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Monthly (Comic) Book Club - September - Minis by Miller: Ronin and RCvsT18332

COLLECTOR dielinfinite private msg quote post Address this user




Ronin #1-6 and Robocop vs the Terminator #1-4

Week 1 (9/5-9/11): Ronin #1-3
Week 2 (9/12-9/18): Ronin #4-6
Week 3 (9/19/-9/25): Robocop vs The Terminator #1-2
Week 4 (9/26-10/2): Robocop vs The Terminator #3-4



Discussion topic ideas:

* Thoughts on the story or artwork
* Details in the story, artwork, or presentation
* References to outside events or other works of fiction
* Making of/Behind the Scenes details
* Editions you will be reading from
* Items in your collection pertaining to this week’s selection
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Ronin 1 was not fully what I expected. Miller obviously has a thing for ninjas and whatnot. He invented the Hand in Daredevil in 1981, and here we are a couple years later with a samurai story in feudal Japan. The story sets up pretty straightforwardly: a boy (only referred to as such) serves his master strictly, not wanting to leave his side even when he's with a woman. Earlier in the day he helped protect his master from an attack and we get background on the master's mystical sword and the magical demon guy who wants it. This part all seems about what I expected.

But then we jump to a future? (certainly relative to where the story was in Japan, but unclear relative to us) New York. The city is falling apart but some corporation has built a high-tech facility in the middle of it. It's unclear what all of it is for, but at least some of it is to test cybernetic limbs. There's also an artificial intelligence system. It's quite a shift. It turns out that stuff in Japan was being dreamed/seen in a vision by Billy, the test subject for the cybernetics.

We get the rest of the story when Billy dreams that the boy, now a Ronin, eventually became strong enough to avenge his master and attacked the demon Agat. The sword needs the blood of a good man to kill a demon and so the boy kills himself and Agat at the same time, but Agat curses him to be stuck together. And now Agat shows up at the facility in New York while Billy is possessed by the Ronin. He somehow attaches a bunch of the machinery to himself and is sent out of the facility, which explodes but does not kill Agat.

I do appreciate the twist. The only thing I know about Ronin is having seen some of the covers, so I assumed it would be a fairly typical story set in the past. It also covers all the stuff I generally associate with Miller: grime, violence, women treated as objects. The art is still in his Daredevil phase so it's a little blocky but not nearly as bad (to me) as it is these days. I'm interested to see what he does with the man-out-of-time part of the story.
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I was vaguely familiar with the general premise of Ro in but the specifics were still unexpected.

I thought it would be useful to check when Ronin was released. For some reason I always thought it was like an early 90’s title but it was released in the early 80s. As you said, during his run on Daredevil but it also means before a lot of Miller’s other notable works like Dark Knight Returns.

Even in the first issue we see a lot of what Miller is known for, echoes of the work he’d done prior, and hints at what would come later.

Miller obviously has an interest in Japan and samurai/ronin tradition. He did introduce the Hand and basically made Daredevil himself a ninja but I think more pertinent to the first issue is his work on Wolverine with Chris Claremont. Wolverine was pretty much depicted as a ronin in the Wolverine mini series. I know Miller was officially the artist but I wonder if he contributed some ideas (we know he created Wolverine’s “The best there is at what I do” catch phrase) or if it went the other way and sparked or fed i to an existing fascination with Japanese culture.

As for the future time period, Agat mentions that they were together [in the sword] for 800 years. We don’t know exactly when the past setting is but the age of the samurai is basically agreed to be from the 12th to mid/late 19th centuries. So the future setting could be anywhere from like the year 2000 to the 2600s.

Still the future setting looks is not unlike the future Gotham we would see latwr in Dark Knight Returns. Of course Ronin pushes the sci-fi element but the two are decaying, crime-ridden dystopias.

With Agat I couldn’t help think of The Beast of the Hand that would appear later in Elektra: Assassin and I thought the rodent bandit was interesting as it pre-dated TMNT’s Splinter by a few months. It’s no secret that TMNT took a lot of inspiration from Miller’s Daredevil run (the Hand vs the Foot, Stick vs Splinter, among others) but maybe Eastman and Laird also checked out Robin for some ideas.

I do like the art for the most part. It’s very much Miller at his prime before it would significantly falter some time later. Miller is credited for the drawings and Lynn Varley for the painting, a similar team-up as was seen later on Dark Knight Returns and I think the two look very similar. Ronin definitely feels rougher and less refined than even DKR which I attribute to Klaus Janson inking the latter. There is no inker credit in my absolute edition so I’m guessing Miller did it himself.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dielinfinite
Miller obviously has an interest in Japan and samurai/ronin tradition. He did introduce the Hand and basically made Daredevil himself a ninja but I think more pertinent to the first issue is his work on Wolverine with Chris Claremont. Wolverine was pretty much depicted as a ronin in the Wolverine mini series. I know Miller was officially the artist but I wonder if he contributed some ideas (we know he created Wolverine’s “The best there is at what I do” catch phrase) or if it went the other way and sparked or fed i to an existing fascination with Japanese culture.


I can't find a reference quickly, but if memory serves they came up with the rough outline together. They were on a road trip or at a convention or something and were talking about how to improve the character because he didn't have any depth.
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Issue 2 felt like a tour of the slums of the city.

After the explosion the ronin is wandering the slums looking for “tachi.” First he arrives at a religious soup kitchen and is abused for not understanding the nun before being thrown out. He then ends up at a gang bar, which again look like they could’ve come straight out of DKR or Sin City, and is beaten and thrown out.

In the meantime, Security Chief McKenna is told about Agat and the ronin by the facility AI and sends her team out to investigate. Agat meanwhile possesses the corporate CEO in charge of the facility.

After his beating, the ronin is discovered by an old pawn broker who is trying to escape the city/planet in a homemade spaceship and somehow thinks the ronin’s cybernetic arms are what he needs to get it working. After cutting one off the arm chokes the pawn broker to death before reattaching itself.

In the pawn broker’s shop the ronin finds tachi, a sword. Leaving the shop he comes across the gang that beat him before but now armed with a sword he easily kills them all.

Shortly afterwards the ronin is discovered by the security team. We learn that he quickly killed them which focuses the security chief on pursuing him.

This issue definitely brings to mind a lot of Sin City with it’s focus on the underworld and depiction of violence, which Miller stretches across many, many silent panels. The gang bar scene alone takes up something like 8 pages.

Miller makes makes heavy use of frames to extend moments out, particularly the violence, like the aforementioned bar scene. Even the scene where Agat possesses the CEO, which only takes 3 pages but is done so over 45 frames!

Because of this, I think the issue went by very quickly. Where the first issue took time to establish the premise and the past and future settings, this issue felt like we covered far less ground because so much time was spent focusing on the violence. That’s not so much a complaint as an observation. Miller is clearly looking to establish the future as a brutal, violent, decaying place. You could argue that the first issue did that already but there’s nothing wrong with hammering the point home, so long as the story doesn’t suffer for it. We’ve seen with other stories where they focus on something at the expense of moving the story forward and we end up with a rushed plot at the end with the main themes not sufficiently explored.

This is all in contrast to the first issue which made use of periodic 2-page spreads, this issue has no spreads at all.

The brief scene of the pawnbroker removing the ronin’s arm reminded me a little of the scene in Robocop 2, which Miller also wrote (kinda), where the gang chains Robocop down and dismembers him with construction equipment.

One inspiration that I haven’t seen brought up, likely because it is something of a blind spot for both of us, is the influence of anime and manga on the book: Again, I am not well-versed in the subject but Akira, particularly famous for its late 80s film adaptation, was published starting in late 1982. No idea if Miller would have had access to it, though Marvel was in talks about adapting it for the US market in ‘83 so maybe miller got a peek from there.

Anyways, Akira is set in a dystopian post-apocalypse and one scene, the nuclear blast in the city is striking similar to some of the wide shots of the city we’ve been seeing throughout Ronin






Also, I just read that Miller has just announced (as of May of this year) that he’s planning a sequel to Ronin and a new Sin City story set in the Wild West at the time of the town’s founding.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dielinfinite
One inspiration that I haven’t seen brought up, likely because it is something of a blind spot for both of us, is the influence of anime and manga on the book: Again, I am not well-versed in the subject but Akira, particularly famous for its late 80s film adaptation, was published starting in late 1982. No idea if Miller would have had access to it, though Marvel was in talks about adapting it for the US market in ‘83 so maybe miller got a peek from there.


I looked into this. I found the following quotes which originated in this article.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Miller
... Miller is noted for combining film noir and manga influences in his comic art creations. "I realized when I started Sin City that I found American and English comics be too wordy, too constipated, and Japanese comics to be too empty. So I was attempting to do a hybrid".

... his next benchmark work was Ronin (1983-1984) for DC Comics – a series inspired by his discovery of the Japanese manga style. “My first introduction to Japanese comics was around 1980, when a girlfriend handed me a manga of Kozure Ökami (Lone Wolf and Cub) and I first discovered Goseki Kojima’s work – then I started studying everything else.” Miller went to Japan to further study the form. “I went from being absolutely entranced with manga and imitating it, to becoming more critical.” 
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@Jesse_O Interesting! It doesn’t mention Akira by name but if he went to Japan and immersed himself I imagine he would’ve come across it, assuming he was there after it had been released.

I did come across an article that basically described Miller as an otaku, a term which might not have gained a lot of traction by that point (apparently it was coined in a 1983 essay) but I think Miller certainly fit the term
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Issue 3 begins alternating between Security Chief reviewing the footage of her men’s encounter with the Ronin and the Ronin taming a horse in a wooded area. At first it looks like it may be a flashback but shortly afterwards we learn it was in Central Park in the present.

From the Virgo’s examination of the Robin footage Casey learns that the Ronin has some telekinetic power, likely inherited from Billy, the body he possessed. Virgo suggests the Ro in’s telekinetic ability may be the missing link the company needs to finally link the human mind with the cybernetics they are developing. Mr Tagget, Agat in disguise, orders casey to bring the Ronin in alive so they can use him for their research.

Meanwhile the Ronin is being guided by the hippie he met in the previous issue, that reminds me a lot of Dennis Hopper’s character in Apocalypse Now. The hippie is basically marketing the Ronin’s killing skills to the local gangs for room and board for the both of them.

We learn that Casey is married to the lead scientist at the Aquarius facility but their marriage is on rocky ground, due in part to Casey’s commitment to her job.

Additionally, we get more insight into the Aquarius facility itself. Based on the biocircuitry technology, the facility itself is essentially alive. Controlled by the sentient AI, Virgo, the facility repairs itself but also rebuilds and redesigns itself. It has created its own structures for drawing minerals from the earth to grow beyond its original design.

While speaking with an investor, Agat betrays the agreement with his scientists to not use the Aquarius technology for military applications and offers it to his investors.

As the Hippie uses the Ronin to play two rival gangs against one another we continuously cut back to two men the gangs have tied to a pole in the ground. They don’t know what they’re expecting until they are attacked by some emaciated, zombie-like arms.

While the Hippie is trying to cut another deal for the Ronin’s skills, the Robin seems to sense Casey just as he’s attacked by her and her team. The Ronin kills many of Casey’s men but is weakened by their tasers and by the use of his telekinetic abilities to destroy their motorcycles. It looks like Casey has got the Ronin but she is knocked out by the gangs and fed to the things in the pit.

As the Ronin regains consciousness he kills the two gang leaders before jumping into the pit to rescue Casey.


This issue felt like it delivered the most exposition of the any issue so far though I’m not quite sure what either side’s objective is quite yet. Agat obviously knows the Ronin is alive but seems more interested in using him to weaponize Aquarius and maybe turn the world to chaos. More than it already has at least.

The Ronin seems to mostly be wandering, which seems like what you’d expect from a ronin, to be honest. I did expect him to be more focused on Agat but he does not seem to be the person he was in the past quite yet. It hasn’t been explicitly states but he seems to have some kind of amnesia maybe.

The silent protagonist angle is a trope seen in a wide variety of mediums but I suspect Miller might be pulling directly from Japanese film or manga for this. The silent, wandering ronin just seems like a classic image though I can’t actually point to an example myself. Miller is certainly using the Ronin’s actions to characterize him more than words. It would feel a bit weird if he were to learn fluent English and communicate more directly in later issues.

At some point I would like to see a more clearly defined objective for the Ronin. It seems like that may be coming as he has finally dumped the hippie manager and gone in pursuit of his own objective.

One thing we’ve seen a smattering of in the book so far but a whole lot more in this issue is Miller’s use of racism as set dressing. It’s present but not used in any real sophisticated way. Wanna know you’re in a bad part of town? Everyone throws racial slurs all over the place. He needs two rival gangs? White supremacists and the Black Panthers.

Miller seems to use Nazi imagery repeatedly in his works. You see it here, Sin City, and even Dark Knight Returns. Maybe Marvel is a little more strict on its use than DC or Dark Horse? I wouldn’t say he glorifies it or anything, they’re always gangs or bad guys. In Miller’s worlds where everything exists in grays and blacks, slapping a Swastika on someone seems to be his shorthand for saying “no one is good, but this guy here is A bad guy.”

They tend to be mostly throwaway characters as well. The gang members here didn’t do all that much. Bruno, Joker’s Neo-Nazi girlfriend in Dark Knight Returns is only briefly in the book. Likewise, Stuka has a very brief role in Sin City. In Sin City Miho also used a swastika-shaped shuriken, but given that she is Japanese, it is probably more accurate to call it a manji and used more for the provocative connotation than to suggest Miho was a Nazi herself.

Art-wise, the issue falls somewhere between issues one and two. Miller uses some spreads here and there and doesn’t stuff the pages with nearly as many frames as he did in issue 2. The black and white illustrations of the security team’s bikes exploded looked straight out of Sin City, for obvious reasons.

Aquarius as a living entity helps explain the almost abstract backgrounds Miller uses for the facility interior. I’ll admit that sometimes it takes me a while to make out what I’m looking at and sometimes I never do (are those just giant floating spheres in the restaurant?). I do like the illustration work though and it often reminds me of the work of Gustav Klimt

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"in the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war". Warhammer 40,000 wasn't released until 1987, and that's where the phrase grimdark comes from, but I think it applies to Ronin pretty well. Everything is terrible, everyone is mean, and even the protagonist is rough and tumble.

The Ronin is wandering around asking for tachi (which means a few things in Japanese according to Wikipedia, but one is a kind of sword) and finds nothing but pain and dismissal. He stumbles into a shelter run by the US military, who wonders why they're doing it, and administered by a nun, who doesn't seem very interested in saving souls despite her talking about it all the time. Then he stumbles into some kind of leather gang bar and is beaten severely. He is found on the street by a mad scientist type who cuts off his mechanical arm to put toward building a space ship, but the arm strangles the scientist and reattaches itself to Ronin. The scientist has a sword in his room, for whatever reason, so Ronin takes it back to the bar and kills everyone. Then he kills one of the Aquarius security people looking for him. Virgo the AI has told McKenna all about what's happening, so that's why they're looking for Ronin, but Agat has killed and replaced the owner of the company. So we're moving the plot along.
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#3 introduces the idea that the Ronin may not be too separate from Billy, and has access to his telekinesis. I have to admit, I didn't pick up on the idea that Billy had special powers. I assumed Aquarius' research was looking at more typical ways (like reading brainwaves) for people to control mechanical limbs, which would have been science fiction in the 80s but is established now. Seems a little silly to me, assuming you can take someone with telekinesis and apply whatever he does to a bunch of other people.

We get our first reference to a year. Peter McKenna developed the biocircuitry behind Virgo in '19, which I assume is 2019. Could be 2119 but what we see of New York seems a little too close to be any further out. If Agat and the Ronin have been trapped for 800 years, that would be from the 1200s or maybe 1300s.

Plotwise, the hippy guy is using Ronin to barter some goods while trying to play both sides of the war between the Nazis and the Panthers. He takes the opportunity to teach Ronin a racial slur, which have been fast and furious in these scenes. Ronin seems to understand a bit of what's going on despite his language and timeframe barriers, because he cries after taking the hands off one of the Panthers and kills both gang leaders. He also seems to have some affinity for Casey, maybe because of Virgo's cybernetics, because he jumps into the pit where I guess she was sent and has some mysterious hands in it.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dielinfinite
One thing we’ve seen a smattering of in the book so far but a whole lot more in this issue is Miller’s use of racism as set dressing. It’s present but not used in any real sophisticated way. Wanna know you’re in a bad part of town? Everyone throws racial slurs all over the place. He needs two rival gangs? White supremacists and the Black Panthers.

Miller seems to use Nazi imagery repeatedly in his works. You see it here, Sin City, and even Dark Knight Returns. Maybe Marvel is a little more strict on its use than DC or Dark Horse? I wouldn’t say he glorifies it or anything, they’re always gangs or bad guys. In Miller’s worlds where everything exists in grays and blacks, slapping a Swastika on someone seems to be his shorthand for saying “no one is good, but this guy here is A bad guy.”


I would say Miller's use is on the distasteful side. Maybe he has the assumption that readers will inherently understand that Nazis are not just bad, but worse, but I don't think it's clear in his material and the real world suggests his assumption might be wrong. You can draw some thin lines between the Panthers and the Nazis but it could just be that we haven't seen the Panthers as much; they certainly seem as brutal and quick to violence as everyone else. I understand everything needs to be rough in a dystopian story but the equivalences trouble me.
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@xkonk I definitely agree with your final point. I am no expert on the history of the Black Panther party. Today they are mostly known for being more radical and militaristic proponents of black rights but they’ve also been involved in some shady things like an attempted assassination. Still to equate them with a Neo-Nazi hate group doesn’t work for me.

Perhaps Miller was clumsily looking for a similar but opposite ideological group to rival the Nazi gang or perhaps he bought into the public fear-mongering surrounding the Black Panthers at the time. Fear-mongering that lead to things like the Mulford Act where a Republican Governor actually limited gun rights in response to their openly carrying of firearms.

I’d like to think that Miller had at least learned better as I don’t think the Black Panthers haven’t reappeared in his works like neo-Nazis have.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xkonk
We get our first reference to a year. Peter McKenna developed the biocircuitry behind Virgo in '19, which I assume is 2019. Could be 2119 but what we see of New York seems a little too close to be any further out. If Agat and the Ronin have been trapped for 800 years, that would be from the 1200s or maybe 1300s.


I think 2119 would be too far into the future. We’ve gotten reverences that they are in the 21st century and 2119 would be firmly in the 22nd. I think we can safely say the story takes place in the 2020s sometime, assuming it’s been a few years since the biocircuitry technology has been developed.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dielinfinite
Quote:
Originally Posted by xkonk
We get our first reference to a year. Peter McKenna developed the biocircuitry behind Virgo in '19, which I assume is 2019. Could be 2119 but what we see of New York seems a little too close to be any further out. If Agat and the Ronin have been trapped for 800 years, that would be from the 1200s or maybe 1300s.


I think 2119 would be too far into the future. We’ve gotten reverences that they are in the 21st century and 2119 would be firmly in the 22nd. I think we can safely say the story takes place in the 2020s sometime, assuming it’s been a few years since the biocircuitry technology has been developed.


I agree. I think 2019 is more likely but I don't think 2119 would be outlandish.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dielinfinite
@xkonk I definitely agree with your final point. I am no expert on the history of the Black Panther party. Today they are mostly known for being more radical and militaristic proponents of black rights but they’ve also been involved in some shady things like an attempted assassination. Still to equate them with a Neo-Nazi hate group doesn’t work for me.

Perhaps Miller was clumsily looking for a similar but opposite ideological group to rival the Nazi gang or perhaps he bought into the public fear-mongering surrounding the Black Panthers at the time. Fear-mongering that lead to things like the Mulford Act where a Republican Governor actually limited gun rights in response to their openly carrying of firearms.

I’d like to think that Miller had at least learned better as I don’t think the Black Panthers haven’t reappeared in his works like neo-Nazis have.


If you want to have bitterly feuding groups for your dystopian future, Neo-Nazis and Black Panthers certainly fit the bill. I don't mind that part per se. I know that the Comics Code always comes up when the general idea of rules are a topic, and automatically gives you a knock for censorship, but I'm happy with Nazis always being explicitly portrayed as worse than other general types of bad guys.
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Somewhere early in #4 I realized that Agat has adjusted to the new time period much more successfully than Ronin has. I wonder if that's due to his magical powers or a bit of oversight. But we see here that Agat doesn't know everything, as Dr. McKenna is able to trick him with a personal fact that only Taggart would know.

On the Ronin/Casey side, we get a action movie trope. Casey, who has been defined by her tough-as-nails attitude and dedication to her job, and was looking to kill Ronin if she had the chance, instead decides to sleep with him moments after being thrown in the gross sewers of Manhattan and attacked by cannibalistic sewer people. Why not! Fully in character.

While the art was innovative for the time (I'm judging by the breathless quotes on the issue covers) and the story has an interesting set-up, this is the kind of baggage that Miller brings to his stories that makes it hard for me to enjoy.
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#5 starts blending reality and fantasy, with the fantasy perhaps being Ronin (or Billy's?) inner life. You mentioned earlier that it would be weird if he learned English and was communicating more directly, and here we are.

Plotwise, things are escalating. Virgo is sending robot armies into the streets to attack Ronin and Casey, and a number of people at Aquarius are becoming suspicious of what's going on and then being killed or incapacitated. We also get some background on what might be happening in general, with everything being driven by Billy's mental powers. Why wouldn't a disabled person inherently want to kill others and live in an action fantasy?
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#6 wraps things up with Casey using Billy's fantasy to destroy Virgo. The very end is unclear to me; I guess Billy survives and still sees himself as the victorious Ronin? Not too important overall.

Casey using the sexist nature of Billy's fantasy against him was an interesting touch. I'm not sure that it redeems the earlier material but it's something.

I wonder how much of Miller's usual touches will carry into the Robocop/Terminator series?
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Monthly (Comic) Book Club - October - Witches’ Tales and Haunted Knights







Witches Tales #1-7 and Batman: Haunted Knight

Week 1 (10/3-10/9): Witches Tales #1-3
Week 2 (10/10-10/16): Witches Tales #4-5
Week 3 (10/17/-10/23): Witches Tales #6-7
Week 4 (10/24-10/30): Batman: Haunted Knight #1-3



Discussion topic ideas:

* Thoughts on the story or artwork
* Details in the story, artwork, or presentation
* References to outside events or other works of fiction
* Making of/Behind the Scenes details
* Editions you will be reading from
* Items in your collection pertaining to this week’s selection
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I agree that Issue 4 feels very much like an action movie from the 80s. I don’t mind the Ronin/McKenna thing as much. Miller did at least set up that her marriage was failing and I can write off them sleeping together as an in-the moment thing, though in the dark, dank, sewers near the butchered bodies of some mutated cannibals would probably have killed the mood for me.

I do like that they also explained the Ronin’s interest in Casey as some remnant of Billy coming through. I am still wondering a bit about the Ronin/Billy’s characterization, or lack of it. We’re through issue 4 and his goals haven’t really been defined. He’s kind of just surviving from one battle to another. I guess part of that can be chalked up to Miller’s anime and samurai film inspirations. The wandering samurai trope is known even to me who hasn’t seen a lot of Japanese cinema. It’s obvious that he’s going to want to confront Agat at some point but st this rate it feels he’ll be directed to him by outside forces than forging his own path to him.

I did think it was interesting that Ronin ended just as the movie CHUD was releasing. Maybe cannibalistic subterranean mutants are a wider used trope than I’m used to but I just thought it was interesting to see it here just prior to the release of one of the more referenced examples.
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Issue 5 I think feels very packed with information. While the others issues felt more or less like a thrill-ride or action movie where you can sit back and enjoy the ride, this issue is trying to make sense of and contextualize what’s happened and seeing as a lot of what’s happened is pretty crazy the explanation is no less so.

Throughout the story so far Billy’s kind of been pushed to background. He almost felt like a throwaway character just there to give the Ronin a vessel to rematerialize in but now we’re learning that Billy is much more important part of this than was initially shown. It does call i to question hoe much of the Ronin is the Ronin and how much is Billy?

We’ve seen some of Billy’s powers before, most notably in him blowing up machinery but now we’re seeing more telepathic abilities where he’s reading Casey’s mind, communicating with her, and possibly even projecting a fantasy reality into her mind. To some extent you have to wonder if the Ronin/Casey relationship is also a symptom of Billy living out his action hero fantasies facilitated by his psychic powers.

The other major story thread is Dr MecKenna captured by Virgo and trying to work out Billy’s powers and what role he’s playing in this. I agree his observations don’t quite hold up entirely but I think the scene still works because you do have the psychiatrist only reluctantly participating in addition to making a more measured assessment. Meanwhile McKenna, clearly stressed and drugged seems to be starting at a conclusion and searching for a hypothesis to fit it.

Speaking of purpose, I haven’t quite nailed down Virgo’s agenda. Particularly in issues 4 and 5 Virgo seems to be reluctantly following Agat’s orders but not really helping to undermine him either. Dr McKenna points out that Virgo kept Billy almost entirely isolated so the two share their a unique relationship that we don’t really know the details of yet.

Finally, the story the Ronin tells of the tigers and the strawberry has become rather well-known today but I imagine when this was written it might not have been so well known in America. My first exposure to it was in King of the Hill, a little over a decade after this was written
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Issue six wraps up the story and blends fantasy and reality in interesting ways.

Billy’s reality bending abilities reminded me a bit of what we would later see from Scarlet Witch in and around House of M. In the end, it felt as if Casey was the true protagonist of the story; she’s caught in Billy’s fantasy and has to overcome Virgo and in the end convince Billy to end the fantasy.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book. Miller does pack a lot of material and influences into the story and it does strain the structure a bit but I think it just barely holds itself together.

Some of the corporate stuff seems a big theme of the 80s. You see that in many movies at the time like Wall Street and more relevantly, Robocop. Learnid’s subplot after Agat/Taggart sells out Aquarius seems to lack some significance, I think.

I do like how Miller plays with reality across the book. We are introduced to the Ronin’s backstory and see him resurrected in the high tech future. You kind of just roll with the magic sword story device because hey, why not? It’s a comic book. Ypu have characters like Casey that kind of represent the reader’s point of view. She’s briefly skeptical but accepts it rather quickly and in doing so is absorbed into the fantasy.

I believe it was in the fifth issue when one of Taggart’s business partners mentions that the Ronin android looks just like a character he’s familiar with. I initially took that to mean the Ronin’s story and history might be well known, at least in his home country. This occurs at the point in the story where we’re starting to see fantasy and reality flicker. We would see Virgo and Aquarius and assume they inhabited the same world as the Ronin out in the city and then the two collide and we see that is not the case.

In issue 6 we see the extent of Billy’s manipulation that even Agat and by extension the entire Ronin backstory we were introduced with is also fake. Probably just some Japanese television Billy watched at some point and then willed into reality.

Layered on top of that you have the danger of a rogue AI in Virgo. Again, another relevant theme as Virgo and Skynet share some similarities. Looking back I take it that Virgo kept Billy in isolation which allowed it exploit Billy’s active imagination, feeding into it, and finally stressing him to his breaking point. Virgo told him the story about the sword being found and the souls being released and maybe using manipulated footage of Agat to trigger the episode in Billy that lead to his transformation.

After Aquarius’ dramatic explosion I am almost certain Miller had read Akira and that it was one of his major influences.
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Good thread, reading through it made me appreciate owning a set of these books. Much like the TMNT Magazines and the Punisher and Wolverine limited series, I appreciate the covers now more than I did when they first came out. Just FYI, they never really increased in value and are all available at MCS for affordable prices:

https://www.mycomicshop.com/search?TID=180711
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@EbayMafia I’m not sure if I’ll be going out of my way to pick up the original issues but I’m definitely interested in picking up the Gallery Edition, basically Graphitti/DC’s version of the Artist’s Edition.

The art in this ranged from fairly grounded, similar to what we’d see in Miller’s Daredevil and DKR to very abstract. I really enjoyed it and I’d love to see the art at full size
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I wasn't as enamored with it. I don't dislike it, but it feels like a bait and switch and leaves me wondering who these people are that I spent time with. It seems like the story is about Ronin, but he doesn't exist. Instead it's sort of about Billy, but we learn virtually nothing about him until issue 5. You said Casey might be the protagonist, but we don't even know when she was acting as herself. Maybe not until issue 6? Maybe 2 and 3, although she isn't the focus of the issues? Agat is set up as the bad guy but also doesn't exist, and maybe Billy is the bad guy but again he's a cypher. Virgo is maybe the real bad guy, manipulating Billy so it can figure out how to grow itself, but that conflict isn't really clear until the last issue.

So that leaves the story; the characters don't have to be fleshed out if the story is compelling. And I did find it compelling, but the Miller touches that I mentioned throughout take away from the story for me. On the whole I thought it was fine but I don't see myself re-reading it at some point.
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So I have a few Robocop vs Terminator items in my collection




This is the original tpb. Turns out Diamond just used existing issues and bound them with an outside cover (complete with Previews ad on the back). It even includes the standees that were included in the original books and they even kept the back covers, ads and all.






This is the 2014 hardcover. I got a brief chance to talk to Walt Simonson at SDCC. He pointed out that at the time they were released people were saying the art improved with issue 3z Well the only thing that changed with issue 3 was the colorist and for the hardcover they had the new colorist, Steve Oliff, recolor the first two issues to make them more consistent with the later issues.









I picked up the Gallery Edition, basically an Artist’s Edition, reproducing the original art at full size. Simonson’s a legend in his own right. When I was carrying this around at comic con I had a few artists asking to see it. They really admire his draftsmanship and remark about the cleanliness of his line work.



Worked on this shortly before all the conventions shut down. The last signature I want to get is Schwarzenegger. At the time he was doing about one signing a year. Unfortunately his appearance was just a few days apart and in a different part of the country from Petter Weller’s signing. I’m hoping he starts doing signings again soon!





The comic was also the basis for some video games back in the 16-Bit era. The game was a side-scrolling shooter. The SNES version released in this cool hard outer box. I just need to find a copy of the instruction manual and the included poster to complete my game. The Genesis version was bloodier (Sega does what Nintendon’t) and played at a faster pace. The SNES version was slower but fleshed out its story with static cut scenes using art from the comic
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I think some brief context would be helpful for Robocop vs Terminator.

The comic was released in 1992 so a year after Terminator 2: Judgement Day and two years after Robocop 2, which Frank Miller wrote, those his script was changed significantly by the time it reached the screen. Miller would also write Robocop 3, though that was changed even more, including an ill-advised studio-decision to make the film PG-13 instead of rated R like past entries had been.

Miller’s original stories for both Robocop 2 and 3 would later be adapted in comic book form as Frank Miller’s Robocop and Roboco: Last Stand. As such, Robocop vs The Terminator can be seen as the first part in a Robocop trilogy by Miller


Curiously, by the time the comic was released, Robocop 3 would have probably been finished or close to as the studio sat on the film for about a year before releasing it in 1993. I bring this up primarily because of an observation I had made when reading Robocop: Last Stand (aka Miller’s original Roboco 3) which I will bring up later when we get to it in the reading
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The first issue is an introduction.

We begin in the future war of the Terminator movies. Skynet is on the brink of ultimate victory but one human soldier manages to break into a Skynet facility and learns that Skynet gained its sentience from Robocop whose human self-awareness interfacing with his programming allowed Skynet to become more than the defense tool it was created as.

She escapes into the past to kill Alwx Murphy and prevent Skynet from ever gaining self-awareness. She succeeds but the terminators in the future detect the disruption in the time stream and send their own terminators back to stop her. This time the Terminators injur her and prevent her from killing Robocop. Robocop manages to get a shot off and sees some of their robotic endoskeleton as the terminators flee.

Overall, I think the first issue does a good job of portraying the two worlds it is combining. We might not get mountains of skulls but the barren future world overrun with robotic milling machines stamping out the last remnants of humanity feels like it belongs in the Terminator world.

In Robocop’s Deteoit we get a glimpse of the city run amok. Very much fitring with the Robocop setting. We see crime out of control, we see guns and violence everywhere, and ED-209 units malfunctioning. We’re just missing the yuppies and the over the top commercials and it’d feel right at home in the Robocop movies.

As far as characters go, the issue moves very quickly. I feel that contributes to a feeling of urgency and efficiency in her character. She’s on a mission and she’s not wasting any time completing it.

As for Robocop, we seem to find in something of a depression. Distanced from humanity he’s become obsessed with his work, spending and and days on the beat. It may seem a bit strange to see him in this headspace since he seemed more well-adjusted at the end of Robocop before having something of a character reset and readjusting at the end of Robocop 2. Still, Robocop’s situation is unique so it’s not like there’s a ton of help available so having him relapse doesn’t feel out of place for me.

Compared to Ronin, Miller’s far more restrained in this issue. We get his rain-drenched, hard-boiled narration but far more sparingly. No blocks of text that overwhelm the page. The text does its job without overstaying its welcome.

Simonson’s art is solid the entire way through. I feel like robotics and machinery are some of the hardest things to nail consistently in a comic book. Typically those movie props have a ton of setail and the way light shines across them contributes so much to their iconic looks and that level of detail can rarely be accurately represented across an entire comic book. I stead you often end up with under detailed shapes that vaguely resemble what they are meant to be and that tends to kill my enthusiasm for the comic.

I think Simonson manages to nail Robocop in nearly every frame. He does reduce the detail on occasion but otherwise he makes Robocop look like Robocop and that goes a long way. The Terminators have seen a bit of a redesign to keep the iconography intact but making them function more easily for the medium. Simonson’s layouts are straightforward and easy to follow and he breaks up the action with large splashes to really show off Robo on the page. The inks and colors do a great job of capturing the moody emotion in the shadows and conveying the metallic surfaces, particularly in those large splashes.

The issue also drops a few references to Robocop 3 that hadn’t been released yet. Dr Lazarus thay was knocked out at the police station is the same doctor that helped Robo in the movie. Cadillac Heights, where the Greek restaurant the guy tried to take Murphy’s ex-wife to is is the same neighborhood that they fought to defend in the movie. Considering Cadillac Heights isn’t a warzone as it is in Robocop 3, I think we can say that this takes place before the movie.
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Issue 2 begins with another glimpse at the end of humanity as the terminator hunt down the last human and are finally victorious against humanity.

In the past we get some comic relief with the ED-209 guarding the hospital. It kills a dog and malfunctions but responds to Robocop and even gives him a salute. The death of the dog isn’t plaued for the gore so it’s not too difficult to swallow as a comedic moment. I don’t actually recall too many of those in Ronin.

I really like that Miller has Robo and the ED-209 on the same side. Yes the first movie had them as enemies but that was mostly due to the events of the movie. After that it would make sense that the two would co-operate. Still many derivative media tend to just stick with what was in the movies without really exploring the internal logic of the world.

Anyways, Robocop visits the time traveler in the hospital to hear her story. Murphy then plugs himself into various defense networks to see if there is evidence for the time traveler’s claims. It seems he finds Skynet and comes out believing her story. Knowing the Terminators must come back to her to complete their mission, Robo goes off to prepare. We get some more ED-209 comic relief as one tries (and fails) to direct traffic before Robocop recruits it.

Elsewhere, the terminators also prepare for their attack. They rob the police armory, in what feels like a far less clandestine approach than Arnold’s in the first movie.

We get yet more ED-209 fun when, after directed by Robocop to scan for cybernetic activity, the two ED-209’s shoot at each other, massively damaging one in the process. I also really like how direct and polite the ED-209’s are with Robocop. They constantly refer to him as “sir” and just overall act like a hard-working, but not very smart, workers.

What’s next is a gigantic battle that pays due respect to the two properties.

The terminators seeing Robocop defending the time traveler decide he needs to be subdued and forced to merge with skynet so he can fulfill his destiny. One terminator attacks the remaining ED-209 so the third can get inside and kill the time traveler. The two ED-209s manage to bring down one of the terminators. The one i side gets atomized by the time traveler, who got her plasma rifle back from Dr Lazarus. Meanwhile, Robocop is in a fierce hand-to-hand brawl with the remaining terminator. After a long and brutal fight, Robo emerges victorious, though heavily damaged.

I thought this was a very fun issue. The terminators felt a lot like Arnold’s character in the first movie, which makes sense since they’re terminators and it’d make sense they have similar programming. Instead of robbing a gun shop, they rob the police armory which allows the book to check off another Terminator reference in their attack on the police station. You could argue that maybe they should have been a bit more stealthy but maybe they figured it was too critical for stealth as the time traveler killing Robocop would mean Skynet would never exist as it would in the future.

The fight itself is incredibly exciting. All the hits feel suitably big and painful and all the gunshots and explosions feel powerful. Miller also does well to let the action speak for itself and Simonson’s art is easy to follow, which could not always be said of Miller’s fights in Ronin.

Basically, I’m really glad the creators let the fight play out over almost half the issue. A lot of times you climactic fights that only last a page or two but this issue really delivers on the Robocop vs Terminator title
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My familiarity with Robocop and Terminator, like most people I would imagine, comes from the movies. The first Robocop movie is a classic. The second I've seen a few times but it's been a while, and they were probably mostly edited for network TV. I can't remember seeing the third more than maybe twice. And I watched the reboot, which was ok but not nearly as biting as the original. I think I've also seen all the Terminator movies, but none more than T1 and T2.

Being a native Detroiter, I'm also happy to tell you that people crowdfunded a Robocop statute. However, I'm not sure it's on display anywhere. https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/detroit-city/2022/01/22/detroit-robocop-statue-moved-to-display-space-walley-bing-venus-bronze-gikas/6609591001/
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Issue 1 was a fun read. You get a fairly standard Terminator intro. Mankind is on its last legs but one person (I think she goes unnamed?) has made it to the inside to figure out how to stop the rise of the machines. It turns out that Skynet really got going due to Robocop's integration of human mind and computing. She travels back in time to Detroit to kill Alex Murphy before he becomes Robocop. Cut to Robocop doing Robocop things, until the woman kills him. Sensing the disruption in the future, the machines send back Terminators who stop Robocop's death, and maybe kill the woman. Robocop sees the shooter well enough to figure out that it isn't human.

Simonson seems like a good match for the story. His blocky style reminds you of Miller (maybe a coincidence), and you can recognize it if you've seen some of his Thor work. I will say that the Terminator doesn't translate as well to the comics. Any of those intro scenes in Terminator movies, where you just see the robot versions walking across a field of skulls, the Terminators are frightening. Here they don't have the same visual impact.

As for Miller, writing an uber-violent book seems natural. The Robocop world of Detroit where everyone has a gun is up his alley. It's a little funny when everyone pulls out their gun but then has better things to do when the woman fights back. Everyone at a Pistons game (they used to play at the Palace at Auburn Hills) having a gun seems like a stretch though. The NBA would never allow it, even if this was written 12 years before the Malice at the Palace.

Speaking of which, I do appreciate that Miller looked up a few local things. Livonia is a nice little town right next to Detroit, Cadillac Heights isn't far away (technically a neighborhood inside Detroit), and Cass Corridor is a tougher part of town.
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