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Sun February 20, 2011
Around the Nation

Detroit May Need A Hero, But Is It Really Robocop?

Many cities have statues of icons that represent the spirit of those towns. New York has the Statue of Liberty. Metropolis, Ill., has a statue of Superman. And, of course, Philadelphia has statues of Ben Franklin and Rocky Balboa. Detroit's thinking of getting a statue, too: of RoboCop.

Yes, RoboCop, the star of the 1987 classic science-fiction film. The movie was set in a futuristic Detroit, though it wasn't filmed there.

"He was brought back to life as a cyborg," Brandon Walley explains. "But his principles were always to uphold the public trust and do good — and be awesome."

Walley is leading the online campaign to bring a statue of RoboCop to Detroit. He's not an ordinary sci-fi fan. He's the development director at Detroit's Imagination Station, a local nonprofit that aims to help revitalize the city.

It began when Mayor Dave Bing got a smart-alecky tweet saying, "Philadelphia has a statue of Rocky & RoboCop would kick Rocky's butt. He's a GREAT ambassador for Detroit."

Bing tweeted back, "There are not any plans to erect a statue to Robocop. Thank you for the suggestion."

But Walley thought, "Why not?" — and in less than a week, he raised more than $50,000 in private money to build a statue. He says in the meantime, RoboCop has started a whole conversation about philanthropy in Detroit.

Still, the online campaign brought the requisite eye-rolls from Detroiters.

"Yeah I've heard about it. I'm not impressed," says Les Collie, who has lived in Detroit his whole life. "Robocop? Come on, man. With all the stuff going on in this city, they're going to put a statue of a movie robot?"

Walley, obviously, disagrees. "A city needs to be fun, too. It can't be all serious and you know, no one has money, everything is terrible. It's not like, 'Oh it's going to be this big tourist boon for the city.' But it's one more positive."

And while everyone doesn't agree on the Robocop statue, they can agree Detroit needs all the positives it can get — even in cyborg form. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.