By Todd Matthy
The major spoke in the wheel that is Voltron’s revival is the brand new series “Voltron Force” currently airing on Nicktoons. Like many animated series “Voltron Force” has a comic book tie-in thanks to Viz Publishing. Written by former Marvel Editor/Stuff of Legend writer Brian Smith with art work by Jacob Chabot, the first in a series of graphic novels has hit comic book stores this week. So what can we expect from this series. I talked to Brian Smth, Jacob Chabot, and editor Traci Todd at New York Comic Con to find out.
B= Brian Smith
T= Traci Todd
J= Jacob Chabot
Since your doing an adaptation of the “Voltron Force” show have you been informed about where the show’s going so you can fill in blanks or are you doing your own thing?
T: The licensor sent us scripts for all of season one. We’re not picking up where series one left off, we’re between episodes.
B: We’re not adapting the actual episodes. We’re telling original stories with the new characters and universe.
Is it going to be a more mature take?
T: It’s part of the children’s line so it’s aimed at 7-10 year olds and that’s our core focus. I think the entire “Voltron Force” brand is focused there whereas the classic brand is focused on an older demographic.
You probably can’t answer this, but have ideas for Vehicle Voltron been discussed?
B: In all the scripts we’ve read Vehicle Voltron does not show up.
J: Jeremy Corray said there are just too many characters right now and it would be difficult to add fifteen more to the series.
B: There are the five main pilots and the three cadets who are gunning for seats in the lions so you already have extra characters to juggle in and out of the action sequences.
T: And several villains so there is a lot going on.
When can we expect to see the first issue?
T: Issues one and two will come out in April 2012. They are something new for Viz in that they are full color, 96 page, graphic novels and this something exclusive to the kid’s line.
How often can we expect to see them?
T: Every other month. There will be six total. Our license is for a relatively short time so we’ll get those six out as quickly as we can. One and two are in April; three is June, and so forth until we get to six.
When you write the graphic novels do you start with a mature tone and edit it so it’s more kid-friendly?
B: When I sit down to write (even with my own material) it’s mostly all ages so my brain doesn’t go anywhere hyper-violent or anything like that. I concentrate on the characters and make sure each character I introduce has a decent part. The things that I worry about getting flagged are things that the people in charge of the show don’t want revealed. I think we’ve only done one volume that touches on past stuff. It’s been new challenges and new villains for the Voltron Force to fight. Pretty much besides correcting my horrible grammar, Tracy and I have been on the same page in terms of the direction and tone we want the stories to take.
T: And that happened early on, in addition to us sort of being of the same mind about things, we had a long creative meeting with the licensing team to get a sense of what they wanted and that was really helpful.
B: That and having access to what they’re doing on the show, and seeing the parameters of what they were doing, made it easy to fit what I wanted to do with what they were trying to accomplish.
Are the books going to be part of a bigger narrative?
T: One of things we have to do because the production cycle is so fast is hiring different artists to work simultaneously. One of the ways we were able to address the differences in style is to have each book stand alone. So, while there is sort of a slight thread that continues through them all, they don’t have to be read in order.
B: There’s no heavy continuity just a hyper-consistency. If Voltron is banged up at the end of Volume One we don’t show him getting repaired in Volume Two. The reader can just assume he was fixed.
How much license are you given for character growth beyond what’s shown on the series?
T: Considerable. Jeremy has told us to go for it and he’ll reign us in as necessary. I think the most controversial script is the one being reviewed right now that touches on Voltron’s origin. I think that’s the one that will get the most attention in terms of what we can and cannot do. We’ve also been given license with the art, so Jacob’s art and Dario’s art are very different but both of their drawings are recognizable as the characters from the series.
Will these be significant?
T: I think for all of us this has been a labor of love. We are not looking at these as throwaway books we want them to be significant.
Are you pressured to stay on model or can the characters wear casual clothes?
J: I haven’t had and opportunity to draw them in normal clothes but WEP has said to feel free to go off model as long as they look like the characters from the show.
B: I will say this for the both of them drawing those lions over and over again is not an easy job but they’re both nailing it.
Thank you very much to Brian Smith, Traci Todd, and Jacob Chabot for taking the time to speak with me at New York Comic Con. Special thanks to Elizabeth Hanske for setting up the interview.