Fans Get Their "Due" (Part 3): Dan Jolley talks "Voltron"

Tue, June 22nd, 2004 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Arune Singh, Staff Writer

"Voltron" #6

Don't call them Power Rangers.

The classic cartoon "Voltron" is often compared to "Power Rangers" because of the superficial sentai similarities- colored costumes, vehicles and really bad monsters. But with writer Dan Jolley at the helm of Devil's Due Productions' "Voltron" comic book series, there's no way you'll see the Voltron mythos as anything but a rich sci-fi saga. As part of CBR's continuing spotlight on DDP, CBR News spoke with Jolley and he provided readers with a brief introduction to the Voltron universe.

"Well, in broad strokes, 'Voltron' is a far-flung science-fantasy adventure series, starring a group of pilots from Earth sent to recover an ancient war machine called Voltron in a time of interstellar cold war. They end up defecting to the planet where they find Voltron, and quickly become a sort of galactic political focal point in the ongoing struggle between the Earth-centered Galactic Union and the vast, alien Drule Supremacy. We get to know the pilots - all of them loners or mavericks - really well, and watch as they bond not only with the once-autonomous metal titan called Voltron but also with the people of Planet Arus...particularly the Arusian Princess Allura, who becomes a member of the team."

Throughout the ongoing series, which debuted on the heels of the successful mini-series, "Voltron" has seen quite a huge jump in the size of its cast. "Well, first we met the original five men sent from Earth: Keith Kogane, the team's leader; Sven Holgersson, a grim, sort of surly weapons expert; Lance McClain, a Top Gun-style hotshot pilot; Tsuyoshi 'Hunk' Garrett, a mechanical genius and the most physically imposing member of the team; and Darrell 'Pidge' Stoker, an orphaned child prodigy pulled out of military school for the mission. upon arriving on Arus, the team encountered Princess Allura, the young but very no-nonsense monarch of the planet - or what's left of it, since one of the kingdoms in the Drule Supremacy overran Arus thirteen years ago and bombed it back to pre-industry. Allura soon became one of the team, as Sven Holgersson was rejected by Voltron for reasons yet to be made clear.

"Now, as the series has progressed, the Galactic Union has attempted to replicate Voltron, though not with complete success. The Union's version, casually dubbed 'Vehicle Voltron,' needs fifteen pilots to operate it, as opposed to the original's five. I won't list all fifteen pilots here - we haven't really gotten to know them in the series yet anyway - but they're led by Commander Jeff DuKane, a man very similar to Keith Kogane in a lot of ways. It's going to be fun seeing how these two get along in the future. Or don't get along."

But it's not all action in "Voltron"- there's an interesting love triangle blooming between Lance, Allura and Keith, though Jolley says the result isn't what you might expect. "The Keith/Allura/Lance love triangle is an element introduced - or at least suggested - by the 1982 cartoon series, so it seemed a natural fit to incorporate it into the comic," explains the writer of DC Comics' "Firestorm." "We've also given Hunk and Pidge girlfriends; they've met a couple of nice Arusian girls. But as to who's eventually going to 'end up' with Allura - just wait and see. We've got a number of bumps and twists in the road ahead."

The animated series also showed Sven leaving the team for some time and then returning much later in the series, though that isn't the case in the comic. "Oh, we've got big plans for Sven; he's going to figure very prominently in the next story arc (issues 6 - 10). Consequently, I can't go into too much detail about his creative direction for fear of giving something away. But just stay tuned - we've got a jaw-dropper coming up."

"Voltron" #7
Jolley has also amped up the political action in the series, with governments on both sides of the equation pursuing some very interesting agendas, but the writer promises this doesn't mean "Voltron" will turn into the comic book version of Jon Stewart's "Daily Show." "The political situation will always be a backdrop to the story; after all, Voltron itself is a highly-sought-after 'prize,' coveted by both the Supremacy and the Union. But politics is never going to become the central focus of the series. I'm not interested in writing 'Clear and Present Danger' in space [laughs]."

Those who might be tempted to dismiss "Voltron" as a "nostalgia" comic should pay attention- Jolley has crafted the series uniquely, in that there are no truly "evil" characters, especially the military, who in many cases are vilified in comic books. "Honestly, I'm not writing anyone in the story as 'evil,'" explains Jolley. "Not that I don't think there are evil people in the world - I definitely do. But as a dramatic device, a storytelling element, I find it unsatisfying to say, 'He's doing this because he's EEEVILLLL!' and just leave it at that. Over in 'Micronauts,' Baron Karza didn't invade Earth because he was 'evil' -- he invaded Earth because he saw it as being very imperfect, and he wanted it to conform to what he believed to be perfection. A lot of Big Bad Guys are like that; Doctor Doom wants to be in charge of everything because he honestly believes he can run things better than anybody else. So no, the military isn't evil in 'Voltron,' and as far as I'm concerned, neither is King Zarkon, or Prince Lotor, or any of the other antagonists. They might be very selfish; they might be far too ambitious; they might do things out of a sense of loyalty or honor that other people don't comprehend. But they're not just sitting around twirling their moustaches and thinking, 'Boy, I am one evil son of a gun!'"

Entertainment is the goal of "Voltron," with Jolley's "My Kung Fu Is Stronger" scene in issue #4 driving home the point perfectly. So can a comic such as "Voltron," which has roots in a children's cartoon, be too light? "Well, sure, it could be 'too light,'" says Jolley. "It wouldn't be very difficult to take things a step or two too far and turn Voltron into something silly, but I know we're not going to do that. I firmly believe you can have a fun story that still has some intelligence behind it and some meat on its bones. Besides, I'm having too good a time writing a fun book - it's a great change of pace for me, especially in light of what I'm doing at DC with 'Firestorm' and the upcoming, unapologetically brutal 'Bloodhound.'"

Part of the fun Jolley has working on the series is the re-interpretation of the Voltron mythos and while he isn't changing things dramatically, the scribe isn't necessarily beholden to established mythology. "I feel as though I'm beholden to the spirit of the TV show, rather than the continuity. We've really hit on a good way, I think, to take familiar elements of the show and present them in a way that both pleases and surprises the fans. I guess I might have my background in writing 'Elseworlds' projects at DC to thank for that - all of those stories revolve around taking characters people already know and setting them on their ear in one way or another. That said, though, as the comic series progresses we are ranging further and further afield from what the TV show established...and I've heard nothing but praise about it from readers, so I think we're on the right track [smiles]."

Also working with Jolley is artist E.J Su, whose work is quite different from that of original series penciller Mike Norton, but still resonates with the fans, including Jolley. "E.J. has a fantastic style that incorporates a lot of great elements from Japanese illustration; his facial expressions are incredible, his action is fluid, his tech is spot-on, and he's fast. He and Clint Hilinski together are like this hugely talented art machine. I love working with both of them." Look for more with Su tomorrow here at CBR.

So what's next for the Lion Force? Jolley will only offer hint, but that should be enough to whet the appetites of most fans. "Starting with issue 6 the Voltron universe is about to open up wide. Readers will see things and be introduced to characters that have only been hinted at beforehand. This carries over, also, into issues 11 and 12, which will be written by my first-arc co-plotter, Marie Croall; in those she takes the spark of an idea I had earlier and really expands on it. Plus the Vehicle team will still be around...maybe we'll get to know them a lot better in the future, too [smile]."

 
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