29 Questions I Have After Thinking Way Too Hard About a Story Starring Richie Rich’s Robot Maid
Debuting in 1970 in Richie Rich #100, Irona is the Rich family’s robotic housekeeper. Because when you have that much money, why not blow a chunk of it on building a mechanical maid?
After going through a few appearance changes in her early issues, she eventually settled into the look seen here. And as this story clearly shows, she was often called upon to do far more than vacuum the Rich mansion carpets. With her robotic strength and wide array of built-in attachments and gadgets, Irona was just as likely to perform security or detective work for the family as she was to iron their sheets.
(Wait a second… “iron” as in metal… “iron” as in pressing sheets with a hot iron… oh, those clever Harvey writers.)
She has since become an integral part of the Richie Rich cast, appearing in hundreds of stories and often popping up in cartoons and live-action shows based on the poor little rich boy; the 1980s Richie Rich cartoon even promoted her to Richie’s bodyguard, complete with the ability to transform into whatever mechanical form the plot required.
But for all the weird and wild things Irona has done over the years, I think the kookiest Irona story I’ve found so far is this one from 1973’s Richie Rich Money World #4, 1973 (writer and artist uncredited, but I’m 90% sure the artist is Ernie Colon). It’s so weird that I can’t stop asking questions about what’s really going on here. For instance…
1. Does Irona have a contract that spells out her duties as the Rich family’s maid? Can she legally sign an employment contract? Does she have the right to refuse these extra demands on her time? Is she considered a sentient being in the Harvey-verse?
2. Is Mr. Rich in the habit of randomly ordering her to drop whatever she’s cleaning and perform whatever money-related errand crosses his mind? For a guy with his own robot maid and in-house scientist, shouldn’t he have someone on staff to deal with these mundane money matters?
3. Doesn’t $1 million seem like chump change for Mr. Rich to worry about? His kid spends more than that in a month on dollar-themed topiary; why tie up his employee’s time with something that amounts to couch change for him?
4. Why doesn’t Mr. Rich just wire that amount to his London bank? Even in 1973, they had computers that could do that. Does he have some ulterior motive for sending Irona on an errand halfway around the world? Does she have a surprise party waiting for her when she comes back?
5. A completely metal airline passenger: a TSA agent’s worst nightmare or no?
6. How dumb and/or nearsighted does someone have to be to mistake an obvious robot for an “old lady?”
7. And seriously: rude much, buddy? You want to call her “lady,” that’s fine, but what the hell does her age have to do with anything?
8. And why is he shouting like that right off the bat? It’s not even a question of whether she’s accidentally sitting in his seat; he seems to only want to confirm she’s in the right spot.
9. Why does the man sitting in front of them look back so nervously? Is he in on whatever is about to go down? Does the loud man’s voice take him back to a scarier time? Or is he one of those racist anti-robot types who has to keep an eye on them whenever they’re around?
10. Doesn’t it seem kind of dumb of this guy to draw this much attention to himself? Even before he’s hijacking the plane, he’s screaming his head off and rushing around the cabin. Why give the airline staff any more reasons to keep an eye on you?
11. The guy is just arriving at his seat — suggesting we’re still on the ground boarding passengers — and then gets up a minute later to go hijack the plane. So in that short time the plane went from boarding passengers to flying at a cruising altitude?
12. For real — how wild is it that there was once a time when anyone could just do-si-do up to a plane’s cockpit and walk right on in?
13. So what’s this guy’s game plan? He wants them to divert from the flight plan and land in New York so he can collect his money, and then lets the plane continue on to its London destination. What’s so special about New York? Is he planning to take his money and then go to a Yankees game?
14. For that matter, why allow the plane to continue to London, a place with bobbies and beefeaters and all kinds of other law-enforcement types? What was his plan as soon as they landed in London, to walk off the plane without anyone stopping him? He’s got a plane to play with; why not take the money and order the pilot to fly to Cuba, or some other place American officers can’t get him?
15. Why would Irona radio “computer control” and get the okay to give the hijacker a million dollars when she could just knock him out? He thinks she’s an old lady; surely she can get close enough without him getting suspicious.
16. At one point during the design phase do you think Irona’s creators said to themselves, “Well, her main jobs as a Rich family maid are going to be ironing, mopping, washing the dishes, the occasional gem polishing… but just in case she’s ever on a plane that’s being hijacked let’s give her the ability to communicate with the control tower”…?
17. Wait… can she wash the dishes? Or do any other household chore involving water? I mean, considering.
18. Hold on, the co-pilot is in this scheme? But… why? Forget how bad this will look on his next employee review, he’s committing multiple federal felonies for the chance to split a million dollars with his loudmouth accomplice? How far can that take him in a country with no extradition treaties?
19. So, Irona’s big move is to shut off the engines with her brain radio waves? That seems… inadvisable. How is she so sure those flat fields will still be under the plane when it lands? How can she be sure the pilot is skilled enough to make that kind of emergency landing without power to the engines?
20. Also, if Irona is capable of all this hijack-stopping action, how is the U.S. military not mass-producing a million Ironas for immediate deployment?
21. A blue tie on a blue shirt with a brown suit — that’s the real crime being committed here, am I right, people?
22. So the crooked pilot and the hijacker get off the plane. Now what? You can be sure that a jumbo jet landing in the countryside will bring someone out to investigate; are they planning to escape on foot? Why not bring a hostage with them just in case?
23. Why does the hijacker look so shocked when she points out the handcuffs? He sat next to her at the start of the flight and he didn’t notice the “homely dame” in the maid’s outfit had a briefcase handcuffed to her wrist?
24. Speaking of which… does Irona own any other outfits besides her maid outfit? Couldn’t Mr. Rich at least splurge a little on some nice travel clothes for her big trip across the pond?
25. Now that I’m thinking about her wardrobe… does she have her own quarters in the mansion? Does she have a bed, a dresser, a closet for her things? Or is it more like she is the thing that gets put away in a closet every night?
26. Dang, our girl is wearing high heels? Is that part of her standard uniform as a Rich family maid? I mean, okay, she doesn’t have to worry about knee or back problems caused by wearing high heels, but still. How is that a good idea?
27. Okay, so in the top panel it looks like the plane stopped just in front of a grove of trees, nothing weird there. But then in the third panel the plane is able to take off again. Never mind the fact there are cops and paramedics and FAA officials rushing to the scene, how is that plane able to get back up in the air?
28. “Here you are, captain!” Great, but what is he supposed to do with two limp bodies? Tie them up and take them with him to merry old England? Let the passengers enjoy a little mob justice? Why not leave the hijackers for the officials already on their way to the scene of an unannounced aircraft landing?
29. “What else can you do besides mentally stopping an airplane’s engines?” YOU MEAN THAT’S NOT ENOUGH? SHE’S GOT TO STOP AIRBORNE TERRORISM AND ENTERTAIN YOUR TRANSATLANTIC BUTTS??? Sheesh.
(Bonus fun fact: The song Irona plays in the final panel is “What’cha Doin’ on the Moon, Casper,” a song performed by a group called The Comix and one of several songs about Harvey characters released that year. Here’s a Harvey house ad promoting the “red-hot disc” on the Harvey label…