Robo-Hunter was a recurring strip in the British Comic 2000 AD, initially written by John Wagner and illustrated by Ian Gibson. The series starred Sam Slade, a laconic, ageing, cigar-smoking bounty hunter of robots that have gone renegade.
The character first appeared in 1978. José Ferrer was the original artist, but the editorial team were not happy with his work and quickly replaced him with Ian Gibson, who redrew parts of Ferrer's episodes before taking over himself. Gibson's imaginative, cartoony art helped drive the series' style from hard-boiled detective to surreal comedy. The hero started out based on Humphrey Bogart, but after a few years he looked more like Ted Danson.
In the first storyline, "Verdus" (also known as "The Robot Planet"), Slade is despatched to a distant colony planet to solve the mystery of its vanished colonists. A fault with his space craft causes time dilation during the trip, meaning that Slade arrives at the planet restored to his early 20s while the ship's pilot, Kidd, is now a cynical talking baby. The colony world is populated entirely by robots. These robots, charged with terraforming the planet and preparing it for colonization are unwilling to believe that humans could have created them and killed the colonists when they arrived. With no limitations on their behaviour the robots have established a society that mimics the worst elements of Earth including celebrity culture and party politics. Slade resolves the problem by building a transmitter that destroys the Robots but within the context of the story this is regarded as a mercy genocide.
A second long-running story, "The Day of the Droids", followed. Back on Earth, Sam investigates a plot replacing key officials with lifelike robot doubles. This is part of robot Mafia boss the God-Droid's plan to take over the city. Meanwhile, the Amalgamated Androids Union, led by a cocktail waiter robot called Molotov, is threatening to strike. Sam is joined by an idiot kit-built robot assistant, Hoagy, and, after a crack-down on smoking in IPC comics, is given a Cuban robot cigar called Stogie, designed to help him cut down on nicotine. Ultimately Sam defeats the God-Droid with the aid of the East Side Androids American football team, but Molotov takes all the credit, and after saving the city Sam finds himself out of a job.
In 1982, Wagner, now working with his co-writer Alan Grant, returned to the character after an absence from 2000 AD of nineteen months. Robo-Hunter became a semi-regular feature in the comic for the next two years, during which Sam investigated, among other cases, a plot to sabotage the robotic England football team's World Cup campaign. Sam solved a very lucrative case and retired rich, but was eventually forced out of retirement after Hoagy and Stogie spent all his money. When the series ended in 1985, Sam was back where he started, aging and down on his luck.
2000 AD revived the character in 1991, written by newcomer Mark Millar, who had a different interpretation of the characters. Peter Hogan, who replaced Millar in 1993, returned the series to a more traditional interpretation. These episodes were illustrated by Rian Hughes. In 1995, the Robo-Hunter was cancelled once again. A final, one-off episode appeared a year later.
In December 2003, Alan Grant and Ian Gibson reunited for a revival of the strip starring Sam's granddaughter, Samantha Slade. As of October 2005, 2000 AD has presented eighteen new episodes comprising four short stories. A fifth story is scheduled to begin in early 2007.
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