Cult '80s anime Robotech is returning with an ambitious new comic from Titan. Robotech: Rick Hunter, written by Brandon Easton and drawn by Simone Ragazzoni, follows ace Veritech pilot Hunter in a new adventure that's set after the events of the original Macross Saga.
In the Robotech animated series, Earth came under attack from the alien Zentraedi. After a brutal war, humanity finally prevailed, but the story is far from over. The new comic fills in the long gap between that original story and the sequel, Southern Cross.
This isn't Titan's first Robotech comic, of course. They've published two previous runs of the series, with the most recent being 2019's alternate universe-set Robotech Remix, which lasted just four issues.
Brandon Easton has been a fan of the franchise since he first watched the show as a child. In an exclusive interview with Newsarama he describes the Rick Hunter book as a fresh start that takes a back to basics approach. "It's about getting back to the core emotional stories of Robotech," he explains.
Newsarama: Brandon, Robotech has a large and loyal fanbase, but how would you sum it up for those who perhaps don't know the story?
Brandon Easton: It's an intergenerational story of an alien invasion of Earth and what humanity has to do to preserve not only themselves but the planet.
What made it interesting was that it came out at a time when most animation, at least in the United States, was not serialised. You could watch one episode of a show in January, watch another episode in December, and you wouldn't have really missed anything. But with Robotech. If you missed an episode you'd miss a ton of action, character development and forward momentum. It was appointment television.
The new comic is set after the original Macross Saga and before Southern Cross. What made you chose that era?
Actually, the way that the story is playing out was not my original outline. I pitched several different stories, but then Titan and Tommy Yune at Harmony Gold [the production company that owns Robotech] got back to me and said, "We want to go beyond the Macross Saga."
As a fan I know that there's one period of time that everybody wants to know about, and it's from the end of Macross to the beginning of Southern Cross. There's this massive 10 to 15 year period which we've never seen. They did Robotech II: The Sentinels, but animations and comic books set right after Macross don't exist. So that's what this series is supposed to be.
The book is named after its key character. So who is Rick Hunter to you? How did you find your way into writing the character?
I think what's interesting with him is that he has never known a life away from being a pilot. His dad ran a flying circus, then he's on Macross Island, they get attacked and suddenly he's a soldier. I kind of feel like there's a human underneath the Rick Hunter persona who's never been developed.
In the Robotech II novels he realises that the only thing he ever really wanted to do was fly. Obviously, he's a great soldier, a great combat pilot, a great leader, but he ultimately just wants to be in the sky. I think that he's really just a romantic pilot. It's all he really wants to be and he never gets to do that.
He's a very interesting character. I'm trying to delve into who he is, but the story I'm telling is fast-paced. It's not going to be like a French New Wave film where he's just sitting and looking at a wall!
And what sort of threats is he facing in the new series?
A group of Zentraedi militants have captured Commander Breetai, who was the Zentraedi warlord who tried to help the humans. The SDF-3 is in construction in orbit and that will eventually be what takes Rick and everybody to the Robotech Masters homeworld in the Sentinels campaign. But there's an issue: the SDF-3 does not have a hyperspace drive engine, and the only surviving hyperspace drive engine on Earth is Commander Breetai's flagship, which has been stolen and is now in the hands of the militants. So they've got to find that ship, neutralise the threat, and get those engines up to the SDF-3.
In the midst of all this the Zentraedi militants also discover a weapon, but that's a big surprise for a little bit later in the series.
It's been a few years since the last Robotech comic. Will you be linking back to those books, or is the plan to basically start over?
It goes back to what I was saying earlier about when I was pitching ideas. That's when they told me what their agenda was, which was to streamline things and get everything back to basics. There's not going to be any changing timelines, no alternate universes, it's going to be straight up Robotech.
One of the things I can say is that they definitely want to make a stronger bridge between Macross and Southern Cross. Most fans don't think it's been done well enough and I kind of agree that there needs to be more connective tissue there.
Were you able to salvage any of your unused pitches and incorporate them into the book?
What I had wanted to do was get into the moments that we never saw in Macross that kind of explain who Rick is. There are a lot of things you don't get to see about his relationships with some of the other crew members on the SDF-1, like Vince Grant. Those guys are tight, but you never found out how they got to know each other.
I took some of those ideas and dropped them into the flashbacks. Roy's death is a huge one, and in the second issue Rick's going to sit down and talk with Captain Gloval. These things happened, but we never saw them, so I wanted to drop those moments into the series.
How has it been working with Simone Ragazzoni on the book?
The beautiful part is that there's been a lot of communication. We know how hardcore the fans are and we're making sure that everything that we do matches not only our expectations but the fan expectations. He's doing phenomenal work. There's gonna be some beautiful action sequences, some big fights.
We work very closely with Harmony Gold. They have images, RPG guides, concept art that's never been seen... We're using all of that, giving it to Simone so he can see it and digest it and have a better understanding of what the world should look like. And he's definitely hitting all the marks. It's been fantastic.
Why do you think Robotech has had such an enduring legacy?
I think, first of all, look at the mecha designs of Shōji Kawamori. You've got to start there. In Robotech the aeroplanes looked like real aeroplanes that turned into mechs. They didn't look like something futuristic. These were fighters that existed in the world that were fitted with the Robotech Masters technology to create the Veritech fighters. As a fan at that time I had never seen anything that looked like that.
And then you add in the fact that you have a very adult storyline, not so much in content, but in the emotional execution. You had the love story between Rick, Lisa and Minmei, which was a very interesting love triangle. You got caught up in the drama of it all.
And also they had characters who died and stayed dead, which was something you didn't see in the US. Roy Fokker, Rick Hunter's adopted big brother, dies. He's gone. At the end of the Macross Saga, I'd say 60% of the cast is dead. So there was suffering. There was love. There was the presumption of sex because people were always kissing and touching each other. I think it made an impact because it didn't treat the young audience like idiots. I think Robotech's greatest feat for '80s animation was its level of consequences.
Robotech: Rick Hunter #1 is published by Titan Comics on August 2. If you've got a taste for anime then check out our list of the 15 best anime series you should be watching in 2023.