The creators of Marvel Comics' Amadeus Cho - a.k.a. the Totally Awesome Hulk - are branching out with their own creator-owned series that it totally different.
Mech Cadet Yu follows a blue-collar kid in an elite school for training pilots for alien-fighting mech robots. He's never meant to be a pilot but just support staff, but somehow he ends up in the cockpit - just in time to fight an alien invasion.
Mixing Neon Genesis Evangelion with a bit of Flight of the Navigator and their own Amadeus Cho, Greg Pak and Takeshi Miyazawa's Mech Cadet Yu debuts this week as a BOOM! Studios four-issue title. Newsarama talked with Pak about the sci-fi series and a connection to Pak's first major fiction project.
Newsarama: Greg, who is Mech Cadet Yu?
Greg Pak: Stanford Yu is our underdog hero, a janitor’s kid who works at the Sky Corps Academy in Los Robos, Arizona. He knows he’s at the bottom of the hierarchy at this elite school, with zero chance to be one of the chosen kids who bond with a giant robot when the mechs arrive once every four years. But he’s a fixer with a heart of gold - always ready to scrounge and repair things rather than throw them away. And when he meets a giant robot who’s something of an underdog himself, suddenly anything becomes possible.
Nrama: In the solicits it says Stanford’s “the wrong kid”. How is he “wrong,” and what kind of kid is the “right” kind?
Pak: According to the general who runs the Sky Corps Academy, the “right” kid to bond with a giant robot is a trained cadet who’s been prepped for years for the responsibility and honor. Stanford’s about as wrong a pick as the institution could conceive, which is right where the fun of our story begins.
Nrama: Who are these Sharg that Earth’s Sky Corps Academy is fighting?
Pak: Giant murderous alien monsters! I’ll say no more for fear of spoilers. But watch the skies!
Nrama: These mechs aren’t just suits - it’s said they come from outer space. Are they sentient on their own? If so, what’s Yu’s mech referred to as, and like?
Pak: Yes, these mechs are indeed sentient! I don’t want to reveal too much, but they do indeed have their own personalities and have bonded with their cadets for specific, personal reasons. I think it’ll be pretty clear why Stanford’s mech chooses him when you read the book. In issue #2, we’ll reveal the names the cadets give their robots.
Nrama: What is Sky Corps Academy like?
Pak: It’s an elite military academy filled with privileged kids who have been fast-tracked for the highest honor and responsibility a young person in this world can have. So, it may be a very difficult place for an outsider like Stanford to fit in. At the same time, it’s a ridiculously exciting place where kids get to do the coolest things imaginable with the most awesome robots the world has ever seen in the face of the greatest danger humanity has ever faced. We’ve got that fun kid-conflict-in-school drama combined with hugely high-stakes tension of preparing for impending war with the Sharg. Don’tcha dare miss it!
Nrama: Woah, Billy Red Lyons – a deep cut there.
Speaking of deep cuts, in 2003 you did the feature film Robot Stories - and now this seems a continuation of that. Am I reading too much into that?
Pak: No, you’re right on target, there! Robot Stories was a scrappy little independent anthology film made up of four short stories about love, death, family, and robots. As I was working on and distributing Robot Stories, I came up with a number of other stories about robots that just stuck with me over the years, and the project that eventually became Mech Cadet Yu is one of them! Artist Takeshi Miyazawa and I took a first stab at it with a 10-page story called “Los Robos” that was part of theShattered Asian American comics anthology a few years back. I worked up a proposal to do an actual series and eventually paired up with my awesome editors Cameron Chittock and Eric Harburn at BOOM! Studios, and here we are!
Nrama: As you said, you’re working with your Amadeus Cho co-creator Takeshi Miyazawa, who is an underrated artist and creator on his own. How did you to connect to do this specific project?
Pak: I’ve worked with Tak on a bunch of different projects over the years and always knew he’d be perfect for this. He’s just incredible at bringing out the emotion and humor and adventure in this kind of story. He knows how to draw regular people in regular clothes, making them incredibly real and compelling. He’s got a fun, limber line and invests every character with totally believable, subtle, real body language and character. And he loves giant robot stories. He’s a tremendous collaborator and every single panel and page I get from him makes my day.
This is a great place to give a huge shout-out to colorist Triona Farrell and letterer Simon Bowland as well. Triona’s doing a gorgeous job giving lovely texture and emotion to those images through color and Simon, as always, is giving the right voice to every character and the right rhythm to every scene with his letters.
Nrama: Big picture, what are your goals for Mech Cadet Yu?
Pak: I’d love to write this book for years. I absolutely adore this creative team and these characters and this world and I’ve already got an outline for the first 12 issues. Right now, the book is a four-issue limited series. But if enough of y’all buy it and tell your friends, anything’s possible! Thanks so much for your consideration - hope you dig!