VIZ Media and World Events Production were on hand at New York Comic Con 2014 on Friday for a celebration of the 30th anniversary of Voltron, one of the most beloved and influential anime imports from the 1980’s. The impact Voltron has had on pop culture was evident from the highlight reel that opened the panel, where a huge variety of people made reference to Voltron or cited him as an exemplar of teamwork.
The panel was moderated by Traci Todd of VIZ Media, who edited the encyclopedic tome Voltron: From Days of Long Ago – A 30th Anniversary Celebration. Joining her were World Events Production VP Bob Koplar; Let’s Voltron podcast host Marc Morrell; Team Unicorn founding member and Voltron superfan Clare Grant; CollectionDX founder Joshua Bernard; writer/editor Brian Smith (who explained the Voltron timeline, mythology, and tech for the book); and artist Jacob Chabot. Todd noted the vast amount of material contained in the book, including archival images, a detailed explanation of the mythology of Voltron (linking both the original Voltron and the recent Voltron Force TV shows), a section on Voltron toys, a complete “Robeast Rolodex” documenting all the assorted robotic monsters that battled Voltron, and a comic book conclusion to the Voltron Force TV series, which ended on a cliffhanger.
The panelists had a variety of explanations for the longevity of the property. Bob Koplar pointed out that the show’s message of teamwork is deeply literal, to the point where “Voltron” has taken on a second meaning of coming together (such as a funeral home merger he had seen described as the “bereavement Voltron”). Mark Morrell added that the principle of coming together is also pervasive in the Voltron fan community, noting that Voltron had fan communities in the earliest days of the Internet, even though the show had been off the air for years. Joshua Bernard pointed out the obvious that Voltron just looks really cool, a point reinforced by Clare Grant who added that she also liked how Princess had an equal share of responsibility instead of being a damsel in distress (and adding that Voltron was one of her first crushes, which her husband Seth Green noted in a talk show appearance included in the opening highlight reel).
In explaining Voltron‘s success, Todd noted the show’s unusually high production values, starting with the live orchestra used for the opening theme and the way it was one of the first shows to be broadcast in stereo in America. Koplar added that the stereo was a notable selling point as his father Ted was building up the numerous syndication deals that brought Voltron to screens nationwide. It was also perpetually airing in electronics and stereo shops to demonstrate the stereo sound on the TVs.
Of course, the Voltron toys were a major factor in its success as well, with each of the panelists detailing their favorite toys growing up and describing the unique juvenile disappointment when well-meaning parents, relatives, or family friends would gift the wrong Voltron toys since they weren’t familiar with the property. Grant added that Seth Green got her the original Voltron toy she never had as a girl for their first Valentine’s Day together.
One of the first questions during audience Q&A was whether Voltron would be returning to TV. Netflix and Hulu are airing episodes from the original series and Crunchyroll has the original Go Lion series, but efforts are ongoing to get the series back on the air. Kopler also said they had nothing to announce at the moment concerning a live-action movie verison of Voltron, but assured fans that they are “exploring a number of avenues” to extend the franchise (joking that, “if you buy a lot of (Voltron) stuff now, you’ll speed up the process”). There are also no other plans for another Voltron crossover like the recent Voltron/Robotech crossover.
Fans of the Defender of the Universe can take heart from a letter that Bob Koplar read at the beginning of the panel, written by his father Ted for the attendees since he wasn’t able to attend in person. In addition to thanking the fans for their long-running affection for Voltron, the elder Koplar promised that “the final chapter (of Voltron) is yet to be written.”
Voltron: From Days of Long Ago – A 30th Anniversary Collection will be released by VIZ Media on October 28, 2014.