Friday, November 28, 2014

Fight Friday: Robocop VS The Terminator

In another classic 90's pop culture showdown, two 80's icons went head to head in comic book and video game form: Robocop and The Terminator.  The former, a violent and futuristic satire, graced movie screens in 1987, hot off the success of the latter's 1984 ground breaking piece of Tech-Noir B-Movie.  In 1992, Dark Horse Comics brought them together much like they had with the Alien and Predator franchises.  The 4 issue mini-series was written by Frank Miller and art by Walter Simonson with John Workman, Rachell Menashe and Randy Stradley on Lettering, Colors and Editing.  The story opens in the future where mankind is losing the battle with Skynet and the machines.  A lone warrior, a tough female with an odd bowl cut, taps into the system and learns a human mind merged with software then married to Skynet is the cause for the defense network becoming self aware and murdering much of the population through nuclear strikes.  That human mind?  A cop named Alex Murphy (aka Robocop aka Peter Weller!).  Determined to save the future by altering the past, the lone warrior quickly activates the time displacement equipment and is sent to a happier and quieter time, modern day Detroit.  There she cobbles together equipment to build a plasma rifle and sets off to find Officer Murphy, ready to punch his ticket.  Only problem is she's come back too late and Officer Murphy is dead, his brain transferred to the cyborg known as Robocop.

Our bowl cut sporting female warrior catches up to Robo and takes him out, thus changing the future but not before the Terminators send back more machines to stop events from taking place.  While the video game would use Arnold's likeness, the comic book Terminators are random and show up as men, women, children and even dogs.  Thus begins a violent cycle of Robocop becoming aware of the warrior's mission, the threat of the Terminators and his unknowing part in the future destruction of mankind.  Teaming up with the human resistance fighter, Robo destroys the first trio of Terminators before telling the woman to kill him and prevent the catastrophic future.  This is course creates a moral conundrum because only a human would be so noble as to offer up their own life to save others.  A second wave of Terminators arrive and destroy Robocop's body before starting on his mind.  Connected to the network where his replicated consciousness becomes the spark for Skynet's sentience and world destruction, his program moves from database to database until one day a security flaw allows his human memory program to hack a Terminator factory where he builds a super Robocop to battle the evil machines.

Jumping into the Future War, super Robocop assists the Resistance and meets the lone warrior, actual name Florence Langer as they turn the tide against the machines.  Skynet attempts to wipe out the humans with a leftover nuclear missile but Robo is able to change it's course.  Now an army of T-800's bears down on The Resistance so Robo and Flo come up with the idea of mass producing Robocop warriors to join the fight.  During the melee, Robocop enters the Skynet creator mainframe where he's offered god like power but the former Alex Murphy refuses and blows everything up.  Upon returning to the present, Robo destroys the early Skynet satellite networks in a bid to slow down their progress and in an alternate future, Flo lives peacefully in a utopian society. 

Wow.  This shit was crazy.  For some reason I thought it would just be Robcop VS an Arnold looking Terminator tearing shit up, fighting machine to machine and wrecking a city in the process.  But the notion that Murphy's mind blending with a machine giving birth to Skynet was a very clever way to bridge the franchises.  Then the whole quandary of time travel and Skynet sending more Terminators back to the past coupled with Robocop going to the future was just a nice touch.  With his human sentiment, Robocop is our hero here and we get to see bits that remind us of the films concerning his former family and cleaning up the streets with extreme prejudice.  Flo is our Kyle Reese, a human fighting a seemingly unbeatable threat who travels back in time to save the future.  But in a nice twist, she's like a Terminator, sent back to eliminate rather than protect.  Miller's (who coincidentally worked on the script/story for Robcop 2 & 3) story is very intriguing as it deals with the worlds of both franchises very easily along with the unstoppable drive of both humans, machines and the one stuck in between.  Simonson, known to Dammaged Goods for his impeccable art and storytelling in Thor, does a great job here with his big splash pages, collages and action scenes.  With their cold metal sensibility, Terminators and Robcop might be better suited to the big screen but it does work on the page.

With last installment Terminator: Salvation and recent Robocop remake being PG-13, it was nice to see the 1992 worlds of these franchises was still violent and bloody a la the original films.  You even get a nude Flo fighting in the middle of the street upon entry to modern Detroit, albeit done with clever shading.  Each issue contains awesome light cardboard cutouts of Robo, Flo, the Terminator and ED-209.  I'm not sure if this was paid for by Orion to hype up 1993's Robocop 3 but the narrative runs and guns uninterrupted with only a few Dark Horse ads at the end along with movie and video game announcements on the back covers.  Unlike Dark Horse's Alien VS Predator line, Robocop VS Terminator only received the one limited series.  A video game was released shortly after and next year, NECA toys is giving us a line of toys based on the game.

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