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Never discount “Noble Causes” writer Jay Faerber’s sense of humor, especially when you’re CBR News and asking what’s new:
“Lots and lots. In fact, I’m all-new and all-different,” smiles the writer. “And giant-sized, too! Some might say ‘senses-shattering.'”
That new work includes his continuing efforts on DC Comics/Wildstorm’s “Robotech” series of comics, based on the American amalgamation of anime under the same name, and “Dodge’s Bullets,” another of his creator owned projects receiving positive buzz months before it’s release. In part one of a two part interview, Faerber (prounced “Fer-ber” and not “Far-ber”), talks about “Robotech: Invasion,” which arrives in early 2004.
“‘Robotech Invasion’ is set at the beginning of the ‘New Generation’ saga, and is sort of the ‘origin story’ of Lancer a.k.a. Yellow Dancer,” explains the writer. “In the episode of ‘New Generation’ called ‘The Secret Route,’ we saw flashbacks to Lancer’s arrival on Earth, and his relationship with a woman named Carla, who nursed him back to health after a crash-landing. She also helped him establish the identity of Yellow Dancer. In short, ‘Invasion’ tells that story in its entirety. We open with Lancer in space, along with his unit, and follow them as they invade Earth, trying to liberate it from the Invid, who’ve established a pretty strong presence there. The rescue effort doesn’t go as planned, and Lancer is separated from his fellow soldiers. He’s forced to survive in a town full of Invid sympathizers, and launches a one-man mission to cripple the Invid.”
If you’ve only got vague memories of “Robtech” and it’s final generation- yup, the one with the cool motorcycles that make bullet bikes look like tricycles- then you may only remember Lancer as that feminine guy who cross-dressed and sung those catchy 80’s tunes. But as Faerber contends, with there being more to him than the outfits and he explains, “The main character is Lt. Lance ‘Lancer’ Belmont, a dedicated soldier – and gifted musician – who goes through some changes throughout the course of this story. His soldier’s façade is slowly worn away by Carla, until we see his more sensitive, human side. Also, he undergoes a more radical physical change when he adopts the secret identity of Yellow Dancer, a female singer, as a way to hide from the Invid, and their human collaborators. Lancer’s always been one of the more interesting Robotech characters. I mean, he was a cross-dressing freedom fighter on a 1980s cartoon. I can’t believe they got away with that!
“The Lancer in the ‘New Generation’ cartoon is a pretty gentle, compassionate guy. The Lancer we see in this prequel mini-series is more hardened, less forgiving. Our story tells how he got from Point A to Point B.
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“Carla’s the main supporting character. She’s a music teacher in a small South American town, and she comes across Lancer’s downed fighter jet, following his unit’s botched attack on the Invid. She nurses him back to health and protects him from the Invid spies. She strong love of music brings out Lancer’s own artistic side, which he never really gave much thought to before.”
Speaking of the music, while Faerber has fond memories of the series, he doesn’t quite remember every song from the show and it makes picking his favorite Yellow Dancer song a bit harder. “Hm, I guess I’m not a devout enough fan, because the only one that springs to mind is ‘Lonely Soldier Boy.'”
This is one of the few “Robotech” series to deal squarely with the “New Generation” era, the first from Wildstorm to do so, and while Faerber didn’t control the decision to switch the focus to this era, he didn’t mind doing it either. “It was ultimately a decision made by Harmony Gold and WildStorm. After two series set in the ‘Macross Saga,’ they wanted to take advantage of the other eras of the Robotech mythos, and I’m glad they decided on ‘New Generation.’ When I first started watching the cartoon, back in high school, ‘New Generation’ was the first one I saw, so I’ve always had a soft spot for it.”
Sometimes it’ll seem that a creator’s passion for a project- especially one where they’re working with someone else’s creation- will diminish as time goes on, but moving into his second year with the Robotech franchise, Faerber has few complaints. “It’s been great. Tommy Yune (Harmony Gold’s creative director, and guru of all things Robotech) and I used to get together pretty often when I lived in Los Angeles, so it was nice to be able to establish that foundation for a good working relationship. And I love the guys at WildStorm, as well as the Robotech franchise, so it’s been a lot of fun.
“In terms of success — I’d love if it the book was in the Top 10, but that’s pretty unlikely, just given the fact that Robotech, as a whole isn’t as popular as a lot of its competition. So all things considered, I’m happy with the book’s success.”
Being that Harmony Gold, the license holder for “Robotech,” is very hands-on about the property, Faerber doesn’t have the creative latitude he does with “Noble Causes” for example, but he does have a fun relationship. “Basically, Tommy and I hammer out the rough outline of the entire mini-series, and once that’s worked out, I break it down in script format. So, given those parameters, there’s a lot of creative freedom. I handle the scene choreography, and write all the dialogue. So it’s a pretty fun experience. And Tommy’s always on hand, in case I’ve got a continuity question.
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“I guess the hardest part is that eternal struggle to keep both sides happy – both the die-hard Robotech fans, and the people who aren’t the least bit familiar with the concept. It’s sort of a catch-22 situation, because frankly, I doubt many people are reading the book who aren’t already familiar with Robotech. But if we just accept that, and stop all efforts to make the book accessible, then we pretty much guarantee that none of those people will pick it up. So we’ve at least gotta try. That balancing act can be tough.
“The easiest part is the dialogue, probably – just because I can ‘hear’ the characters voices in my head so clearly. And if I can’t, I just pop in one of the DVDs!”
Some writers say that “Robotech” and other so-called nostalgia comics are bad for the industry and it’s a sentiment that baffles Faerber. “I don’t understand how they can be bad – unless those people making the claim are talking about everything that isn’t creator-owned being bad. And if they are, fine – but you can’t single out nostalgia books for not being creator-owned. I mean, to me, there’s no difference between working on Robotech or working on X-Men – they’re both company-owned properties.
“As for why people criticize the books without reading them – beats me. That happens all the time, and not just to the “nostalgia” books. It’s the nature of fandom, really.”
Fandom is coming up on the 20th anniversary of “Robotech” and though some readers may not be able to see the appeal of the series- how much can we all really tolerate Minmay?- Faerber says it all comes down to the inherent quality of the series. “I think it still resonates because when it originally aired in the U.S., back in the 80s, it was very adult — very complex in nature. The stories were serialized, and the characters were complicated, and the war they were caught up in was pretty realistic. Characters got wounded, and even died. It was so far beyond the other cartoons of the day, which were very kid-oriented. Robotech’s the kind of story that fans stayed interested in because, as they got older, they saw the story take on new dimensions that they were too young to understand as kids in the 80s.”
[Editors Note: Check back later this week when Faerber discusses “Dodge’s Bullets.”]