Let's begin at.. the beginning!
This ad. For Revell's Robotech Defenders model kits. See Revell took kits from Macross, Dougram, and Orguss and made a line of model kits with more realistic military paint jobs as gorgeous photographed box art. This was 84 when Transformers and Go-Bots were also getting going, making it a glorious 2-4 years of a US robot craze.
After that ad, and seeing a catalog sheet of all the awesome kits (which I thought all transformed because 9 year old me thought every robot did thanks to Transformers & Gobots) I saw this comic and POUNCED. Robotech Defenders only uses the mecha from the Dougram series, giving them alien and human pilots with the mecha themselves being sentient. They have to defend their solar system from the psychic Grelons and their life force draining masters. The art is really nice but the coloring is rough. It was late 84-early 85 printing technology. It went from being a 3 parter to a 2 parter. People on the net insist it is because the comic sucked. I... don't see it. I just reread it upon finding it for this collection post series and its pretty decent. It is very compressed storytelling to modern eyes but its a complete story in under 70 pages. If Bendis wrote it the same content would have taken 12 issues. Not that I would complain as it has some good ideas. Maybe one day I will do a full review of it...
Now in the TV Guide equivalent that came with the newspaper some of the channels our awful cable company wasn't giving us (for perspective: we didn't get Cartoon Network till like 2007. When another company bought them out.) had a Robotech cartoon show listed in the mornings. I thought it was connected to the comic.
No. In fact only a handful of the model kits Revell had gotten the rights to release in the US were in this show. A company called Harmony Gold wanted to just import Super Dimensional Fortress Macross over to the US but with syndication needing 65 episodes they looked at other shows that Tatsunoko had the rights to (sort of... we will get back to that later on) and added in Super Dimensional Cavalry Southern Cross and Genesis Climber Mospeada. They didn't use Super Dimension Century Orguss which was the third in the Super Dimensional "series" of unconnected shows even though it had some of the same staff as Macross behind it. When they wanted to sell toys and merchandise for the designs they discovered Revell already had a number of rights already. (And Hasbro had the deluxe toy rights for Macross' signature craft, the mighty VF-1 Valkyrie. The 80s were.. funny.) So they worked with Revell and the show was then to be called Robotech, becoming a generations spanning saga about Earth's wars against alien races. Given how damned similar the 3 shows they combined were with many of the same basic concepts and themes few of us kids even thought they were different shows even if the look of each was a bit different.
(Shown is my ADV boxed set Robotech collection disks, the complete uncut Japanese versions of Southern Cross and Mospeada, the first 6 episodes of the Japanese Macross, the complete Macross segment of Robotech remastered which I got at Wal Mart for 10 bucks, and an Orguss collection I got off Ebay that is probably a Hong Kong bootleg.)
The Robotech boxed sets also contain Harmony Gold's aborted Sentinels project which was to be a self financed ORIGINAL series that would be both a prequel, sequel, and sidestory to the 3 Japanese shows. They also made a short run and generally considered to be a disaster theatrical movie using footage from a show called Megazone 23. I have nothing of that series so it won't be part of this massive project. (Unless someone wants to give me the DVDs and a Garland toy cheap.) Yet Japan itself would continue with Macross separate from what Harmony Gold did. Macross is a BAD dub job of one of the most gorgeous animated movies out of Japan, "Macross: Do You Remember Love?" a movie retelling of the Macross TV series that has been retroactively considered to be a movie in the Macross universe telling how the original events went. (It does not however explain how many things now look like they do in this movie and NOT how they looked on the show...) I first saw an edited version of this dub when it was called "Clash of the Bionoids". Japan would continue on with some staff making the now not in continuity Macross 2 miniseries. Later on more of the original creators would make the amazing Macross Plus as part of canon, along with the dumb Macross 7 and the pretty solid Macross Frontier. Harmony Gold would try yet AGAIN to continue the Robotech franchise (mainly thanks to the anime boom and the ridiculous deal they had made with Tatsunoko..) and finally get out the Shadow Chronicles, which would tweak, modify, and itself decanonize the novels and comics from Robotech that would fill the nearly 2 decades of no celluloid Robotech...
The best were the novels by Jack McKinney (who was really two authors writing under a pseudonym). They would both take the cartoons and fix the continuity and translation errors the shows had due to the insane schedule the show had, and make the whole thing more realistic, intelligent, and mature. (Though the show was largely a revelation for how mature it already was compared to the silly dross on TV at the time.) They would also take the notes for the aborted Sentinels sequel project, the failed movie which was only tested, and their own ideas and make an entire series of novels. Sadly thanks to taking it with me in the Navy I do not have the final novel "End of the Circle" which cleared up and finished the series. Yet comics were ALSO covering Robotech, and in many cases trying to do the same thing and even working from the same notes and outlines.
There were the Comico comics which were basically retellings of the cartoon show. I never bought any of them as the art was usually iffy, it was "Direct Market" only comic shops in the days when I had no shops available or parents willing to take me to one, and the fact being in a lower middle class family even as an only child I would only have so much money to spend.
The Waltrip Brothers' ok but not great art would be used to try to cover the entire Sentinels series in a project I am not sure was ever finished but was ongoing from Eternity (later on purchased by Marvel who themselves would get bought by Disney because modern Capitalism IS ASS.. for years and years.
Like the Del Rey novels they would also try to make stories and miniseries covering things not shown in the show to expand the universe and fill in various plot holes.
They would even cover the beginnings of the entire Robotech storyline that was otherwise just a couple of lines in the show and books. (Like the above I have to finish getting the whole series.)
This series was Eternity's best even if the later art not done by Fred Perry (who later on went to some fame doing the "Gold Digger" series) when the 91 Gulf War called him to service is kind of ehh. Its a pretty decent story and its main protagonist would actually be referenced in other works. (Plus he would later on be one of the many people to have "relations" with my favorite character in Robotech, Dana Sterling. The lady got herself a lot of action. I guess Robotech writers really like crazy semi violent half alien women. I credit/blame her for letting me know I liked women as a lad hitting puberty. And the sort of women I go for.)
Yet they would lose the license partially due to Marvel buying them out for properties their parent company Malibu was putting out and a tiny company called Academy would get the rights.
Academy had in most of their series some of the worst artwork. Eternity's output was getting more and more professional before their contract expired. But Academy wouldn't hold it for long. You know that Fred Perry fellow? Well the company that would publish his Gold Digger series and also the publisher of "Ninja High School" by Ben Dunn which itself had been published by Eternity for many years would get the rights to Robotech.
Their signature book was an ongoing anthology with stories by Ben Dunn and Fred Perry amongst others.
While in general the art was nice and unlike most of the earlier Robotech comics in full color, the stories were either bad, uninspired, pointless rehashes of concepts the novels and Eternity line already did, or had massive amounts of continuity errors. The Robotech hardcore weren't very happy about this, especially as Academy had their license terminated in the middle of multiple miniseries one of which was actually quite liked by fans. (And I never got. And really no point unless I find em in a dollar bin someplace since it was never concluded.)
Eternity had one of the worst drawn and laughably terrible swimsuit comics ever and I include it with the Antarctic Press Robotech miniseries I never got more than the first issue of as a tribute to Epic Robotech Failure. I don't recall if its because they lost the rights to make Robotech comics that I quit these series, the fact the series themselves were even more amateurish and sad than most of the Academy stuff, or the general canon problems like the Covert Ops series in the lower right hand corner using DYRL designs when that movie and its designs weren't canon in Robotech and were not part of Harmony Gold's deal with Tatsunoko.
(Seriously that Swimsuit Spectacular is only spectacular in how awful and silly it is. And given that most 90s comic book swimsuit specials are pretty silly, dire, and embarrassing this is saying quite a bit!)
I don't recall if this is the only miniseries they finished, or its the only one I liked enough to complete. I will probably go back and reread a lot of this stuff and if I do so I may come back and add in more commentary. Another great part of this collection project is finding old stuff I thought lost or forgot I even owned and getting to experience it again.
When the little indie comic shop that was up by my house got bought out by what was then the expanding Sarge's Comics I got the Robotech Art 1 book. A mystical thing, an amazing thing, an awesome thing. Seriously, in 1989-90 this was like gold in those pre internet days when information on stuff was hard to come by. In Japan things like Macross Perfect Memory and the This is Animation Southern Cross were out there to help fans out but not in the US. (Macross Design Works is a book full of cool art and designs by Shoji Kawamori who is the main driving force behind Macross these days. Macross is by Studio Nue. Tatsunoko just lent it out without any real approval from Nue. This will be brought up later..)
(Robotech Art 1 also had a chapter in the back about Anime. This would lead me to other places as well. But that is a topic for another time I think..)
However those books were sometimes found by a few people in the west. And they would use the information to convert an RPG system that itself was a massively house ruled AD&D.
Palladium Books would take their RPG system and make the Robotech RPG! Full of all sorts of lovely art by Kevin Long as well as some probable tracing or copying of Harmony Gold or those 2 books above's art assets it covered the mecha and world of Robotech with lots of nerdy detail and info as best they could for the era. I saw these books advertised in comics of the late 80s and wanted them BADLY. Thankfully for me I would not get them till the early 90s after I had already sort of figured out how to play RPGs thanks to D6 System Star Wars and Frank Mentzer's edition of the D&D Red Box. The Palladium system isn't very good and it really doesn't do a good job at emulating Robotech at all. It is where Rift's infamous MEGA DAMAGE would first appear.
Palladium would cover the Sentinels as well. This would be where I first saw the Sentinels designs I only read about in the McKinney novels. Even with Long's great artwork much of it.. was underwhelming. Palladium would later on go to do a Macross 2 RPG with lots of great art from Wayne Breaux that apparently did not please Harmony Gold very much. It might have also been part of the reason they started paying attention to Robotech again. And trying to halt the import of ANY Macross product into the US unless they got a cut of it, even though it had nothing to do with the original deal they made. If it was even LEGAL for them to do so. (Its certainly not ethical. Why should a company get money for products made by the original creators and the people they have approved? Harmony Gold didn't put any financing into Macross 7 or Frontier or anything like that. Why do they get a piece of the pie? No. All they do is help prevent anyone from easily getting these later products, most folks resorting to piracy to experience them in the English language.)
Palladium would later on get back in bed with Harmony Gold and redo the game with more info and art and join in on the Shadow Chronicles train. They were originally doing them in a smaller manga sized book format to go on the shelves in a bookstore's manga section. Not that anyone I knew ever SAW them there mind you. They are now continuing the line in their normal size. The Deluxe Edition of the game I got as part of Palladium's Grab Bag promotions where you put in a wish list and some money and usually get 2-3 times the value in stuff mailed to you, with signatures and the like if you want. I kind of guilt tripped them into giving it to me. It does have some info not in the manga sized one.
Jim Lee's Wildstorm comics would get the rights to Shadow Chronicles for comics and made this 5 part miniseries that sort of messes up the Sentinels' stuff already produced. It is kind of a twisted retelling/redo of the ending of that series and sets up the Shadow Chronicles movie. (Also Wildstorm would be bought by DC Comics which is owned by AOL/Time Warner. Because everything needs to merge because megacorporations are KEWL. If you are an idiot anyhow.)
A sampling of my unbuilt Robotech kits. The Orguss itself now called NEBO, a Japanese rerelease of the Dougram (and also the first thing I ever bought from Hobby Link Japan), and some of the 2 pack mini models that Revell would release later on in the Robotech model line when they tried to connect more with the cartoon show. (Obviously again these are Japanese rereleases. Getting Robotech kits in Robotech boxes is VERY expensive and difficult.)
My only Southern Cross model, an ATAC Bowie Emerson (Grant in Robotech) suit, and the only plastic kit of any of the amazing Macross 2 mecha. Luckily the VF2 SAP Special is one of my favorite mecha period but this kit needs a lot of love and care to look it's best as befits an early 90s model kit.
And some more Macross kits from both Arii and Bandai. I believe the VF1-D did get a Robotech release in the states, or at least a kit in that line did. You will notice they sure do look familliar if you are a Battletech fan...
Well you see.. funny story that. There was this import company called 21st Century Imports. They were bringing over model kits and games from various Japanese anime. Like these 2 Dougram hex wargames with the most adorable little metal miniature robots. They even had 3D trees to put on the maps, and some awesome periscopes with little cockpit stickers you could use to get a pilot's eye view of the battlefield and check line of sight. (The 3rd set is an extra I got that's mostly parts from both games.) They did a very simple translation of the manuals and got a very limited release of them.
Yet.. a little company born out of making Traveller supplements had an idea for a hard sci fi robot combat game...
We will cover that next time.