Crossover Celebration Part 7: Robocop and Terminator Duke it Out Over the Decades

March 7th, 2013 by | Tags: , , , , ,

I can’t think of a more fitting mixing of properties than Robocop and Terminator. Both 80’s movies are perfect opposing sides to the same coin. Robocop is a robot on the outside with a human on the inside. Terminator is a human on the outside with a robot on the inside. Robocop is about the extreme dangers of mankind. Terminator is about the extreme dangers of technology. Robocop is a machine bent on protecting humans. Terminators are machines bent on destroying humans. Robocop’s theme rings of optimistic victory. Terminator’s theme rings of impending doom. Robocop saved Sting from the clutches of the Four Horsemen. The Terminator failed to save us from Axl Rose. You get the idea.

There have been two comics about the two sides clashing via two different companies with two decades in-between. One of them is exceptionally good. The other one is not. The first one is by pre-insanity Frank Miller with Walt Simonson on art. That should spell it out pretty easily, I’d say.

The four-part series Robocop vs. the Terminator was released in late 1992 by Dark Horse. It’s released a year after Terminator 2 and just months before Robocop 3, which also has Miller’s name on it… whether he wants it to or not. Interestingly enough, Robocop vs. the Terminator has virtually nothing to do with Terminator 2 despite the movie’s immense popularity. Going further, this isn’t even a traditional crossover in the sense that none of the Terminator cast appear at all. The most we get is references to the adult John Connor. There’s no sign of him, his mother, his father or even the T-1000. The most we get is a T-800 that may or may not have the same appearance as the one from the movies. Though he does steal a blind man’s shades, so I guess it’s supposed to be an Arnold-bot.

It’s a unique mixing of properties where it’s simply Robocop and his world interacting with the world of the Terminator. Not the characters, but the concepts.

Several decades into the future, the war with Skynet is all but finished. The last remaining humans are overwhelmed by the machines and the last survivor is a tough-as-nails female soldier with a bowl-cut named Flo. She uses the diversion of her comrades’ deaths to find out for sure what caused Judgment Day to happen.

Uh oh.

With more robots on their way to get her, Flo drops trou and runs into a time machine. She goes back in time to not-so-distant-future Detroit, where she’s almost run over by a cab driver. Strangely, nobody bats an eye to the fact that she’s nude and instead her inability to look where she’s going (by teleporting in front of a moving car) causes the driver to pull out his gun. Many onlookers get ready for the showdown by taking out their own pieces, but Flo disarms the cabbie and steals his gun. Everyone backs off and goes on with the rest of their day. The thing that really gets Flo about all of this is the very sacrilegious idea that man would threaten man with violence. Then again, Skynet hasn’t happened yet.

Flo finds out that she didn’t go back as far as she wanted and Alex Murphy is already dead. Since he’s been transformed into Robocop, she has to fashion a futuristic weapon out of whatever resources she can. While doing so, she’s cornered by an ED209, giving her warning to drop the weapon. Annoyed at being commanded by a robot, Flo tests out her handiwork by evading the clumsy robot’s guns and blowing it up with her giant gun. Now she’s ready for the main target.

Flo sneaks into the OCP Police Department building and we are introduced to Dr. Marie Lazarus, who takes care of Robocop and keeps tabs on him. This is especially weird because she’s introduced in the yet-to-be-released Robocop 3, which was apparently already in the can since 1991, but there were money issues preventing its release. Flo knocks Marie out and takes the GPS to locate Robocop.

Our hero is off doing what he does best: being a righteous badass at a casual pace. He rescues a woman from some thugs with his A+ aim and then goes after a suicide bomber who’s trying to rob a casino (if they don’t cough up the cash, they all go boom). Robocop calmly advances as the criminal turns on the bomb, swearing it’ll explode in seconds. Robocop tells him, “Yes, I understand,” and sends him off.

As Robocop walks through the rain, thinking about how alien from humanity he’s become, Flo shows up and blasts him to the afterlife. Welp! Comic’s over! Hope you had a good t—

Oh, wait. Apparently not. Miller decides to add his own spin to the Terminator series’ time travel science by showing that there are ripples that unmake the future and Skynet is fully aware that it’s going down. I guess this makes sense out of that big Terminator 2 plothole of, “Why didn’t they just send the T-1000 to get younger Sarah Connor in the first place?” The repeatedly-mentioned unpredictability of time travel helps amend that as well.

With only moments to spare, Skynet sends three T-800s back in time in the form of a man (Arnold?), a woman and a kid. They appear at a basketball game, where the audience is shown to be packing lots of guns, ready to fire. This is kind of fucked up when you think about it because the people of Detroit’s joint thought process is, “A naked kid just showed up out of nowhere! LET’S MURDER HIM!” It’s unknown how many of those people die, but the trio walk out fully dressed and armed.

The Terminators proceed to interfere with Flo’s plans. When she’s ready to kill Robocop, they drive by and shoot her in the chest. Robocop shoots the adult male in the face, only to be rather surprised when he reveals a robotic eye socket underneath. As the robots drive off, Robocop tends to Flo, who swears to kill Robocop for destroying the world.

Later, Robocop visits her in the hospital, where she reveals what went down. Or what will go down. One day Robocop will connect himself to Skynet for one reason or another and Skynet will learn from the man/robot hybrid what it means to become sentient. Skynet will spring to life and annihilate mankind with nuclear war. Robocop thinks this sounds crazy, but there’s evidence to support the claims, so he has Marie patch him into every network he can to investigate. This scene isn’t all that well-explained, but somehow by doing this, he discovers that everything Flo says will come to pass. I’m not sure why this incident doesn’t cause Skynet to awaken as is, but whatever. A sequence that shows a naked Peter Weller flying into the mouth of a giant T-800 isn’t meant to make sense.

Robocop knows that the Terminators will return to the hospital to finish off Flo, so he gets some ED209s to back him up. Unfortunately, when he gives the orders for them to be vigilant against robot attackers, they remind him how stupid they are.

One of them goes down and the Terminators arrive in a car, along with a lot of weapons they stole from the police station. That becomes their undoing when Robocop simply shoots at their arsenal and blows the vehicle up. Three exoskeletons come running out, each with a different target. One makes a go at Flo, but Marie had already come by with the giant makeshift future gun, so Flo is able to blow that guy to smithereens. As one takes on Robocop, another tears at the standing ED209. The fallen ED209 is still slightly functioning and fires at the enemy, blindsiding it from behind.


Robocop and the last T-800 have a huge knockout-drag-out fight that rumbles through Detroit, ending with a one-armed Robocop victoriously holding the deactivated skull of the metal assassin. Also sweet.

In the aftermath, Flo readies her weapon to finish off Robocop again… for the first time. Marie tries to stop her, but is knocked over. Robocop, having seen that Flo is telling the truth, tells her to come closer.

The one-armed Robocop briefly visits Alex Murphy’s grave and thinks about what his existence means for the future of mankind. He’s always been a bit suicidal, but now he’s able to convince his programming that suicide is the right thing to do in order to serve and protect. He goes to a junkyard and feeds himself to a compacting machine. In a police interrogation room, Flo sees the effects immediately via the pieces of her gun vanishing. While they do put her in a jail cell, she knows that in mere moments, she’ll cease to exist.

While the future remakes itself, Skynet lashes out against time yet again. It sends a T-800 boy and a robot dog back to change Robocop’s mind. Back at the cemetery, the boy tells Robocop – who the Terminators consider an almost religious figure – that the humans tricked him by making him believe he’s one of them. Robocop refuses to listen to his offers and fires. Unfortunately, the Terminators are able to overpower him, especially with the dog unleashing a bunch of mechanical tentacles. Robocop is beheaded and brought to the police station.

Flo breaks out of jail to see them jacking Robocop’s living head to Skynet’s systems. Robocop begs for her to kill him and she takes the shot, but the boy Terminator catches the bullet before snapping her neck. Judgment Day comes early as Skynet reaches its precious sentience and civilization is doomed. Robocop can only watch in horror as the machines rise to overwhelm mankind and ruin the world. Then things start getting strange and awesome.

Living on in the nooks and crannies of Skynet’s programming, the digital ghost of Alex Murphy swims around, escaping capture for decades. He waits for an opening and finds it when he takes over a Terminator-building factory. His consciousness takes a T-800 exoskeleton and redesigns it with synthetic flesh to make a futuristic facsimile of his Robocop appearance. He places his digital mind into the robot and goes off to help the human resistance.

And he has rocket boosters.

Listen, Robocop 3 was on the way and the only selling point they could hype was that Robocop was going to have a jetpack. Good enough.

Anyway, this is a great plot development because you have to remember one of the reasons why the first Robocop movie was so fun. Not just the satire and cool futuristic concepts, but that in the end, it was a revenge flick. The moment Robocop remembered Murphy’s death is when things got especially awesome. Now he has an ocean of blood to avenge after decades of pent-up frustration.

He appears to save Flo and her comrades during the big last stand from the beginning of the story. Flo, who is seeing Robocop for the first time, doesn’t know what to make of him. He’s like a Terminator, but with traces of humanity. When she sees him getting along with a dog, she buys that he’s on their side. While Robocop is able to calm her down for the time being, he knows that the space-time continuum is all messed up because of him. He may cease to exist any minute from now, but time travel is unpredictable, so he’s able to continue.

The Terminators try nuking the humans, but Robocop simply commandeers the warhead and sends it towards a massive army of T-800s. The reentry from falling to Earth badly wounds Robocop and he asks Flo to bring him back to the factory to be fixed up. It’s there that Flo notices a big piece of logic that Robocop’s failed to see.

“You control the junk. You can make it do anything you want it to. Murphy. They make tons of Terminators here. If you can build yourself a new body – why stop with one?”

“Why indeed?”

The war gets a lot more hopeful thanks to the army of Robocops that show up to rush down the Terminators. Holy shit, yes. Robocops and humans fighting off the evil robot horde. All the while, the main Robocop is off to destroy the heart of Skynet. The computer system senses his arrival and tries to buy him off. It places him in an illusionary reality where he’s Alex Murphy in pure human form and he’s promised an eternal virtual reality three-way with his widow and Flo. No, I’m not kidding. It almost looks like he’s going to be taken in by this, but Flo is mortally wounded in the battlefield. One of the Robocop drones shares this information, causing our hero to break free of the illusion, all while screaming that Skynet is nothing more than junk.

Robocop overpowers Skynet and shuts down all the Terminators in the world. There’s enough of humanity to reclaim the world and try again, but Flo is dying. She’s happy to die, though, as they won the war. This isn’t good enough for Robocop, who promises that she’ll wake up in a better world. He travels back in time to the events of the first issue. This jetpack’d Robocop flies into space and locates the young Skynet satellite, destined to one day cause armageddon. He destroys it with missiles, changing the course of history. This factory-made Robocop ceases to exist.

Flo wakes up in a utopian future, wearing a flowing white dress and wondering about the strange dream she had about evil robots, nuclear war and the metal man who made her feel safe. She looks around and smiles at humanity’s happy ending.

Back in the present-day-for-the-comic-but-slight-future-for-us, Robocop finishes his beat and doesn’t feel as down as he did in the earlier timeline. He can’t understand why, but he feels a sense of peace and calm. He returns to headquarters to get some well-needed rest.

As for Skynet? The future isn’t fully rewritten and they have ONE LAST CARD up their sleeve. A Terminator dog is sent back to thwart Robocop’s plans yet again. Unfortunately, they missed their mark by a mile.

Ha! What a surprisingly upbeat ending to a Terminator comic. Years ago, when I first met the man, Chris Sims told me that Robocop vs. the Terminator was a comic that should be terrible, but isn’t. By golly, he was right. The whole thing is a blast to read.

They’d turn the concept into a couple of videogames for various consoles. They differed by the system and from what I understand, the Genesis version was the best. I’ve watched about 2 minutes of footage from the SNES game. That’s enough for me. It says a lot that in 2013, there’s not a single speed run of that game.

Now for the second part of the double-feature. In 2011, Dynamite came out with Terminator/Robocop: Kill Human. Also four issues, it was written by Rob Williams and drawn by PJ Holden. Going back to the well makes enough sense as, like I’ve mentioned, Miller didn’t really mine as much of the Terminator lore as he could have. Terminator/Robocop: Kill Human deals plenty with the events of Terminator 2.

The first issue deals with a girl named Lauren. Like Flo in the other story, she sees all the remaining human survivors killed around her and exists as the last woman in the world. Here, there was no real last stand and instead, it was just the Terminators gradually killing and survivors hiding out around the world. She and her friends had one last idea of maybe breaking into Skynet and hacking the place, but that goes south. Lauren comes across a museum built by Skynet, which includes a cameo by Haley Joel Osment’s character from AI, as well as a deactivated ED209. Next to the case where Robocop is held, Lauren notices his gun. She hacks into it to open the case, just as she’s attacked by a T-800. Robocop wakes up and stomps a mudhole into the robot.

Robocop protects Lauren, but is completely confused by everything that’s happened. Lauren, increasingly frustrated by Robocop’s ignorance on the matter, tells him about the rise of Skynet and the annihilation of mankind. With an army of T-800s attacking, Robocop uses his wrist spike to patch into the network and command the ED209 to wipe out the enemy robots. While Lauren – unable to accept that she’s the last human on Earth – talks up trying to find others, Robocop realizes that the museum computer is hacking into him, controlling his movement. As he quietly begs it not to, it forces him to shoot Lauren in the head.

Now alone, Robocop argues with the computer when it tells him that there are no humans left in the world. Robocop says it has to be wrong because he himself is human. Still, it refuses his claims. Robocop downloads into himself the history of Skynet, including seeing the events of Terminator 2 unfold.

Is this out of character? I mean, humanity’s been wiped out so he should be pissed but… it still hits me as being a bit over-the-top for Robocop.

Robocop downloads information on how time travel works, but is confused why the computer would give him this information. He’s disheartened when it says that he is a machine, therefore not a threat.

The scene of Robocop coming to the present (or early 90’s, I guess) is really great and properly hits the black comedy style of the character’s first movie. A petty criminal is about to be shot to death by a mobster in an alley when Robocop appears via time travel and telefrags the shooter, inadvertently splattering the mobster’s blood all over the place. The would-be victim is horrified and desperately swears to Robocop that he’ll never snort coke, gamble or steal ever again. Robocop dryly tells him, “Ensure that you won’t, citizen. As those things are illegal.” Then he casually walks away.

Sometime later, we’re knee-deep into the plot of Terminator 2. The T-800 and the Connors are raiding Cyberdyne as Robocop shows up. The situation looks almost identical to the beginning of the fan-made Robocop vs. Terminator video from years ago that mixed footage of the various movies to make it seem like the two were actually fighting. Not sure if that’s intentional, but it’s clever if it is. As the T-800 readies the escape, Robocop puts his hand on his shoulder and the two start clobbering each other. Not as well-done as the previous story, but not horrible.

Losing the fight, Robocop pulls out a device and fires it into the T-800’s chest. It’s a Skynet virus that causes rogue robots to shut down. John and Sarah Connor are both horrified and confused at all of this. Robocop explains his actions, then tells them, “Come with me if you want to live. You have ten seconds to comply.”

That’s a great line. Unfortunately, this halfway point is right when the miniseries starts to take a nosedive into stupidity. It hits me how unnecessary they’ve made the whole plot of the Terminator movies via the first issue. See, Miller had a good point in not including John Connor or any of the plot points of those movies in his version of the crossover. If humanity is doomed in the future, who gives a shit about Connor? The movies play it up that humanity has SOME CHANCE of turning the tide, which means Connor has to be assassinated. Ergo, Terminators are sent back to kill or protect. He’s the lynchpin of what happens.

Now, though? It’s pointless. Whether he lives or dies, John Connor won’t win. The human race will fail. The machines will wipe it all out.

The third issue is one big action sequence where Robocop drives them away from the T-1000, who’s flying a helicopter. Robocop tries to explain who he is to the Connors and relays the remaining plot of Terminator 2. The steel factory, the T-800’s sacrifice, etc. He bluntly tells John that this won’t stop Judgment Day. It only delays it. It’s a bad plan.

I want you to remember this for later.

Robocop’s reckless driving gets Sarah mad and Robocop coldly explains that he doesn’t give a damn about John. He only cares about destroying the Terminators and the tech stolen from Cyberdyne. Yeah! Bad characterization in the house! Sarah shoots him in the head and kicks him out of the van. She and John crash the van and get chased by the T-1000. When it looks like it’s over for the mother and son, the T-1000 finds himself surrounded… by about a hundred ED209s!

The badass anachronism shreds apart the helicopter with thousands of bullets, turning the liquid metal villain to Swiss cheese until the copter explodes. When he reforms on the ground, they continue to stun him with more bullets. Confused, the Connors are greeted by a young man by the name of Dick Jones, CEO of Omni Consumer Products.

Dick Jones, you might recall, is one of the big villains of the first Robocop. He’s the second-in-command at OCP, is corrupt as all hell and is known for both screwing up the demonstration of the ED209 and having ties to evil criminal Clarence Boddicker. Robocop decided that the best course of action in his plan to stop Skynet would be to go back five years earlier, find the recently-graduated Jones, show him the schematics for the ED209 and pave the way for him to become the billionaire founder of OCP. Robocop knows he can’t take the T-1000 alone, so now he has all these ED209s to help him out.

Let’s stop here for just a second. The idea that Robocop would desperately ally himself with a guy who he knows to be his enemy when he’s older is a good one. It’s just that the chronology doesn’t make much sense. As of this story, Jones is somewhere in his mid-20’s. In Robocop, he’s somewhere in his 50’s. So a few decades are supposed to pass, the events of Robocop happen, Robocop would have his law enforcement career for however many years and then sometime after that, Skynet causes the apocalypse and John Connor leads the war for survival. How the hell old is Connor supposed to be for this big war anyway? No wonder we all die. He probably tried beating up the T-X with his walker.

It’s possible that Rob Williams screwed up and got Jones mixed up with Bob Morton, the slimy corporate guy who actually created Robocop. The character depicted here both looks and acts a bit more like him. Then again, he had nothing to do with the ED209s.

The last issue is a big clusterfuck. Jones and Robocop move everything to a convoy of aircraft carriers in the Pacific Ocean. Everything except the T-1000, which is held in the Nevada Mountains. Jones shows off this special acid he’s created that will destroy all metals. Maybe it’s just me, but it would PROBABLY be for the best to have immediately shoved the super-dangerous and nigh-unkillable liquid robot into that acid ASAP. Anyway, John throws a hissy fit at how the unconscious T-800 is going to be thrown into the acid. He yells at Robocop for not being human and being everything his mother warned him about.

Right as things are getting tense, a guy rushes in to tell them that the T-1000 has escaped captivity, despite all the ED209s guarding him. Robocop now knows that the T-1000 is on its way to kill John. As they wait for the inevitable, Sarah calms down and tells Robocop that in the end, he is trying to stop Skynet and save John, so he should be thanking him. Robocop insists that she shouldn’t.

The T-1000 rides a hijacked jet into one of the carriers, destroying it. The carrier that the important characters are on flips over and is slowly beginning to sink. Robocop knows that the T-1000 is onboard and goes to take care of it. Already, it kills the entire security of the ship in gory fashion, ready to take out Jones next. Robocop tries to fight the T-1000 and fails. That’s when John appears with the T-800, reactivated by Jones. Jones notices the danger of where they are as the pipes containing that metal-eroding acid are being emptied into the water. Too far away to help, Sarah begs Robocop to save her son. Robocop looks to her, then makes his decision.

He closes the door to the room, sealing the two Terminators, John and Jones together with the acid. And this happens.

As Jones begs for his life through the glass, Robocop tells him that it’s the only way to prevent Skynet. Jones is then killed by the T-1000, who dies smirking at Robocop. Sarah chooses to bitch out Robocop, saying that while she never knew Alex Murphy, she knows he would never do something so callous. That human face is just a mask for a dickhead robot. Then she leaves with it up in the air whether she gets out alive.

Robocop feels unnerved by the T-1000’s smile, but figures that it’s a good sign because you’d have to be human to feel unnerved. As he sinks to the bottom of the ocean, he wonders if Skynet had let him go back in time because it knew he’d kill John Connor in the end.

And that’s it. Everyone’s dead except maybe Sarah Connor. The ending makes zero sense. Let’s say that in the end, Robocop was unknowingly doing Skynet’s bidding. Big deal. John Connor wouldn’t have won the war anyway, so going after him is pointless. Even if they wanted Robocop to take him out, there’d have to be an easier way to do it than making him go through this Rube Goldberg device of a plot. It’s like if Dr. Doom ruled the world and figured, “You know, I should probably go back in time and kill Reed Richards again just in case.”

The alternative is even more stupid. Let’s go back to that car chase scene. Robocop says that the events of Terminator 2 are worthless in stopping Skynet. In that timeline, the Connors ended up destroying the T-800, T-1000, the original T-800’s mangled arm and an AI chip. What was Robocop’s big plan? TO DESTROY THE SAME SHIT! Only he got John and a shitload of other people killed! There’s no new spin to stopping Skynet. There’s no improvement. In fact, he doesn’t even say why the events of Terminator 2 wouldn’t have stopped it from happening at all. Somehow I don’t see how “introduce ED209 tech early and kill Dick Jones” is going to save humanity in the long run.

It’s just a bad comic and a terrible crossover. It trivializes everything from the Terminator movie franchise (which Miller is just as guilty of) and commits character assassination upon the star of the opposing property. Robocop willingly kills a boy so he can one day not unwillingly kill a girl. What a hero.

If you can find it, Robocop vs. the Terminator is something you should definitely check out. But if you find issues of Terminator/Robocop: Kill Human in the back issue bin? I wouldn’t buy that for a dollar.

Next time on Crossover Celebration: Somebody stop me. Really.

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13 comments to “Crossover Celebration Part 7: Robocop and Terminator Duke it Out Over the Decades”

  1. They’d turn the concept into a couple of videogames for various consoles. They differed by the system and from what I understand, the Genesis version was the best. I’ve watched about 2 minutes of footage from the SNES game. That’s enough for me. It says a lot that in 2013, there’s not a single speed run of that game.

    C’mon, man, you gotta look a little harder. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzeGI6l6kKM

    Worth looking at the speedrunner’s notes just to see what a bastard the game was, too, even in TAS form. http://tasvideos.org/1818S.html

  2. Let me guess what you were thinking, Gavok. “So Alien Vs. Predator was a big thing . .. and Robocop Vs. Terminator wasn’t?!?” Seriously, nice write-up.

  3. @Syrg: But that’s the Genesis version. The SNES one was different.

  4. @Gavok: My bad, I misread the statement. I thought it was “there are no speedruns of the game”, not “of the SNES version”.

  5. Not sure I ever knew about that crossover series. Nice write-up. Thx.

  6. Murphy jumping through skynet systems like a human virus is the best plot point.

  7. How did Robocop go back in time in the second series? Did he put artificial skin over his robobody, or was it just a plothole?

  8. @Blulk: Just a plothole.

  9. I wish you wrote this two years ago when I bought the Kill Human series during a Comixology sale and was disappointed by how terrible it was.

  10. @Gavok: I think Robocop just covers himself in a pile of clone-meat for the time-travel return trip. Ooh-kay…

    Kill Human was hurt-my-feelings bad. The Miller/Simonson one is still a jewel. And I played the game on my Game Gear, which now I want to dig up.

  11. @googum: That was in the Miller series. In Kill Human, he just went back in time as is.

  12. so let me get this straight the second vs had robo-museum-Guard go back in time to assassinate John Connor. I guess that suppose to tie into the present day robocop being attack by flo due to 2011 RMG killing Connor and dooming mankind leading up to a timeline where the last human on earth figures out who screw up the world which was Robocop and went after him. eh time travel kinda screwy.

  13. Hooooold up – what’s with the SNES-hating? I haven’t played either, but the cutscenes in the Nintendo version were based on the comic! That scores it major points, as far as I’m concerned.

    I love the original miniseries, and have the little cardboard men on my bookshelf. Did some googling after a recent re-read, and turned up this heartbreaking little tidbit…