We don’t claim to have our finger on the pulse of the comics industry here at Republibot and really it’s only fair to mention that the vast majority of comics are simply outside our mandate because they’re superhero tales or fantasy or True Tales of Lovelorn Manga, or what have you. Even so, Comics are something we’re all pretty interested in; something that keeps poking in around the corners of our consciousness, even though we don’t have the resources to really give the medium the attention it really deserves – that’s a huge task, and frankly we’re not up to it at present – but despite all that, we are big, dumb geeks who do like to talk about ‘em.
Though few in number, there are such things as Science Fiction comics. Generally these are media tie-ins: Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Star Blazers, and maybe a few that don’t have “Star” in their titles as well. In general, these are every bit as bad as you remember them being when you were twelve – hackneyed stories, mediocre art, functioning mainly as commercials-in-print for the shows/movies they represent, and generally just cashing in on the willingness of their fanbase to blow money on anything with a ‘Trek’ name on it. (“Wow! It’s a Star Trek/Madballs crossover! I’ll take six copies, please!”) Though low in quality, they are at least generally better than the seemingly infinite numbers of potboiler novels that are cranked out every year to tie in to these same shows (“Wow! A hardback, limited-edition, 300 page novelization of the Star Trek/Madballs crossover signed by John Vornhort!”). There are also standalone science fiction comics, such as “American Flagg,” “Dan Dare,” “Judge Dredd” and others, though there are far fewer of these than there are of the Media Tie In variety. Curiously, there are more standalones in England than in the US. Why? I don’t know, but I suspect it’s simply because Tie-Ins appeal to an established market, whereas Standalones don’t, and hence are somewhat less of a sure thing, and hence less commercially viable.
We’ll limit ourselves to Science Fiction comics here at Republibot, and at present we’ll limit ourselves even further to a curious phenomenon in the genre: Comics that had everything going for them, and really should have been great, but for whatever reason ended up being “Comics That No One Gives A Crap About.”
For our first installment, we’ll be discussing
ROBOTECH: PRELUDE TO THE SHADOW CHRONICLES
Once upon a time – 1985 actually – there was a syndicated cartoon series called “Robotech.” Though unjustly dismissed by critics as yet another mighty-fightey robots cartoon, and justly dismissed by wags as a bastardization of original Japanese shows, the fact remains that the show was unlike anything else on TV at the time – the story was epic and soaring, people died in numbers large enough to make World War II look like a bedtime story, the robots were interesting looking, and the central theme of music linking all the eras of the story was unprecedented, iconic, and enchantingly naïve and weird. Its ending was rather abrupt, but not unsatisfying enough to prevent the show from being a big fish in the small pond of first-run syndicated cartoons in the 80s (It totally kicked the ass of “Spiral Zone,” let me tell you!)
The producers decided to make a sequel series called “Robotech II: The Sentinels,” which was to continue the story, and also fill in the substantial gaps in between the ‘eras’ or ‘generations’ of the original Robotech. Unfortunately, this project fell apart after only three-and-a-half episodes had been completed. It’s unfair to judge a project based solely on fragmentary bits of episodes, but what they completed was entirely lacking in the magic and swashbuckling adventure of the original Robotech. Even though “The Sentinels” never made it to air, the producers hired “Jack McKinney” to write “novelizations” of the show based on the roughly-fleshed-out scripts and rough overviews of the series, so there’s a spate of these books out there. The producers then attempted several revival attempts which even never got as far as “Sentinels” did – Robotech III, IV, and V; and the universally reviled-yet-intriguingly-connected-in-a-behind-the-scenes-way-to-Babylon-5 concept, Robotech 3000 – the franchise appeared to be dead. However, just as a blind chicken will eventually strike corn if he keeps pecking long enough, eventually the producers managed to launch a revival in the form of a straight-to-DVD move called “Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles,” which picks up about fifteen minutes *before* the original