When Mech Cadet Yu launched last year from writer Greg Pak and artist Takeshi Miyazawa, the duo spoke about their previous collaborations -- like creating Amadeus Cho -- and their childhood love of giant robot stories. In the span of just a few issues, the book showed itself to be a complex and thoughtful look at family, friendship, loyalty and honor, balanceing drama and humor in a very poignant coming of age story.
Also, people piloting giant robots to fight aliens. Which because of the pencils of Miyazawa, look incredible.
The project began as a short story in the 2012 anthology Shattered: Asian American Comics Anthology, and the series will conclude with issue #12 later this year (issue #9 is scheduled for June, so #12 is likely for September). CBR talked with Greg Pak and Takeshi Miyazawa, plus editor Cameron Chittock, about why the series is ending and what it’s meant to them, along with an exclusive look at what’s to come.
CBR: I am not going to bury the lede. You guys have a big announcement about the future of Mech Cadet Yu. What’s happening?
Greg Pak: Back when Tak and I first started talking about this story in 2011, I had a huge 10-issue plan for the story I wanted to tell. When we signed with BOOM! Studios, we got approval for an initial four-issue story. The response was so spectacular we got upgraded to an ongoing. And now we’re confirming that we’re running through issue #12, and will be able to complete that big story we dreamed about from the beginning!
Takeshi Miyazawa: It’s been an amazing ride, and I’m so happy Greg and I are able to complete the story we wanted and envisioned. It’s been very fulfilling!
So this always the plan? To tell a longform story with a set ending?
Pak: Yep. I mean, it’s comics, so we always are ready to entertain the idea of doing more if the opportunity presents itself. But our initial plans were always to do this epic 10-issue story -- and we got the real estate to do 12 issues, so I’m calling that a huge win. Massive thanks to all the readers and retailers and everyone at BOOM! Studios who have made this possible!
Miyazawa: Yes. I want to thank all the fans and retailers that allowed us to keep going and complete the story! It was an amazing experience.
I know that this began as a short story that you two made for Shattered. What was it about the story or the response it generated that made you interested in exploring this idea further and expanding it?
Pak: Honestly, from the very beginning I knew I wanted to do a bigger story. The initial story in the Shattered: Asian American Comics Anthology was designed as a kind of pilot or teaser for a bigger story. I mean, it stands on its own, but it absolutely set up a bigger world and story and ended with a fun cliffhanger. My hope was to have a fun 10-page story that would work in that anthology but also serve as a great pitch for a publisher with the vision to see its potential. I ended up getting the great Jessica Kholinne to color that black-and-white story and printed it in physical form as a one-shot, which I gave to BOOM! Studios editor Cameron Chittock a few years later. And here we are!
Miyazawa: The original story had so much potential, it was something we had to keep exploring. There were so many design and storytelling opportunities for me, I couldn’t refuse when Greg got the ball rolling for an ongoing.
Cameron Chittock: Putting together a 10-page comic that introduces a whole world is no easy task, but what struck me about the Shattered story was what Greg and Takeshi chose to focus on. Yes there were awesome giant robots and a history of war with monsters, but after only 10 pages I was genuinely invested in these characters. That’s when I knew they had something that was ripe for a longer, bigger story.
How long has this been in development? At what point were you talking with Cameron and developing this at BOOM!, and what was that process like?
Pak: Cameron and I first met at the San Diego Comic-Con in 2015. We started talking and then I did the Big Trouble in Little China/Escape From New York miniseries for BOOM! Studios while we developed Mech Cadet Yu. We nailed down the paperwork and got underway with actual scripting and drawing of Mech Cadet Yu in early 2017.
I’ve absolutely loved every part of working with Cameron and Eric Harburn and everyone at BOOM! on this book. They just totally got the book from day one -- they loved the premise and loved the characters and every note I’ve ever gotten has been focused on helping me make the book live and breathe the way we’ve all dreamed. I’ve actually looked forward to getting script notes from these guys. It’s a little loopy, I’m telling ya!
And of course I love love love working with the creative team of Tak and Triona [Farrell] and Simon [Bowland]. Tak’s just in my brain, somehow. He gets every little nuance, totally understands what I’m going for with all the little emotional moments and the humor and the big action. He’s one of the greatest “actors” I’ve ever worked with in comics. His characters just live and breathe in such a beautiful, instantly recognizable and human way.
And Triona and Simon have done gorgeous, sensitive work in every issue. I love the vibrant colors Triona chose for our desert landscapes in that first issue -- there’s something open and honest and vulnerable about those glorious pinks and oranges that set the emotional tone for the whole series. Our characters wear their hearts on their sleeves and those colors help so much. And Simon’s lettering seamlessly leads us through the story and his placements create all the right rhythms and beats that make the language feel natural. He’s also had to grapple with some potentially confusing moments when we’re dealing with differently styled balloons for the robots and the pilots inside of them in the same panels, and he makes it work every time.