Frank J. Barbiere Gets Inside RoboCop's Head

Going into surgery can mess with your head. You don't know what's going to happen while you go under the knife, you're powerless to stop it and the dreams can be pretty intense. Now, imagine all that for someone being turned into a cyborg super soldier who will help defend a futuristic version of Detroit.

Director Jose Padilha's "RoboCop" remake, which hits theaters on Feb. 12, 2014, will touch on some of Alex Murphy's surgery experience as he gets turned into the maligned city's robotic hero, but the idea gets explored in far more detail thanks to a BOOM! Studios one-shot from writer Frank J. Barbiere ("Five Ghosts") and artist João Vieira called "RoboCop: Memento Mori." The issue, which also lands on Feb. 12, will be the second of four offerings from BOOM! set in the new Robo Universe.

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"Memento Mori" features the soon-to-be robotic soldier Alex Murphy -- played by Joel Kinnaman in the film -- remembering his life while he goes through the surgery that will turn him into the hero audiences will see on the big screen. But, being a dream universe, it's difficult to tell the truth from fiction.

CBR News talked with Barbiere about getting the gig, playing with the dream-like quality of the tale and developing a story that fits in with the new film.

CBR News: How did you get involved with the RoboCop one-shots?

Frank J. Barbiere: BOOM! has done an amazing job of reaching out to new talent over the past year. They enjoyed "Five Ghosts" and dropped me a line to see if I was available. Sometimes it's as easy as just having your work out there!

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What was the story development process like? Did BOOM! have a few ideas to explore or did you pitch ideas?

There were a few ideas bouncing around that played off of key scenes from the new film. I reviewed what was on the table and took interest in expanding the concept of what happened inside Murphy's brain when he was being transformed into RoboCop.

From talking to some of the other writers, it sounds like you all share a longtime love of RoboCop. Is that the case with you?

For sure. "RoboCop" was just one of those movies growing up that had a "comic-esque" allure. I think the concept of a man being made into a half-machine police officer is pretty grabbing to any young boy, and having the film was an immediate, visual hook. I actually remember my mom buying me the NES "RoboCop" video game when I was in like 5th grade. I definitely also had some action figures.

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It sounds like your one-shot takes place in Alex's mind while he's being transformed into RoboCop. What elements of his character did you want to explore in that process?

For me, the idea of doing an issue that deals with memory-inside-a-memory was an opportunity to use a lot of really cool imagery. Clearly comics are a wonderful visual medium, so it was an opportunity to use a lot of crazy dream imagery and I think it adds a heightened sense of mystery/fun to the issue. I really wanted to play with confusion, as Alex is a detective and so used to being the man in control, taking him out of his element and simultaneously having his mind being tampered with. I think there's a lot of fun misdirection and mystery in the issue. It happens quickly, but readers are taken on a fun ride that comes to a logical close.

How has it been working with João Vieira on the issue?

João's art is incredibly detailed and has a great sense of motion. I really love how he's processing the dream imagery I described in the script and creating an issue of "RoboCop" that is very much our own. It's a unique issue that certainly looks like nothing else that's been done in the franchise. It's been a great experience having an artist with so much style and energy work on my script.

Given the chance, would you do more "RoboCop" comics in the future?

Absolutely! "Memento Mori" is certainly a great done-in-one story, but I'd jump at the chance to do more with RoboCop in the future.

"RoboCop: Memento Mori," by Frank J. Barbiere, João Vieira and BOOM! Studios, makes its debut on Feb. 12.

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