The world can basically be broken down into two types of people: those who love the original 1987 Robocop film, and those who lack the proper auditory and visual capabilities to process one of the greatest works ever committed to celluloid. In fact, the only problem with Robocop is that it’s so great, it immediately renders everything else Robocop-related completely moot.
As with nearly every other gruesome action film from the 1980s, Hollywood realized that kids freaking love Robocop. It didn’t matter that it was a seriously hard R-rated movie with tons of gruesome violence and satirical jabs at corporations, the media, and Cold War-era nuclear paranoia that likely flew over young impressionable heads. Hollywood decided that they could turn Robocop into a superhero, and thus the subsequent sequels, cartoons, and live-action TV series stripped the property of everything that made it great in the first place. Without the satirical humor and over-the-top violence, we’re left with a guy in a clunky suit spouting orders to criminals. He’s basically robot Dirty Harry, though it’s the watered-down Dirty Harry from The Dead Pool, that terrible final Dirty Harry movie where Jim Carrey plays a goth rocker.
The many attempts to make Robocop family-friendly led to some truly bizarre moments in the character’s history. Let’s take a look at a few of the strange places Robocop popped up between his classic debut and the new big screen reboot.
That time he was bugged by drugs, ’80s Public Service Announcement
Much like Pee-wee Herman and the cast of Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue, Robocop was enlisted in the 1980s war on drugs. Robocop’s PSA captures Detroit’s protector in a pensive moment, staring into the middle distance as Lewis asks what’s been bugging him. “Drugs,” Robocop intones. “Drugs bug me.” Kids of the ’80s were no doubt freaked out by the sudden cut to actor Peter Weller out of costume, causing them to miss his deadpan pitch about visiting their local Boys & Girls Club. “What’s bugging you, son?,” many a parent likely asked. “Realizing Robocop is the guy from Naked Lunch is bugging me.”
That time when he was a cartoon, Robocop: The Animated Series, 1988
Produced by Marvel Productions, 1988’s Robocop: The Animated Series is still one of the most faithful translations of the movie into another medium. Which is odd, since it was one of many cartoons from the 1980s based off of a decidedly adult R-rated movie. (Remember the Rambo and Police Academy cartoons? Well, forget those, because this one wasn’t terrible.) The opening sequence showed Clarence Boddicker and his gang shooting Officer Murphy, while some of the plotlines delved into darker material than most cartoons of the era. (In an episode penned by splatterpunk author and coscreenwriter of The Crow John Shirley, Robocop takes down a group of robot racists who dress up like KKK members.) Still, it’s weird to see Boddiker still alive and shooting lasers instead of pumping cops full of lead and telling “b–ches” to leave.
That time he stole fried chicken and a refrigerator, ’80s Korean commercial
This bizarre Korean ad depicts a horrifying scenario where Robocop leaps out of a television set and menaces a poor family until they give up their tasty fried chicken. He then makes off with their refrigerator, which has to be a violation of at least one of the tenets of the Prime Directive. To be fair, if you had to eat baby food all day, you’d probably be forced to resort to chicken-related home invasions as well.
That time he met Nixon, 1987
Slightly less historic than his tete-a-tete with Elvis was the late Richard Nixon’s photo op with a certain metallic member of Detroit’s finest. (Of course, that’s not Peter Weller under that weirdly pointy helmet.) This wonderful photo was taken at an event at the Boys Club of America as part of the promotion for Robocop‘s VHS release. ($25,000 was donated to the Boys Club thanks to the unfortunately named “Robocop RubOut” sweepstakes.) Robocop looks oddly at ease here. Perhaps he thinks Tricky Dick is OCP’s new CEO.
That time he saved the wrestler Sting from the Four Horsemen, 1990
As part of the promotion for Robocop 2, pro wrestler Sting enlisted Robocop for his grudge match against the Four Horsemen. The much-hyped event was billed as “Capital Combat: Return of Robocop” and took place in Washington, D.C. a month before the release of the lackluster sequel. Unfortunately, everyone forgot that Robocop can barely move, let alone wrestle, so all he ended up doing was rescuing Sting from a metal cage. Still, we’d much rather watch the awkward promos Robocop filmed with Sting than sit through Robocop 3 again.