The Series: Scud: the Disposable Assassin by Rob Schrab (co-creator of The Sarah Silverman Program), featuring additional writing from Dan Harmon (Community, Rick and Morty)
The Hero: The aforementioned disposable robot assassin, Scud.
The Ideal Format: An animated show in the style of Freakazoid or Invader Zim (with Æon Flux flourishes).
Imagine what the world will be like five hundred years in the future—or even a thousand. What do you see?
Filmmakers in the forties and fifties imagined flying cars, helpful robots, and heroic square-jawed astronauts facing off against monstrous aliens. Gene Rodenberry gave us an even more optimistic vision in the sixties, with all of mankind finally united in peace, allied with interplanetary species not so different from us, human enterprise now driven by space exploration and the advancement of knowledge.
The future hasn't always been a bright and rosy place, though. There are plenty of pessimists who have predicted dystopian governments (Fahrenheit 451, 1984, Brave New World), man's creations turning against us (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Terminator), or extraterrestrial life-forms that will never come in peace (Alien, The War of the Worlds).
Which is more plausible: the golly gee-whiz brightness of technological and societal advancement, or the grittier and more nihilistic darkness of galactic violence and degradation?
With Rob Schrab's Scud: The Disposable Assassin, it almost seems possible to have both! Simultaneously!
The setting: many, many years in the future on an Earth that is both instantly recognizable and frequently bizarre. Billboards and commercials advertise products endorsed by Hank Gritt, a dead movie star. The mafia still runs organized crime. Vending machines sit on every corner.
Not so unfamiliar, right?
Until you notice that the mobsters are cyborgs, there are cults devoted to the “manliness and explosions” of the dead movie star, and the “venting machines”—as they're now called—dispense robot assassins. For just a pocketful of change, you can pick the robo-assassin of your choice, give him a target, and sit back without fear knowing that the SCUD you just purchased will self-destruct once his mission is complete. No muss, no fuss, no evidence connecting you to the crime.
Our story begins when one such SCUD is sent on a mission to kill a mutant creature later known as Jeff. Jeff has mousetraps for hands, an electrical plug for a head, wears a giant squid as a belt, and has mouths for kneecaps—which spout a variety of obscure pop-culture references instead of logical speech.
Oh, and Jeff's a female, apparently.
During Scud's initial fight with Jeff, he catches sight of the label on his back: THIS UNIT WILL SELF-DESTRUCT UPON TERMINATION OF TARGET. Suddenly aware of his own mortality, Scud doesn't kill Jeff. Instead, he literally disarms her and carts her off to a hospital to be put on permanent life-support.
So long as Jeff lives, so does Scud.
Unfortunately for our unusual hero, hospitals are expensive. So he begins hiring himself out as a freelance assassin to cover Jeff's medical bills. He does hits for the mob, finds himself mixed up with religious cults, takes on drug dealers (including Jane Mansfield's severed head), and clashes with governments, aliens, mutants, and demons: basically all manner of weirdoes, criminals, and surrealist threats.
There are interdimensional rifts! Ladies who love robots! Prophecies about the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse, and battles between Heaven and Hell itself!
Oh, and a voodoo-wielding Ben Franklin who has an army of zombie dinosaurs.
Really and truly.
Scud: The Disposable Assassin is a high-water mark in gonzo, surrealist adventure. It's bloody and gory and ultra-violent, all while being hysterical, profane, and strangely thought-provoking.
The character designs are unbelievably unique and odd: there's a guy named Pavlov who looks like a mobster from the shoulders down, but his head is AN ENTIRE DOG. Like, the back legs are just dangling over his shoulders!
Who but Rob Schrab could come up with this stuff?!
If you're tired of predictable aliens who always look like humans with wrinkly foreheads; if you're bored of monsters who are just big and hairy and have extra eyes; if you wish mutants were stranger than a guy with a misshapen baby sticking out of his chest—this is the comic for you!
If you've always wondered why religion and mythology have never truly mixed with futuristic technology and science fiction inventiveness—this is the comic for you!
And, if you've always wanted to see a robot with a werewolf arm take on a dude with an elephant body, centipede neck, and an eyeless head—this is the comic for you!
Words can't truly describe this weirdness, folks. It's something that has to be seen to be believed.
Which is why Scud would make such a great show. The multi-page action sequences would transfer seamlessly to the small screen, and it's been far too long since there's been an animated show for adults that is this bizarre. The strangeness of Scud gives even the oddest, tentacle-strewn anime a run for its money.
Scud would be a cartoon in the same vein as Invader Zim, with a bit more of the pop-culture references and slapsticky comedy that made Freakazoid and The Tick such cult classics.
It seems like the golden rule of adult cartoons for the last two decades has been “Thou Shalt Be A Comedy,” and Scud certainly falls under that category. But it also defies categorization in a way that makes it entirely new and fresh—for all that it originally ran in the early nineties. It's science fiction, but it's also action/adventure. It's horror, but it's also surrealist fantasy. It's a crime story, but it's also a religious parable—with an interdimensional rocking horse and a rag-doll guy named Drywall whose speech can only be understood by the soulless.
If this doesn't sound like a mind-meltingly good time to you, that's a shame. We could all do with a bit more unexpected weirdness in our lives, I think. Too much normality can drive you insane.
In that case, Scud might be just what the doctor ordered.
Angie Barry wrote her thesis on the socio-political commentary in zombie films. Meeting George Romero is high on her bucket list, and she has spent hours putting together her zombie apocalypse survival plan. She also writes horror and fantasy in her spare time, and watches far too much Doctor Who. Come find the angie bee at Tumblr.