Robocop entered pop culture in 1987 with a bang. The Paul Verhoeven film mashed splatterpunk action aesthetics with biting science-fiction satire. Critics and audiences alike embraced the film (which still carries an 85% positive at RottenTomatoes.com), and it eventually scored three Academy Awards nominations (Film Editing, Sound, and Sound Effects Editing, which it won). Like any hit, it soon spun off a number of divergent transmedia incarnations. For a while, though, Robocop has lain dormant. That’s about to change.
Dynamite Entertainment, which has a reputation for reviving pop culture properties, has reloaded Robocop for a January 2010 release. At the writing helm is Rob Williams (Clas$$war), while Fabiano Neves (Xena, Athena, Marvel Zombies vs. Army of Darkness) takes on the art. We caught up with the duo to find out about their own future of law-enforcement. In this installment, Fabiano Neves talks about making a poster from your own wall come to life.
Newsarama: I also opened with this question for Rob: How did you first become aware of Robocop, and what was your impression of the character?
Fabiano Neves: Since the first movie, it was part of my teenage life. I watched at the cinema and I’m a huge fan, so my impressions are “Oh, man this is great!” I’m very proud because I can work on a character [that] is so complex. And I hope I can please all of the fans, the old ones and the new ones.
Nrama: The film was pretty striking, visually, in terms of establishing a split Detroit. It was one part urban nightmare, and one part shiny metropolis. What’s it like combining those extremes?
Neves: It’s a pleasure to an artist the possibility to play with this kind of dichotomy, to work with two kinds of worlds in a single job. The contrast is great and rich. If I had to choose between these two kinds of “scenario”, I would have to confess: I love to draw the old and dirty Detroit, without all shiny or sci-fi stuff. But it really is a great chance to find the best, in terms of visual art, between these two worlds.
Nrama: What’s the challenge of depicting a basically emotionless character that has a portion of his face covered? Do you convey his reactions in how he moves (which is limited by his body), or in the reactions of people around him?
Neves: I use the two options. I try to show Robocop’s reactions every time he makes a gesture, but people’s reaction around him are very important too – The two options work together and complement each other. I really think it was hard in the two first pages to find this balance, but after that, I was having fun and comfortable to play with the character.
Nrama: . How have previous assignments prepared you for this role? Rob, for example, worked on a similar character in terms of Judge Dredd.
Neves: My newest works were very different than Robocop. But I think that what made this kind of work is so funny as the road that led me here. With Dynamite I can work with a huge diversity of characters and concepts. I could draw ancient characters as Xena and Red Sonja; zombies as in Marvel Zombies vs AOD; gods with Hercules and Athena and now, this urban/sci-fi with Robcop. But, all this variety prepared me for all kinds of assignments, ‘cause they teach me to think about each assignment differently: they gave me experience.
Nrama: What’s your art process normally like, and have you adapted it in any way for this book? Are you trying anything new or different that moves you out of your artistic comfort zone?
Neves: Well, this is how I work: I prioritize and read all the script first. Then, I make thumbnails for all panels’ pages at the script pages. After that, I try to figure how the pages must look like, and make the layouts, do some loose pencils and then, ink. I usually make 3 or 4 pages at a time using watercolors. The final-art is completely different for each job, they are all realistic, of course, but the technique, the inks, the art method – all different. You can see that when you look at the pages of Athena, when I didn’t use any final ink, just a very enhanced pencil and gray marker. In Robocop, I’m using final ink and nankeen watercolor for half-tones. I really don’t know if the reader can see this when they have the comic, with all colors in his hand, but it is great, because I have the chance to work and have lots of fun, finding new ways to finish all the jobs.
Nrama: What’s the most appealing part of this particular project for you?
Neves: To work with a character that I’m a huge fan since I was a teen! I think I was 12 or 13 years old when I watched the first movie. I had the poster on my bedroom walls. It’s so cool have the chance to work with this character. Especially, because Rob Williams is doing a great job! All the new scripts make me happier and happier.
Nrama: Knowing that we’ll at least begin in Detroit, are you interested in designing what more of Robocop’s world looks like? What ideas do you bring in, in terms of design and the overall motion of the story?
Neves: Oh, it will be a great pleasure to adapt and create the design for the Robocop universe! Can you tell that I will follow the design of the first movie, it will be my base, because I think it’s perfect and remarkable. So I’ll try to reach that kind of quality and I hope to please all the Robocop fans.