Another for the bookshelf ...

If you've listened to my interview with Tommy Yune, you may recall me bringing up Bruce Lewis's Invid War: Aftermath as a title with a distinctly shojo (girls' comics) bent that might sell well to that particular market. Now honestly I think it would behoove the powers that be to try and craft some new ROBOTECH work for that market -- heaven knows I'd buy it, and I think it'd be a good match for a franchise for which romance and the arts (specifically the power of music) are such integral elements. But, repackaging older material is always easier than crafting new work, and in that spirit I present to you another in my sequence of hypothetical trade paperback collection covers.

This book would contain the first six issues of Aftermath (the complete Eternity/Malibu run), plus the Hohsq's Story one-shot that was published by Academy Comics, because it's both relevant to the main story and it's awesome. If I could have gotten away with slapping that book's oh-so-lovely wispy shojo-tastic cover up there in lieu of the cover of Aftermath #6, I totally would have, but it just doesn't sum up the book as a whole like the above cover art does. In the happy alternative universe where these books would actually be published, a new cover could be commissioned -- I've never liked that particular piece of art -- but since I'm slapping together this window into that universe on my PowerBook in Photoshop without the benefit of access to Bruce Lewis and his drawing pen, um, yeah, Aftermath #6's cover will have to do.

Keen-eyed viewers might notice that I changed the color of Lancer's hair back to its proper lavender color -- either Lewis himself or the colorist responsible for the published art on the front of Invid War: Aftermath #6 decided he was a blonde -- and patched over a couple other glaring trouble spots in the coloring job. There are still some weird bits here and there, but nothing else that jumped out and kicked me in the face.

You'll also notice I played with the trade dress. Previously I adhered pretty strongly to the style you see on From The Stars and the four published Macross Saga TPBs. Here I decided to swing in a more shojo direction, with the white bars, pink lines, and a familiar shade of light blue that long-time fans might recognize from the Matchbox toys and the FHE videocassettes. All stereotypically "girly" hues, but they look good together (to me, at least), and hey, it's what you see on the shojo manga, so they seem appropriate as well. The font, of course is the classic typewriter-style font Courier, which appeared in a mangled "banged-up ol' typewriter" form on the covers of the first nine issues of Aftermath. I didn't feel like taking the time to wear away and de-register the letters the way Lewis did -- I've done that before, it's a total pain in the butt -- and besides, legibility is good. Still, the "klackity-klacked" logo type of the first two runs of the series (Lewis's Eternity run and Tavicat's three-issue stint) is one of the things that first comes to mind when I think of Aftermath (right after the lance-wielding Veritech and all the billowing wispy hair), so its use as the primary font for all the cover type was an obvious choice in my book.

The tagline at the top encapsulates the series in a nutshell ... it's all about what happens when war is removed from a generation that's grown up faced with war and its ever-looming threat hanging overhead all their lives, and I think it would pique the curiosity of those browsing the graphic novel shelves. I also think the back cover copy would have to set the book in contrast to The Shadow Chronicles, as an alternative take on the ROBOTECH universe following the departure of the Invid Regess. Casting it in that light, I think, would attract more readers than it would shove away, and would also make the work much more palatable to them as well -- leave them thinking, "Um, well, that was interesting," rather than, "Wait, does this work?" or worse, the old, "How dare he use these characters in this way!"

The one ingredient to the mix I'd especially like to see? A new introduction by series author Bruce Lewis, whose politics have since spun 'round to a more conservative bent. I'd love to see what his take on his old ROBOTECH work is now, especially since it was so supercharged with youthful revolutionary ultraliberalism. Some years back a friend of his posted a link to this interview I archived at Robotech Comic Universe, over a decade old at this point, at a message board he frequented and I believe Lewis referred to his old self as less than human (forgive me if I misquoted, I couldn't find the remark to verify it after, like, an hour of digging 'round the web), so I think any introduction to this work by the Bruce Lewis of today would be interesting reading.

Thoughts? Comments? Angry screeds about Aftermath? What'cha got, gang?


  • Honestly... Aftermath blew.

    The art was horrible, the story was decent but the pacing was awful, and if it came out now, even as a "alternate universe" to the Shadow Chronicles, it could only hurt the franchise.

    By Blogger Darkwater, at 05 May, 2006 11:43  

  • The issues I've read of Aftermath were . . . weird. I never really could figure out what was going on, sort of the same way with "Clone" from Academy. What was up with that?

    By Blogger Ryan Prinkey, at 05 May, 2006 14:10  

  • Would Bruce Lewis even acknowledge he created it?

    By Anonymous WongKaiKo, at 05 May, 2006 17:00  

  • wongkaiko: You know, I was honestly thinking that very same thing last night ...

    Ryan: Aftermath is really something you have to read from the beginning -- there's a ton of exposition in that first issue that sets up the New Gen cast's new status quo and their new home at the City of Belmont. Start there and even if you're missing an issue or two of that arc it should all make sense. (The first issue of the original six-issue arc I read was #4 -- Lancer & Rand breaking into Castle Fate to rescue Sera from the Zentraedi refugee leader Hohsq. Actually a pretty straightforward issue, come to think of it.)

    I'd warn you against picking up issues #10-13; Bruce Lewis became a little too fond of Photoshop-style shading and effects, so the art suffered mightily, and then he started setting up all these little storylines that he ultimately toppled over and pissed on in the really shitty final issue. One really shouldn't spend any time or energy reading through that work. It'll just make you depressed. (Okay, actually #11 isn't a bad little story and is well worth picking up just to see what a normal day in Belmont is supposed to be like. The others, though ...)

    Clone really is just weird and hard to follow. New cast, strange fanfic-flavored setup, lots of interesting ideas, never goes anywhere. Love Tavisha's art, though. It's largely set up in issues 7-9 of Aftermath, but if you pick up issue #0 of Clone, you can pretty much start there, if you're trying to make heads or tails of it. Again, though, the series winds up unfinished and abandoned, without ever achieving at any point the level of closure that Aftermath managed at the end of its Eternity/Malibu run.

    Darkwater: While the art in Aftermath is sometimes ugly, I wouldn't say it's horrible for the most part. Sometimes it's ugly to make a point -- there's an excellent scary-ugly shot of an enraged Scott Bernard threatening Nova Satori in issue #1 -- and sometimes you'll hit a slightly askew drawing. Most of the drawing, though, is decent enough given the style Lewis chooses to use, and he does a lot of good work conveying the emotion of the work -- lots of good use of shadow, lots of well played melodramatic beats; again from issue #1, the moment where Rand loses Rook to Nova's cabal is one that sticks with me due to Rand's overwrought reaction and the drama of the shadowy shot where Rook bids him farewell.

    One point I've been trying to beat my students over the head with when I've been having them draw comics is that in crafting comics, telling the story effectively is paramount, and I think Lewis manages just that. And if you study the pages, his sense of perspective, anatomy, and the craft that goes into his backgrounds (when he does them -- trust me, that's shojo manga storytelling technique, not just laziness) are generally technically excellent. (Issue #5 does have some terrible drawing in it, but inker David Lanphear was pinch hitting for Lewis during that issue, and by the time you're that far in the run, you just let out a sigh of disappointment and plow on ahead.)

    And on top of all that, believe me, when you stick everything between two covers, pacing stops being a problem. Brian Michael Bendis has made a career out of crafting comics that are paced badly in monthly doses but come out fine when read as a trade paperback collection.

    I dunno, maybe I'm just much more forgiving of the work than you are. Then again, I've also seen a lot of the American-crafted work that TokyoPop's been trying to sell to the kiddies lately and I think Aftermath holds up pretty well against them, kicking most of their butts from the standpoint of clear storytelling, having a beginning, middle, and end, and having strong, believable characterization.

    And as far as it "hurting" the franchise if released today ... hey, it'd be no worse than reissuing End of the Circle.

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 05 May, 2006 17:11  

  • Re-releasing EOTC is the only thing worse I could see than seeing Aftermath again.

    I'm lukewarm on shojo-fying RT anyway, the example provided isn't really convincing me :)

    By Anonymous Cyc, at 05 May, 2006 18:05  

  • Hey, I just said it'd be the easy thing to do. Honestly, the best way to pull off a shojofication of ROBOTECH would be with a girl-centric academy story, ala the old Academy Blues title or Mikomoto's current Gundam work Ecole du Ciel. Set it in the current Shadow Chronicles/New Gen "meanwhile" era setting, keep a familiar ROBOTECH character as an entry point for the old-time fans -- Angelo Dante as drill instructor, perhaps? -- but keep the focus on the kids and their trials, romances, dreams, and all that jazz. Formulaic? Sure, but as with so much in the mecha genre it's all a matter of how well you jump through the familiar hoops and how much of a twist you put on 'em while doing it. With the right creative team, I think such an idea could be executed nicely.

    Plus as a bonus if they wind up going ahead with a full-fledged animated series in the aftermath of the Shadow Chronicles feature I think they're gonna need a few more supporting cast Veritech pilots, and a series like this would supply more grist for the mill, if you know what I mean. And hey, if you do that, you might attract the readers of the wispy girls' comics to the more conventional animated project. Double bonus! ^_^

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 06 May, 2006 01:45  

  • Wow! You definitely got it right with your comments about Bendis. I was a long time comic collector until the mid-'90s when, due to college and lack of funds, my comic purchases slowed to a trickle. So a couple of years ago I decide to dabble in the hobby again. I had always been a Marvel man (not really a Zombie per se) and decided to re-enter that universe. I came to discover that men named Millar and Bendis had taken over and most issues were filled with page after page of "heroes" sitting around and having out of character conversations! Don't even get me started on the recent 'New Avengers' issue where an entire Super team was destroyed off panel. What a cop-out! Welcome to post-modern comics, huh?

    By Blogger Ryan Prinkey, at 06 May, 2006 23:26  

  • God, Aftermath. Aftermath is slightly shojo, but completely terrible. I personally think Aftermath is much, much worse than even Ben Dunn's messes. Antartic was lazy and ill-conceived. Bruce Lewis meticulously constructed this "Hey, I like Marx and fuck Robotech! I'll write what I want! It doesn't matter if it's at all like Robotech!"

    All the characters are totally out of character, the plot immediately jumps in a direction nothing in Robotech even hinted at, and it's just. not. Robotech.

    A friend of mine described it as like watching a pseudo-intellectual college hipster jerk who adopted Marxist views five minutes ago urinating on Mospeada.

    I can't really argue with that.

    Incidently, I really like Clone. If you read the three issues of Aftermath that were by Tavicat instead of Lewis and the Clone/Mordecai series in isolation (I mean, ignore the rest of Aftermath, not the rest of Robotech) and it's pretty good. Definitely not a bland regurgitation of existing stories (hi Wildstorm, especially Love & War) and it doesn't veer totally off in a new, totally awful direction (hey Aftermath and Rubicon). It's kind of like Macross 7, but you know, without rock stars piloting robots with guitars.

    It's a new SDF off in a new place fighting new aliens, but it's all new characters. Which I approve of. But you will probably be confused if you don't bother to read the notes at the end of the issues. So yeah, read them.

    By Blogger Ginrai, at 08 May, 2006 19:15  

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