The future of law enforcement is back again for another run at justice this December as Dynamite Entertainment continues its Robocop world-building with a brand new miniseries. Written by veteran "Robocop" scribe Rob Williams with art by Unai, "Robocop: Road Trip" picks up directly after Williams' first series run for Dynamite, taking Murphy on the road and across the apocalyptic future's terrain between Old Detroit and Cleveland. In classic Robocop fashion, Williams will not only explore the landscape of the future, but the dichotomy between Murphy's two selves: human and robot.
Williams spoke with CBR News about the upcoming miniseries, which the writer is treating as the second arc of his "Robocop" run, some thoughts on his recent "Terminator" crossover, the double meaning of the title and why "Robocop" is perfect for the modern era of comics.
CBR News: Rob, this will be your third Robocop series for Dynamite, following a truly epic crossover with Terminator. What's coming down the pipeline for this new book?
Rob Williams: "Road Trip" was originally written as issues #7-10 of my Robocop series, and it follows directly on from that. The Terminator/Robocop crossover, "Kill Human," is out of continuity with this book. Hopefully readers remember where we left the storyline: there's been a massive collapse of the economy across America and what's followed is, effectively, a corporate landgrab. OCP have taken over Old Detroit in a coup and, with communications cut off across an increasingly apocalyptic country, Robocop and what's left of the Old Detroit police department are trying to get across Lake Erie to Cleveland to bring help. But, they have no idea what's waiting for them there. This is the first storyline to show Robocop's America outside Old Detroit (I think). But OCP are sending an all new brand of Hunter robots after Robocop, to try and ensure he doesn't make it.
Since "Kill Human" wasn't intended to be a part of your Robocop ongoing -- does that mean it's entirely out of continuity, or is it a story that fits in to another area of the Robocop timeline?
There's no "Robocop" connection to "Kill Human," other than Robocop's presence. "Kill Human" was huge fun to write, putting those two franchises together, but the approach I took was that the storyline happened so far in the future that everyone and everything that Robocop has ever known was long dead. It was dropping Robocop into Terminator continuity, rather than vise versa. It's still Murphy inside Robocop, but apart from that, just enjoy the book and [cough] don't worry about continuity too much. Continuity in time travel stories will send you crazy if you let it.
Let's talk supporting cast for a second. While the book is obviously about the man himself, how do the other officers come into play and how do they help develop Robocop as a character?
Well, the exciting little conceptual "kink" for me in "Road Trip" is that something strange happened to Robocop when he connected to the OCP mainframe in #4 at the close of the initial "Revolution" arc. Since then, he's been losing his mind, and now he can see, and be advised by, core characters from his past -- his own Greek Chorus. That means Clarence Boddiker, the dude who melted after getting toxic waste dropped on him, Dick Jones, Bob Morton -- they all feature strongly here. And not in flashbacks. They're ongoing characters. Ongoing characters who only Robocop can see, sure. But it's fun for Robocop fans to have them around.
How do you think writing a Robocop based different periods, both in Dynamite's original series and in "Kill Human," has challenged you as a writer?
"Kill Human's" main challenges were: do you put Terminator in the Robocop timeline, vice versa, or so you do both? I opted to put Robocop in the Skynet history. It's always going to be a little unorganic, merging two franchises this way. But hopefully you're happy to join us in saying, "Don't think too hard on continuity" and off we go on a fun story. I kind of think of "Kill Human" as being a bit like JJ Abrams' "Star Trek," in as much as we're creating a new timeline. The way that story closes, someone else could take it on if Dynamite decide to go down that route.
The tone of "Kill Human" is that of a Terminator movie. The "Robocop" series, and "Road Trip," is me going for the tone of the Robocop movies. So lots of black humor and satire alongside the crazy, over the top violence. One's aiming to be James Cameron, one's aiming for Paul Verhoeven. I probably feel more at home with the Verhoeven, weirdly. I think the humor is far more "2000AD," and that's what I grew up reading.
Tell us about the reasoning for the title, "Road Trip." What's the story there?
Double meaning alert! On the one hand, we're getting Murphy and co out of Old Detroit heading across country. On the other hand, Robocop's mind is fracturing and he's seeing a lot of very strange things.
You've had a chance to work on Dynamite's version of the character for a while now. How do you feel he's developed under your care and what's surprised you the most about him?
The dichotomy and battle between Murphy and his robotic physicality -- that remains at the core of any Robocop storyline. That conflict is its heart, I think. I've probably taken him down some mentally unstable roads, pushed his sanity. I've got no real interest in sticking to the status quo of any character, really. If Robocop has to solve a case and, at the end of the story, we're back to square one -- Murphy back in the precinct house? That, to me, is a pretty boring setup. My Robocop may be a little different from the movies in places -- we've blown up Old Detroit and the police department setup. But you're paid to push these characters to their limits and take them in new directions.
There have been a lot of relaunches of '80s properties as of late, both in comics and television. Why do you think Robocop continues to be relevant in today's world?
Technology's more a part of our lives now than it was in the '80s. You can make a case that Robocop is a story about man vs. machine in the modern world, sure, but largely, people are still interested because of nostalgia. It's a great, kinetic, funny movie that people have fond VHS memories of. Robocop and the ED-209 both look pretty shitty, to be honest. No CGI there. It's a fun script with some real energy in the direction though. That's what makes it work. The core concept is Frankenstein by another name, really.
In addition to "Robocop," you've been doing a lot of work for Marvel. How, if at all, has your work on those books informed your writing on the future of law enforcement?
I'm not sure it has informed it. "Robocop" kind of allows me to do more adult humor and violence than my Marvel work. That's fun. I love playing in the Marvel Universe, too, though. The sensibilities may be different, but a script basically needs the same things -- a strong theme and structure, a strong hero, a quest. One script might have a few choice swear words in them and one might not, but you're always looking for what gets to the heart of the characters.
"Robocop: Road Trip" takes off in December.