In an urban fable stripped straight out of today's surreal headlines, Boom! Studios is resurrecting the Alex Murphy RoboCop with a topical new miniseries titled RoboCop: Citizens Arrest.
Last year marked the 30th anniversary of the near-future RoboCop franchise and Peter Weller's sympathetic portrayal of the Detroit Police Department's famous cyborg cop. Since 1987, the iconic property has spawned two Hollywood sequels and a reboot, three decades of comic books, an animated series, tie-in novels, toys, games, and action figures.
Smartly written by Brian Wood (Star Wars, The Massive, Briggs Land) and adorned with absorbing art by Jorge Coelho (Polarity, Sleepy Hollow), RoboCop: Citizens Arrest imagines a modern Detroit and its broken law enforcement issues, twisted once more by the nefarious Omni Consumer Products (OCP), the private conglomerate that brought us the ED-209 and the original RoboCop program.
When OCP starts enlisting the help of ordinary citizens to report crime for monetary rewards via the R/COP app on their cell phones, a retired Alex Murphy and a rookie cop must reclaim their misguided city and stop the crazy crowdfunded crimebusting service.
Here's the official synopsis:
Brian Wood, the visionary writer behind DMZ and Briggs Land, and Jorge Coelho (Venom, Rocket Raccoon) present a provocative vision of a future where justice is crowdsourced and lethal. It's been decades since the RoboCop program first began. Corporations have taken over the schools and the government and law enforcement is the biggest private contract of all. Traditional police forces no longer exist as all citizens are encouraged and rewarded to spy on their neighbors. There is only one authority on the streets: ROBOCOP.
SYFY WIRE spoke with Wood and Coelho on this hot topic title and learned how the series first came to fruition, why this haunting tale of modern politics hits to the heart of today's realities, and what makes the RoboCop franchise such an exciting creative sandbox to dig into.
After the interview, check out our exclusive 8-page preview in the gallery below, then tell us if you'll pick up this arresting new series. RoboCop: Citizens Arrest #1 hit comic shops April 11.
How did you get recruited for this intriguing new RoboCop series with Boom!?
Brian Wood: One of my editors, Sierra Hahn, knows me and my work pretty well, and I think saw RoboCop as something that I would enjoy, that would be right in line with my history of work. So she straight-up asked me one day, and I say yes right on the spot. Sometimes it's that easy and simple!
Jorge Coelho: I've been lucky enough to have worked with BOOM! Studios before, with Polarity, Sleepy Hollow, and John Flood, so Eric and I were talking about potential projects; when RoboCop was on the table, I couldn't help but to accept.
Were you a big fan of the R-rated Hollywood RoboCop films?
BW: I was, absolutely. I grew up in a pretty strict household, so all my friends saw it before I did. I had to sneak out to watch it in the theater.
JC: Yes! Not the nerdy kinda fan that knows all the details, but RoboCop is the first in-your-face violent film with a concept that made me think.
Can you give us a quick tour of the story and tell us what inspired it?
BW: One of the things I realized pretty much immediately, when I first started thinking about what my RoboCop pitch should be, is how what was topical and relevant for the original film still is topical and relevant. The social themes, militarization of police, a negative opinion of public services and unions, a distrust of law enforcement -- privacy concerns with media! It's all white-hot topics. So I wanted to hit all that, and I wanted to have a little fun with the idea of history repeating itself.
So in this story we have a new OCP, a new RoboCop, and a new Detroit -- all both new and old at the same time, that allows us to deliver a story familiar and also a little forward-thinking. Alex Murphy, the original RoboCop, is out of service and living in this working-class enclave of Detroit with all the other cops, firemen, EMT, and other social service workers forced out of their jobs when this new OCP took over the contracts for the city and privatized it all. A young cop, Leo Reza, takes it upon himself to lift Alex Murphy up, to restore his programming and try and stop OCP's aggressive, violent attempts to gentrify working-class neighborhoods and expand its power.
How does the wild premise of Citizens Arrest dovetail perfectly into the satirical tone and violent reflective style of the original movies?
BW: Everyone’s working hard to make sure we keep not only the action from the first film, but the dark humor, the in-story ads, the media element. If you re-watch the original film, it's funny at times. It's absurd, it's satirical. It works on several levels. That, and the social media angle, the app the citizens of Detroit use to spy on their neighbors, is a deliberate attempt to take EVERYTHING that worked in the original to deliver an authentic RoboCop story.
There's a long 30-year legacy of RoboCop comics spread across many publishers, beginning with Marvel and now Boom! How did your work on this title help to carry on and contribute to that history?
BW: Speaking for myself, I kept my focus narrow and only considered the first film as an influence. I think when working on licensed books and superhero books that have this massive history, you can get lost in it all and lose track of the "core" of it all. So I made the core my focus and just tried to write the best story I could.
Have you worked with Jorge Coelho before, and how does his art enhance this relevant new RoboCop title?
BW: I wrote a complex, layered script built on a 9-panel grid, which is a challenge to write but an even greater challenge to draw. There is a LOT of information on these pages, and I admit I was worried, I had guilt I was making Jorge's job harder than he was expecting. But he nailed it -- hit every emotional beat, all the scene jumps were clear, and the page flow is perfect. He's an incredible asset to the title, he really made my script into a story.
How did you approach the panel design, colors, and style of the artwork to match with Brian's story?
JC: I try to get in Brian's script like a director, trying to catch the feel of a scene more than the details or aesthetics of what is in it. Also we need to feel the contrast between Detroit's comfortable middle-class vibe and its poorer neighborhoods -- the lines get crisper and shadows appear. But my main goal is always getting the flow from story to visual telling, and that magic is hard to describe.
What makes the RoboCop urban fable and its biting commentary on society, law enforcement, media mania, and the misuse of technology endure?
BW: What seems to endure are terrible people in positions of power that keep RoboCop relevant. Like I said earlier, I was amazed at how all this stuff is still relevant, 31 years later. And by amazed, I mean kind of depressed, actually.
JC: This fable is solidly attached to the modern capitalist, technology-oriented societies and corruption, so for now, and the foreseeable future, its pertinence endures.