It’s time for Lion Force Voltron to combine and fly again this December when Dynamite Entertainment launches a brand new “Voltron” ongoing series. Written by Brandon Thomas (“Miranda Mercury”) with art by Ariel Padilla and covers by Alex Ross, Sean Chen and Wagner Reis, the new series follows the original Lion Force — Keith, Lance, Pidge, Princess Allura and Hunk — as they live up to their positions as Defenders of the Universe. The original ’80s cartoon premiered in 1984, following the escapades of Lion Force as they fought the evil forces of Zarkon, the King of Doom, and while Thomas plans to bring Zarkon back for one more epic battle, there are plenty of new villains and adventures to look forward to.
CBR News spoke with Thomas about the upcoming soft reboot of “Voltron,” his take on the iconic characters, the challenges of updating one of the most popular ’80s cartoons, making the term “space explorer” more significant and what readers can expect from the definitive modern take on Lion Force.
CBR News: Brandon, there have been a few comic adaptations of “Voltron” in the past — first from Modern comics and more recently from Devil’s Due — does your upcoming book draw at all from these series or is this a clean slate?
Brandon Thomas: No, this is a completely new take that treats only the original Lion Force Voltron incarnation as “canon.” The licensors have given us an incredible amount of creative latitude to take the franchise in a very modern direction, while respecting almost everything that’s happened to the characters in their past adventures.
How closely does the book follow the mythos of the original television show?
Everything that happened still happened. This is something of a soft reboot to the concept, that doesn’t necessarily re-tell the origins of the characters, but finds them at something of an important turning point. The first arc is really the end of one era for “Voltron,” while sparking the beginning of another.
How have you used the opportunity of a new series to bring new aspects of “Voltron” to the table?
Well, the first issue is a lot of fun because there are three (maybe four) significant things that old-school fans of the characters will be pretty surprised to see. I wanted to kinda take the younger version of myself that was so in love with this cartoon and really shake him upside down every few pages. There will definitely be some folks that are initially asking, “Can they actually do that?” But it’s important, both for this particular story and going forward, to clearly establish that some aspects of the characters and the mythos are being given a more modern gloss, both to make it more accessible to new fans, and to give people like me, that really loved it as kids, something new to get excited about.
With as much giant robot/science fiction/space opera stuff as we’ve all seen over the years, nostalgia is not going to be nearly enough to really hook everyone back in. We’re not resting on our laurels for one second, and are pulling out all the stops to make this the modern interpretation of “Voltron.”
Tell us a bit about the plot you’ve come up with — who does it involve and how is it keeping with the tradition of “Voltron?”
[The] first arc is essentially “The Last Zarkon Story,” and though the King of Doom has proven to be a formidable adversary for Voltron and his pilots for a number of years, it’s time to bring his terrible reign to an end and replace it with something even worse. So because of that, the story really digs into a few as yet unrevealed secrets about some of the experiences that made him the vengeful, hateful, uncompromising despot we all know and love. And some of these secrets involve Voltron and the planet Earth.
But on top of a strong focus on Zarkon, the Voltron Force is forced into a role that we don’t usually see from them, and one of the main thrusts of my proposal was making the term “space explorer” mean something. Keith and company should be incredibly dangerous even without their fancy lions and this story really hammers that idea home. That’s one of a few tweaks that I’m making that I hope longtime fans and newcomers will really enjoy.
What about characters? Who will be piloting the lions this time around and who’s the big bad guy?
Familiar faces on all fronts — Keith, Hunk, Lance, Pidge and Allura piloting the lions, and for one last time, the villain they’re facing is King Zarkon.
How big a fan are you of the animated series? What were some of your favorite moments that you hope to incorporate into the book?
Huge fan, one of my absolute favorite cartoons when I was a kid, so this whole thing has been a real whirlwind for me. Having the opportunity to contribute something to these characters is a real honor and I hope people can tell that the book is written by a true “Voltron” fan. A couple of my favorite moments give away upcoming stories, but obviously, like a lot of people, I have a great love for the formation sequence. You’d be watching the whole episode just waiting for the team to form up and the next script I’m doing is going to feature a modern re-working of this classic sequence and it’s probably the thing I’m most nervous about writing, ’cause that minute or so just gave me such a charge and there’s something very iconic about the whole thing. Think I’ll be working on that early next week and I’m already sweating bullets…
While writing the book, what have you found challenging about reworking an ’80s property for a modern audience?
The biggest challenge so far is the large number of characters to juggle. We’ve got our five core characters, then Zarkon, then a few new folks and it’s pretty packed throughout. So trying to deliver a story that really streamlines the narrative, characters and motivations so everyone can get onboard as quickly as possible is the thing I’m really trying to focus on.
But even though this was a cartoon that many of us experienced over 20 years ago, I think at the core it’s still an action adventure science fiction story and, if anything, that kind of thing has gotten even more popular and mainstream than when “Voltron” initially aired.
Why do you think “Voltron” lends itself well to the comic book format and why is it ready to once again come to the modern age of comics?
Well, it has a pretty high “impossible quotient,” which I think makes it a great fit.
When you break it all down, a story like this is right at home in comics and has many of the elements that many superhero and sci-fi fans are looking for — great team dynamic, cool heroes and villains, giant robots, space, monsters, technology, magic, etc.
It’s also something that benefits from having no real limits visually — just the first half of the first issue would set some movie studio back like $300 mil to film and I get to do something like that each and every month. But the whole thing is larger than life and obviously impossible, which is something that comics particularly excel at.
If you could pilot any of the lions, which one would it be and why?
Black Lion, ’cause the leader pilots the Black Lion.
I’m one of those weirdos that always identifies with the leader types, the ones who carry all the responsibility and shoulder the blame when things go wrong. Not surprisingly, I’ve having a great time writing Keith and he’s getting a bit of a spotlight throughout the first few issues.
“Voltron” #1 is on sale in December.