VOLTRON: YEAR ONE #1 Commentary With Brandon Thomas

Dynamite Spins-off VOLTRON with YEAR ONE

 

Okay, so my big grand plan for the Voltron: Year One series was to approach the storytelling in an entirely different way from the main series, and I decided this for a couple reasons. Mainly, I wanted to continue growing and developing as a writer, and didn’t want to start writing scripts in a formulaic, predictable way this early on in my career. Really don’t think I’ve established any sort of creative fingerprint yet, and that it’ll take some time before that happens organically, but I want to make it as hard on myself as possible, if that makes any sense.

So I took every little storytelling trick that was being used in the main series and decided not to use it here, so don’t expect any flashbacks, overly dramatic transitions, and the kind of “jumping around” feeling the regular book has. Also gave myself a codeword (‘bullet’) for this series that I kept reminding myself of whenever I got the itch to use something like that, and in many respects, writing this book is more similar to writing Miranda Mercury. Something where the goal is always to move forward, and to do so quickly at all times. 

And I’m using internal captioning to dig a little further into Sven’s head and give us additional information and insights that would otherwise be difficult to inject into the narrative. Along with resisting the urge to methodically plot everything out to the very last detail before I actually write the issues, and preventing myself from re-writing large chunks of dialogue when the art comes back, the idea is to give this series an entirely different feel. Something more organic and immediate, that almost feels like it could be written by a completely different writer. 

Also think this series gets off to a much stronger start, as I wrote this first script of Year One after I wrote #4 of the main title, which I felt creatively was a huge turning point for me. Time will tell of course, but here are a few additional thoughts about what went into putting this first script together...

Page 2

Page 1

Page 1

Usually want to get off to a fast start, and that was no different here. We’re thrown into the pool and launching on an image that we never really saw in the original series--- Sven thrown into a prominent heroic position, doing his best Jack Bauer impression, as his team runs for their lives while under heavy fire. The opportunity to thrust Sven into the spotlight was the thing that attracted me to writing this prequel in the first place, and being trusted with taking him from this place to his inevitable departure from the Voltron Force is a real, real honor. That, naturally, begins with a bloodied, battered Sven screaming at his teammates, “GO!!”

Pages 3-5

Okay, so this is obviously a dream sequence, and unlike most dream sequences, we wanted to tell you something was seriously off before we told you something was off. The first clue is really the shot that hits the man they’re supposed to be protecting, as it comes from a direction the characters are facing. In the script, I urged Craig to throttle down on his storytelling instincts and do things that really didn’t make any sense visually. Have things literally appear out of nowhere like the giant crate Sven takes cover behind on page 3. Have Keith and Pidge sprout gliding mechanisms out of their jumpsuits that weren’t there until the moment they needed them to be there. Break Keith’s neck in a terrible fall.

Page 5

That last bit was a massive indicator something is amiss, but we wanted to stack the impossibilities right on top of each other. Lance dies. Hunk dies. The man they’ve come to rescue won’t stop talking and knows things that he can’t possibly know. The fact that no one but him and Sven speak in this entire scene is another intentional thing. Then when the pressure mounts to its highest point, Sven kills the man he’s been sent to rescue. That last panel of page 5 is one of my favorite things that Craig drew in the entire issue…he looks like the weight of the world is truly on his shoulders there, seconds before being cut down by a rain of laser blasts with sharpened edges.

Page 7

All of our title pages in this arc will be formatted something like this, holding on moments where Sven is being overwhelmed by the responsibility placed in his hands. Where everything else falls away and it’s just him and his massive inferiority complex all alone somewhere. Sometimes it’ll be a moment of great significance, or where he makes a fateful decision, but wanted to do something visually that made the overall vibe and emotions jump out at you. Think our colorist Adriano Lucas also did a great job at giving the image a little more weight and spark, and what he’s done for the title page in the next issue is even better.  

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Pages 9-10

So it was important to quickly establish what the status quo is regarding Sven and Keith in this series, as it’s obviously a little different from what we’ve seen before. The dynamic is pretty similar to an older, wiser brother and his younger sibling, whose ideals and passionate beliefs about right and wrong haven’t quite crashed into cold, harsh reality just yet. Despite some naivete on Keith’s part, it was critical that you get he’s a hard-worker, always respects the chain of command, and more than anything, cares deeply about the safety and well-being of his friends and teammates. Which is going to be indispensable in subsequent issues when things start to go wrong. Sven is a very different person at the end of this story, and Keith is too.

Pages 11-12

The info-dump is of course a time-honored tradition of storytelling, a necessary evil that must be embraced for the story’s greater good. Ignoring it is never an answer, and unnecessarily drawing it out over a higher number of pages just wastes space better served for other things. That said, you always have to find a way to make it more interesting and engaging both to read and to write. What made this one fun for me was the opportunity to really give everyone a lay of the land, a quick primer on how society, politics, and military action works in the far, flung future. The answer to this of course is not very different from how it’s conducted today, for better or worse. But the major thing I wanted to impress anyone everyone really comes down to three simple words---Earth comes first. Now and probably forever. And you’ll see that play out in this series, and the main book when the backstage political maneuvering becomes a larger aspect of the story.

Page 13

This is another attempt at conveying a block of information in what I hope was an interesting way. Plan was to do something like this at the beginning of every mission, but the construction of the series changed down the line, so I’m not sure if you’ll be seeing it again. Do love how it came out though, and was really happy with the choices letterer Simon Bowland made for the fonts and assorted elements. One of the reasons I don’t think we’ll be doing it again was because it provides a little too much info on what’s to come. It essentially lays out the entire remainder of the book, and while it worked okay here, probably would be counter-productive given what comes next. This was one of the last pages I fully scripted out, waiting until the entire story was done before going back and writing out the actual objectives.

Page 19

Pages 14-15

Started out being obsessed with Keith (and still am) but I’m quickly warming up to the charms of Lance as well. Love his bluntness, so to speak, and in this case, Sven does too. Also wanted to hint that Lance is officially second-in-command of the unit currently, which makes Keith’s upcoming ascension even more unpredictable and unexpected. Their quick takedown was fun to script, especially Sven’s lines used to distract their targets, which are essentially a bunch of nonsense. Anytime you can write things that don’t make a lick of sense, and do so for the cause, it’s always a nice feeling.

Pages 17-19

Love Pidge. Love ‘em, love ‘em. To me, this question of, “How the hell did this punk kid end up on a team of Space Explorers,” can only be answered the most obvious way...cause he’s just that damn awesome. Think what would happen if you took Damien Wayne, Doogie Howser, Barry Ween, and yes, Jack Warning, and smashed them all together? That right there is Pidge to me---a young man who is extremely good at what he does, can only get better, and isn’t afraid of letting others know about it. Isn’t afraid of much of anything to be honest, which is why he was just perfect for this John McClane moment. Also thought it would fun to have him constantly busting Lance’s balls about something, which is a dynamic that’s flipped a bit in the main book, where he has to put up with Allura constantly busting his balls.

But he’s been good at injecting some levity and moments of humor into the stories, on top of a being a complete bad-ass, of course...

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Page 21

Page 22

Love this page, as I think faces and expressions are one of the many things artist Craig Cermak really excels at, and this gave him the opportunity to work with a lot of different emotions. Also like this page because it’s the first in a series of unfortunate events that permanently effect our heroes, and what happens in panel one continues to happen throughout the arc, despite some of their very best efforts. Sven’s greatest fear is that things will come apart and he won’t be able to stop it, so of course that’s exactly what begins happening. Rabins’ exhausted apology offers some clue as to what direction things are headed in, but confident you guys will love some of the surprises in store. We’re having a blast exploring this time period, and look for a few unexpected connections between this and the main book over the next few months...

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