Bizarro Back Issues: ‘RoboCop vs. The Terminator’ Is The Greatest Crossover Of All Time (1992)
You might not realize it, but we're currently living in a Golden Age of licensed crossovers. I mean, really, you can go out right now and pick up a comic about the Ninja Turtles hanging out with the Ghostbusters and it'll be a rewarding experience that ties in logically to both ongoing series about those characters, and when you really think about it, that's mind-blowing. There was, after all, a time not too long ago when the big boom brought us a new installment of Such-and-Such vs. So-and-So almost every month, and getting excited for any of them was almost always a recipe for disappointment.
If you're even passingly familiar with superhero comics in the '80s, it's probably not hard to figure out why this thing turned out so well. Simonson was responsible for writing (and partially drawing) a legendary run on Thor that stands as one of the greatest runs in superhero comics, and was fresh off a run on Fantastic Four that was pretty similarly amazing. As for Miller, well, I'm guessing you're probably already familiar with the work he was doing in the '80s in comics, but for the purposes of this story, it's also worth noting that he wrote about half of RoboCop 2 and 3, with a script that got chopped up and used for both movies.
Point being, in 1992, they were both creators working at their peak, to the point where I'd personally consider this one to be the last truly great Frank Miller comic.
Part of the reason, of course, is that it's beautiful. Simonson's work has always had an incredible energy to it, especially when he's paired with letterer John Workman. There's a level where just seeing him draw RoboCop and a bunch of Terminators is really great.
I mean really.
I don't know if those particular splash pages were ever made into a set of prints or anything, but if not, that is leaving cash money on the table, y'all. And to be honest, the longer the book goes on, the bigger and weirder and more beautiful it gets. The original issues actually came with cut-out cardboard stand-ups of the title characters, plus the time-traveling Flo Langer and ED-209 that make them worth hunting down in dollar boxes, but once Simonson starts drawing Terminator Spaceships that set off to conquer the galaxy once they're done killing everything on Earth?
It's amazing --- especially the implication that Terminators are exactly as into the skull motif as the people who design characters for Warhammer 40,000. That's one of the great things about it, too, that they go full-on sci-fi with it to raise the stakes as high as they possibly can. I mean, we all know that Terminator is about the destruction of humanity, but seeing it this way, and adding the element of the Terminators expanding into space, Borg-style, is so great.
But aside from the art, what really makes it a great comic is that it gets exactly what's great about both franchises, and, most of all, that it makes perfect sense.
The entire premise of Terminator 2, which would've been pretty fresh in everyone's mind back in '92 as one of the most successful movies ever, revolves around the creation of Skynet and the idea of the single moment where a true artificial intelligence comes online and starts making decisions for itself, and the disastrous consequences that result.
RoboCop is, at its heart, a movie about technology and humanity battling with each other, specifically focused on Alex Murphy and how his human brain can direct programming that can, in turn, control his brain. The best scene in RoboCop 2, the one where OCP tries to recreate their success and fails to a hilariously horrifying extreme, even underlines the idea that Murphy's brain is unique.
If that's the case, then it makes perfect sense for RoboCop to be the spark that gives Skynet its own sentience, and that, removed from Murphy's particular and defining set of morality, provides it with the judgment to launch a worldwide genocide against humanity.
All of which is to say that this comic end up blowing up into a scene where an army of RoboCops fights an army of Terminators, and not only is it so awesome, it's also completely justified by the story being told.
Assuming, of course, that you're the kind of person who requires justification to see Walt Simonson drawing an army of Terminators fighting an army of RoboCops.
The other great example of how well these creators understand the source material comes in the form of Flo Langer herself. As iconic as Arnold and the metal skeleton might be, the Terminator always works best as an antagonist, and those movies are less about robots than they are about Sarah Connor --- especially in '92, when everyone had just seen Linda Hamilton doing chin-ups in a psych ward and then beating the living hell out of all those crooked doctors.
But since this particular story isn't about the Connors and focuses instead on RoboCop, we get a different human to move things along, and despite a pretty awful haircut, Flo's great:
The end result is a story that has everything you want from RoboCop and the Terminator, blending them pretty perfectly with a combination of action, adventure, time travel, humanity, heroism and, most of all, massive Walt Simonson panels of robots just beating and exploding the living heck out of each other.
Like pretty much everything published in the early '90s, it's not hard to track down in single-issue format --- and again, they've got those amazing Simonson stand-ups included if you feel like taking a pair of scissors to your precious back issues --- but the book was also re-released last year with some pretty beautiful new coloring from Steve Oliff that includes a ton of extras.
It's also available digitally, and right now, it's available at Comixology for four dollars as part of Dark Horse's insanely huge sale. If you like Frank Miller, Walt Simonson, RoboCop and/or the Terminator --- and especially if you like all four --- then this is a book you're going to want to read for yourself.
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