Robotech: Invid War issues 5-8, 1992
In part 1, I explained how I got involved in drawing Robotech comics, which initially felt like being trapped. That’s how it was for the first four issues. To my surprise, the next four set me free.
I’ve often found that when you take a step forward in your craft, you don’t usually notice it as it’s happening. That’s why, when I work with artists in the first year or so of their career (mainly in storyboarding), I recommend that they periodically look back at what they were doing at the start. That’s a great way to get an objective view of how far you’ve come. If you can recognize the shortcomings of your early work, it means you’re overcoming them.
When I look back at the first four issues of Invid War, for example, I see many, many shortcomings in my figure drawing. Body and facial proportions were almost always off in one way or another. That started to correct itself in this round, for one simple reason: the story location. We shifted from Earth to the moon, and everything (except the occasional flashback) was happening in a limited environment. This meant I could spend less time on backgrounds and more time on characters. Because of Bill Spangler’s writing, the people became a much stronger focal point than the mecha battles.
I had no trouble drawing mecha back then. That was something I’d nailed down long before. But when you have to stage people and giant robots together, the people often get minimized simply because of the scale. The scale shifted in these issues, making the people much more important in terms of camera angles and page composition. This was the push I needed to start addressing the shortcomings I mentioned above. When I look back at this body of work, I see the figure drawing finally coming together. I came out of it a better artist than when I went in.
On the other hand, the inking was still a mess. The inker on the first round was Fred Perry and the inker on the second was Robert Chang, who also did cover art. I don’t remember having any contact with either of them as the project went along. I probably should have been more proactive about that, but I don’t think it would have made much of a difference. I had a very different image in my head than they did.
You’ll see that image undiluted when you get a look at the “bonus issue” below. But first, here’s a word from a very special guest…
“To the Moonbase, ALUCE!”
by Bill Spangler
In Invid War #5-8, the action moved from Earth to moonbase ALUCE II. This gave us a chance to go to some new locations, and to talk about the background of Lancer, soon to be known as Yellow Dancer, one of the leads of Robotech: The New Generation.
(I probably shouldn’t admit this in public, but I don’t think I made the connection between the moon, ALUCE and the vintage sitcom The Honeymooners until now. Oh well…)
I think my favorite issue out of this arc is #6, which includes an action sequence that alternates between an elevator shaft and elsewhere in the base. To accentuate the difference between the two environments, we had several consecutive pages that start with long vertical panels, suggesting the shaft (below left).
I indulged my inner geek in this issue by creating a diagram of the layout of ALUCE II. Tim took my rough sketch and turned it into something that looked official. And I remember being perplexed by the ending. I wanted to show Bekka Cade’s Alpha leaving for Earth, but I couldn’t decide what the launch should look like. Was it like the deck of an aircraft carrier, a vertical launch, or something else entirely? I don’t know now whether I expressed my concerns to Tim, but I remember being amused when I saw that he finessed the question by not showing the launch.
I also want to point out the title page of issue 8 (above right), a little gem of minimalist design.
Originally, this was commissioned as a four-issue story, but a fifth issue of sorts was added when the folks at Eternity decided they wanted a Robotech back-up strip for a Captain Harlock miniseries. This story took Lancer up to the flashback we see in the TV series. (More details below.)
Issue 5: Moonwalkers
Production period: October/November 1991
Published September 1992
Issue 6: Warrior Born
Production period: November/December 1991
Published October 1992
Issue 7: The Last Uprising
Production period: December 1991/January 1992
Published November 1992
Issue 8: Leap in the Dark
Production period: January/February 1992
Published December 1992
I don’t remember exactly how this “bonus issue” came about, but I do remember why it was proposed; in order to cross-pollinate the two titles I was drawing, the editor at Eternity wanted to add a Robotech backup feature to Captain Harlock. The story would run through all four issues of Fall of the Empire in 6-page increments for a total of 24 pages. At the end, they would be collected into a one-shot. That part of the idea made sense.
What didn’t make sense was the timing. Firewalkers was written as a followup to Invid War 5-8, but it debuted two months before issue 5 came out. So I don’t know if anyone knew what to make of it. Either way, the one-shot came out right after Invid War #8 and was penciled and inked by me alone. So at least I finally got a chance to show the world what I wanted these comics to look like.
I’ll get into more of that in the next round, because there’s a lot to say about it.
Serialized in Captain Harlock, Fall of the Empire July-Oct 1992
Standalone issue published January 1993
What a trip down memory lane with these. I was so lucky to have such a good comic shop in my teens. Thanks for sharing some of your classic work.