Many credit Robotech with giving anime a foothold in the North American television landscape. Originally airing in 1985, the 85-episode series, in fact an amalgamation of three separate anime series into one giant narrative, spawned toys, novels, and several comic book series over the years. Now, publisher Titan Comics has produced a new adaptation, one that is taking the series in new and unexpected directions. The first six issues are now collected in graphic novel form as Robotech: Countdown, and you can check out the trailer for this collection here:
In celebration of the release of Countdown, we had the chance to chat with series writer Brian Wood, the acclaimed author of Rebels, who wrote the first six issues of this latest iteration of the beloved series. Robotech isn't Brian Wood's first time tackling a huge sci-fi property, as several years ago he wrote a comic series for Dark Horse in the Star Wars universe—if nothing else, this certainly prepared Wood for the weight of his new undertaking. "Each has its own passionate fanbase, cultivated over decades, so yeah, it can be a little daunting," Wood told Nerdist. "But I'm a member of that same fanbase, so I just remind myself that I'm approaching this from a place of love and respect as well as that of a writer doing a job."
As you may have already noticed from the trailer, the new Titan series actually moves away from the traditional manga look that has been consistent throughout Robotech, opting instead for a Western comic book art style. "We all agreed it was the way to go, and it was something I made sure was highlighted in my pitch," Wood said. "My one overriding goal here was to try and expand the Robotech readership, and I felt that an art style that didn't look like the anime was a big part of that. Some people who don't care for anime or manga can take one glance at that type of art and dismiss it outright. I wanted to try and break through those biases and hopefully make some new Robotech readers."
For the most part, the first several issues of Robotech feel like a modern update of the original series' first few episodes, armed with faster pacing and more nuanced dialogue. Some characters that feel like relics of the time, like the teenage singer Lynn Minmei, are made to come across a lot more befitting of the world today, without trading in their ultimate function in the story. "As the writer and a fan I thought about what I liked about Minmei but also what I thought a girl in her circumstances might have adapted to," Wood said. "As a waitress in a bustling military town, she'd likely know how to stand up for herself, give as good as she gets, and [be] unfazed by chaos and unimpressed by a uniform."
For as much thought as he put into Minmei, Wood must have invested even more into the characters that really commanded his enthusiasm. "My favorite characters in the show are Roy and Claudia, but I think I've enjoyed Lisa Hayes the most," Wood said. "Gloval's voice is so distinctive in the show that it's fun to write his dialogue as I imagine it would sound in my head."
As close of an adaptation of the original source material as this is, the end of the first six-issue story arc features a huge deviation from established canon, making whatever happens next in the series quite possibly a total surprise. Why the choice to go so wildly different? Wood won't say too much, but he did tell us, "Generally, yes, this is an adaptation, but with one significant wrinkle that will sort of cast the whole thing in a different light with each issue. I liken it, although its not a perfect comparison, to how the J.J. Abrams Star Trek is at once both familiar and new. I think over time this book will grow into that sort of thing."
It seems like the Robotech saga that fans have known and loved for over 30 years might be going in a wildly different direction than we're used to. Are you on board for a radically different Robotech narrative? Let us know down below in the comments.
Images: Titan Comics / Harmony Gold
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