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Ro-Busters

Ro-Busters is a British comic strip that formed part of the original line-up of Starlord. Similar in premise to that of the Thunderbirds television series, Ro-Busters was created by writer Pat Mills and was drawn by Dave Gibbons, Kevin O'Neill and Mike McMahon.

Along with Strontium Dog and the belated Time-Quake, Ro-Busters survived Starlord's merger with 2000 AD, its sister comic at IPC Magazines Ltd.. The series introduced the de-commissioned war robot Hammerstein and the sewer robot Ro-Jaws, and gave rise to the popular ABC Warriors series.

Mandate

Robots are going to take over Man's dirtiest jobs . . . clearing his garbage, tending his sick, even fighting his wars! By the year 2078 people will change their robots as today they change their cars. So step now through the slick plasto-glass doors of "Flash" Harry Lowder's robo-mart in the year 2078 . . .

Overview

Ro-Busters depicts a world where artificially intelligent robots are so ubiquitous they are treated with contempt by humans and there is a class hierarchy among the robots themselves. Ro-Busters is a commercial rescue organisation run by Howard Quartz, known as "Mr. 10 Per Cent" because 90% of him is robotic (a 'person' must have at least 10% organic matter to qualify as human). Quartz uses robots to carry out his perilous rescue missions because no-one cares if they live or die. Any insubordination in the ranks is dealt with by his enforcer, the psychotic and stupid "kill-dozer" Mek-Quake. Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein, the two main characters, are hugely courageous but after each successful mission they are usually greeted with indifference by the authorities.

When the owner of Ro-Busters decides to destroy the robots in an 'accident' as a tax evasion measure, Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein lead an escape plot. Once free they learn that a robot underground exists and that a safe haven for free robots has been established on the Saturn's moon Titan. The Ro-Busters by this stage are being pursued by a ruthless police unit charged with suppressing robot liberation. A transport is arranged to take the robots to Titan but at the last moment the police close in so Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein with a few volunteers lead a seeming suicide mission to fight off the authorities and buy time for their comrades to escape. The mission is a success and Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein are seen walking off into the sunset.

The series has a high degree of satiric comment on contemporary Britain as Pat Mills had shown on other series. The brutal police squad sent to capture the robots is a parody of the Special Patrol Group while the willful destruction of a productive and loyal workforce reflects the effects of Thatcherism. Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein's names are a word play on the musical writing pairing of Rodgers and Hammerstein and the story also features a number of song and dance routines.

It is also a ruthless parody of the Gerry Anderson puppet series Thunderbirds. In Thunderbirds, International Rescue carried out its missions for purely altruistic reasons. In Ro-Busters, however, Quartz's team is only sent to help those who have paid for his overpriced 'disaster insurance', and the entire business is operated with a healthy profit margin as its highest priority - actually saving lives is some way down the list.

Stories

Timeline: 2078 — 2080

NB: All untitled stories not known by a popular name have been designated by their 'Next Week' taglines.

  • Day of the Robot

Starlord Starzine 1 (prologue) Unable to find buyers for his merchandize, robot dealer "Flash" Harry Lowder orders his second-hand robots to report to Mek-Quake for destruction. Ro-Jaws and Hammer-Stein are among those droids saved due to a timely intervention by billionaire entrepreneur, Howard "Mr. Ten Per Cent" Quartz.

  • The North Sea Tunnel"

Starlord Starzine 1 (1 episode) A submarine crashes through the North Sea Tunnel connecting Britain and Scandinavia.

  • Red Mist

Starlord Starzines 2 — 4 (3 episodes) An experimental gas leaks through the Florida swamps. Humans and animals alike succumb to its effects, causing them to go insane with violent consequences.

  • Midpoint

Starlord Starzines 5 — 6 (2 episodes) As part of a secret US program, Lep-574 is the latest rocket launched from the Yucca Dessert, Nevada. Containing nuclear waste bound for outer-space, the rocket malfunctions, crashing into Midpoint, London's foremost conference tower.

  • The Ritz Space Hotel

Starlord Starzines 7 — 12 (6 episodes)

  • Farnborough Droid Show

Starlord Starzines 13 — 14 (2 episodes)

  • Massacre on the Moon

Starlord Starzines 15 — 19 (5 episodes)

  • The Taxman Cometh!

Starlord Starzines 16 — 21 (5 episodes)

  • Avalanche!

2000 AD Annual 1980 (1 episode)

  • Earthquake!

2000 AD Annual 1981 (1 episode)

  • Bax the Burner

2000 AD Annual 1982 (1 episode)

  • Old Red Eyes is Back!

2000 AD Annual 1983 (1 episode)

  • Stormeagles Are Go!

2000 AD Annual 1984 (1 episode)

  • Death on the Orient Express

2000 AD Progs Progs 86 — 87 (2 episodes)

  • Hammer-Stein's War Memoirs

2000 AD Progs 88 — 92 (5 episodes) Hammerstein recounts his war stories as the first successful war robot fighting against the Volgans alongside humans.

  • Ro-Jaws's Memoirs

2000 AD Progs 93 — 97 (5 episodes)

  • The Terra-Meks

2000 AD Progs 98 — 101 (4 episodes) Plans to flatten and redevelop an old port go wrong when the demolition team - the gargantuan but particularly low intelligence Terra-Meks - go on the rampage. The harbour pilot, an equally large but good-natured robot stops them. The only member of the Ro-busters to appear is Mek-Quake.

  • The Rise and Fall of Ro-Jaws and Hammer-Stein

2000 AD Progs 103 — 115 (13 episodes) The robots escape a planned insurance write-off when their transport craft is blown up by their own boss. They find out about the robot underground that takes robots to safety on a moon in the outer solar system. To help the others get away, a few robots (led by Hammerstein, and including Ro-jaws) stay behind.

Judge Dredd

Ro-Busters twice makes reference to Mega-City One, the vast megalopolis patrolled by Judge Dredd.

Mek-Quake also appears in one Walter the Wobot story set in Mega-City One, along with Judge Dredd himself.

References

See also

External links

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