Robotech Things I Miss ...

The ROBOTECH universe is anything but a static place; things seem to change all the time, sometimes for good reason, other times just because a writer or a fanboy-turned-HG-representative thinks he has a better idea, or thinks the old way somehow violates the letter or spirit of the show. There's all sorts of reasons why things get tinkered with, rejiggered, retired, and replaced. Here's two things I miss from "ye olden days" of the franchise, with more to come if I think of them.

1. The Vertical Robotech Logo
I've always found the vertical ROBOTECH logo to be far more distinctive than the typical horizontal one, and far more eye-catching. Part of this, of course, is because it takes up so much more space when it's vertical -- it only looks good when it takes up the whole vertical length of the page, so it winds up scaled to fit that area. As you can see here, on the Laserdiscs they had to use a somewhat squat, thick version of the ROBOTECH logo font to get the logo to fit at the size they wanted in the space they wanted. On the original printings of the novels (see below), the logo is attractively set off to one side against a solid-colored background, which allows it to not quite fill the space but still look not-bad. This also led to a bit of a problem on the later books, because Del Rey decided to place the title and author's credit behind a solid color rather than place it against the artwork, since they used stock art for books #19 & 20 that wouldn't crop right to fit the skinny space available. For #21 they commissioned a new piece that would fit that area, but whoever laid out the cover just stuck it into the template for the previous two books, so Ken Steacy's terrific Before the Invid Storm cover gets cropped to all hell ...

But I digress. Between the novels & LD's, which made up most of my ROBOTECH intake prior to 1997 or so, I got extremely used to seeing the vertical logo. Other media used variants I also liked, such as the Matchbox toy packaging's sky blue logo with white outline (also used by FHE for their VHS releases of the series), but for the longest time the vertical one was the real logo to me. So naturally, like any other nostalgia-sick twentysomething, I want things back the way I remember them ... but on top of that, I think the sparse white slightly beveled/embossed/whatever logo they've been using for the original series for the past few years is just plain boring. In contrast, I really like the somewhat flattened red & black Shadow Chronicles logo. Still, I'm thinking, if and when a novelization of Shadow Chronicles is released, it'd be really nice to see that logo broken apart, with the ROBOTECH part set vertically to one side, in a reprise of the classic novels' trade dress ...

2. Bill Spangler's chronicles of Jonathan Wolfe's horrible, horrible life
Starting in The Malcontent Uprisings issue #2, Bill Spangler began detailing the low points in the life of dashing action junkie and soon-to-be war hero Jonathan Wolfe, a "legendary" one-off character from The New Generation who was placed into the cast of Robotech II: The Sentinels in hopes of beefing up his backstory. Unfortunately this had the side effect of complicating his storyline; he was already established as having a wife and child in New Gen, Catherine and Johnny, and yet during the course of Sentinels he was supposed to be romancing Lynn Minmei before she falls under the sway of T.R. Edwards. Yikes. Sure, during the current timeline, which extends the post-Masters, New Generation era to over a decade, this works more or less, but back in the mid-80's the timeline was a little more, how shall we say, compressed, leaving little room for Wolfe to have a wife & son unless ...

Unless he had a family before he joined up with the SDF-3 mission, which is what Jack McKinney (Daley & Luceno) established in their novels, and then Spangler elaborated on in Malcontent Uprisings, the first ROBOTECH spin-off mini-series, twelve issues of action and politics filling the time between The Macross Saga and The Sentinels, and then Invid War, the buildup to the events of The New Generation. First we see Wolfe's marriage collapse during his assignment to Cavern City in South America, as he befriends Max Sterling and distinguishes himself against the Zentraedi terrorist cells, leading to his assignment to the SDF-3. Then, when he returns to Earth, we see him leading the fight against the oncoming Invid horde -- after all, he'd already fought them alongside the REF -- until he discovers that the Invid have captured and enslaved his estranged wife and son, and he decides to try and rescue them instead of joining the first desperate assault on Reflex Point. He never recovers from this decision; his fellow resistance leaders kick him to the wayside, and though he continues to gather supporters around him at his base, "Soldiertown," it is only because of his name, his facade, not because of who he is now ... because the man he is now is a broken, drunken wreck of a man desperate for Protoculture cells and in with the Invid.

It's not so much that I miss this story, because all the comics still sit in the two short boxes beside my computer where I can leaf through them at my leisure; no, what I miss is the notion that this story matters, that it's a part of the whole of ROBOTECH. Love & War established Wolfe as a pilot aboard the SDF-1 when Max Sterling was still just a wide-eyed teenager -- in fact, he was the one who picked up Sterling and brought him aboard the ship during that fateful day on Macross Island, and then he was there when Sterling & Ben Dixon were training to become pilots. That undercuts the story as presented in Malcontent Uprisings. Then on the other end, the expansion of the timeline for New Generation pretty well breaks Invid War, especially since one of the key conflicts along the way -- the one that causes Wolfe to make that desperate gamble to rescue Catherine & Johnny -- is him butting heads with a grown-up son in issue #2, and that only works the way it does because Wolfe lost those five years to the SDF-3's mysterious "five year fold," McKinney's way of keeping the SDF-3 busy for so long without having to write as much for it and its crew to do in the Southern Cross system.

It would be nice to see some of this material adapted somewhat for the new timeline, because it's such a compelling tragedy. Wolfe is a great warrior, a great war hero, but his personal life is such a wreck that it nearly destroys him, until Scott Bernard's team and their idealism and determination turn him around at the last minute, at which point he meets his end. He makes a nice contrast with the straight arrows of the Macross Saga survivors -- I remember the issue of the Waltrips' Sentinels run where he's on monitor duty and he misses the shuttle leaving Garuda carrying Rem to the Regess' base on Haydon IV because he's drunkenly making out with a Praxian he mistook for Minmei, and then next issue Max chews him out for it. Seeing this behavior, all the events in his life that led up to his sorry state in "Eulogy," makes for compelling drama, of the sort that we really haven't gotten out of ROBOTECH lately -- short of Invasion, so much of the modern material reads like plot points checked off of a list, or retreads of material that at least I've already read. (Yeah, couldn't help but take that swipe again -- it's a bit too easy. Sorry.) While I doubt we'll see much of anything new until the release of the Shadow Chronicles feature, afterwards I really hope in addition to the franchise charging forward (sooner rather than later) we also get some of this background material shaded in -- including Wolfe's.

Well, enough out of me -- anything that seems to have slipped away that you'd like back in the ROBOTECH saga/franchise?


  • Funny. I throught the same thing yesterday as I read back both Malcontent Uprisings and Invid Invasion. While I find entertaining to see both Vince and Wolf on the SDF-1 I fear we will lose something with the new timeline. Yes, neither was anime-like but they both have great drama.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 07 June, 2006 12:41  

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