Real Name: Max Zenga
Identity/Class: Robot with human brain patterns
Affiliations: Julian Caine
Known Relatives: None
Aliases: Project Z
Base of Operations: Bellingham
First Appearance: The Prisoner of Zenga, Valiant (I.P.C., 11th October 1975)
Powers/Abilities: Over nine foot tall, Zenga's robotic body was superhumanly strong and durable, capable of firing beams of force from its eyes, and could leap great distances. It was powered by a nuclear heart which would eventually run down if not properly maintained. Though Zenga's brain was seemingly largely intact, able to reason and make plans, communication was difficult - the robot could only speak stiltedly and with slurred words, but it also had a computer keyboard built into its mouth, allowing it to print out short messages.
History: Project Z was an advanced robot designed designed by Professor Gleeson in a college of science in the midlands city of Bellingham. He hoped to prevent the loss to civilisation caused when great intellectuals passed away by recording their brain patterns, storing their knowledge and skills on tapes which could be fed into Project Z, allowing it to think and behave like the person in question. Unfortunately, lab assistant Julian Caine had his own nefarious plans for the robot. The professor had also been conducting an investigation into the nature of the criminal mind and had thus recorded the brain-patterns of the most cunning and ruthless arch-criminal that had ever existed, Max Zenga, just before Zenga died in prison. Stealing the tape, Caine substituted it for the one Gleeson intended to use for the robot's first demonstration, world-famous mathematician Sir Adrian Soper. Seconds after Gleeson inserted the tape into the robot, it absorbed Zenga's personality and slaughtered everyone in the lab except for Caine, sparing him only because he revealed he was responsible for Zenga's resurrection. However, while Caine had assumed Zenga would be his willing servant, Zenga had his own plans, and forced Caine to become his lackey.
After terrorising both Caine and the city of Bellingham, things came to a head when Zenga tried to rob the fabulously wealthy residents of a block of highly guarded flats. Confronted by soldiers called in to deal with him, Zenga ripped up the electrical plant that controlled the purifying system of the flats' swimming pool, but the lurched onto the severed electrical cable. His metallic body sucked up the electricity like a sponge absorbing water until its circuits overloaded and it exploded, seemingly killing Zenga.
Comments: While the title is clearly a play on The Prisoner of Zenda, the concept owes a lot more to Frankenstein. Given the robot was only intended as a way of preserving the minds of deceased geniuses, I've got to wonder why Gleeson thought it needed to be superhumanly strong, capable of surviving cars ramming it, and, most notably, able to fire beams of destructive force from its eyes! Okay, maybe, just maybe, Caine was smarter than just a lab assistant and installed these features, but while the professor might not spot subtle additions like weapons installed inside the robot's cranium, making it nine foot tall and armour-plated should have stood out.
The series had a relatively short run, only two months, from 11th October 1975 until 13th December 1975, but Zenga also appeared in Valiant Annual 1977.
Any Additions/Corrections? Please let me know.
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