Over at Newsarama, Chris Arrant has an interview with Frederik Schodt (Manga! Manga! and Dreamland Japan) on Astro Boy:
It's probably hard to find a direct analogy to Astro Boy, or Tetsuwan Atomu, in American culture. In the sense that Astro Boy helped kick start the manga and anime revolution in Japan, and is now an almost universally recognized character, I suppose he might be close to Mickey Mouse. Astro Boy is still widely visible in Japan, through merchandising of manga, anime, and licensed goods such as toys, stationary, and so forth. He is also used in the advertising of everything from bank securities to home security systems. And at sports events in most Japanese schools, the theme song to the original 1963 Astro Boy anime series is usually played to liven things up. Astro Boy is by no means a dead or moribund character. In 2009, as many already fans know, the Hong Kong and Hollywood-based company, Imagi, is also scheduled to bring out an all CG Astro Boy feature film.