Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Robocop and the Paradox of Crime Fighting

Before August, 2013, all I knew about Robocop was: a) he’s robot, b) he’s a cop, and c) he’s super violent. And in some ways, those three things were enough. But when I saw the promotional campaign for Robocop: Last Stand, I took the bait. The press release described, “Adapted from Frank Miller’s unproduced screenplay for Robocop 3--a Dark Knight Returns for Robocop!--and spoiler alert Robocop dies!” This is what I thought of Robocop in 2013.

But now it’s 2014, and I am a new person: I love Robocop. Not just because he’s funny, violent, and noble. But mostly because he’s the perfect articulation of the inherent paradox of law enforcement. Let me explain...
This comic starts like the first Robocop movie--a news-broadcast proclaims Detroit is now perfectly safe thanks to a better armed police and patrol routes for of those crazy mecha-tank cop-bot things (called ED-209). Of course, this is total bullshit. The city is more dangerous than ever before because of rampant corruption and police brutality.

Robocop is forced to hide in the sewers to do his violent vigilantism. He kills more corrupt cops and destroys more ED-209s than ever before. And since he’s a badass, it all goes great--until he tries a little girl from a burning building; gets attacked by a kung-fu master cyborg; and almost dies in an explosion filled car chase. Robocop is forced to hide in the sewers, where he fights more ED-209s and the kung-fu bot until he’s mortally wounded.

Then he dies. And gets crucified even.
Image credit: The Nerdist, 

And without spoiling the book's awesome ending, here’s why Robocop is great. Robocop highlights how fighting for justice with power is fundamentally failed pursuit. The difference between Robocop and ED-209 illustrates this true paradox. The ED-209 may be stronger, faster, and have more firepower than Robocop--but Robocop is essentially a man and the ED is a heartless killing machine. In creation, Robocop was a fluke; while the ED-209 are mass produced killing machines. Robocop cannot be replicated--the only reason the cyborg law enforcer is a crime fighter is because he was made from the husk of a good cop. Thus, the mecha-tank carries the metaphorical significance of bureaucracy while Robocop illustrates the failure of one good person to affect an inherently bad system. 

We can give cops military-grade SWAT equipment; build bigger prisons, or allow the government access to all citizen data. But none of these things will make things more fair; in fact, quite the opposite. Truly fair policemen would need to be totally selfless, so committed to helping society that they would disfigure their body with giant metal weapon parts just so they can never stop fighting criminals--like Robocop. Unfortunately, what we get, are mindless combat drones like the ED-209. 

The mini-series itself is quite good. The writer adapts the book in the style of Frank Miller, through a mostly-effortless Dark Knight Returns impression. The art is great too; it has a simple line style, with expert coloring and evocative detail. I wager Robocop: Last Stand will be a lot better than the new Robocop remake. This book is gritty, sad, and badass. I bet the remake will struggle to do just one of those things (the latter). 

But hey, I’ll still see it anyway. Because I love Robocop now. And so should you.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Two Comics

My friend Dane Georges is a top notch artist. He's also a comic book superfan. When we met each other, we quickly vowed to write comics together. Since then, we have! Here are two gag strips beautifully illustrated by Dane and written by yours truly. The first is Abraham Lincoln's Breakfast Ritual (historically accurate) and the second is Superhero Nights (what superheroes do when they get home)


Monday, January 6, 2014

Every Book I Read in 2013

Here's a list of every book I read in 2013. I also included very small reviews for the sake of fun. There are 44 books on this list and they are presented in order of genre.

Naked Lunch, William S. Burroughs 300pgs.
Very strange and confusing, but overall quite humorous and disgusting. Lots of great assplay.

Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon, 776pgs.
Amazing and confusing. I need to read a second time, but this book is the real deal. It's all connected!

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami, 607pgs.
Lots of fun! Being lonely does feel like living alone in a deep, dark well. A real page turner.

The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov, 405pgs
Great, but I wish I knew more about the Russian Revolution. Excellent Christianity satire.

Omon Ra, Victor Pelevin, 154pgs.
Very strange with an amazing ending. Laugh out loud satire of immediately post-communist Russia.

Swag, Elmore Leonard, 240pgs.
Great book about bank robbers and stick-up men. If you want to understand the economics of highway robbery, this is the book to read. Rest in piece to a master of crime.

The Friends of Eddie Coyle, George V. Higgins, 182pgs.
This book has one of the bleakest views of humanity I've ever incountered. Everyone you meet is out to cheat and screw you somehow, without fail. Very little violent crime, all petty money shit. Great book.

Fat City, Leonard Gardner, 183pgs.
A book about boxing but I've read better.

A Kiss Before Dying, Ira Levin, 271pgs.
Absolute edge-of-your-seat thriller about a deranged sociopath. Phenomenally fun to read.

Double Indemnity, James M. Cain, 115pgs.
Really terse, dark, calculated and hard-boiled. Probably one of the best. Very interesting characters in likely the best novel about insurance fraud.

The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler, 230pgs.
A classic that will never get old. I'll take Chandler over Hammett any day.

The Cockfighter, Charles Wilford, 275pgs.
A god's honest book lauding the cockfighter. Fascinating and bizarre. One of my favorite Weird Crime books, which is a genre I made up to describe books like this one.

Street Players, Donald Goines, 220pgs.
Black urban crime in the 1970s written by a legitimate outsider artist. Goines was a pimp, junkie, dealer and gangster until he was assassinated. This book about pimping gives a compassionate portrayal of all the players.

Caught Stealing, Charlie Huston, 240pgs.
Like a Hitchcock thriller set to the page, this book was a quick, exciting read. Leads in perfectly to it's sequel.

Six Bad Things, Charlie Huston, 305pgs.
The best of the trilogy, our protagonist gets as badass as can be. Perfect twist ending and leads into...

A Dangerous Man, Charlie Huston, 286pgs.
A total letdown. By now, the protagonist has become a moribund, sad-sack loser. Totally lame end to an otherwise good trilogy.

Ubik, Philip K. Dick 216pgs.
Really trippy story about perhaps the first psy-ops task force in literature. One of the best Dick I've read.

The Stepford Wives, Ira Levin, 121pgs.
Interesting satire of the suburbs, if not a little heavy handed. The movie is better.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams, 216pgs
Took me long enough to read this book but I still appreciated it. Very silly, dark, and smart humor.

I, Robot, Isaac Asimov, 273pgs.

This is probably not Asimov's best book. Competent short stories with better ideas than characters/plots.

The Space Merchants, Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth, 239pgs.
A satire of advertising that looses steam by the end. Pretty funny first 1/3rd though.

Good Omens, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchet, 387pgs.
Hysterical book. Christian satire rivaling The Master and Margarita (I read them congruently). One of Gaiman's most under-rated works, despite a massive cult following.

Carrie, Stephen King, 290pgs.
Compulsively readable, I finished this book in 8 hours. Pitch-perfect characterization of lead character.

The Half-Made World, Felix Gilman, 479pgs
Interesting genre-meld of western, horror, fantasy, steampunk, action. Great world but stops once story really gets going.

The Rise of Ransom CIty, Felix Gilman, 368pgs
The above book's sequel. Written like a fake memoir, still quite interesting. Better than the first book.

Smoke and Mirrors, Neil Gaiman, 384pgs
Gaiman's early short stories and literary experiments. Lots of gems with just as many strange orphans.

Book of Blood vol. 1, Clive Barker, 200pgs Goddammit some of these stories were scary. Really terse writing by someone who mastered the imagery of pain early. A hovel city forming a giant flesh monster will forever haunt my dreams.

The Time Machine Did It, John Schwartzwelder, 139pgs. Written by the most prolific Simpsons scripter, this book reads like Homer Simpson fan fiction where he ditches the family, becomes a private eye, and gets a time machine. So obviously, hilarious.

I Am Going to Clone Myself Then Kill the Clone and Eat It, Sam Pink, 115pgs. Very weird book of pitch black prose poems. Highly recommended if you hate the world, everyone in it, and your self (if only even sometimes).

Short Stories/Novellas:
In Persuasion Nation, George Saunders, 228pgs.
My favorite book of short stories I've ever read. Laugh out loud and touchingly sad often on the same page. Saunders is the Vonnegut of today.

Pastoralia, George Saunders, 188pgs.
My least favorite of Saunders' books but still funny. Lots more pathos, a lot less satire.

The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil, George Saunders, 131pgs. Very weird, but also exactly why President Bush was horrifying.

When the Women Come Out to Dance, Elmore Leonard, 228pgs. The ones with plots were super-tense and exciting; the ones that explored characters and dialogue were beautifully written. This dude was good.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, Raymond Carver, 160pgs. Hard to live up to its hype, but I now know for sure it'd be fucking depressing to be an alcoholic.

The Collected Works Vol. 1, Scott McClanahan, 124pgs. Such a great book of wonderful stories from the American South that could truly happen no where else.

Person, Sam Pink, 87pgs. Great, plotless novella of a depressed shut-in who doesn't do anything. Makes me glad I'm not that person.

The No Hellos Diet, Sam Pink, 87pgs Great, plotless novella of a person who works in retail. A life neither really bad or really good.

The Braindead Megaphone, George Saunders, pgs.234? Finally read everything Saunders wrote (except the new one). These essays are just as good as his short stories. Crazy access from seeing a new living Buddha, to the super-rich lifestyles of Dubai. Satire in the style of Mark Twain.

Attempting Normal, Marc Maron, 210pgs. A competent book mostly already written in the podcast introductions. A couple really great stories that weren't though. Worth a borrow, not an own.

Men of Tomorrow, Gerard Jones, 384pgs I learned more about 20th century publishing history from this book than any other. If you wonder how comic books, magazines, franchises, and media super-symbols started, this is the book with which to begin.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Great Strips! - Christmas Blasphmony

It's the day of Jesus', our lord and savior, birth! Of course, it's actually not--Jesus was born in the summer and Christmas is just a Christianization of the Roman holiday, Saturnalia. So really, it's the perfect day to disrespect the lord that never is, was, or will be.

I think our friend Ivan Brunetti can help illustrate how the Christian God is a disgusting lie! This strip is from Schizo #1.

And more!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Great Strips! - Public Service Announcements pt. 2

Here's some more PSAs! Don't call people names, even if they are tiny. You're selfish, that's why your parents hate you! Now you're catching on! Very funny!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Great Strips! - Public Service Announcements pt. 1

I found a bunch of public service announcements in DC's Weird House of Mystery. Gosh darn are they silly. Be your own boss and do homework early. Don't be obnoxious when you shop; be docile, consume efficiently. More soon!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Great Strips! - Please Kill Me!

I just found out about Ivan Brunetti, the angriest cartoonist in all of Chicago (and perhaps the world). I'm preparing a longer exploration into his work, but right now read this hilarious strip about how human beings are trash.