Michael Moreci Helps "Robocop" Discover Mechanical Humanity

Michael Moreci wants readers to know that the man in the machine is as important to RoboCop as the hardware on the outside, a major theme of his entry in BOOM! Studio's month of RoboCop one-shots, better known to the world as February 2014. Throughout the second month of the year, the publisher will celebrate the release of the new film, which hits on Feb. 12, by releasing a new one-and-done comic a week, each by a different creative team. Moreci's "RoboCop: Hominem Ex Machina" lands on Feb. 26, completing the cycle.

Written by Moreci ("Hoax Hunters," "Curse") and featuring art by Jason Copland ("Daredevil"), "Hominem" takes a look at how important the person inside the suit is when Robo's systems go offline. A system shutdown of this kind is a huge blow to the man formerly known as Alex Murphy, as his consciousness remains intact while he watches helplessly as the criminals he scared away start crawling back out of the woodwork to run amok in Detroit.

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CBR News spoke with Moreci about his personal history with the RoboCop franchise, crafting a story that fits in with the new mythology and the relationship between man and machine.

CBR News: Were you a fan of RoboCop going into this project?

Michael Moreci: I saw "RoboCop" shortly after it came out on video. My mom, God bless her, was very liberal with the movies she allowed me to watch. I was probably like nine when I saw it -- I remember it being lumped in with a bunch of similar movies, like "The Running Man" and "Total Recall." In reality, I probably saw them over a few years, but it seems like I experienced them all at once.

That said, all those subversive, challenging, action/sci-fi movies very much inform my work to this day. They were very influential in instructing me that you can make popcorn entertainment that still has something salient to say. And "RoboCop" is the cream of this crop, with its message of urban blight and corporate control mixed with outrageous humor and crazy violence.

How did you get involved in writing the "RoboCop: Hominem Ex Machina" one-shot?

Luck! I was wrapping a project with BOOM! -- a creator-owned book I'm doing called "Curse," with Tim Daniel, Colin Lorimer and Riley Rossmo -- when my editor sent me an email to ask if I had any interest in writing a RoboCop story. Like I said, I love RoboCop, as many my age do, so I leapt at the chance to write a story in that world.

Being such a fan of the original film, was it difficult getting into the headspace of the re-imagined version of the character?

Sort of, yeah. If I was writing a continuation of the original, or something in that universe, I think it would've been much more difficult. But this remake, while true to the spirit of "RoboCop," is very much its own thing. So getting into the headspace was less daunting and allowed for more breathing room. The story I'm telling, in fact, probably wouldn't work with the original idea of "RoboCop," while it fits perfectly with this new version. I think that's what makes reboots, remakes, etc. work, taking the salient parts and updating them in a way that's smart and relevant.

Your story revolves around RoboCop losing control of his systems. What happens to him in that timeframe and what does it mean to the people of Detroit?

Nothing good. I pick the story up at a time when RoboCop has been kicking ass and taking names across Detroit -- really putting his heel on the neck of crime. Criminals have been humiliated and have their lives, in a sense, taken out from under them. With RoboCop gone, they relish the opportunity to exact some payback and restore their pride.

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The story sounds very cerebral, with Robo learning how his human side informs his mechanical aspects. What made you want to explore that aspect of the character?

Ha, well, that's my curse, I think. I'm either too playful, like my book "Prime-8s," or too cerebral and serious. Since I couldn't go the playful route, I only had one direction to go.

I'm fascinated, to a degree, by our relationships to machines. You know, with Twitter, texting, apps, etc., the boundaries are become more and more blurred. It feels like, to me, whenever writers tackle this type of man-and-machine story, it's always about the depersonalization of the human. Machines always make people less human, that's the tried and true trope. I wanted to flip that around and see what it looked like to examine the idea of people making machines more human. Maybe the relationship of man and machine, as it continues to evolve, will become more reciprocal?

One aspect of the evolving technology you mentioned is that it has connected people in a way that has never really been seen before. Does that play into the story at all?

Not really; not in the sense of the global connectivity via whatever social medial cocktail you make use of. I focused more on the individual relationship of man and machine for this story, but I think there are lots of stories to tell in that regard, exploring this strange closeness we all share, a closeness that has no intimacy and can be manipulated at will. Shows like "Catfish" fascinate me because, it's like, "What is identity?" How is the persona you create online different from the persona you present at work? Which is real? We like to think we're all connected -- terms like "global community" get bandied around all the time -- but who are we connected to?

When working on a project like "RoboCop: Hominem Ex Machina," what kind of access did you have to the movie? Were you able to look at a script, clips or anything like that?

I did read the script, which I enjoyed a lot. It's really smart, with a touch of subversion and great action. I can't wait to see the full movie.

Other than that, I went and re-watched the original. It was nice to have a happy excuse to do so. I love, love that movie. It's so smart and funny with the exact right amount of crazy. Twenty-some years later, the story is still with me.

Was there any interaction with the writers of the other books?

I don't know Joe Harris at all -- though I hear he's a very cool guy -- and I actively avoid Ed and Frank as much as possible...

That's a joke! Ed, Frank and I are buddies, though I think there was a certain amount of surprise when we found out we were all working on the series of one-shots. By the time we knew, our stories were already locked in, so we didn't compare notes or anything. Not that we would -- we're all secretly competitive with one another.

What was it like working with Jason Copland on this comic?

It's awesome. Jason and I have wanted to work on a project together for a while. We have a creator-owned thing greenlit at a place, in fact -- it's just a matter of us getting around to it.

Jason's aesthetic is perfect for the story, really delivering that minimal but impactful feel that draws out the story's human element. His storytelling is so crisp and smooth. He can do anything, I really believe that.

"Hoax Hunters" and "Curse" are longer-form stories, while this is a one-shot. What were some of the positives and negatives of working in this particular format?

It was cool to do something lean and to the point. My Image book, "Hoax Hunters," is so sprawling and big, and I love that, but it was nice to take a step back and tell a more compact story. It really made me hone in on what the point of the story was and how to convey that in a dynamic plot. The only minus is that there's only one! I greedily wish for more so I can inhabit the RoboCop universe and tell more stories.

Has there been any talk of more books beyond these one-shots?

No to my knowledge -- at least, not involving me. I hope there is, because who doesn't need more RoboCop in their life?

"RoboCop: Hominem Ex Machina" from Michael Moreci, Jason Copland and BOOM! Studios blasts its way to comic shops on Feb. 26.

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