With Voltron making it all the way into the final round of our Battle Arena Otaku contest, we thought it would be good to revisit the giant, monster-smashing robot in other media—particularly the new Voltron comic from Dynamite Entertainment, featuring the writing of Brandon Thomas. In the piece below, Thomas provides insight into the genesis of the book, resuscitating an 80's icon, and insight on how he wrote the second issue.
Without further ado, we'll let Mr. Thomas take it away...
I’ll just say this right upfront and get it over with…I was seriously a little terrified when I handed in the second script for this book…
The climax of the first issue briefly teased this larger revelation that longtime Voltron villain King Zarkon was originally born right here on Earth, which I was well aware would get some ears perked up, or even some pitchforks sharpened. I never really saw it as an alarming departure, but obviously, that’s because I’d been rolling each and every angle of it over in my head for months already, as the whole thing was massaged into shape by Dynamite and the licensors. In that heavily work-shopped context, it felt like a great turn and a story well worth telling, but this is the part where I had to start convincing everybody else of the exact same thing. And even though everybody on the creative end knew it was coming, turning in the script confirmed that I was indeed wrapping my arms around the whole thing and holding on tight.
Originally, this first page of Voltron being towed out into space wasn’t even here, and was planned as the opening to issue three. The idea being that launching the chapter with this strange scene of Dr. Zarkon and his little family would be a really bizarre way to open the issue, but ultimately, it proved a little too off-putting, so we slotted Voltron onto page one to maintain some kind of through-line. Thought it was a good tweak and doesn’t subtract from any of the general weirdness brought on by spending some time in the present (relatively) with a normal, typical family on a normal, typical morning.
The larger reveal on pages 4 & 5 makes it clear that’s not exactly the case, and this is also where I started to withhold the actual captioning that told the viewer exactly where, and more importantly, when they were in the story. Thought it would be more fun if that information were more strategically placed and would help preserve another little element of unpredictability. If I was doing it again though, I’d make things much more explicit from the get-go, because I think it contributed to some readers being a little lost initially, and spending more time focused on figuring out where everything fit in, instead of really being able to settle into the actual scene. Just a little too “clever” for its own good, and something that’s being ditched in the future. One of many lessons learned over the course of this first story arc.
Now our first look at the current fugitive status of the Voltron Force hits on pages 6-9, and for the longest time this sequence had a fifth page that featured a really cool action moment for Allura, but had to cut it for space, which was a little heartbreaking. I fought with the rest of the script for a long time too, trying to find an extra page here or there that would let me keep it in, but decided in the end everything else had to stay, because I knew this was a golden opportunity to really explore the dynamics of Zarkon’s family, as well as the coming of Sigis. Few months removed from it though, I know exactly where the additional page could be, but that’s just the hindsight talking. Still think it’s a nice little scene, which has some playful banter between Pidge and Allura, and also re-affirms my love for anti-gravity boots, only matched by my love for jetpacks.
Next significant scene involved father and son having something of a classified heart to heart after some bad behavior on the son’s part. This one was important because it needed to again hammer home Zarkon’s central motivations, while they’re being attacked on all sides by his fears, insecurities, and shortcomings. I wanted things to fall like dominos--- like without the small tantrum at breakfast, followed by his meeting with the general, that he wouldn’t have made the same decision to confess to young Zach just how high the stakes are for him and everyone else. Felt like it was something that he desperately needed someone else to know, and his insistence on Zach’s “promise” sets up something else in a subsequent issue, that drives an even larger wedge between Zarkon and Sigis.
The coming of Alec Sigis was something that I spent a lot of time thinking about, as he was a brand new character, and enormously important, as he’s the “sixth pilot” the arc’s title refers to. Knew that when he shows up for the first time, it’s naturally a big deal, especially since Earth has already come under alien assault, so it was fun dealing with some initial culture shock at his unexpected arrival. With some magic and plenty of screaming. Also props to letterer Marshall Dillon, who did some fun stuff with the font sizes to convey everyone’s frantic yelling, as well as Sigis’ irritated response to such hysteria, which saw his fonts grow larger, cresting to his forceful order on the very last page.
Unfortunately, the “surprise” of page 22 that this mysterious grey-skinned magician was actually from the planet of Arus was blunted a bit by a last minute caption I inserted onto the last page of issue 1. Still bugs me that I did that, because it was a tweak borne out of impatience and anxiety, but it’s good that it stands as a permanent reminder, and I suppose it won’t be in the trade collection, so there’s that at least.
And for all of the nervousness about delivering an issue almost entirely devoid of the book’s title character, this was the script that really made the licensors fully convinced that this crazy “Zarkon from Earth” thing could really work. So shows what I know…
Voltron is currently ongoing at Dynamite, and you can purchase it in print on digitally through ComiXology.