Monday, July 10, 2017

Space Sheriff RoboCop? Not So Fast...

Did Space Sheriff Gavan really inspire RoboCop? "Think it over, creep!" sez Robo.

Fandom is, at times, full of kooky ideas. While it can be fun to speculate about any number of possibilities, it's important not to have a mind so open that your brain falls out.

Over the years, I've read countless fan theories about how Hollywood has ripped off (seemingly) most of its creations from obscure Japanese productions. Suffice it to say, most of these hypotheses are laughable, but some of them do find life beyond the fan message boards from which they were created.

I was recently reminded of one of the most persistent rumors -- one which still gets repeated to this day, but has never been supported by any credible evidence. In 2007, I wrote an article about it, but given the lack of reach of the original publication, I'm reproducing it here (with slight updates and alterations). It's nothing groundbreaking, of course, and the conclusion should be rather obvious, but some fan rumors just won't go away. Without further ado, let's explore the grand RoboCop/Space Sheriff Gavan conspiracy...


In a letter published by a fanzine in the late '90s, Xenorama editor David McRobie wrote that fans of the kaiju genre “tend to look for Japanese influences in American culture such as movies and television” where they may not actually exist. One of the most interesting, if not best known, cases concerns the alleged inspiration that the 1982 Toei Metal Hero program Space Sheriff Gavan (1982-83) gave to the creators of the 1987 American blockbuster RoboCop. Indeed, several years ago, the Internet Movie Database asserted as part of its RoboCop trivia that RoboCop’s design was based on that of Gavan. (The reference has since been removed.)

While the two metallic heroes do share some superficial qualities (particularly the designs of their respective helmets), conceptual artist Miles Teves, who worked on RoboCop under the supervision of make-up FX guru Rob Bottin, asserts that any similarity between the two is purely coincidental.

“I can say with all honesty that we never even heard of Space Sheriff Gavan during the design phase of RoboCop,” Teves explains. “I need to look him up. We looked at a lot of stuff, including some Japanese hobby magazines, military hardware books, and, of course, (Hajime) Sorayama's Sexy Robot book, which was actually the biggest single influence. RoboCop is his own man.”

Teves adds, “I was there in 1986, drawing away for months doing RoboCop designs, and never once did I ever know the name Space Sheriff Gavan. Nor did I ever see a picture of him.

“Believe me, I would tell you if there was a connection. I wouldn't mind at all. RoboCop owes a far greater debt to Judge Dredd, Dirty Harry, and the old Clint Eastwood film Hang 'Em High than to anything else.”

I’d buy that for a dollar.

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