THE UNADAPTED: Scud, the Disposable Assassin

Posted: September 4, 2015 in Uncategorized

**This Unadapted piece was written by Andrew Prenger about a 90’s comic that’s ripe for an adaption. Why hasn’t Scud made the jump from the page yet?**
“Surreality just got funky.” An appropriate tagline for this independent comic book created by Rob Schrab. Set in a world bizarrely different than ours, this is a story where people can purchase robotic assassins from vending machines which explode after killing their target. The title started in 1994 and ran for four years until 1998, ending on a cliffhanger. Rob Schrab then took a hiatus until wrapping up the series through Image Comics in 2008. He explains this as ultimately being a good thing since his original ending would have been overly nihilistic considering the emotional state he was in. Time allowed him to craft a perfect ending to the story. Over 24 issues the audience followed the eponymous Scud as he navigated a world filled with such oddities as a robotic Mafia, astronaut werewolves, zombies, dinosaurs and zombie dinosaurs while also finding love, learning the nature of the universe and turning into a hero.
How can there be a main character when he’s supposed to explode after killing his target? Good question. The premise for the series is nicely set up in the first issue. Scud is hired by a company called “Marvin’s Manikans” to assassinate a monster who has been killing employees. This monster, who Scud dubs Jeff, is a Frankenstein-esque monster combined of different pieces. It has an electrical plug for a head, a squid’s body and mousetraps for hands. Throughout the series she (yes, Jeff is a she) shows an ability to rip off her limbs and replace them with whatever is around them, whether they are a toy clown or a laser. She also speaks solely in pop-culture references. During their initial fight Scud discovers his self-destruct setting. Deciding he would rather live, he shoots off Jeff’s limbs, has her placed on life support at a hospital and goes freelance to pay for her medical bills.

After his introductory arc, Scud becomes something of an adventurer. He gets involved with the robot mafia, kills a voodoo-powered Ben Franklin, cleans up an old west town, goes into space and competes in a futuristic tough-guy competition. Jeff does remain a threat, since she doesn’t stay in the hospital for long, and is so dangerous that multiple factions look to destroy her, which would destroy Scud. Despite how odd and convoluted the plot sounds it all actually comes together very nicely with almost every issue contributing towards moving it to an end involving the fate of the entire world. There is very little fat in this comic which could be cut.

A major draw of this comic is the art. Rob Schrab drew every issue of the series. It’s all in black and white and it explodes off the page. He is very unafraid to be experimental in his work. Action scenes flow across the page unencumbered by panels. The first issue alone contains an 18 page fight between Scud and Jeff that despite how chaotic it gets all of it flows beautifully. Small panels highlight little actions like reloading a gun or bracing for a punch, while the bigger panels give scope to the destruction going on to the characters’ surroundings. A modern comparison could be made to David Aja’s work on Hawkeye where serious effort was made to have the action look different from anything else on the stands.

Just a typical issue...

Just a typical issue…

Whether or not it was done as a joke, Rob Schrab did set this comic up that it could be adapted to the screen without much trouble. Somewhere along the line the front cover of each issue started to include a cast list of actors to voice the characters along with a soundtrack for each scene (sadly the trade collecting all the issues have omitted these.) For example, some of the cast picks are John Malkovich for Scud, Gwyneth Paltrow for Scud’s girlfriend Sussudio and Sean Connery as Oswald, an early-model assassin who is seductive as well as deadly. Perhaps the best suggestion is for Drywall (a character who speaks only in a series of lines) which is Woodstock, the character from Peanuts.

Since the title started publishing in 1994, a perfect place for a Scud animated series would have been MTV’s Liquid Television. It could’ve been a nice companion piece to The Maxx which was another surreal, outsider-ish comic that got an animated adaptation. Nowadays it seems like there isn’t much place for a series like this. To translate well from the comic it would have to be animated and given time to grow. Since the story would need room to breathe and allow for clever action scenes, a direct-to-video feature probably wouldn’t be the wisest course of action.

“pew, pew!”

It should be noted that the idea of Scud being translated into other mediums is not a completely bizarre idea. In its heyday Scud had not one, but two different videogames. One on the Sega Saturn and one for the PC. So there is hope that the concept is not solely for the realm of comic books.

Lately, Rob Schrab has blown up in Hollywood, having been tapped to direct Lego Movie 2. Also worth noting that Rob Schrab didn’t write the book all by himself. He started off that way, but quickly added Dan Harmon, creator of Community (in an episode of which, Scud has a small cameo), as a co-writer. They have proven that there is an audience for their slightly off-kilter view of the world. Harmon has also made a jump into animation with Adult Swim’s gloriously off-kilter series Rick and Morty. That show’s focus on action and humor would work incredibly well for a property like Scud. With the clout that Harmon has worked up at the network, it could possibly be used to bring this yellow hued killer to small screen. Granted, that’s a remote chance but Adult Swim would surely be the best home form a story of this caliber.

In any case, it would be cool to see this series get some sort of adaptation. If nothing else it would draw attention to a comic book series which more people should get out, read and appreciate.

Will star in animated series for money.

Will star in cartoon for money.

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