Robots ruled the 80’s and early 90’s. I know I have said this before, but it was so true. Toy aisles were filled with Transformers, Go-Bots, Robotix, Robocop and Robo Force to name a few, and they were always a hit on the playground as almost every kid I knew owned tons of Go-Bots and Transformers. Many even drew pictures of robots as they seemed like the most popular during my youth! Not to mention that also around this time lots of Japanese cartoons were being dubbed, renamed and repackaged for American audiences, and if you think we are going to be chatting about Robotech, the anime that took US by storm in 1985, you are sadly wrong as we will be talking about the model kits from Revell that helped name the famed series that many of you know and love to this day. So sit back, grab an oil can and let’s briefly dive into the world of Robotech: Defenders, the models and the comic mini series from DC.
Revell was founded in 1943 by Lewis H. Glaser, an entrepreneur from California who made kitchen products that were heavy on plastics. Their first major toy/kit released was a HO scale train set, and this started the company down the path of being one of the top early plastic model makers as they became kit makers in 1945. By the 1950’s they started making models of cars like the Ford Model T as they teamed with English company Gowland Brothers and these models became a hit in the American market. And these type of older cars would be released many times by the company under all types of line names as model makers seemed to not be able to get enough of the classic cars. In the 50’s they also made models of battleships, airplanes, rocket ships and even modern cars of the time. By the 1960s the market had changed and so did Revell’s releases as they focused on Hotrods and racing cars. This kept them at the top of the line for those who enjoyed the hobby of model building. But the party of being one of the companies at the top of models came to a harsh end when the 80s came around and kids of the time wanted to get new interests like video games, comic books, sports cards and action figures and the bubbled burst on the world of model kits as sales became very weak and companies who made their fortune with these plastic kits found themselves losing profits. Revell even merged with another company only to once more be on its own two feet in around 1983. By 1986 Revell was bought by Odyssey Partners who had the model kit brand Monogram, and they decided to merge the two companies using both brand names to try and keep them alive. But while fighting to get plastic model kits to be in fashion again, Revell was bought by Hallmark Cards in 1994 as they wanted to try and cash in on the products they made. By 2007, they as well sold Revell this time to Hobbico Inc. and still to this day are the parent company. Also I should note that Germany also had a branch of Revell that is also owned by Hobbico, who bought them in 2012. While I have never been a model kit kind of guy, I can respect the hobby and do enjoy seeing the ones people have built based on monsters. So this was a quick crash course on Revell as a company and to sum it up they make plastic model kits and have been bought and sold several times.
Back in 1985, DC Comics decided to make a deal with Revell to make a comic series based on their model kits called Robotech: Defenders, and I think we should take a few moments to take a look at the history of the Revell model kits of the same name. As you have read, Revell was in some trouble finically back in the 80s as they were at one time one of the biggest names in plastic model kits. They needed new life breathed into the stale market of cars, boats and planes and decided to jump on the giant mecha robot craze that was sweeping Japan at the time to see if they could as well make it stick here in America. So they licensed kits from foreign kit makers and put them out under a name they created called “Robotech: Defenders” and unleashed these in the American and European markets. This series had a higher price, and while they did okay in America, they did not fare well in Europe as sales were low. But while the kits were trying to bring in money for Revell, it was media company Harmony Gold USA that helped make Robotech: Defenders a payday! You see Harmony Gold USA had bought the rights to Japanese anime series Macross to release in the American market, and the downside for them is that Revell had licensed the model kits of Macross and this made for a bad situation as market confusion could ruin both parties’ plans of making big cash on their investments. So Harmony Gold made a deal with Revell to co-license Robotech, and this became the series that American fans watched and loved as Robotech was used for the models and the anime! So as you can see Revell turned a semi hit plastic model kit line into a beloved anime that had nothing to really do with each other as nothing but the name was used for the toon. So if you’re a fan of the anime, these model kits and the story of its characters has nothing to do with your characters. Check out some of the model kits packages below.
Robotech: Defenders was the birth of the Robotech universe here in America even if the product itself had zero to do with the anime that has made the name Robotech mean something to fans. But Revell themselves really did believe in their plastic model kits and even before the Harmony Gold USA deal, they had a team up with DC Comics to make a 3 issue comic mini series to give their models a back story and to market them to youngsters who were enjoying reading comics at the time. The funny thing is that when the deal with Harmony Gold USA came into play, they did not want the comics to confuse their watchers and when combined with the the poor sales of issue # 1, this comic mini series went from 3 issue to being wrapped up in 2! So here we go my friends and readers, I think we should move onto the comic review part of this update as I am really interested to see what kind of personalities DC came up with to give to plastic models! I want to thank Half Price Books for having both issues in stock and for even alerting me that this series was even made. And as I climb into my favorite mech-suit, the computer system keeps repeating this “You, Matthew, grade these comics on a star scale of 1 to 4 and you are looking for how well the comic stays to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story,” and this robotic voice is right! So sit back and relax, and let’s see what this Robotech: Defenders is all about.
Robotech: Defenders # 1 **1/2
Released in 1985 Cover Price $.75 DC Comics # 1 of 2
The planet Zolteck is under attack by an evil race of aliens called Grelons who have advanced weapons and lay waste to towns. Opposing the evil aliens are the Robotech: Defenders, a group of noble pilots who risk it all to save innocent lives and bring the Grelons down. Malek is the leader of the Robotech: Defenders, and Zolteck was her home planet. Now all that’s left after the battle was a stone statue of a robot that turns out to really be a giant robot mech-suit! Malek in her new robot fighting machine tracks down the warship that attacked her home planet, and she makes quick work of it, and best of all the suit alerts her that they are six more mechs like hers on different planets. Her team is fellow human Dex and aliens Eedon, Icik, Akros, Scal and Silky, and they are all ready to find the mech suits and take the war back to the Grelons who started the war months back after killing ambassadors of planets who would not allow the Grelons to take over other planets, so they made a deal with S’Landrai the adviser for an alien race to get machines of war. Meanwhile our heroes all travel to their home planets and each find their robot waiting for them and as they all meet back up on Zolteck, the Grelons attack with hundreds of battle bots and the Robotech: Defenders must gear up and get ready for the fight of their life.
This comic about giant robots that is based on plastic model kits was way better than what I expected as I found it to be a nice touch of action, adventure and science fiction all wrapped around a traditional space war story. The plot is pretty simple and has a terrible race of aliens making a deal with another alien race in order to take over other planets. The only thing standing against them is a group of pilots who find ancient mech robot suits and are the galaxy’s only hope. Our main hero is Malek, a wise female pilot who’s spirit is almost broken when she witnessed the destruction of her home planets town, but she gets her fighting spirit back when she finds the giant robot. Her crew is loyal and also understand that in this war that they might not survive as the odds are against them, but they as well find a new insight on the battle when they get their own robots. The Grelons are being lead by Ssegma, who is the brains behind these attacks that are leaving planets destroyed. They are barbaric and think of nothing more than universe domination. Not much at this point is known about S’Landrai, who is the alien who’s people are supplying the Grelons with their weapons of world destruction. This first issue does a great job of building and introducing or heroes and villains and makes you want to learn more about them in the issue to come. They also do a great job of leaving you with a cliff hanger that makes you wonder how our heroes will survive a horde of 100 war bots rushing them with orders to destroy. The cover is pretty badass and showcases our hero robots and I am sure was very eye appealing for kids and readers at the time. The interior art is solid and done by Judith Hunt and is topnotch 80’s DC stuff. Over all this was a way better read than I was going in thinking it would be and I really can’t wait to see how this story plans out. So with that let’s head to issue # 2 and see how Robotech: Defenders save the galaxy.
Robotech: Defenders # 2 **1/2
Released in 1985 Cover Price $.75 . DC Comics # 2 of 2
The Robotech: Defenders are ready for war and do well against the ground bots but are over matched by the warship high above that leaves our robot hero team defeated and one member Silky dead. The Grelons bring up the robots to the monster warship and start heading toward their home planet. Malek figures out that they all must push the glowing red buttons in the suits and the robots come alive and have a mind of their own and escape the warship and go into hiding to repair themselves and inform the humans/aliens that the true evil is S’Landrai who is a parasite and is using the Grelons to fulfill is own evil plan! And that they need to get back the fallen robot that was driven by Silky if they want to win this battle. With the help of a Cyba, a Grelon General who has turned against his race, after hearing the true plan of worlds destruction they come up with a plan to get the robot back and they do when Cyba and Dex enter the planet under the guise of the human being a captive and as a team they active the robot and get him back to his friends. Meanwhile S’Landrai is pissed and uses his power to kill Ssegma and some of his warriors in order to steal their energy and try and bring some of his own race back, and by doing this he also destroys the planet of Grelon! As the Robotech: Defenders are reunited the plan is for one rider and one robot to arrive at their planet and wait for the attack of the S’Landrai who are using satellites to steal the energy of planets and leave the world dead and everything on it in order for them to steal the life energy and become powerful once again. As the attacks are launched some of the Robotech: Defenders stop the launches while other fail as both sides are in a power struggle to get the upper hand, and this all comes to ahead as the Robotech: Defenders face off with the S’Landrai mothership and while out gunned they are not outsmarted as the Defenders reroute the syphon satellites to the sun and the power surge explodes the S’Landrai mother ship and ends the war as they are all killed. The Robotech: Defenders and their riders return to the planet Zolteck and stick together to rebuild what was destroyed.
The battle to save the worlds was won by the Robotech: Defenders, and I can not say I am shocked as even when the odds was bad and their spirits broken they never ever fully gave up on hope and fought until they could change the odds into their favor. The plot as Malek and her crew finding out that their new robots also have a mind of their own and that they have been awaken in order to stop the destruction of a galaxy by the hands of a parasite race called the S’Landrai who are using the Grelons in order to drain planets of their life in order to feed their hunger for the energy. The robots are all ready for battle but weird enough they as well at times seem to make dumb mistakes just like the riders did and while in the end they do win they used brains and not the massive weapons they had to win. Malek and her team seemed loss as they no longer are in charge of the war as they are just going along for the ride as its clear the bots are in charge now. I did really like General Cyba who turns against his race the Grelons in order to stop the multiple worlds destruction and even takes the place of Silky who died during the first wave of attacks. The S’Landrai are real scumbags as they live off the live energy of the others and kill whole planets and everything on it just to feed, so when they get blown up at the end of this story you find yourself cheering! The Grelons who as well crave power are just puppets and when they cross the true evil of their puppet master the S’Landrai they are squashed like a bug. So if you really look at this story, its like World War III in space as you have the S’Landrai, the Grelons and Robotach: Defenders all really in a struggle against each other each with their own reasons. It’s funny how this comic drew me in when I am not a model kit nor an anime kind of guy and I found this series well written and entertaining and no joke it really surprised me on its over all quality. The cover for issue two is ok and reminds me for some reason of issue # 2 of the DC Comic mini series for Power Lords another toy line from the 80’s that we will have to cover sometime. The interior art is done by Judith Hunt as well as Mike Manley and is really great and captures the magic that was 80s comic style. Over all this is a really cool mini series and by all accounts made plastic model kits cool. Check out the art below to see what this series looks like.
So crazy as it sounds, this mini series made me want to check out the comics based on the Robotech anime series and sometime do an update about it…well maybe not as I just never see myself watching the toon in order to do the update justice. So for our next update we are walking away from robot plastic model kits and into the world of horror films as we are going to kick off our countdown to Halloween a little early with a “From Horror Movie To Horror Comic” update. The film we will be chatting about is the low budget flick Legend Of Diablo from 2004 and the Image Comic based on it. So until next time, read a comic or three, build a model kit or two and as always support your local Horror Host! See you all next update as we explore the legend of Azar!