I've wanted a giant robot of my own for just about as long as I've been capable of coherent thought. Between Transformers and Gundam and countless other cartoons, that dream has burned bright in mine, and many a young nerd's heart, though it seems the future won't be catching up to that fantasy any time soon.
In the meantime, though, we all have a new giant robot obsession to keep the dream alive: Mech Cadet Yu.
The latest collaboration between Greg Pak (Planet Hulk, Kingsway West) and Takeshi Miyazawa (Ms. Marvel, Runaways), this fantastic new all-ages adventure knows exactly the kind of longing I'm talking about. In fact, it's right at the heart of it. It stars Stanford Yu, a janitor at the Sky Corps Academy, who longs to be one of the cadets who get chosen to pilot mysterious extraterrestrial robots in defense of the Earth. He's just a lowly janitor, though, so Stanford isn't sure his dream will ever come true. Fortunately, fate, and a giant, clumsy blue robot, have a few surprises in store for him.
The first issue is out now, with Mech Cadet Yu #2 touching down on Wednesday, September 13, and SYFY WIRE has your exclusive first look inside the new issue, as well as a chat with the writer and artist. We talked about the inspirations behind the robot designs, the story's cast, and the series' success so far, which has already seen it upgraded from a limited to an ongoing series.
So suit up and climb aboard for this look at one of the most delightfully fun new series of the year, and be sure to let us know your favorite giant robot stories in the comments.
First off, congratulations to the both of you on Mech Cadet Yu being upgraded to an ongoing series. There's clearly a lot of this world to explore, so it's very exciting news that we'll keep getting more. How—if at all—does this change your approach to the series going forward?
GREG PAK: It doesn't actually change much because from the beginning, I'd had an outline for about a year of stories. We crafted the first four-issue arc to have a very satisfying beginning, middle, and end, but it also sets up the next part of the story. So, I'm ridiculously thrilled it's worked out and we're going to be able to keep going! Huge thanks to everyone who's been reading and talking up the book. This is all because of your support, and we're so grateful!
TAKESHI MIYAZAWA: Yeah, I think that whether it's a comedy or a tragedy, human relationships and emotions don't change. I draw and approach everything the same and just try to do my best!
In the second issue we get to see Stanford begin his training with his mech, alongside the other cadets. It looks like a lot of fun, but as Stanford's mom is quick to remind him, they're training for war. Both as writer and artist, how do you approach balancing the fantastical and fun aspects with the more gritty reality of their situation?
GP: Everything I write seems to have a mix of humor and drama, so the tone feels natural and comfortable to me. I honestly don't really think about it that much—life just comes at me every day in equal parts comedy and tragedy, so that's the way my stories tend to come out.
Tak, we've seen several of the robos now, and they all have really unique looks, while also looking like they all come from the same place. What are your guiding principles in making sure a robo looks distinctly like a Mech Cadet Yu robo?
TM: The robot designs are a combination of various inspirations, so you can probably recognize certain sources but I've made a point to keep a consistent internal logic to how the robots work and the generational differences over the course of the Sky Corps program. So, Skip Tanaka's robo, being one of the earliest generation robos, is blocky and square, while our cadet kids have rounder more streamlined designs. Our antagonist, Park, has her man-made robot which is completely distinct, angular, and unusual. I'm looking forward to coming up with more original designs as the story unfolds.
Aside from Stanford's mech, do you have a favorite mech to draw?
TM: I'm a fan of Olivetti's big, meaty robot. It looks quite impractical but I enjoy making it move and smashing things.
Comics are already a very visual medium, but this genre in particular is very dependent on the visuals. Did you have a list of demands for Greg of things you wanted to draw in this series?
TM: No, no demands. Greg is a very visual writer so all his scripts have really inventive locations and situations built into them. I enjoy seeing what he comes up with and approaching things fresh. I think we've worked together enough for him to know what my strengths and weaknesses are, so I trust him.
Greg, in the second issue you get into how the pilots work with their robos, likening the reins rather than a steering wheel, which I thought was an interesting and nuanced take. There have been countless different ways pilots have interacted with their giant robots in manga and anime, but were there any in particular that influenced your version of piloting?
GP: My very smart editors Eric Harburn and Cameron Chittock suggested I include something in the issue that helps explain how cadets interact with their robos, so I give them a big tip of the hat for that!
I had an instinctive sense from the beginning that the pilots would be guiding their robos' actions in some way. But I also knew that the robos were themselves sentient beings. So, it wouldn't be quite like driving a car or plane. When I sat down to actually write that scene, the horse/reins comparison just made the most sense — it confirms that the robos are independent creatures with their own agency and leaves the door open to their making their own decisions at some point. And it reinforces the idea that cadets need to have an emotional connection with their robos as well.
Skip Tanaka, the first mech pilot, is a fascinating character, and seems to be taking a liking to Stanford. Does he see some of himself in the young cadet?
GP: Absolutely. I think of Skip as a classic hero who always sticks up for the underdog. At the same time, as the story goes on, we'll see some places where Skip and Stanford may have different takes on how to handle situations and what kind of action is needed at different times. Those are pretty dramatic and delicious moments to me—can't wait 'til you see 'em!
I won't spoil anything, but it looks like the cadets of Sky Corps Academy are going to be facing threats from both within and without fairly soon. What can you tease about the rest of this first arc, and—now that it's ongoing—beyond?
GP: When the world faces a deadly alien threat, you can bet some adults are trying to figure out how to NOT to have to rely on a bunch of kids and their giant robots for defense. So there's absolutely some major drama and conflicts in the works. I'll say no more for fear of spoilers!
Finally, if each of you were grizzled veteran mech pilots in your world, what would your robos look like?
GP: Oh, wow. I was never the biggest or strongest kid, but I was pretty fast—a good dodger. So I'm thinking my robo would be a little on the smaller side, but really speedy and agile. Maybe with extra jets on its shoulders and sides for fast maneuvers? I also didn't have much sports skill, but I was pretty fearless, physically. In soccer, I'd plant myself in front of incoming forwards and just get plowed down, but I'd stop 'em! So I think my robo might share those foibles and thus have an excessive amount of armor around its head. Big helmet for big danger.
TM: Short and stout with lots of lasers! Maybe lightsabers as back-up. I'd also like to have multiple arms for multitasking!
Mech Cadet Yu #2 is on sale on September 13 from BOOM! Studios. All art by Takeshi Miyazawa and Triona Farrell with variant cover by Marcus To.