Robotech in Comics

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When I first got into comics, I would ride my bike a few blocks from home to a drug store to buy new ones.  They didn’t have a great selection.  Usually they had two of those old style racks that spun, squeaking loudly which caused whoever was working the register to turn and give me a dirty look.  But, it was all I knew!  I didn’t know there were comic book stores! (Yet)

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I love the ‘As seen on TV!’.

Then Robotech came on tv.  I still remember it; Channel 53 (that’s UHF, people).  It was on at 4 o’clock opposite The Transformers on Channel 26 (also UHF, people).  DECISIONS!

Transformers was mostly reruns at the time, so I started watching this Robotech thing.  I fell in love.  It felt more complicated (and it was).  The stories were slightly more adult (but still kid-stuff.  Mostly).  Best of all?  They kept showing commercials for some place called ‘Sierra Comics & Books’ out in Clovis; a place where you could buy comics and collectibles…  It looked so shiny!  This, I had to see.

I asked my mom to take me out there one day.  Holy crap.  It was like Mecca for nerds.  They had everything!  Comics, posters, cards, toys – you name it, they had it.  They even had Robotech comic books!

Robotech: The Macross Saga was a very literal translation of the television shows – just in print form, unlike comics based on other shows like G.I. Joe and The Transformers that actually expanded on the universe and gave us original stories.

In short, they were nothing to write home (or a blog) about.

The show continued on Channel 53 until the end of the Macross run, then it switched to the second series, ‘The Robotech Masters’ and the third, “The New Generation’.  Little did I know that Harmony Gold had actually taken three different series and mashed em up into the ‘Robotech Saga’, but that’s a different story (though it did explain why I was so confused by the 2nd series that didn’t seem to fit…).  After ‘The New Generation’ ended it’s run, Channel 53 ran the whole thing in repeats from the beginning, and then it just went away.  Which was sad.

In the years that followed, I always remembered Robotech fondly.  I only bought a handful of those ‘As seen on TV’ comics but always wanted more.  Alas, more was not forthcoming for a very long time.

Fast forward to the 90’s when Eternity Comics published Robotech II: The Sentinels.  Based on a failed attempt by Harmony Gold to resurrect the series with a sequel that would continue the story of Rick Hunter and Lisa Hayes, The Sentinels followed the adventures of the Robotech Expeditionary Force.

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In the original Robotech continuity, a ship crashes on the earth.  A community/island forms around it as the government tries to figure out what it is and how to use it.  Eventually, they do figure it out – just as aliens come to earth looking for it.  A war ensues.  Thanks to ‘protoculture’, the Human’s defeat the Zentraedi but they know that won’t be the end of it because the Zentraedi have masters – the Robotech Masters.

The plot of The Sentinels is that the Earth Defense Forces decide to go fight them in space and spare Earth from another war (without realizing that the Robotech Masters come to Earth as part of the 2nd series, and then the Invid chase the Masters to earth and cause even more trouble for the 3rd series).

So, basically – the main characters from the first series are the main focus in The Sentinels – Rick Hunter, Lisa Hayes & the rest.  Lisa is in command of the Earth Expeditionary Force.  They come across The Sentinels, aliens from worlds either controlled by The Robotech Masters or the Invid.

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All sounds compelling, right?  Like it could be a really good sequel to the original series?

And it could have – but here are my memories of the whole thing:

  1. The issues came out sporadically and were delayed.  My excitement mellowed over time.
  2. Each issue felt really short.  I mean, -really- short.  The breaks in the story, while I’m certain were meant to create an air of suspense, drama and anticipation, really only made me angry and resentful.  I was used to having so much more content in a comic and The Sentinels were not delivering.
  3. They ran for fifteen or sixteen issues and then the series ended and they started a second volume that ran another dozen or so issues and then it just ended.

During this time and while interest was warm, they tried to run a couple of spin-off stories as well.  Thus was born Robotech II: The Malcontent Uprisings, Robotech II: Cyberpirates, Robotech II: The Invid War & Robotech: Genesis.

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While its all well and good to strike while the fire is hot, saturating the market with all manner of Robotech comics was probably not the best idea since they couldn’t keep the main title consistent nor compelling.  A better strategy might have been getting The Sentinels up and running and going STRONG before trying all these other titles.

By the time Eternity stopped publishing the series, I was already annoyed beyond belief with the whole thing.  It was similar to my experience with White Castle hamburgers.

white_castleI know you’re shaking your head, wondering what the heck I could possibly be talking about – don’t worry so much! I’m gonna make it clear!  See, I was born in Chicago, and when I was 7 or 8, we moved to California.  Chicago had White Castle – California?  Not so much.  (I do remember that we found them in the freezer section of the grocery store – but microwaved sliders were -nasssssty-!) So I grew up without White Castle hamburgers but remembering/fantasizing about how great they were.  My family would talk about it once in a while – it was a ‘treasured childhood memory’.

When I was 18, as a graduation present from my aunt and uncle, I flew back to Chicago and spent some time with my grams.  One of the things I really wanted to do while visiting was to hit White Castle.  (And no, I was not under any influences like, oh, say, Harold and Kumar…)

My uncle and I jumped in his Lincoln and went to get some.  Only, we couldn’t find a White Castle! (okay, that part really was like Harold and Kumar.)  He kept saying, “Oh – there’s one on…” and we’d head there only to find it closed up.  We did this for quite a bit until he finally found one that was still open, but in a run-down state in a semi-bad neighborhood.

We ordered enough for everyone and took them back to the house.

They were HORRIBLE! I couldn’t believe that these were the little hamburgers that I remembered!  I was so disappointed.  I’d built them up in my mind to a point where I’m not sure they ever had a chance of living up to the memory.  (In White Castle’s defense – my Uncle swears we hit a really bad one and that they really are still good… just not in Cicero…  MUCH LATER, I tried Krystal’s (similar concept, popular in the south) when living in Knoxville and nearly barfed.  ‘Get a Sackful’?  Sackful of CRAP MAYBE! Bleh.)

…anyway.  Um – where was I?  Oh yeah – see, I’d built up what Robotech was in my head (probably way, way too much), then, when they did the comic sequel, it just couldn’t measure up (even if it had been good).  See?  And you thought I wasn’t going to pull that one together.  Shame on you!  SHAME!

That’s sort of my take on Robotech II: The Sentinels.  Sad, really.  It had so much potential. (The Shadow Chronicles was only a slightly better followup.)

~P