Interview: Josh Blaylock on ‘Voltron: A Legend Forged’
For the record, I’m a child of the giant robot generation. I grew up pondering the life lessons of 1980s cartoon series such as Robotech and Transformers, and formulated complex theories regarding the place of Go Bots and Tranzor Z in the hierarchy of the universe’s massive mechas. Looking back on it now, I’m fairly certain I had the makings of a fairly impressive thesis on the subject of giant robots completed before I was 10 years old.
However, there was always one wildcard in my studies: Voltron.
The 1984 series Voltron: Defender of the Universe featured a giant mecha composed of five smaller lion-shaped robots. Each lion controlled by a young pilot. Voltron and the "Lion Force" pilots defended the universe against a host of threats that often took the form of monsters launched into battle via coffin-shaped shuttles. The forces at play in the series were equal parts magic and science, and the title character’s ever-changing list of powers and abilities called upon during the series’ long run caused me endless frustration in my attempts to rank Voltron alongside his peers.
In 2003, I found myself thinking about Voltron (and humming the series’ theme song) once again when Devil’s Due Publishing began producing comics based on the Voltron series. Despite its highly praised development of the characters and mythos of the Voltron universe (including contributions from noted creators such as Mark Waid, Kaare Andrews and Dan Jolley), the series was cancelled in 2005 without concluding its final storyline.
Nostalgia for the character has endured, however, and it now appears as if 2008 will be another big year for Voltron and the Lion Force. Earlier this year, DDP released the Voltron Omnibus, a collection of the entire DDP run that includes the previously unpublished final issue of the 2003-2005 series. The Devil’s Due crew also announced the July release of Voltron: A Legend Forged, a five-issue miniseries that promises to take readers on "a spectacular quest, 1200 years into the past." The series will be written by DDP President Josh Blaylock, and feature interior art by G.I. Joe: America’s Elite artist Mike Bear.
I spoke with Blaylock about the new Voltron series and its place in the character’s complicated history, and picked his brain about the character’s role in the world of giant robots. DDP also provided ComicMix with new art from the series, including both an inked and full-color version of the first issue’s Tim Seeley cover, as well as an E.J. Su variant cover featuring Voltron in its popular "Lion Force" form. Full-size versions of each cover are posted at the end of the interview.
COMICMIX: First, let me get the most general pair of questions out of the way: Why Voltron and why now?
JOSH BLAYLOCK: It’s been a while since we played with Voltron, but lately there seems to be something in the air. The DVDs are selling like crazy, the Reeboks shoes, the streetwear. All that, combined with the movie buzz, and it seems like a great time to kickstart a new Voltron miniseries, and who knows, maybe more.
CMix: With the recent release of the Voltron Omnibus, that chapter of Voltron’s history with Devils Due has finally reached a conclusion. Where will this new series fit in relation to the storyline in the Omnibus and the overall Voltron storyline? And does it fit anywhere into the cartoon continuity?
JB: It takes place after the previous series wraps up… and also before it. Way, way, way before it. This is based on the DDP continuity, but any fan of the cartoon who’s never read our comics should still be able to enjoy it. We’re going back in time for this story, in an adventure that brings the Lion Voltron Force face to face with the Big V’s creators.
CMix: There have been so many iterations of the Voltron Force through the years. Which versions of Voltron can we expect to see in one form or another in the new series?
JB: Both of the ones that count. Poor Voltron III, though, will remain buried, as usual. He just can’t get no love. Maybe someday he’ll see his 15 minutes of fame. Dare I say, though, that we will see a third version of Voltron, because when Voltron was originally created/born, he wasn’t yet divided into five lions. This story delves into all of that.
CMix: Can you tell me a little about the characters involved in this storyline? Is it another rag-tag team assembled to pilot Voltron like it was the earlier DDP series?
JB: Unfortunately I can’t tell you, lest the Knights of Altarus slit my throat. Oh shit, I just let something spill. Hide me! They’re not bad guys, really they aren’t. They just have a generations-old secret to protect.
Well, there is another I can talk about, and that’s Stride: The Tiger Fighter. He made a brief appearance in the old series, but we’re revamping him completely — he’s going to be bad-ass. Expect Boba-Fett meets Jack Sparrow, and while I’m rambling, Lance might find himself in love, but not with the princess, for once.
CMix: Why did you want to write this series yourself, Josh?
JB: I’ve been looking to stretch my creative muscles again. For the past two years I haven’t done much except for my book, How to Self-Publish Comics: Not Just Create Them and the origin of Zartan in Dreadnoks: Declassified. At one time, I was writing four books a month, as well as drawing one, while running DDP, and although I’m not looking to kill myself like that again, I’m making an effort to draw covers and write. Voltron was too fun to pass up. Basically, I came up with the idea for this story because I’d been working on the clothing deal for Sat-Morn Apparel, which I’m a part of, and watching the old DVDs, and had the tin kitties on my mind.
CMix: What’s the attraction of Voltron, as opposed to other giant mecha stories like Transformers, Robotech or Mazinger/Tranzor Z? Why do you think Voltron endures?
JB: I’ve been pondering that for years. Who knows? There’s just something so striking about his design — I’m referring to Lion Voltron here. I mean, who the hell would combine that many features and colors and expect them to visually work? But they do!
It’s also the melding of science and magic, which has always appealed to me. Star Wars, Thundercats and He-Man did as well, but Voltron‘s fantasy elements were more Tolkien-meets-Fairy Tales. That, and rappers love to talk about him.
Voltron’s also not just an automaton. He’s alive, yet he’s nothing without the pilots and doesn’t have his own personality. It’s just this big amalgamation of coolness.
CMix: Tell me about the art for the series. Is Mike Bear providing the interior art as well as the concept design?
JB: Yessir, with some help from Tim Seeley on the designs, and a lot of direction — a.k.a. meddling — from me. Mike Bear’s been pumping away on the end of G.I. Joe, and just finished the last issue this week. Now he’s on Voltron, translating my crazy layouts onto the page. I’m pretty involved in this one, though, almost "directing" it in a sense, because I’m so psyched about it.
Hopefully that’s a good thing for Mike and not a nightmare. [Laughs]
CMix: Looking forward to it, Josh. Thanks for talking with me.
Voltron: A Legend Forged hits shelves in July as a five-issue miniseries from Devil’s Due Publishing, and features a story by Josh Blaylock and interior art by Mike Bear. You can learn more about this series and others from Devil’s Due Publishing at www.devilsdue.net.