The Many, Many Post-Movie Lives of RoboCop
Next year's RoboCop marks the return of the everyday tale of one cyborg and his simple desire to bring justice to his hometown. But just because the world has been robbed of a RoboCop movie since 1993's RoboCop 3 -- a.k.a. The One Nobody Really Remembers Was Even Made (Even Peter Weller skipped it.) -- that doesn't mean that Murphy has been taking it easy for the last 20 years. Welcome to the magical world of the RoboCop Expanded Universe.
The first RoboCop spin-offs actually predate even 1990's RoboCop 2, which, in case you've forgotten, was based on a script by Frank Miller and directed by The Empire Strikes Back's Irvin Kershner and still managed to be underwhelming. In 1988, just a year after the original movie, Marvel Productions premiered RoboCop: The Animated Series, a syndicated half-hour show that only lasted 12 episodes before cancellation.
To call this unexpected is being polite. Sure, RoboCop has a certain kid-friendly quality to it in theory, but the original movie had to be submitted to the MPAA 12 times before it got any rating that wasn't an X. Was there really the belief of a significant crossover audience between that movie and the Saturday morning cartoon crowd?
Two years later, and just in time for RoboCop 2, Marvel published a RoboCop comic, written by Judge Dredd writer Alan Grant -- a smart choice, considering that Dredd was one of the inspirations for the original movie. That comic lasted two years, ending when the license passed to Dark Horse Comics, which launched its RoboCop line with what remains one of the best RoboCop stories to date: RoboCop vs. Terminator (a series written, again, by Frank Miller. Clearly, he was a fan).
By the end of 1993, it seemed as if RoboCop was headed to the scrapheap -- RoboCop 3 had been a flop, and Dark Horse was winding down its line of RoboCop comics. The following year brought new hope for the franchise with RoboCop: The Series, a live-action version of the character made by Canadian studio Skyvision Entertainment.
Was this show good? Two changes introduced to the mythos by the series should tell you all you need to know. Firstly, because the series was aimed at kids, RoboCop started introducing nonlethal alternatives to ending conflict. Secondly, a young sidekick called "Gadget" was also introduced, because -- oh God, you can't explain this away; it was just a terrible, terrible idea. Suffice it to say, RoboCop: The Series only lasted 22 episodes.