The first Robotech comic in years has been a refreshing change of pace for the franchise. Reinventing the Robotech story instead of trying to fill gaps in the televeision continuity, the story is truly one where the phrase, “you have no idea what’s coming” applies. While the first few issues might seem to stick close to the original source material, by the end of the first graphic novel (now on sale thanks to Titan Comics) everything changes.
Having read ahead the story veers even furthur off the path that was laid down in the original 85 episodes. That may worry some hardcore fans but Robotech has needed a reinvention for quite some time. The comic series still has the spirit of Robotech while also telling a more concise story that is free from the need to fill out synidcation requirements of the 80’s. No flashback stories and no over explaning narrator to weld together three different anime series. It’s just a damn good tale that uses the old series as a framework but isn’t beholden to it.
While the series is marketed to new fans there’s also a lot to offer for the hardcore audience as well. They’ll be able to spot the changes from the original series and unlike any other reboot, those changes are a huge part of the story. The fact this story is different from what we’ve seen before forms the very fabric of the conflict and what drives the narrative on. Comparisons have been made to J.J. Abrams Star Trek but it’s so much more than that. This isn’t simply rewriting the Robotech universe, it’s actively molding and shaping it.
We sat down with Brian Wood, the main writer of the first four issues of the Robotech comic, to get some insight into how he crafted this new tale.
Den of Geek: Much of Robotech’s overarching story came from having to weld three completely different anime series together. The comic obviously doesn’t have to worry about working with existing footage, so how did you balance getting to basically do whatever you wanted while still remaining true to the franchise?
Brian Wood: The fact that the American Robotech show was created that way was a big part of how I approached the adaptation. Our adaptation sought out the strongest narrative path and moved faster through the episodes, leaving plenty on the cutting room floor. Its an aggressive adaptation for sure, but the goal was not to simply re-create, but to come at it new.
Can you discuss the new take on Minmei? More than any of the other characters she’s the most changed from the original series.
Minmei was a big challenge. In the show – which is the product of a different time – she’s sort of submissive to a puffed up Rick Hunter, and her world seems to revolve around this regressive sweet sixteen birthday and beauty pageant storyline.
I couldn’t in any honest way write her like that, especially not in a title that’s making strides to introduce this story to a new audience. We needed a new Minmei, essentially, but one that still made sense and wasn’t a total stranger to long time fans. So I thought about what I liked about Minmei but also what I thought a girl in her circumstances might have been – as a waitress in a bustling military city, she’d likely know how to stand up for herself, give as good as she gets, unfazed by chaos and unimpressed by a uniform.
Now you’ve of course taken material from the original 85 episodes but there are few references peppered throughout the comic to other entries in the Robotech lore, like using Dr. Lang (who was more heavily used in the novels) and even a reference to a planet from The Sentinels. Did you make those additions or were those suggested by others?
I went strictly off the American TV show episodes – my first step in writing an issue of this book was to watch a couple episodes and take notes as I went, figuring out what was absolutely essential and what wasn’t. That was my thing – I am a hardcore, lifelong fan of that old TV show. I’m sure Simon Furman may have moved beyond them, depending on what made the most sense to him.
Following up on that, how do you balance telling an engaging story without getting bogged down in references?
I have no love of references – in all the licensed work I’ve done, from Marvel to Star Wars to Aliens and Robocop, I try and tread very lightly on references. I want to make whatever story I write make sense and not be in conflict, but my goal is to never write for the hardcore fan, but instead write for a broad audience, one made up of comic readers but also civilians.
This first volume is very much a retelling of the earliest Robotech episodes with some critical changes. How did you choose what to keep and what to change?
I watch the episodes, and try to identify the cleanest narrative line through each one. A to B to C, and tell that story fast and keep moving. Because of the nature of the American show, how it was assembled and edited, its not always so clean and direct. I love that show as-is, but the goal with this book is to go lean and fast.
Moving forward Simon Furman is also writing the book. Are you just providing the story from now on or are you also contributing to the script writing?
I provided an outline for the second volume, based on the way I identify and isolate that narrative line, for the sake of continuity of direction. But Simon’s a talented writer with a career longer than mine, so he takes it from there and make it his own.
Robotech Vol. 1: Countdown is now on sale from Titan Comics. Seriously, pick it up. If you’re a life long Robotech fan it will surprise you.
Shamus Kelley is a pop culture/television writer and official Power Rangers expert. He also co-hosts a Robotech podcast, RoboSkull Cast, where he and his friend Nick review every episode of the original series and the new comic. Follow him on Twitter!