? And can you remember the first comic strip you made of him?
I studied in Stellenbosch and was looking for stuff to put on the walls. I think the first one was the comic where ROBORT is jogging against the conveyer belt.
I remember seeing a lot of ROBORT stickers in Stellenbosch and J-Bay – what were your initial plans with the character?
Yes, I tried building the ROBORT character… tried defining him by making more of the comics. I never really had a business plan. I operated in J-Bay and Stellenbosch in those years.
Would you say it was maybe like a grafitti statement?
[It] probably was a kind of street art project at one point. There’re still a lot of stickers on public places in J-Bay. I liked the idea that people would see it and wonder what it was.
Although you’re heavily skilled as a fine artist, why did you choose MS Paint as medium for ROBORT?
He had to be blockish, with grey colors and clean, straight lines and rectangular forms. It added to his personality. A cold robot, with obscure plans.
What’s the story behind the character? He seems badass but with a quirky sense of humor.
I don’t know, he just arrived one day and started causing kak. [I] never really thought about his history.
Why did you stop making ROBORT stuff?
I don’t know, it was expensive making the stuff… and I never had any real business plan. My hands probably just started doing other stuff. Now and then I feel like waking him up again. I’ll probably spend some time on ROBORT in the near future.
[This interview was translated from Afrikaans.]