Anime purists hate Carl Macek for turning Super Dimension Fortress Macross into the odyssey that is Robotech. As I talked about in the Video Review of Clash Of The Bionoids and plan to also bring up if I ever get to make the Video Review of Robotech II: The Sentinels pilot movie you have to remember the time this show came out. There was no anime media fandom like there is today. At best there were fans of Godzilla movies or Kurosawa films but Japanese animation wouldn’t really become popular in the US until the “Japanimation” boom of the 1980s, and even then it took two more tries for anime to get the solid following it has today. And shows like Robotech paved the way for that. With too few episodes for a proper weekday series and too many for a weekend series Macek and producers Harmony Gold grabbed two more shows, the unrelated Super Dimension Calvary Southern Cross and totally unconnected Genesis Climber Mospedia, and tried to put them together not as an anthology but as a connected timeline bound together by the same giant transforming robotic vehicle technology and the mysterious element called Protoculture that made it possible. You can not fault Macek and his team for a lack of creativity because they were very creative.
However, slamming three shows together like this leaves a few problems, like not being able to reuse characters. Other Macross series either hadn’t used any of the old characters or hadn’t come out yet. (Macross II didn’t even come out until the 90s and the only other options they had was the re-imagining Do You Remember Love, which became Bionoids instead of a Robotech movie, and some music video collection called Flash Back 2012.) Trying to explain their absence without killing beloved character off-screen meant having to explain what happened to the heroes of the First War when the Robotech Masters and Invid arrived as well as things like Dana’s vision, where Scott Bernard’s team came from, and so on. Robotech II: The Sentinels was intended to be that explanation but plans fell through and it didn’t happen. The story was continued in novels by Jack McKinney as well as comics published originally by Malibu Comics imprint Eternity Comics and later by Academy Comics, Ltd.
It was during the Academy Comics run, in the August 1995 issues of all their titles at the time, that Todd Hill made a four page interview with Carl Macek, discussing what was planned both for The Sentinels and in the future. Since I just reviewed the issue of The Sentinels it appears in this felt like the appropriate place to post and discuss the information learned. Hopefully the watermarks don’t distract…nature of the game on the internet…but I won’t be discussing every answer. You can see them all for yourselves. However a few comments in particular did get my attention.
I have a copy of the CD, released around the time of the Robotech Perfect Collection video tapes. There’s some really good songs, and even some made for The Sentinels and the lost Robotech movie they made but never reached theaters, Robotech The Movie: The Untold Story. I recommend it for fans.
First off, who else wishes the entire detailed set of Sentinels info was made available? Or was it a bonus feature on one of the home video sets? That would be fascinating to pick through. I’ve known about the rights issues that led to the redesigned versions of the Macross/Robotech characters but I wonder why they didn’t want to commission the Macross character designer. Was he too expensive for Harmony Gold?
I’ve heard two problems with the edit made for Robotech The Movie. One is that Harmony Gold wanted to add in footage from Super Dimension Calvary Southern Cross in order to properly set the story between the first and second Robotech Wars, a scouting mission by the Robotech Masters. I’m not sure that would fit well in continuity but the big problem is that MegaZone 23 (I believe you’re supposed to read the numbers separately, “2 3” instead of “23”) was a theatrical movie and thus had the aspect ratio and frame rate of a movie while Southern Cross was a TV series and had the typical aspect ratio and frame rate of a TV series and the two don’t mix well. The other was that Macek had wanted to use Do You Remember Love?, the re-imagined retelling of Super Dimensional Fortress Macross as the Robotech movie, but couldn’t get the rights. Instead an international dub, The Super Fortress Macross, was created and then re-edited by Celebrity Home Video for their “Just For Kids” line as Macross in Clash Of The Bionoids. Apparently the rumor that the movie failed during testing because it was marketed to little kids who went crying out of the theater from the war story with dead people and violence was a false one, according to the Robotech fan wiki.
What’s really interesting in light of more recent debates are his approaches to fanfic as well as officially licensed media that doesn’t necessarily fit into continuity. He doesn’t want to see others fanfics in case he gets sued for accidentally using something from a story sent to him or happened to match up with something he was planning and the writer assumed Macek or his staff stole it. Given some of the actual lawsuits that’s come from that recently he was right to. As far as what is or isn’t “canon” that’s a huge debate as well, and one I’ve covered here. The discussion is really over what fits in which continuity but that leads back into his plans for Sentinels and the only resource we had at the time, The Art Of Robotech III. To wit:
As far as the debate over what is ‘canon’ in Robotech goes; all of the material out there should be considered valid because it is all a part of Robotech. An example from my own work is the Art book for the Sentinels. The events detailed in “Robotech Art III” were far away from what I actually had planned for Robotech at the time. While the Sentinels do fall within the realf of Robotech, the series itself was more animation-intensive than plot-intensive. In essence no one should look at my contributions alone as “THE” Robotech.
Looking over things like Gargoyles, where only Greg Weisman’s stories are canon and the Saturday morning show is ignored (eh, I liked it), or Star Wars, which is a cluster I won’t go into here, that’s an interesting statement. And now with him having passed in 2010 Harmony Gold is free to do more Robotech media…which they really haven’t but did outsource to TItan. Not that I was a fan of the issues I saw from their run, and then you have the discrepancies between the Eternity/Academy run versus the Antarctic Press run that ignored their stories, especially the “Return To Macross” period, which at least felt like they were trying to continue the show, and it’s kind of a cluster all its own. The Shadow Chronicles even retconned the ending of the third war slightly and turned the Haydonites into the baddies. Canon and continuity are funny things. Then again the idea of a Robotech multiverse would make the Titan run and the Voltron crossover a bit more palatable for me.
Note that I don’t know how many of those emails and other addresses are still valid, if any of them. So let them be, kay?
As far as the plans for Robotech III: the idea that it somehow loops back to the events of the first episode is interesting, and would explain what happened to Rick and the SDF-3 (I wonder about the SDF-7 seen in the comics…and oddly just noticed how coincidental the “S D F” falls on a Querty keyboard) when they failed to show up for the final battle with the Invid and the Regiss on Earth. On the other hand, time travel is a very iffy story mechanic and Minmei being Zor’s mother, while hopefully showing some character growth from the lovesick often ditzy Minmei we know, feels like a stretch. If memory serves Art Of Robotech III suggested Rem would be the father…which just raises a whole tone of time paradox and clone questions I just don’t want to get into.
Sadly we’ll probably never find out. Harmony Gold doesn’t seem interesting in giving Macek’s sequel series another chance. Macek’s last work before he passed was Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles, which I will get to someday, but I did review the prequel Prelude To The Shadow Chronicles when it came out if you’re curious. How accurate to the original idea the comic and novels were (I already know they messed up a few things) we’ll also never know. You have to give Macek credit for building an entire universe to play in from three unrelated shows, even if it’s not something we would do today due to how we approach anime where we don’t need to. However, Robotech was a part of my childhood and I’m glad I grew up in a time where it had the chance to exist.