Man and Machine - Rob Williams on Dynamite's RoboCop
RoboCop Returns to Comics with Dynamite
Not content to leave a cybernetic future police officer alone, we spoke with Williams about his plans for Officer Murphy, OCP and the rest of RoboCop’s world.
Newsarama: Rob, first off, how'd you end up here? What made the RoboCop offer from Dynamite offer something that you just couldn't say no to?
Rob Williams: I'd chatted to Nick Barrucci about maybe doing something at Dynamite. I had an eye on their Battlestar Galactica titles; I'll be honest, as I was a fan. Nick picked up my recent Indiana Jones comic from Dark Horse and mentioned that he may have something I'd be a fit for. When he eventually said Robocop I'll admit it took me by surprise. I'd not seen the movie in years, probably since the '80s. So, I bought a copy and really enjoyed it. Mainly because Paul Voerhoven's plainly a lunatic and pushes the whole concept right to the edge. There's a lot of satire there too. That appealed to me. I thought, having worked for 2000AD for years, where satire and big action traditionally go hand in hand, that I could do that. I wanted to do some work for a company I'd not worked for before and figured Robocop would be fun.
NRAMA: How do you like working with Dynamite so far? They've had a good history of writers from Mike Carey, Brett Matthews, Matt Wagner to most recently, Kevin Smith. Where do you see yourself in the mix?
RW: It's very early days thus far, so I can't really answer this from too much experience, and I'd not be presumptuous enough to put myself in the mix with people like Wagner and Mike Carey. Hopefully, I can tell a fun story and it'll feel like Robocop. You know, guys driving into toxic waste and then getting turned into liquid when a car hits them at high speed. Good wholesome stuff like that.
NRAMA: There is, of course, the visceral punch of action-adventure that RoboCop promises, but that can be like saccharine for a writer - sweet, but ultimately not filling. So what's the meat of RoboCop for you that you were really able to bury your hooks in?
RW: You watch the DVD documentary, Making Of Robocop and Voerhoven finds the meat and then some. The scene where the gang brutally ‘kill' Murphy he talks about that being the crucifixion of Christ, and then he rises from the dead as Robocop. Bonkers, maybe, but it's an artistic vision. One thing I like about Voerhoven's work is, aside from the crazy over the top action, he'll add a lot of subtext, quite often political. That appeals to me.
Robocop's a satire of that '80s corporate greed culture, and hey, what do you know, with the current banking crisis, that's relevant today too. I'm sure we'll fit that side of thing in our story somewhere.
NRAMA: Since you brought it up, while the film fit America of the late '80s very well, the world it established as the near future seems to have only come into sharper focus. Your opening comics work, Cla$$War served as social/political commentary as much as an action-adventure story. Will you be looking to do the same here?
RW: Yeah, I think so. I can't really help myself from sticking some form of subtext in my stories somewhere - even if nobody notices. The satire - things like the news anchor reports and the adverts in the first Robocop movie. "I'd buy that for a dollar etc" - that all really appealed to me when I was offered the job. You've got to balance the gunplay with a little grey matter, and if it's funny, then all the better.
NRAMA: What's the scope of the story you're looking to tell? Are you going to start from the ground-up and "re-make" the world in a sense, or will you be jumping in, in continuity? What's "canon" for you when it comes to Robocop?
RW: We talked about what I should take on board of existing canon and the original movie was the agreement. That's the core Robocop story. We're still talking about where we go with our tale but the initial plan is to come in off the back the original movie and ignore all else. So, Murphy's avenged his 'murder' and now has to define who he wants to be from now on.
NRAMA: That said, as you look at it, to make RoboCop "work," what elements must be there? What elements don't need to be seen again?
RW: The big, bloody violent action is what people most remember about Robocop, I suspect. That, the adverts and, of course, the ED-209 which, even though it was plainly stop motion and looks quite dated now when it moves, is still absolutely terrifying. That's a great design and I think we'd be foolish not to make something of that. So, it's safe to assume that the ED-209 will be back.
What elements don't we need to see? Uh, well the horribly generic coke dealer bad guys seem very '80s, and, while it's essentially Murphy's story and about the loss of his humanity, too much moping and "I miss my wife and children, what are these emotions I feel?" is probably not what eople want from a Robocop comic, I suspect.
NRAMA: Take us inside your RoboCop headspace for a minute - what's floating around in there in regards to RoboCop's world? OCP, of course...ED-209s...what other parts are there to RoboCop's world that you can tease us with?
RW: I can't really say too much at this point, as we're still talking with MGM, but I know the story I want to tell. It'll be OCP, Old Detroit, ED-209s and there'll be some 2009 political satire, including a sub-plot involving a war overseas that OCP are providing weapons for. It will, hopefully, feel like a brand new sequel - Robocop 2, ignoring the fact that Frank Miller already did that, of course.
NRAMA: You've worked on Cla$$War, Judge Dredd, Star Wars, even some Wolverine. In the continuum of your work, do you see this a step up or down?
RW: I don't see it as either. It's work for hire and it should be fun work for hire for a company I was keen to do something for. You look at Dynamite's current roster and they have people like Garth Ennis, John Cassaday and Alex Ross doing work for them. That's not bad company. Unlike an artist, I can do more than one book a month, so why not Robocop? It's got big robots with bigger guns and satire. I'd buy that for a dollar (please note, the comic will almost certainly cost more this).