"Frank Miller's Roboflop"
I get a lot of emails asking me when the next Longbox column making fun of Frank Miller's completely insane "All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder" is going to appear on the site, and though a couple new issues of the book have come out (and they are hilarious) since my last Batman column, I want to wait for at least one more issue to arrive so I have a decent amount of material to discuss. So that's going to have to wait a while, I'm afraid.
The good news is that I've got something almost as good. See, back in 1988 Frank Miller got the gig of writing the script for Robocop 2 after producing some great comics such as The Dark Knight Returns, Batman Year One and a lengthy run on Daredevil. I haven't seen the movie in years, but I mostly remember it not being very good, like, at all, and the internet seems to agree with my memory. Frank Miller didn't think it was very good either, because he claims they butchered the hell out of his script and released a final product he didn't approve of.
With some of the final products he has approved of lately, one must wonder what his original "vision" must have been, if it was supposedly an improvement over that turkey of a movie. Lucky for us, after years of wondering, his original story was finally restored in a nine-issue comic series printed by Avatar Press, best known for publishing comics with lots of naked titties in them (a hallmark of quality if ever there was one). Having just strapped myself to a chair and forcing myself to read it (I turned the pages with my teeth), I can assure you that it is not in fact better than the piece of shit movie, but rather serves as a hilarious precursor to some of Miller's insanity that would amuse us all years later.
It's like he's looking at you and saying "Drop it!" like he does in the movie. If only I heeded his warning.
To be fair, these actual comics were written by Steven Grant, but they are based on Miller's script (along with some elements of his Robocop 3 script), with his endorsement and approval. And as you will soon see, some of Miller's dialog ("love chunks", anyone?) has remained intact. This is as close to seeing his original vision as we will ever get, which is good, because any closer and I would be legally required to provide crazy pills to everyone reading about it here.
Unfortunately, it's not just the script that's at fault here, for the artist, Juan Jose Ryp, obviously has no idea how to tell a sequential story, which leads to a great deal of reader confusion over a series of bizarre panels that seem to have no context in the story. Or perhaps the artist, upon reading the script, succumbed to a Lovecraftian madness, and with the last tattered vestiges of his sanity, he decided to spare us as much as he could by making it very hard to tell what's going on.
Our story starts off with an intro to a TV talk show hosted by the controversial Luke Spindle, talking about the police strike currently keeping the streets of Detroit unsafe. What I love is that they show a black (of course) youth looting a television from a store front. Suddenly he notices that he's being filmed by a TV camera. So what does he do? Why, he does what any sane and rational looter would in that situation! He completely ignores the person filming him and instead throws a punch at the camera. Fucking brilliant. It's a scene that sums up the mentality of Miller's script in a nutshell, right on the first page.
Bill was dyslexic, so he was always doing things backwards like punching the camera and then stealing the person holding it.
This jerk of a talk show host introduces (but not before making out with one and punching another audience member) some cops who are on stage and proceeds to talk shit about them, blaming them for the rampant crime wave afflicting Detroit. A female cop begins to explain the situation behind the strike when Luke Spindle has a sudden attack of Tourette's and randomly asks her if her problem is that she can't get laid, informing her that he will feed her the "beef needle" himself.
Only in the insane world of Frank Miller would a man ever proudly refer to his dick as a "needle".
Predictably, the cop gets up and punches him, causing him to fly back and hit the stage with a bloody nose. But he's not deterred, oh no. He merely turns to the camera and promises even greater stupidity after the commercial break, with blood running down his face. I worry that this "shocking" talk show host is supposed to come off as edgy and cool, but unfortunately his behavior is the kind of thing that only a twelve-year-old who gets off on power trips by menacing squirrels and pre-schoolers with his BB gun would think is cool.
Sheila just found out who her real babydaddy is, and boy is she pissed!
We then see another commercial, where a clean-cut white guy (of course) tells us that he just got evicted from his apartment, but he's not worried about it, because it's all for the good cause of the new "Delta City" utopia that's being built in its place, and he knows that someday, after a harsh, perhaps disease-filled, drunken stupor of a decade or two living in a cardboard box, his baby will have a bright future in Delta City, you know, doing some menial, thankless labor that requires no education.
"My future's so bright, I gotta wear shades! Awwwoooo! Um, also, the shades keep my
family from seeing the tears, the unending stream of relentless tears, oh gawd! Aaaaugghaah!"
But, uh-oh! Looks like somebody didn't take their eviction notice very seriously! Suddenly we're not watching TV anymore, and a little girl looking out the window of her apartment building just happens to notice a wrecking ball coming her way! She calls out for her dad, who comes rushing into the room to save her from that big mean wrecking ball.
"Not on my watch, wrecking ball! Super Dad is here to save the day!"
Unfortunately, all he manages to do is get crushed and die. The girl looks at her dead father in horror and then wanders the streets in shock, alone.
From the looks of things, it would seem the wrecking ball gouged out his eyes
and then decapitated him, placing his head neatly to rest next to his torso.
No sooner does she walk down the block than she is kidnapped by a couple of nasty ne'er-do-wells, one of whom appears to be some kind of mutant, like an X-Man with the power of being ugly and having three hardcore drug addictions. Apparently they intend to sell her, whether to a would-be adoptive family or for sex (or both!) is thankfully unclear.
"The kids all called me pineapple face in school. Strangely, it's not why you think.
I actually taste like pineapple! Here, give us a kiss, you'll see!"
Lucky for her, Robocop, one of the few remaining police officers not on strike, happens to be nearby and begins pursuit of their vehicle. The criminals freak out when they realize it's Robocop on their trail, and eventually he manages to corner them and pull them from the vehicle.
"License and regist--aww, fuck it!"
The woman pulls a gun on him, so he kills her, but the weaselly mutant guy tells him of a factory where the "big shit" goes down, so Robocop decides to check it out. We then cut to the factory, where a couple of criminals are talking next to a cage full of kids. The head criminal is saying there are too many black kids, and they don't sell as well, so the guy who brought them in isn't going to get as much money for them. Suddenly, right in the middle of their conversation, with no provocation whatsoever, the head guy says "It's a cop", and they all go for their guns. There's no noise, and no windows for them to see out of. One moment the guy is talking to his crony, and the next, he's got his ear pressed up to a concrete wall as if it's sharing magical secrets with him.
"Yes, wall? And what happens after I become Jesus? Well??"
Robocop, upon arriving on the scene, walks up to the building and does what any rational person would do: he grabs some wiring hanging down from the side of the building and gets electrocuted by it. This has no bearing on the story at all, however, because on the next page we see Robocop busting into the factory and shooting at people. Apparently the artist just really wanted to draw someone being electrocuted. There's no other explanation for this bizarre bit of randomness. I know what you're thinking: perhaps he was trying to short out the security system or knock out the power, and you're approaching this all wrong with a crazy idea like that. See, that assumes that anything makes sense in this comic, which, I can assure you, does not happen. The power does not go out, and he simply kicks down what looks like a rather flimsy door to get inside the factory, so there's really no advantage to him electrocuting himself like that before going in.
"Hello? Trick or treat! Is anyone ho---YEEEAAAAAGH! Woah ho ho! That's some doorbell you've got there!"
The first issue ends on a cliffhanger with the head criminal holding his gun to a child's head and threatening to shoot if Robocop makes another move. We soon see that this hardly matters, because in the start of the second issue, Robocop shoots the guy in the wrist in the very first panel, apparently unconcerned with the child's safety. He then walks up to the guy and says "Peace officer." Oh ho ho! Robocop, you cad!
I saw a video with a scene similar to this back in high school health class. It was called "The Dangers of Masturbation".
We're then introduced to the main villain of our story (but we don't know it yet -- oh, I'm sorry, was that a spoiler? Isn't this whole series kind of a spoiler?), pop psychiatrist Dr. Margaret Love. She's being interviewed by female wrestling sensation Chyna (apparently) on her talk show, and she's discussing how Robocop sets a bad example for the children.
"Would you make out with me? No? What if I didn't give you a choice?"
After announcing that tomorrow's show will be about teenage hookers, we cut to a scene of... A TEENAGE HOOKER! My god, if that isn't some damned good scene transitioning, I just don't know what is! This teenage hooker looks uncomfortably determined not to actually do any business, when a creepy guy walks up and says he saw her working at Burger King just last week. She used to be "flipping the beef" but now she's "slamming the ham", he says. Seriously, he does say that. The panel wasn't visually interesting enough to post, but I could say anything and you wouldn't doubt it because the story is JUST THAT CRAZY! But as I obviously don't need to make things up by the virtue of it being that crazy, you can believe it that he really says that. He also calls her "love chunks", just like in All Star Batman.
"So, uh, since you used to work at the BK and all, does that mean I get my sex 'my way, right away', or what?"
She explains that they tore down the Burger King so she had to turn to hooking. He seems angry over the fact that she used to never look at him when he was in the Burger King, but he can now pay her for sex, so he pulls out a knife and lunges to attack her. Only Captain Klutzo manages to somehow bang his knee into a nearby fire hydrant, making him look somehow more foolish than he did before.
"Just for that, when I'm done fucking the whore, I'm gonna fuck you too, hydrant!"
This proves to be completely unnecessary to the story, because Robocop immediately shows up and does a drive-by shooting, blasting out his knee caps and driving off without looking back. That's some damned fine police work!
Robocop certainly has "copped" a different attitude ever since he started listening to NWA in his cruiser.
Robocop drives through the city with visions of his former wife flashing before his eyes, and after making his way back to the police station and encountering his friend Officer Anne Lewis, he collapses straight backward through the door. Lewis then finds out that he's been up for a week and hasn't had repairs for 76 hours. While this is happening, a group of mercenaries called Rehabilitation Concepts shows up, announcing that they've been hired to keep order in the city for the duration of the strike.
"Hey Officer Lewis, how's it -- ROBOCOP NEED NAP NOW! NIGHT NIGHT!"
They rush Robocop off to the hospital, where wouldn't you know it, Dr. Margaret Love finds out that he's been admitted and takes an interest in his "well-being". When all the technicians working on him go on a coffee break, she has one employee loyal to her secure Robocop to the seat he's in with special clamps.
"Gah! Confound it, villainous wench! What kind of kinky kinkery is this?"
He asks her who she is and she tells him that they're going to get to know each other a lot better, and that he can just go ahead and call her "Mom". She then stands around striking sexy poses while recording his case details into her tape recorder. I can totally understand where she's coming from. Sometimes when I cross-dress and play doctor, I get a little "excited" by case details and find myself hiking up my skirt while my nipples get hard enough to start a fight.
Hey, some people get off on wearing diapers; others get off on paranoid world views.
She expresses concern at his inability to express value judgments and decides he needs some "therapy" to set him straight. Reminding him to call her "Mom", she has her minion zap him with more electricity. If only the artist knew this scene was coming back in issue one, he might not have thrown that gratuitous electrical shock scene at us before.
"Ah, this Lay-Z-Boy sure is comf -- Gah! I think this one's defective!!"
Then we cut ahead to Dr. Love showing her boss a tape of another cop who was gunned down but whose brain they saved. They've put him inside an even more badass robot body and they're calling him Robocop 2. They think he'll be more cooperative than Robocop, but unfortunately he goes crazy during the unveiling and blows his robot brains out.
This panel alone says so much about the comic series as a whole. It would have been the perfect promotional ad.
Later, Officer Lewis interrupts some guys robbing an unoccupied gun shop, but she decides to let them off light because they're only trying to defend their families and times are so tough. But just then, the most psychopathic madman (named Kong) from Rehabilitation Concepts shows up on scene, ramming his car into Officer Lewis and brutally killing all four men involved in the robbery.
"You've got the right to remain -- uh... DEAD! Ayuck yuck!"
Officer Lewis tries to get him to stand down, but he brandishes an incendiary grenade in response. Now here the art gets cluttered and confusing, but if I'm interpreting things correctly, she shoots the grenade and the whole place goes up in flames. He, on fire, rushes back to his car and drives away, while Lewis shoots at him as her clothes burn off, leaving her in an oh-so-sexy (and bloody) state of undress. This will happen to her often throughout the series.
"Good thing I'm wearing my flame resistant skin underneath these flimsy clothes!"
Dr. Love and Seltz, the guy in charge of Rehabilitation Concepts, set a little trap for Robocop at a tenement building where the residents are being evicted and an old lady is sniping cops from her window. Robocop shows up to mete out some justice, but just then the mercs from Rehab Concepts show up and pick a fight with him. In the ensuing scuffle one of the mercs dies, and Kong gets super upset that his friend has been killed. He goes inside and kills the sniper right in front of Robocop, ritualistically wiping her blood on his forehead before attacking.
"What? There's something on my forehead? Is it here? Is it over here? Dammit, where is it?"
Robocop and Kong go back and forth for a while, but Kong quickly realizes that, insane and strong as he is, he's still no match for a powered-up cyborg like Robocop. With a battle cry of "Use it or lose it! No pain, no gain!" he grabs a grenade and pulls the pin. Once again we see the ol' "blow the grenade up in his hand" trick, only this time it takes his arm along with it.
"What? There's something on my arm? Wait a sec, I don't have an arm! Nice try!"
Upon seeing this, the other mercs decide to shoot rockets into the building, causing it to collapse on top of Robocop, presumably leaving him for dead. The next thing we see is a series of images from Robocop's perspective. Evidently some time has gone by, and Robocop's body has been retrieved from the building wreckage. We see shots of technicians working on him, a few memories of his wife, and finally, Dr. Love, apparently practicing for a swimsuit modeling shoot.
"Wanna play 'doctor'? Oh wait, how silly, I am a doctor! Wanna fuck?"
Dr. Love realizes that Robocop misses his wife, so she figures she can break him by making him dwell on the pain he feels when he remembers her. She's called in to visit her husband, and she's heartbroken to see him in pieces like this, having believed that he's been dead this whole time. She is also pregnant with her next husband's child, and Robocop realizes that his former life is over, so he lets her go and says goodbye, agreeing to legally dissolve his marriage to her.
"Hello, Alex. You're, um... you're looking well."
Dr. Love then tortures Robocop with some more electroshock "therapy" and tries to convince him that the man he used to be, Alex Murphy, is dead and that he's nothing more than a machine. She installs hundreds of additional directives into his programming and also takes advantage of the fact that many of his nerve endings were left intact, so that he feels tremendous pain when he fails to obey his orders. Dr. Love then humiliates him by making him kneel before her right after they install him in his new body.
THERE'S STILL MORE MADNESS TO SEE!
CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE TO PAGE 2
OF FRANK MILLER'S ROBOFLOP!
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