Back in 1989, DC Comics scrapped an issue of Swamp Thing where Swampy met Jesus. Writer Rick Veitch quit DC Comics for a time, Doug Wheeler took over the series and led it into a shallow period. DC has never published the comic, even though pretty much everyone agrees the Wheeler run is one of the series low points.
Everyone who’s read it, anyway. It doesn’t seem like many did.
Fast forward thirty years and once again DC is scared of Jesus. Mark Russell–who wrote Flintstones and Snagglepuss for DC–has a new book, Second Coming, all about Jesus returning and bunking with a Superman stand-in.
DC greenlit the concept, greenlit the book, then totally wussed out once again when it comes to getting Jesus into the funny pages. It’s not a surprise. DC’s a mostly feckless sewer, but come on… stand by your greenlighting decisions. There have been plenty of good Jesus comics over the years–particularly Garth Ennis’s Wormwood but also Mark Millar’s Chosen. Chosen would’ve given DC/Vertigo a real shot in the arm when it desperately needed one. But no. I’ll bet Millar and Ennis never even bothered pitching their books to DC because, well, DC is a wuss.
And, once again, they wussed out. Zero surprise.
Now, the comic has ended up at Ahoy Comics, which has been around about six months, and has books from creators like Tom Peyer and Stuart Moore… who used to be DC guys, until DC stopped paying people in money and switched over to WB Shop gift certificates.
Frank Miller's Robocop; Avatar Press; issues 1-9 (of 9); 2003-06; $3.50 to $3.99, 36 pgs ea.; collection (2007), $29.99.
Like most media with a Frank Miller credit on it, Frank Miller’s Robocop does not aged well. More accurately, as far as Robocop goes anyway, it doesn’t improve with age or maturity. It was always as bad as it is now, every reading another bloody stab at nostalgia. Frank Miller’s Robocop is an adaptation of Miller’s original Robocop 2 script. It’s a pseudo-infamous script—Miller, hot off Dark Knight loves Robocop and writes the sequel. There’s a writer’s strike in there somewhere. When the sequel finally does get made, Miller’s script has been rewritten by Walon Green (who wrote some of The Wild Bunch script). The sequel doesn’t get a good reaction, everyone starts thinking it’s because Miller’s script got rewritten. But then Miller’s back for Robocop 3, which should seem weird but actually makes perfect sense because they’re really just using his Robocop 2 script ideas.
So Frank Miller’s Robocop initially comes off more like a Robocop 3 adaptation than a Robocop 2. The first three issues are just Robocop 3, then with 2 elements, but still with a bunch of 3 going on. If only adapter Steven Grant could unravel all these threads….
And he doesn’t. He leaves Robocop entirely jumbled, with Juan Jose Ryp’s highly detailed, precisely messy, very busy art not doing anything to save the comic. Ryp’s art never really hurts it—whoever gives him too many pages for action scenes, for example, is the one who hurts it. Ryp does well with fast paced action. He doesn’t do well slowing down to go through a throw-by-throw. Especially not with the comic’s version of “Robocop 2,” the big villain (sort of) in the finale. It usually feels like Grant’s never seen Ryp’s art, otherwise no one would plot out the scene the way Grant does.
Editing matters. Though with Frank Miller’s Robocop you probably don’t get to tell Frank Miller how his ideas are so bad, even a franchise-desperate movie studio could improve on them.
I’ve read this series something like three times now. Maybe four. Definitely three. I’ve read it as published (often delayed), I’ve read it slowly, I’ve binged it. It never gets any better. There’s never enough story for the issues or even the series. The first three have something like an arc, which suggests Grant might do something similar with the back six, but he doesn’t. Once the big action set pieces start, the comic rushes to get out of there way so Ryp can have too many pages to do boring action.
In the end, all Frank Miller’s Robocop does is raise questions not particularly worth having answered—did Miller write any of these characters any better, did he really have such bad plotting or was Grant trying to make it fit the nine issues (it feels like there’s one missing, though who’d want to read another one).
Robocop 2, the movie, is far from great shakes, but seeing notes on Miller’s script from the studio execs? Seeing those might be interesting, if only because there’s so much to “fix.”
(It’s also strange how few of the “regular” cast show up in the script. Makes you wonder what Miller liked about the first movie).
Hercules: Wrath of the Heavens (Hercule); Titan Comics (Soleil); issues 1-5 (of 5); 2017-18; $3.99, most issues 32 pgs ea., first issue 56 pgs; collection (2018), $19.99.
En France… whoops, sorry. In France, Hercules came out in three forty-eight pages volumes. The first came out in 2012, the second in 2013, the third in 2017. It appears each volume is going to be one of Hercules’s twelve labors. Are they called labors? I spent about fifteen minutes trying to dig up original publication information because French comics information doesn't get readily translated. The Wikipedia page for Hercules author JD Morvan is atrocious.
The reason I was trying to dig up that original publication information is because Wrath of the Heavens is five issues and gets through the first three labors. I was even reading up on Hercules’s Wiki to try to figure out if the story was done or if the gigantic cliffhanger was indeed a cliffhanger.
I'm not familiar with the mythological Hercules, which (thanks Wikipedia) doesn't matter too much with Morvan’s hard sci-fi take on him. It's the far flung future, humanity lives in some kind of servitude to intergalactic beings (the gods). There's a bit about a revolution of the humans being bad because it would tank the economy. Morvan does a really good job updating the mythology and adding to it. Same goes for Looky, who realizes it all without ever getting goofy with the design. The gods look like gods, but in the context of being this special race of alien overlords.
There are some too obvious moves—humanity is called sklaves or slkaves or something similar. It's slaves, get it. But it usually doesn't matter because the story's moving so well, which is another reason the strangely abrupt ending seems wrong. Morvan is very deliberate in his plotting. The finish is perfunctory at best.
The comic’s got some inventive and loose adapting as far as the mythological source material goes, which is weird at first then improves. Awesome art start to finish. Some of the characters resonate, even though Hercules is a bit underdeveloped. His actions are interesting to Morvan, not his reactions.
It's a good comic. I only hope it doesn't take another five years to get the next installment.
Though Titan, who translates and reprints, seem to have waited until the third volume was done for this series and it'll be ages for labors four through six get done. There's not even a four in France yet.
I’m really impressed with Johnnie Christmas’s Alien 3 from Dark Horse. No doubt they'll lose their Fox licenses to Marvel, who should just have Disney buy Dark Horse at this point, since it would simplify reprints and give Marvel a better back catalogue.
Because someday Disney and AT&T having a big back catalogue of mainstream but indie genre comics will be important.
Anyway, Christmas is doing an adaptation of the William Gibson A3 script, which has probably been floating around the Internet since Usenet. I know I've downloaded it a couple times and never read it, separated by large swathes of time, getting it the second time because I was nostalgic for being a teenager who thought he'd someday have time to read unproduced screenplays, like it would be important.
But it's not a bad story. Elements have come through in the subsequent sequels, though Christmas also appears to be doing some knowing homage, which is cool. Christmas never gets lost in the homage, just the occasional nod. It's well-executed.
Unfortunately I read the first four issues without realizing it was a five issue series. I would have just waited. But depending on how it wraps up, I'm considering doing a focus on it. I watched about half of that “Alien: Isolation” digital series and so maybe I'm just more aware of how easy it is to do this kind of thing poorly—this kind of thing meaning to insert breaks into a narrative to serialize it—Christmas’s adaptation is more impressive.
I imagine it'll all hinge on how it wraps up, but so far it's all very character-focused. Christmas isn't doing an Aliens comic so he can do a lot of Alien drawings. He always works with the characters, making it far more like Aliens than one would assume. Depending on that last issue, who knows… maybe I'll finally read that Gibson script. Though I would need to download it again.
If this adaptation ends up being one of Dark Horse’s best Aliens comics… well, the best Robocop comic is the BOOM! Robocop 3 so….