First, let’s get in the mindset:
This is not a complaint about the Robotech comics I’ve been reviewing. I’m rather enjoying them. They’re building on a continuity I happen to enjoy, unlike Titan’s run where (as Sean seems to get a kick of telling me in the comments and when he visits) we have a weird merger between what Robotech is and some kind of political thriller plus whatever the heck was going on with Rick and Minmei. I don’t care mind you. I’m happy with what we have. Even other runs that ignored the Eternity/Academy combined run (which isn’t even considered canon except maybe The Sentinels) built off what was there, and quite often these include some kind of prequel story.
Eternity and Academy Comics however had two prequel stories (plus some one-shots and miniseries) between them set before even the first Robotech War: Return To Macross and Academy Blues. These told the early days as the SDF-1 was being studied and prepared. The Zentraedi were still a long ways off and some of the leftover concerns during the third World War were still in play. Also in play were worries about new and confusing technology, just like any technological advancement in human history (that despite what sci-fi likes to tell you didn’t come from aliens, like computers or Velcro). That was the source of the storyline I finished reviewing last week, “War Of The Believers”, in which a more radical splinter faction developed in the anti-Robotech activist group The Faithful. This group was led by one Anatole Leonard, a name that becomes important during the second Robotech War (also referred to as Robotech Masters for reasons I’ll get into when we get to the Comico adaptations). During that war, taken from the Japanese animated series Super Dimension Calvary Southern Cross (which became the group name for the military organization fighting the second war, the army of the Southern Cross), Anatole Leonard was the supreme commander, and of the human antagonists of the series. Leonard’s strategy was ultimately a detriment to battle against the Robotech Masters, making him one of the few human bad guys in the franchise. This might be why he was a baddie during “War Of The Believers”.
If you’ve read this far and are still wondering why I’m bothering to take a look at this, it’s because prequels are often a mixed bag. Most prequels suffer from some seriously fundamental problems and having Leonard a threat in Return To Macross in my opinion is an example of the problem of prequels. Sometimes it’s a good idea, like finally seeing what the Clone Wars was after all these various stories set in the Star Wars Universe, or even the fall of Darth Vader. As a franchise takes more and more hold people want to see these events or sometimes it’s the only story they have left to tell when character arcs and events have led to a proper conclusion. But it is so easy to mess up even a good prequel idea, and while this isn’t the worst example it’s an easy one to examine. At least if you know Robotech. If not I apologize but try to follow along with the rest of us just the same.
So was Anatole Leonard? Well, in the “original” series (meaning not the anime but the US fusion) Leonard is Supreme Commander of the Army Of The Southern Cross, the current incarnation of the military. I’m not going to get into the minutia here with RDF, REF, and whatever. That’s the gist of it. Leonard’s strategy when it came to the invading Robotech Masters, the second alien threat Earth faced, was to throw everything he had at the aliens, convinced that would be enough. I should also put “strategy” in quotations because this was actually a very dumb idea. There was no actual strategy and anybody who tried to come up with actual strategy either had to convince the immediately lower higher-ups to do something other than the failing brute force maneuver and actually do something strategic. That or people had to go behind his back, like General Rolf Emerson or the maverick 15th Alpha Tactical Armored Corp (ATAC) under the command of Dana Sterling, a woman who saw rules as a guideline but not always “law”. She obeyed them only when it made sense, and when it came to most of Leonard’s orders it didn’t make sense.
He also didn’t respond well to any thoughts of a peaceful solution to the problem. Granted, the Masters themselves were evil but there were also civilians on board the ship who didn’t realize their leaders had taken leave of their minds. Then the 15th got inside the ship and one of the group formed a romantic bond with one of the civilians. He was willing, however, to take a downed enemy pilot with amnesia and let him join the Southern Cross in hopes of him gaining his memories back being in military life. That or he wasn’t aware of Zor Prime at all, which seems unlikely. But his usual method was to shoot the obviously overpowered ships and beat them down. This led to the destruction of a lot of mecha and the unnecessary death of most of his troops and even a few civilians. He also tried to get anyone who disagreed with him out of the way so he could push ahead with his strategies. He was kind of a jerk.
So how did this play into the prequel version of Anatole Leonard? In the Academy comics Leonard was a member of the Faithful, a group who opposed Robotechnology as a dangerous thing. Leonard however was more than willing to make a dramatic spectacle of the whole thing. He would willingly force the issue and do things that would make Robotechnology look bad via sabotage that would “show” how dangerous the tech really was via a lie. It was more like he would showcase the danger by making what he thought could happen actually happen. And he didn’t care how many innocent people would be hurt in the process. In fact that would only prove his case, although he didn’t go out of his way to hurt anyone. When the original founder of the Faithful, who had come to see the good Robotechnology could do and didn’t like the more violent protests, was murdered it was by members of the fanatic side acting on their own, which Leonard would attempt to turn to his advantage.
As we saw on Friday though this would ultimately work against him. His girlfriend and biggest supporter was killed and his whole plan shot. I don’t know if Leonard was just looking for personal power, which would fit his original characterization to a point, but he did note that he “lost everything”. I need to read further in my collection to see if the rest of the group is still around protesting but the splinter faction and their violent protests and fake crises should be over with.
The question is, can we reconcile the two Leonards, and it’s their approach to Robotechnology that makes that difficult for me. There are similarities. Both versions try to get power not because they feel they deserve it but because they feel they are right, everyone else is wrong, and he needs to make sure his vision is the one in charge. That said, Faithful Leonard hates Robotechnology and wants it…destroyed I guess. Commander Leonard however is willing to make bigger, more powerful mecha that can make all the things explode. It’s kind of the opposite of what he does in the prequel story.
I get the feeling that Bill Spangler only chose Leonard because he wanted to slip someone in from the second war in order to get to play with characters beyond the first war. In that same issue we also got Scott Bernard’s father (that, or Scott went time-traveling and just changed his first name), a connection to the third Robotech War, since there isn’t much chance of getting those characters in. Solders from the second war were old men by the time of the third war. (Although they would have had to have been pretty old in the first place given the assumed ages of Rick and company during Sentinels and how little time passed for Jonathan Wolf before he came to Earth and turned traitor.) Meanwhile Sean Bishop over at Academy Blues is giving us Rolf Emerson, but he has a Russian accent that from the way is written should be stronger than Captain Gloval’s despite him not having one in the show.
Now it could be possible that after Earth’s destruction at the hands of the Zentraedi he flipped views but…then how did he survive? We’re told all of Earth was wiped out, especially the military, and unless he was still on Macross Island when the SDF-1 accidentally brought the island with them he should have been among the dead. And if he was on the fortress why did he join the Robotech Defense Force? I’m not sure he was one of the soldiers that was part of the Faithful and he was already kind of old to be a rookie soldier. So how would this version of Anatole Leonard become supreme commander of the second incarnation of the defense forces?
This is what prequels need to think about. How can the characters you’re writing become the characters you know today? You aren’t writing just another brand new scenario, you’re writing scenarios that will ultimately lead to ones you or your predecessors have already written. The changeover has to make sense or else you end up with a bad story. Or a good story that’s a bad representation of the universe it’s set in. You end up with plot holes and weird character motivation. It really wasn’t necessary to use Leonard and it doesn’t make sense how he could suddenly embrace the very weapons he was willing to destroy (along with Roy at least once). All he ended up doing was ruining his own cause via his own fanaticism, and there is more to Supreme Commander Anatole Leonard than that. Not much more but enough that his time in the Faithful really didn’t work for me.