Peter Shelley – RIP

Musician and Robotman creator Peter Shelley has passed away.

Peter Shelley (né Peter Alexander Southworth)
February 28, 1943 – March 23, 2023

From the obituary:

Peter Shelley, (née Southworth), born in London, England, February 28, 1943, passed away from cancer at his home in Victoria, BC on March 23, 2023, with his three children at his side, his humour never failing.

He started his music career in A&R for Decca Records and discovered a host of bands, including Ten Years After and Giles, Giles and Fripp (later to form as King Crimson). A few years later, he co-founded one of the most successful independent record companies in the UK, Magnet Records. He won the Ivor Novello award in 1975 for songwriter of the year, having penned and produced top ten hits as a solo artist (“Love Me Love My Dog” and “Gee Baby”) and for Alvin Stardust (“My Coo Ca Choo,” and “Jealous Mind”), among others. At the height of his success, Peter decided to leave the music business and moved his family to Canada.

From the Peter Shelley Wikipedia entry:

However, due to differences between Levy and himself, Shelley resigned from Magnet in late 1975 to pursue an independent career.

During this period, he created the character Robotman, recording and producing an animated, music video of the song “I Wanna Be Your Robotman” (featuring Shelley as the lead vocalist). Shelley eventually showed the character to United Media Syndicate of New York, with whom a joint contract was made to further develop Robotman both as a comic strip and music driven, licensed property. The comic strip Robotman was an immediate success, followed by an appearance in the Macy’s Day Parade in 1985 and a one-hour animated television special, Robotman & Friends, featuring Shelley’s songs, airing one year later.

It was in Vancouver, later Toronto, that he developed a character named Robotman, a robot with a heart that when pressed played music. This evolved into a multi-media enterprise and later a comic strip named Monty, appearing in hundreds of newspapers.

The first Robotman comic strip dated February 18, 1985 © UFS

From Jim Meddick’s Hogan’s Alley interview:

So [Robotman] was launched, and it was even more of a surprise when it was a record launch. At the time of its launch it was the biggest launch they had, and that was probably due to licensing considerations. Newspaper editors were hearing that this was going to be this big property.
HeintjesHow many papers did it roll out into?
Meddick: I think it was 250.

March 24, 2001 – Robotman leaves the soon to be renamed Monty © Jim Meddick

From that 2000 Jim Meddick interview:

During my last contract negotiation, the syndicate approached me with a request to change the name of the strip to Monty and to de-emphasize and eventually remove the Robotman character from the strip. They had various business reasons behind this request, but one of the most important was an ongoing difficulty in marketing the strip with the name Robotman. Newspaper editors see that name and they think it’s targeted at children or superhero fans. When the feature starts running, though, and they see the content is more adult-oriented, we get into trouble.

2 thoughts on “Peter Shelley – RIP

  1. Yes, Robotman began as a song and music video and a possible licensing property. But have NO DOUBT that the success of the comic strip was strictly based upon the talent of JIM MEDDICK (I was there….).

  2. Shelly was masterful. We’ll never see a comic strip in the Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Parade again. Never could warm up to Monty, it’s in one of my newspapers The Trenton Times, NJ, since day one. I rather see Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, by John Rose anyday over tons of mediocre newer strips.

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