Thank you, Rob Schrab.
Today I celebrate the 20th birthday of Rob’s crazy, yet loveable yellow robot, Scud: The Disposable Assassin who from 1994-1998 (and then again briefly in 2008) went on a comic book romp through a future full of monsters, technology, mobsters and evil angels, all in the name of love.
For those unfamiliar with Scud, here’s your quick overview, and then I’m getting back to the mushy stuff — In the distant future, citizens are able to purchase robot assassins out of ScudCo vending machines which, after terminating their designated target, self-destruct. During his first mission, one Scud becomes aware of his self-destructing future and rather than kill his target, Jeff, a monstrous mish-mash of objects, he shoots off her arms and legs and then places her on life support at a hospital. To ensure their mutual survival, he becomes an assassin-for-hire to pay for her medical bills. You want more than that? Pick up the omnibus right here. Seriously. Stop messing around and do it already.
Okay, where were we?
One day, in 1995, an 11-year-old Wes stumbled into the Collection Connection in Wooster, Ohio, likely for the 26th time that month. Amongst the normal Marvel and DC titles that I was picking up, something different popped out at me from the racks. I’d never seen anything like it, but I knew right then that it was something special. It was Scud: The Disposable Assassin #12. The cover lacked the typical superhero publisher’s mark was replaced instead by a simple black and white photo of a fireman. It was funky. It was colorful. It was intriguing. I had to have it.
I don’t think I even made it home before I’d read the comic numerous times. Like so many comics in my youth, I was thrust right into the middle of things and even though I had absolutely no idea what was going on (sometimes I miss that feeling), I was treated to an endearing 30 pages of Scud arriving back to Earth via a space traveling locomotive and finding himself accidentally thrust into the middle of the annual Mr. Tough-Guy competition, a global Olympics of sorts to see which race of beings have the most grit. (Yes, I know what you’re thinking, and I agree…they just don’t make plots like that anymore.)
Beyond the silly characters and irreverent story lines, the book exuded creativity on every available page. On the interior credits page, a list of “suggested voice talent” came with each issue to further bring life into the characters. In this issue, one of the characters was suggested to sound like Sean Connery, another like Bob Costas. With every read, the characters came to life in my mind. The icing on the cake was that writer/artist Schrab would also suggest songs for certain scenes and list the page numbers to go with it. Never had Wagner’s Flight of the Valkyries had such an impact on me until juxtaposed with robots feverishly destroying one another. These details, though small helped the world come to life, even on an extrasensory level.
The following week I went back to my comic shop. I needed more. I needed my fix of Scud. Much to my dismay, the store had no back issues and because Fireman Press was a small independent publisher, they weren’t even sure if they’d even be getting subsequent issues.
Time dragged on and I began to worry that I’d never know what happened to Scud. Keep in mind that this was back in the day before the internet was prevalent, so buying issues online was impossible and even it was, I didn’t have a credit card or checkbook to my name.
I went back to my normal programming of Spider-Man and Daredevil when just two months later, I waltzed into the store to be greeted by the cover to Scud #14.
Sure, I’d missed an issue in there, but it was completely inconsequential. I was able to hang out with Scud and his sidekicks Drywall and Oswald for another round of chaos, and again–I had no clue what was happening. All I knew was that Scud had gratuitous violence, adult language and a ton of heart, and at the end of the day, that’s what I was in the market for.
And then it all disappeared.
As quickly as it arrived, Scud was gone from my life. Issue #15 never made it to my comic shop. In fact, no additional issues ever made it to the shop and the clerks seemed perplexed on how to get future issues of the book. I didn’t understand distribution back then, so it was a complete mystery as to how I could get my hands on the book. It was simply something I couldn’t comprehend… like the Loch Ness Monster, or the appeal of Kanye West.
What happened next, I will be forever grateful for… if Scud was off the table, then I was going to have to chase the same feeling of exhilaration I received from the comic by investigating other indie titles that came into the store, and soon I was at least giving a shot to any comic book that didn’t have Marvel or DC’s name on the cover. Black and white interior art? Even better.
Without dropping names (this article is about Scud, after all), each title gave me additional insight into what the comics medium could be… dangerous, challenging, and most importantly, fun. It was right around this time that I knew that comics were something that I wanted to be a part of. My perception had expanded and there was no going back. Of course, as I grew and matured, comics eventually fell off the radar entirely as my mind became preoccupied with things like girls, rock music and surviving high school. Oh yeah, I also stopped buying comics because the local comic shop went out of business. Looking back, in my small town, I was probably one of five people even keeping the store open in the first place.
In 2008 I made a triumphant return to reading comics. Armed with a credit card and a whole lotta back issues to read, the first thing I purchased? Scud: The Whole Shebang, a collection of all 24 issues and several one-shots. I finally learned not only how my favorite robot got his start, but also got to see the tearful ending as Scud moved Heaven and Hell in the name of love. At the ripe old age of 24, Scud blew my mind all over again.
Two years later I got into the comics writing business and Scud has been a constant source of inspiration. Schrab’s seminal work reminds me that nutty characters, mindless action, fantastic worlds and gut-wrenching emotion all have a place in comic books and in an industry that at times, feels doomed to repeat itself, a fresh idea has the potential to change lives. The Whole Shebang collection clocks in at nearly 800 pages and I’ve read it dutifully once a year. When my brain needs a shot of creative adrenaline, Scud is where I go.
When I signed my first comic book publishing contract in 2012, I wrote Mr. Schrab on Twitter to share with him the good news, and thank him for his inspiration. His congratulatory response probably meant more than he realized. Without Scud, none of the comics I’ve published would have ever been written. It’s crazy how things work out.
Thanks, Rob, for sharing your creation with us, and happy birthday, Scud.