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The Worlds of the Brothers Waltrip
An Interview Of the Artists, With Updates
Animation News Service Volume 7, Number One, Spring, 1993

The primary text of this interview appeared in the fan magazine Animation News Service Volume 7, Number One, Spring, 1993. The interview was conducted by Catherine & Roy Bruce. Reprinted here with permission of the Japanese Animation Network (JAN), a subsidiary of the International Animation Sodality (IntAS), a registered, non-profit, educational, tax-exempt organization under sections 501(c)3 and 502(a)9 of the U.S. tax code. Text contents here ©1993 by Roy & Cathy Bruce and the JAN. Reproduction is prohibited. Art contents here are ©Roy & Cahty Bruce, with these exceptions: Robotech and Robotech: Sentinels ©Harmony-Gold, Amazon Gazonga, Metal Bikini, and Illustrations of "The World of Jason Waltrip" ©Jason Waltrip, Illustrations of "The World of John Waltrip" ©John Waltrip, Megazone 23 II is ©Streamline, ©Orion/MGM, and ©Artland, Early art of Robotech: Sentinels ©Malibu Comics, and the early cover of Anime No Shimbun is ©the JAN.


John and Jason Waltrip were born in 1963, and currently reside in the small community of Toano, Virginia, just east of Colonial Williamsburg. The twins graduated from Virginia Commonwealth Univeristy (VCU) in 1985 with Bachelors of Fine Arts (BFA) degrees. Since that time, they have worked on a variety of illustration projects. These include illustrations for the early Car Wars role-playing game (RPG) manuals, the amateur comic book Cyberknights, and illustrations for various JAN publications. Between 1988 and 1996, they worked for Malibu Graphics' subsidiary, Eternity, and Academy Publications as the artists of the Robotech: Sentinelscomic books. In addition, they have had other works published, such as Mobile Armor Halberder, Amazon Gazonga, Metal Bikini, and Robotech: Genesis.

The Interview

Q: How did you first become interested in drawing for comic books and animation?
Jason: I've been interested ever since I started reading comics and watching animation.
John: I first became interested in drawing comic books in my early youth. My brother and I would go over to our cousin's house and read the comic books that he collected. I was enthralled by the fantastic stories and art, and thought "This is something I might like to do." Later on, I became interested in comics as a career again in college. It was there I met two very good friends of mine, John and Bill Bridges. Although I have always been interested in comics and drawing, it was their association that rekindled my desire in comics as a career.

Q: What American comic books and American animation do you like?
Jason: With comics, I started out with your basic D.C. and Marvel titles like Superman, Batman, Green Lantern ,Spiderman, and then later in college, friends reintroduced me to other comics like Judge Dredd and Nexus. As for animation, I like classic Warner cartoons, Disney, golden age Hanna-Barbera like Jonny Quest, Space Ghost, Herculoids, and of course Tom & Jerry... Also Filmations' output over the years.
John: Right now, I'm picking up Darkhorse's Star Wars: Dark Empire series. Cam Kennedy has an interesting style, as does Steve Rude. His clean, precise anatomy is very attractive to me. Animation-wise, I like some of the old Hanna-Barbera cartoons, such as the original Jonny Quest, Space Ghost, and Herculoids. In subject and style they are very influential. And of course, for fluidity of motion and overall production, Disney is the best... Woops! And all the old Warner 'toons, too!

Q: What Japanese comic books and Japanese animation do you like?
Jason: For comics, I like Appleseed and Dominion, among others. For animation, I like most of the stuff I've seen at JAN meetings: Bubblegum Crisis, Lensman, Dirty Pair, Appleseed, and Miyazaki's works.
John: Hmm... Let me see... Although I like just about everything I see coming from Japan, I only count what I buy as what I really like. For comics, I like Appleseed, Dominion, Gunhed, and Silent Moebius. For animation, I like Macross, Megazone 23 part II, Iczer-1, The Fantastic Adventures of Yohko: Leda, Nausicaa, Bubblegum Crisis, Akira, Vampire Hunter D, Laputa, Baoh, Sol Bianca, The Record of Lodoss War, Gundam, and Gunbuster.

Q: What was your first exposure to Japanese animation?
Jason: Starblazers.
John: Although I vaguely remember some images of Kimba and Marine Boy, I think my first true exposure to Japanese animation was Battle of the Planets and Star Blazers. I don't think that I thought B.O.T.P. was Japanese at the time, but I certainly knew that it wasn't American. The voices never matched up with the lip movements. I thought it was either very badly made, or it was foreign. It was during Star Blazers when I started actually reading the credits that I learned it was Japanese.

Q: What kind of classical art do you like?
Jason: I am fond of the Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles.
John: Oh, the usual paintings and sculptures by the old masters; Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael, Leonardo, Splinter... Wait a minute... Kidding aside, I was interested in Da Vinci's works when I was a child. I thought it was amazing, all of the things he did. I also like Art Deco and Art Nouveau.

Q: What formal training did you receive in high school and college?
Jason: Your basic high school art classes. At VCU, I went through the Art Foundation Program, Media Arts Survey, and Communication Arts & Design curriculum... But I think I learned more after college, once I started working.
John: You would hardly call the training I received in high school "formal", but I did take a year of mechanical drawing and later attended the usual art classes. College was a little more helpful in honing my skills, but only a little. The figure- drawing and anatomy classes were indispensable, but other than that, most of the instructions were "This is today's project... Do it." I can honestly say I learned more in my first year out of college than during the entire four years I was there.

Q: Tell us about your animation projects in college. Do you want to develop those ideas into future projects?
Jason: I took an animation class for two semesters and produced two pieces of animation. Both were 30 seconds long and were designed to look like movie trailers for upcoming feature films. One was called The Firebird, based on the music suite of the same name. The other was called Mars! and was about a group of Martians trying to save their dying planet. I haven't done anything with them since.
John: I did two animation shorts in college; they’re both about one minute in length. One was called The Emerald Egg and the other, Chevron. They're like trailers for movies. The Emerald Egg is a magical fantasy quest, while Chevron is a sci-fi, super-hero adventure. I would like to develop Chevron further, perhaps as a comic book mini-series, and eventually a cartoon or movie based on the character would be ideal.

Q: What was your first professional project?
Jason: Probably a cover or an interior piece for Iron Crown Enterprises, a gaming company.
John: I believe my first professional job, other than the myriad spot illustrations I had done for various gaming companies, was a book cover illustration for Llewellyn Publications for a book entitled Sex Magick. Don't ask me, I just drew the cover...

Q: How were you chosen by Eternity to work on the Robotech: Sentinels?
Jason: A talent scout of theirs saw an amateur comic we made called Cyber knights. After seeing it, they called us and wanted us to do the Sentinels.
John: Let's see, it was way back in 1987. Jason and I were doing the artwork for a small comic book we made called Cyberknights, written by someone else. It was sent to Eternity by way of a talent scout, Brian Marshal. Well, to make a long story short, they liked the art, but not the story, so they hired us to do Robotech: Sentinels.

Interlude Cyber knights was co-published by VCU Games masters and the JAN (then the C/FO-CVA) in late 1987. It was reviewed in the first issue of the JAN publication, ANS, and was sent to numerous comic publishers, anime fan clubs, and fans throughout the US, including Eternity. A sample issue was also sent to Antarctic Press for possible inclusion in their publication magazine, but was turned down. Copies of the Cyber knights mini-comic should consider themselves lucky, as no copies can be found, and new copies cannot be printed due to copyright complications. A few years after this interview, Cyberknights and Chevron elements were combined into the Academy comic book, Mobile Armor Halberder.
Q: Please describe a typical day of work on the Sentinels.
Jason: Starting an issue, I first read through the script, and then pencil about two pages a day, looking at the script as I go. After I finished penciling the whole issue, I go into the inking phase. I just ink the characters and/or any foreground elements, leaving the backgrounds in rough pencils. After finishing the inks, I go onto the graying phase.
John: The work day starts when I see the script, I read all the way through to get an overview and all around feel for the story -- it's pace and direction. As I read, I let the images flow through my mind like watching a movie. Later, I go back to the beginning and start the "movie" over again, freezing the images in my head, and then I put them down one page at a time. I can pencil about two pages a day, depending on the complexity of the layout and imagery. The way I work is to sketch out the page on a small scale (8.5" X 11" typing paper), working out the composition and the character poses, and then I blow it up later to the standard 10" x 15" size (on bristol board), where it is ready to be inked and grayed.

Q: How do you go about achieving the gray tones in the background of your art?
Jason: I use gray paint; an opaque squasche to several values from light to medium to dark. I mask the characters with masking tape and paint the background around them, and then pull up the tape. Details are done in gray colored pencils, white paint, and gray marker pins.
John: The gray tones are achieved with gray squasched paint. After inking, I mask the characters or any other elements I don't want painted over, with masking tape. The backgrounds are then entirely painted in. The masks are removed and the characters are toned in with gray felt-tip markers. It's a very laborious technique, but the results are satisfying and unique.

Q: What do you personally feel your strong point in illustration is: human/ animal characters, mecha, or both? And what is your favorite character to draw?
Jason: I've always felt that people and characters were my strong point. I'm not sure there's any one particular character or mech that's my favorite... just all of them.
John: I think I'm better at technical things. I'm trying to improve my figure and organic drawing. I'm a stickler for detail, perhaps too much so. I think I get too caught up in details and overlook the whole picture. I'm trying to loosen up. My favorite characters to draw and mecha are Rick and Lisa, and the Alpha Fighters.

Q: Do you have any interest in getting into the field of animation in the future? If so, what type of projects would you like to work on?
Jason: Yes! I would like all of my ideas to be animated. Failing that, I'd like to work on any interesting animation project.
John: I would welcome any opportunity of getting into animation that arises. It would have to be something science fiction or fantasy related, or super-heroes. I don't think I could draw Smurfs or bunnies for very long.

Q: How do you feel about the future of Robotech: Sentinels? Do you think that there will be a Robotech: Odyssey series, and if so, would you like to work on it?
Jason: I hope it goes on for a long time, at least until we're able to finish it. If it does and if Robotech: Odyssey comes about, I hope to work on it.
John: Although I enjoy working in grayscale on the book, color would be a definite improvement. Other than that, I think it has potential. Of course there will be a Robotech: Odyssey; It’s just a matter of time. I would love to work on it.

Interlude Two In late the late 1980's, JAN correspondent Patrick Judy asked Carl Macek about the possible future of Robotech after the Sentinels, when Mr. Macek was still employed at Harmony-Gold. Mr. Macek gave Mr. Judy a possible storyline for Robotech: Odyssey: The SDF-3 bearing Rick and Lisa arrives at its destination of Earth, but well before the original landing of the SDF-1 in 1999. This of course would create an entirely new storyline, which could have propagated Robotech into an epic. Unfortunately, the problems of property rights, the writing of The End of the Circle, and other realities have probably ended the likelihood of Robotech: Odyssey ever being made.

Q: Do you ever think that the animation of Robotech: Sentinels will ever be finished? If so, would you like to work on it?
Jason: I'd like for it to, but I really don't think it will. But if it ever is, I certainly would like to work on it, having been the art director on the comic adaptation for five years.
John: Honestly, no, I don't think it will be finished. Animation is a very expensive business, with the accent on business. Robotech needs to be picked up by a company willing to take the risk and nobody wants to risk it. In a way, I have worked on the animation. I've already done the storyboards. It's the comic book.

...Since Then...

Since the time of this interview, many things have happened. When Antarctic Press purchased the rights to publish comic books of the Robotech title from Harmony-Gold, the Waltrip’s suddenly found themselves unemployed. Between 1996 and 1998, many fans have tried to press AP to hire the Waltrip’s to finish the series. Meanwhile, the Waltrip’s have resumed contract work on illustrating cards, publications, etc. and painting murals in bistros and shops in the Tidewater area. In addition, Old Red's Web Shop is proud to be their official website. In 1998, one of their fans was able to come in direct contact with Ben Dunn, of Antarctic Press, and this resulted in AP sending a contract to finish the Robotech: Sentinels project to the Waltrip's. Unfortunately, the company was either not able or not willing to pay the Waltrip’s' their industry standard fee, so negotiations fell through. Shortly thereafter, Harmony Gold pulled all licensing of the Robotech line.

Manga Newswatch Interview - Jason & John Waltrip
Manga Newswatch magazine in 1993


This interview was printed in the third issue of Manga Newswatch magazine in 1993. (No month is given.) At this time, Eternity still had the Robotech comic book license, and the Waltrip’s brothers had not yet taken on the writing chores of Sentinels. The interview had several typographical errors, mostly in Robotech names and terminology, all of which I have tried to correct. On the other hand, I didn't correct any of the incorrect grammar or capitalization.
JY is Jason Waltrip and JH is John Waltrip. I don't know why they're abbreviated that way. They just are.
Jason and John Waltrip have been drawing Robotech comics since Malibu acquired the rights in 1988. They've worked on over 40 books, including the Legend of Zor mini-series (in which they both took on writing chores). Because of their success in emulating the animation style of the Robotech television series and movies, their names have become synonymous with Robotech. Jason's and John's similar styles allow them an interesting schedule, with John doing the even-numbered issues and Jason doing the odds.
Mark Paniccia: What work did you do before Robotech?
Jason Waltrip: We did some odd jobs for gaming companies ... Some illustrations for Iron Crown and Steve Jackson.
MP: Were those collaborative efforts?
JY: We had always been anime inspired, our styles were pretty close.
John Waltrip: And we fine tuned them along the way. My style was a little more hard edged; Jason's was more fluid, more organic. We've merged them for consistency.
MP: Who were your influences or whose styles do you like?
JY: I can't really name any specific individuals. Japanese animation and American to some extent.
JH: The same ... animation in general. As for comic book artists, I admire Steve Rude. His art is very clean and precise, his anatomy is very correct ... that's what impressed me about his work. I also like Cam Kennedy's art on the Star Wars mini-series . I think it's interesting. As for Japanese artists, I enjoy Kia Asamiya from Gunhead and Silent Mobius.
MP: How did you get started drawing professionally?
JY: We had been drawing for quite a while and we did this amateur comic that a friend wrote. It was called "Cyber Knights". An Eternity talent scout, Brian Marshall, saw it and asked if we'd be interested in doing Robotech II: The Sentinels once they got the rights.
MP: So your styles were animeish back then?
JY: Yes, it was what Eternity was looking for and appropriate for the series.
MP: Were you fans of the series?
JH: We never really watched it because it was on at such a ridiculous time in the morning in our area. But I do remember seeing the Macross movie at a convention and thinking that the animation was really amazing.
JY: But I think we're definitely making up for missing the series. (Laughter)
MP: Who are your favorite characters?
JH: I like Rick and Lisa a lot ... And Edwards of course, he's really great.
JY: I love Edwards. He's the prime motivator for the series. But I probably like the Praxians the best.
MP: I wonder why? (Laughter) Tell me how you work on Sentinels.
JY: We pretty much keep our issues to ourselves. Sometimes I draw what I want to draw and John draws what he wants and we throw continuity out the window (laughter). But we try to keep it consistent.
MP: How long does it take to do an issue?
JH: About five week’s altogether. Two for pencils, one for inks, and two for graying. The grays are very tedious. We have to do a lot of masking for it.
MP: How did you work on Zor?
JH: We threw ideas back and forth to each other, figured the sequence of events, did a story breakdown and divided the issues up.
MP: What made you decide to do Zor?
JY: We felt his story needed to be addressed.
JH: It grew from our work on Sentinels. He was always mentioned in the past tense by the other characters. We thought it would be a neat idea to show all those things he did ... how he discovered Protoculture, how he developed Robotechnology.
MP: Can we look forward to any other Robotech-related projects from you in the future?
JY: We have a continuation of Zor planned. There's no official release date yet, but it would be called either Robotech Invaders or Invasion.
JH: It covers the events after Zor's death: the invasion of the Invid into the Masters' territory, the occupation of the Sentinels' worlds ... we would see them before they became prisoners, and their fight against the Invid.
JY: And the creation of Rem, Zor's clone.
MP: Jason, tell me about your new project, "Amazon Gazonga".
JY: It's for a new book called Eternity Triple Action which is an anthology that includes two other features. Since I draw Amazons in Sentinels, I thought about toying with them in an earthbound environment. It gives me a break from drawing all that mecha ... straight lines and technical stuff. I get to do jungles, rock formations, sculptures ... ancient forgotten cities. It gets me back to nature and away from all that metal.
MP: How long will it run in E.T.A.?
JY: I have a contract for four issues but it could go to six. I do have a nice, long epic in mind involving a lost city, explorers and lots of action and adventure. It would make a great Japanimation movie.
MP: Hmmm ... Scantily-clad women running wild through the jungle ... I think you'd have an audience for it (laughter). John, are you working on any secret projects?
JH: I'm interested in doing something for Triple Action, something different from my present style, altering it just a bit. I'd like a change of scenery from the mecha, also.
MP: At the current rate, Sentinels should go on for quite a while. Do you both plan on sticking with it?
JY: I enjoy it. I'm willing to stick with it.
JH: I'd like to stay with it through The End of the Circle. That should keep us busy until the end of the century (laughter).
MP: Is there anything else you'd like to see done with Robotech?

Captain JLS decides to bother the Waltrip’s
dated August 23, 2000

What follows is a list of questions that made up the bulk of a letter that I wrote to the Waltrip brothers, dated August 23, 2000; and the responses they provided via mail, dated August 26, 2000. While the time-based information is almost certainly out of date by now (after all, as of this writing--September 16, 2001--it's been over a year since I received their responses), the Sentinels comic book series information they provided remains quite interesting and informative.
At this time I would like to thank them for their prompt response, while at the same time I'd like to ask the fan community to forgive me for sitting on this Q&A session for over a year.
FYI, "JLS" refers to me, and the Waltrip’s (who I assume jointly wrote this letter) are "JW". Also, anything in bold was made bold because I, for reasons I can't seem to recall now, decided to make it bold in the letter I sent the Waltrip’s. Anything italicized is italicized for similar reasons--the Waltrip’s italicized it. With the exception of any typos I missed (and one part of a question which I asked that took me ten minutes to figure out what in god's name I was trying to say--I hope the Waltrip’s figured it out more easily than I), these questions and responses are presented unaltered from the original text.
JLS: How closely to the story as presented in the novels by Jack McKinney were you planning on making the remainder of your adaptation of the Robotech II: The Sentinels story? Did you have access to the original 65-episode series scripts when the two of you were ³flying solo² at Academy? And if you didn¹t, would the presence of the scripts have influenced your adaptation of the story?
JW: As you can tell from the illustrated time-line in Book IV #0, we were planning a few changes to the storyline to differentiate the comic book from the novelizations just to keep it interesting. Such as:
1. We were going to have the Sentinels apply Spherisian crystal technology to their Veritech’s to fight the Black Death Destroyers.
2. We were going to give Burak a brother named Juryk and it would've been the two of them (not Burak and Tesla) who sacrifice themselves to stop the Psionic Generator. We thought since the curse was initiated by the death of two brothers, the Macassar's sons, it could only be lifted by the death of two brothers ... two Perytonian brothers, not just anyone.
3. Tesla, therefore, would not die with Burak, but would continue to live. We weren't going to have him eat the Perytonian Flower of Life fruit and de-evolve either. We were going to have him attack Optera with his Invid followers from Spheris and Peryton side by side with the Sentinels. Later, they all would mysteriously disappear, vanishing with the rest of the Invid race when the Regis transubstantiates.
4. The biggest surprise we were planning was going to be General Edwards survive being thrown into the Genesis Pit by Janice. Just as Rick and Lisa think he is gone forever, General Edwards would rise up out of the Genesis Pit transformed into a gigantic, hideous monster. Only after Baldan II and Teal destroy the Hive Brain would the Genesis Pit run out of control, overload, and blow up in a huge atomic-style explosion finally destroying Edwards and the Invid Home Hive.
We never had access to the original 65 episode series scripts when we were at Academy or Eternity for that matter. If we had, we can only say that it's possible that they might have influenced our adaptation. Since we never saw them, we can't say for certain. All we had were the novels.
JLS: What were you planning on doing following the conclusion of the Robotech II: The Sentinels comic book adaptation? Would you have produced an adaptation of the novel The End of the Circle, or would you have done something more ambitious with the characters after the Sentinels Campaign?
JW: If we had finished Sentinels, Academy would have had to renegotiate with Harmony Gold for rights to do a comic book based on The End of the Circle. It was entirely up in the air. What we would've liked to have done was finish Sentinels, do an End of the Circle adaptation and then do a post-Circle Robotech story taking place around 2057 A.D.
JLS: Did one or both of you design the Battloid mode for the Delta Veritech, or was it provided for you? I¹m merely asking this because the mecha is referred to simply as ³VTOL² in Robotech Art 3 (implying that, like the Logan, it merely has two modes) and the Battloid mode design is awesome.
JW: Jason designed the Battloid mode of the 'VTOL' plane. He also dubbed it "Delta", keeping with the Greek alphabet designations of previous Veritech’s.
JLS: This question has been bugging a friend of mine for a while. How exactly would the Sphersian sword-wielding Alphas that the Sentinels were going to use against the Black Death Destroyers be created? And if the Sentinels had such technology, why wouldn¹t they use it against the less-evolved but more vast Invid threat on Earth (in New Generation)? It¹s a nitpicky continuity question, I know, but it really has been bugging both him and myself for some time now ...
JW: You're right. It is a nit-picky continuity question, but here goes. We assumed the Spherisian’s saved some of their crystal technology in their underground shelters during the Masters' and Invid occupations. After the Sentinels arrived, the Spherisian’s would apply some of this technology to the Veritech’s in the form of non-reactive crystalline armor and reflective shields and swords. Since there was little time before the pursuing Black Death Destroyers caught up with the Sentinels, this crystal technology was hastily adapted to the REF's technology and ultimately proved incompatible for long periods of time.
JLS: No offense intended, but what was the deal with Star Runners: Carpenter¹s Journey? The promotional artwork that appeared in the inside back cover of all Academy titles showed Carpenter as he appeared in the Sentinels series, but in the actual book he appeared as he does in the Robotech TV episode ³Outsiders². All of the uniforms are suddenly like those in the TV episode as well, while the men and women who entered the ship in Sentinels were wearing standard REF attire. Also, never mentioned in the Sentinels series is the inclusion of the Tirolian ambassador that appeared in the Star Runners story. Why such inconsistencies? I¹ll understand if you guys don¹t seem to remember why this is, since it¹s been a while, but the question has been bouncing around in the back of my mind for a few years now, and I was just wondering if you could shed some light on the issue.
JW: No offense taken. The promotional artwork for Star Runners was done before we obtained a copy of the "Outsiders" episode to use as reference.
As for Ambassador Trell never being mentioned before appearing in Star Runners, he doesn't have to be. We introduced other new or unknown characters before, such as Praxa or Rebecca Nicks without previous set up or explanation.
JLS: Here¹s a biggie. What was the deal with the two of you not continuing Robotech II: The Sentinels at Antarctic Press? I¹ve heard a lot of rumors over the past few years, but I¹d rather hear the story straight from the source. I¹m certain that everyone really wanted to see the Sentinels story continue there, and everyone was disappointed by the series by that name that they eventually produced (so disappointed [by it, in fact,] that of [the] seven issues only two were published).
JW: When we first learned from Academy that Robotech was moving to Antarctic Press, we knew it was all over. Antarctic never approached us about continuing Sentinels. We therefore assumed they had their own ideas about Robotech and those plans didn't include us. Only later, sometime in 1998 did we hear from our friends who keep abreast of Robotech news on the internet that Antarctic might be willing to talk to us. We contacted them. Unfortunately, we were never able to agree on a contract. Incidentally, we didn't know they published a "Sentinels" titled book.
JLS: By the same token, if the Robotech comic book license was acquired by a comic book publisher in the near future, would you want to pick up where you left off almost four years ago, or have you two put Robotech so far behind you that you wouldn¹t want to continue if you could? Alternately, would you want to involve yourselves in any comic book projects for the new Robotech series that Harmony Gold is working on now, if you were asked?
JW: Whether or not we would like to continue where we left off with Sentinels is irrelevant. The 'old' Robotech is not going to be acquired by anyone in the near future or ever. As you have said yourself, Harmony Gold is working on its new Robotech series, Robotech 3000. However, if we were asked to work on a comic book based on the new Robotech series, we would certainly consider it. We are artists, and we're always interested in new work opportunities; if the price is right of course.
JLS: Since your official website ( waltrips.hypermart.net/ ) hasn¹t been updated in over a year, what projects are you two working on right now? Anything you can or want to talk about?
JW: Recently, we've completed a couple of installments of "The Matador" comic strip for Detour magazine. Currently, we're working on several stories featuring NFL football players and their off-field adventures. Jason is also doing artwork for the Fans website at www.faans.com .
Again, thanks to the Waltrip’s for taking the time to respond to my questions.

Sentinels Volume 2 introduction - Jason & John Waltrip

This interview was published as the introduction for the second hardcover compiled volume of Eternity Comics' Robotech II: The Sentinels comic book series (Book One #5-6, Wedding Special #1-2). If the interview is the same vintage as the cover art, this was probably done while they were working on the beginning of Book Two of the regular Sentinels comic book title title
Q: When did you first become interested in comics?
John: As a career or just in general?
Q: Both.
John: Well, we had read comics in our youth just like other kids, but it was no big deal to us. We weren't collectors. We didn't follow any particular artist, or writer, or company. We just thought they were neat stories with neat art.
Q: Did you have a favorite title or character?
Jason: We liked the old Superman stories of the early 70s.
Q: When did you consider comics as a career?
John: Well, we've always been able to draw; maybe it's a natural talent, maybe we just started early. We've been drawing since we were three years old, so we would like to think we're pretty good at it by now. We love to draw, so we tried to think of how we could make some money at it. It's great to be able to make a living from something you love.
Jason: We didn't always consider comics as a possible job market. It was one of several career choices. We tried illustrating book covers and some animation, but they're both very hard to break into. You have to be really, really good. I suppose we chose comics because we felt opportunities would come along easier in that field and our style of artwork always seemed to be in demand, but we didn't consider comics as a career until after we entered college.
John: We had stopped reading comics when we went into high school. I guess we just concentrated on school work and other things. We kept drawing, but we didn't think about comics. But when we got to college, we were reintroduced to comics by some very good friends of ours.
Q: When did you become interested in anime comics?
Jason: We first became interested in anime cartoons. Of course, we were always interested in cartoons or animation of any kind. Our first real exposure to anime was Star Blazers and Battle of the Planets. Then came Robotech. We never really saw any of the Robotech episodes on television because they were aired in such a ridiculous timeslot, 6:30 a.m. But we had seen Robotech material at conventions, and we had all the novels and Robotech Art books--so I think we're qualified to draw the Sentinels comic book.
Q: How did you get the Sentinels job?
Jason: When we were in college, we did some artwork for a friend who had an idea for a comic book. He wrote it, and we supplied the pencils and inks. He sent the work to Eternity comics. They didn't pick up the title, but they did like the artwork. They wanted us to do the art for a new book they would be publishing soon. They couldn't tell us the name of the comic because they hadn't acquired the rights yet. They said to wait. We waited. The suspense was awful. There we were, waiting to be hired to do a comic book they didn't even have. Sounds promising, doesn't it? What if they didn't get the rights? Would they have us do something else? We hadn't even been signed to any contracts yet.
John: Eventually, they got the rights, and told us it was Robotech II: The Sentinels. Robotech? Was this the same Robotech that had a cartoon series on television, we asked Chris. The same Robotech with a line of models and toys? The same Robotech loved by millions across the country and the world? We were shocked, amazed, and overjoyed. Being Robotech fans ourselves, it was a dream come true. Now we had the chance to draw the famous characters and mecha we'd watched and admired for years. Now it would be our privilege and honor to continue the Robotech saga. And if that wasn't enough, now we had regular work.
Q: How is work, anyway?
John: It's great, although it's not as regular as we'd like it. We really enjoy doing Sentinels and the readers seem to like what we're doing. That's reassuring considering this is our first comic.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
Jason: To continue doing sentinels. We'd like to do the entire story, all the way to the end, so when people think of Sentinels, they'll think of us. We'd also like to do a few ideas of our own. We think the Sentinels readers will like them, since they're mostly anime inspired. One idea is called Metal Bikini. It's about girls, spies, and mecha. What more could an anime fan ask? It's funny and has lots of action.
Q: I'm sure everyone is looking forward to seeing more of your work. Is there anything else you'd like to say before closing?
Jason: Yes. We'd like to thank Chris Ulm, Tom Mason, Dave Olbrich, and all the other fine people at Eternity who saw promise in our work and gave us a chance.
John: And thanks to all the fans who have given us such positive feedback and tremendous support. We couldn't have done any of this without you. Thank you.
Emissaries: Okay, first off, how did you guys come to write Prelude to the Shadow Chronicles?

John & Jason Waltrip: Tommy Yune called us and asked us if we were interested in being involved in this project, a bridge mini-series between Sentinels and the new Shadow Chronicles story. Of course we said yes. It was a chance to sort of finish Sentinels, though perhaps not exactly as we would have, but it was better than nothing. It was a way of attaining some closure regarding Sentinels.

E: How much latitude did you guys have with the storyline? Obviously the point is to guide the franchise into the Shadow Chronicles movie, but did you get to exert much control about how it did so, or did Tommy e-mail you a list that said, "Okay, this, this, this, and this have to happen, and they have to happen this way ..."

J&J: We did have some latitude with the storyline. Tommy asked us to do a few story outlines which ultimately were too close to the novels and tried to cover too much in too little space.

E: By the same token, how much control did Tommy, who receives a co-writer credit on the series, exert over the storyline?

J&J: Tommy then provided us with an outline which we followed, in some ways word for word and other ways we made changes and rearrangements of events. Tommy was very specific in how he wanted to start the story. However he was vague at other points of the story which we pounced on to flesh out. He then kept or changed what he liked or not in our scripts during the revision process.

E: So, how was each issue written?

J&J: We took turns writing the scripts. One of us would write a couple of pages. And then the other would take over and write his couple of pages. Since we were following Tommy's outline, we both knew where the story was going.

E: The backstory for Prelude is left vague throughout the series -- intentionally vague, I would imagine. How much direction were you given in regards to what of Sentinels could be left intact in order to tell this story?

J&J: In the beginning, we weren't given any hint as to how much of the Sentinels storyline was going to remain. That's why we were sort of at a loss to make a workable outline. There were so many changes being made to the story, we didn't know what to keep or what to leave out. There were only a few narrative points from the Sentinels novels that were kept, though changed slightly, as to fit the new story outline.

Continued in Emissaries Vol. 2 Issue 2 ...
EMISSARIES WEEK - Interview with John & Jason Waltrip


Boy, aren't the Waltrip’s awesome? I think anyone who doesn't find the Waltrip’s awesome deserves cancer of the soul -- or maybe they already have cancer of the soul, and that explains why they cannot grasp the awesomeness of everyone's favorite twin ROBOTECH artists. Jason Waltrip's cover of Sentinels Book I #15 hangs on my wall and every time I see it -- which is every time I look to the right while I'm at my computer -- I let out a little awestruck sigh. That is the power of their art. (No, I don't have a complimentary piece by John Waltrip; one can only afford so much, y'know.)

In any case, having just briefly leafed through the final issue of Prelude last night (it arrived at Roboblog World Headquarters yesterday, at long last), I am at once saddened that there aren't any new ROBOTECH comics coming down the pipe anytime soon, but heartened that the Waltrip’s managed to cram so much cool stuff into those last twenty-two pages. It is one jam-packed book. I definitely need to sit down and slowly go through it all again before I can start annotating the hell out of it, as is my lot in life.

Speaking of which, expect an audio rundown of the last two issues either later tonight or tomorrow, and a grand double-sized set of notes & pictures sometime next week. Also, immediately following that, I'm going to be hitting Tommy Yune with a follow-up barrage of deeply geeky questions regarding Prelude's creation and storyline, a compliment to the Emissaries interview with the Waltrip’s, that will be posted here at the blog for your reading enjoyment. But remember, if you don't get your Emissaries, you're only getting half the story! ^_^
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