The 1980's were a time of hard-hitting and tough guy movie characters that soon became icons that defined the era. John Rambo. The T-800 Model Terminator. John McLane. John Matrix. RoboCop. Yes, RoboCop.
With insprirations coming from a mix of Judge Dredd and Rom the Space Knight, RoboCop became a staple in pop culture and spawning one of the top franchises in the late 80's/early 90's, which of course included a string of comic series. Next week, the anticipated remake debuts with Joel Kinnaman (AMC's "The Killing") and BOOM! takes it's RoboCop license to new grounds with a new take on Alex Murphy, the man in the machine, in the appropriately titled mini-series RoboCop: Hominem Ex Machina as a tie-in to the remake.
The four-issue mini-series which launches this Wednesday, features one-shot issues with the first one by Hoax Hunters scribe Michael Moreci with Jason Copland (Daredevil, Alterna Comic's Kill All Monsters). Newsarama spoke to Moreci about his love of the RoboCop character, what he plans on doing differently to the Alex Murphy character, and a little bit about his other horror project from BOOM!, Curse.
Newsarama: Michael, you're part of an anthology series here writing the first issue, but what is it about RoboCop that made you sign up for this gig?
Michael Moreci: Short answer: RoboCop rules. Seriously. I remember watching the movie for the first time when I was like 10, 11 years old and having my little brain blown from its shell. Besides the obvious amazing things that a kid of that age would be blown away by--robots, violence, bigger robots--I think I knew, even then, that there was something way cooler going on in that movie. That's why I watched it so many times, probably. And, robots. I love the original film to this day and think it truly is an important film. It's so smart and subversive, but manages to be wildly entertaining at the same time. It's a great blend, something I strive for in my own work. You can't have just message, but you also can't have just vacant fluff either. So, when the chance presented itself, I jumped at it. It was a dream gig.
Nrama: So we're dealing with the upcoming remake/reboot of the character, how are you approaching Alex Murphy differently than he's been seen before?
Moreci: Well, the original kind of glossed over Alex as a character. That's one thing, to me, that was absent – to an extent. This new version, from the script I read, really dealt more with Alex's human side, and that's something I wanted to explore. There's still a human in that RoboCop armor, making for a cool duality of man and machine. I wanted to explore how those two would interact and conflict with one another.
Nrama: Were there any sort of footnotes from Columbia/MGM you had to go with?
Moreci: Not really, they were pretty okay with everything from the start. I sent a pitch that got approved painlessly, and they just had some minor stuff on my script. It's cool that they trusted my decisions and how the story would work, what it meant for RoboCop. Although, they didn't let me say "I'd buy that for a dollar!" That was a little heartbreaking.
Nrama: Tell us a little bit about the backstory here about RoboCop: Hominem Ex Machina. Now is this a sequel or more like it takes place within the movie or is it just its own thing?
Moreci: I guess it would take place in the fabric of the new movie? In such, I suppose it is it's own thing. It doesn't really deal with RoboCop's central conflict of the movie (which is really cool). I set my target on telling this one-and-done story that spoke to the themes of RoboCop, specifically the man and machine conflict. It's a tired trope, to an extent, but I think approaching it from the angle of the man making the machine more human, rather than the machine making the man more robotic, makes it pretty unique. And, with that, the story is able to stand on its own.
Nrama: What was the collaboration process like with artist Jason Copland?
Moreci: Super great. Jason and I are friends and have been trying to collaborate for some time. He's such a great artist, a fantastic storyteller, that you can just give him a script and trust every decision he makes. I was definitely lucky to work with him, he really made the script look great on the page.
Nrama: You're also co-writing another BOOM! title right now, Curse, with Tim Daniel. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Moreci: My pride and joy! Curse is a werewolf story about a man, Laney, who has a son that is dying of cancer. To help raise money to pay for experimental treatment, Laney hunts down a killer…something that has been terrorizing the local woods. He captures this something, which turns out to be, well, you know. The first issue came out last month to crazy reviews. It’s been incredible. Second issue (of four) releases February 19th. If you like classic horror with emotional weight, dig into Curse.
Nrama: Will this RoboCop anthology be a connecting puzzle or each issue be it's own thing?
Moreci: The stories are all their own self-contained one-shots, which is really cool. Any RoboCop fan can pick up an issue and get this cool story the enriches the universe.
Nrama: When pairing up with Copland, do you try to write in scenes that play to his strengths or do you try to challenge him as an artist?
Moreci: In a way, yeah. Jason was such a natural fit because he has such a great crime style—very gritty with strong realism. Don’t get me wrong, he has incredible range, but put him in a crime story and his work soars. So, overall, the story was right for him, mixing that urban crime feel with a strong human backbone. I guess that’s where the challenge came in. Jason had to convey some pretty complex (at least, I hope they’re complex) human nuances in a really short span in order for the story to be effective. He nailed it, but I can’t imagine it was easy.
Nrama: When you're going back and forth between Curse and RoboCop, is there any difference in your mindset as a writer?
Moreci: Yes and no. As I’ve matured as a writer, I’ve gotten more in control with the things I’m trying to achieve in a story. My objective is to tell a fun, compelling story that illuminates something rich and unique about the characters involved and, thus, has the possibility to connect with the reader in a very real way. So, no matter what I do, that’ll generally be my goal. Again, it’s about balancing the cerebral with the visceral, trying to balance the both through plot, action, character, theme, etc.
Nrama: Final question: let's say a publisher has the power to give you creative freedom over another license in the vein of RoboCop, what do you choose and why?
Moreci: That’s a great question. I think my approach would be to examine the character with that kind of postmodern deconstructionist gaze. If we’re talking long game writing here, a big, solid run, my approach would be to strip away the character and its story to its barest essentials and build from there. Alan Moore was (is?) the master of this. His Swamp Thing run is so perfect because, in a way, it’s so absolutely basic. He boiled the mythos down to their most essential core and built on what was there. Hickman did something similar with his Fantastic Four run, getting to the heart of what makes that series, those characters, so amazing.
I think, tasked with an existing property, this is the safest approach (not foolproof, or universal). You really have to understand the watch for its components and pieces and intricacies before you can appreciate it for what it is and how it functions.
You always have a different approach, depending on the type of story, genre, characters, etc—no two sizes fit all—but I think the goal of maximizing efficacy remains consistent. That being said, if choosing one, I'd leap all over the "Alien" franchise. Or "Total Recall". So many good ones!