Todd Matthy has his Writer’s Commentary on Robots Vs Princesses #3 published last week from Dynamite.
Welcome to the commentary of the most crucial issue of Robots vs. Princesses. I say this because issue 4 cannot happen without this issue. And issues 1 and 2 have been hinting at secrets that are laid bare in this issue. It was also the most difficult issue for me to write.
It was difficult because not only did I need to keep the momentum from the last issue moving, I had to get my princesses into the same weight class as the robots.
We’ll get to that later. Let’s take a dive into development of this issue.
I’m starting this issue fast and I’m starting it hard. The Centurions get turned into robot lions and the Hunters are surrounding them and the Princesses. They need help.
The robot lions. Yes, that is absolutely a Voltron reference. I love Voltron. Both the original and Legendary Defender on Netflix.
I actually interned with Media Blasters and got an “Assistant Editor” credit on the DVD release of the original show. Considering Voltron was the first combination of fantasy and giant robots, there was no way I was going to leave a Voltron reference out of my series.
I always found it hard to believe that Disney Princesses could sing songs to make woodland critters clean a mess but not help them in a fight. I decided to rectify that with a song…or at least a tune.
I love this page because here the Princesses have used their magic song and are getting their animal friends to help the Centurions.
At the same time, the Centurions are downloading the animal friends’ movements into their system so they can effectively fight Tyrannis’ Hunters.
The last panel, we have a lot to get to in this issue, so I adopted to go with classic off-panel violence as opposed to a page-long battle to move the story forward. This issue has A LOT of ground to cover.
Princesses and animal friends siphoning gas. Only in this comic.
Here the Princesses meet the Centurions. We get introductions and our third hint (first was last issue, second on Page 1) that the transformations are not what they seem.
PANEL 4: I have to again point out how good Nic is. Look how each Princess’ body language tells you exactly who they are. I love it.
PANEL 6: There’s that “W” again. That thing’s been popping up a lot. Think we’re going to learn what it means? Read on.
PLOT TWIST! It’s not the Princesses’ song that changes the robots. It’s something else. And who better to help the Princesses and Centurions find it than happy working woodland critters.
While we’re anticipating cute things with the woodland critters, Ultimus’ caption allows us to cross the bridge into horror.
Tyrannis conducts an interrogation. Tyrannis’ “familiar” is another hint to keep reading.
Detective Pig (or Sherlock Hog) is all Nic. I had no idea he was going to do it but I sure am glad he did. I smell a spinoff.
This is also a situation where I wish I had more space.
Artelia believes the robots are bad news and with good reason. In the back matter that I developed for my mailing list and website, her kingdom Yahira was the greatest of the Five Kingdoms until the Days of Fire hit. Had I more space, I would’ve tied her suspicions to stories she heard from her Kingdom’s Orator.
At some point in Yahira’s past, a civil war caused much of the Kingdom’s knowledge to be burned and lost. To keep their true history alive, the Yahiran King nominated a wise scholar to be the Orator who would memorize the kingdom’s history and pass it on to the next generation. Artelia loved listening to the Orator, that’s why she believes the robots to be the “stone giants” from the “Days of Fire.”
Look, there’s that “W” again. Think it’s going to be important?
“Worlorn.” We know what the “W” means and thanks to Ultimus we get the truth and our first look at the enigmatic wizard.
This is going to be a long one. The truth is revealed. The robots were a creation of Worlorn.
These three pages were difficult to write, mainly because I had to fit so much backstory into so little space and make it interesting. So I thought of some questions and went about answering them in the quickest way possible.
First question I needed to answer, “Why would a medieval society need robots?” If you remember your fairy tales, there were always awful giants, trolls and monsters. What better thing to fight it with than giant robots? Heck, it’s the basis for the great Super Robot shows. It’s a natural fit.
Next question I needed to answer, “How did the robots gain sentience?” I decided to do combination of the Golem myth and V’Ger from Star Trek the Motion Picture.
You’ll notice the robots all have notes pinned to them in PANEL 4. Like the Golems, the robots are fed written orders, like V’Ger, one of them received so many contradictory orders over the years, he became sentient. That robot was Tyrannis.
And that’s how you bring giant robots into a medieval fantasy world.
You’ll notice a certain sword-wielding woman riding a dragon. That’s Queen Kyra, Zara’s ancestor and idol, leading the charge for the Five Kingdoms against Tyrannis and the Decimators. And we learn about her end and how respected she was.
I broke up the pages with scenes of the Princesses and Robots reactions because I felt that made these pages more than an “info dump.” I wanted to show how all this information affected the characters on a personal level. Especially Zara.
Zara is overwhelmed. She just learned she’s inadvertently re-started a war that was so brutal a wizard decided it needed to be forgotten. That’s a lot for anyone to take in, much less a teenage princess. I liked writing this scene because it made both her and Wheeler human. You understand where they’re coming from.
I also wanted to show that the other Princesses understand too. They know Zara didn’t want this to happen and don’t blame her. They’d have hugged it out were it not for…
When you hear “robots vs. princesses,” you think of a slug fest. Two polar opposites are about to fight it out. Face-to-face. Eye-to-eye. Robot to Princess. So how do you do this in a way that’s believable yet still gets the desired outcome?
Of all things in this series, this kept me up at night. How do you do Robots vs. Princesses and get robots vs. princesses.
I thought of several scenarios. I thought of having the Princesses assail the Decimators with animal warriors, but that’s not “robots vs. princesses.”
I read up on war elephants and thought of having the Princesses leading escaped soldiers and animal warriors into combat and tripping the robots. But again that’s not really “robots vs. princesses.”
I thought about the princesses discovering a magic lake that made them grow and allowed them to slug it out with the robots but knuckles hitting metal would just break bones.
Then it hit me, shows like Voltronor even when Transformers introduced “the Headmasters” involved giant robots being piloted by humans to face larger robots. The pilots were always “hot shots,” why can’t a Princess pilot a giant robot? The answer: there’s no reason! And everything came together from there.
Now, the Princesses are in the robots weight class.
I know what your thinking, “how did the Princesses learn to pilot the robots so quickly?” The short answer is they figured it out. They’re not dumb. Like a child figures out controls to a video game, the Princesses figured out how to make these things move.
Unfortunately, this issue is only 22 pages and I needed to get everyone from point a to point b and the whole “learning to fly” sequence had to be cut.
It did involve a song (that I’ve written) though. Maybe I’ll print it in the trade.
I wrote these pages because I wanted to take a sledgehammer to two clichés I despise: the Optimus Prime “It’s too dangerous” speech and the whole “You think because I’m a girl I can’t…” speech that comes up all to often in adventure fiction.
First, Optimus’ “its too dangerous” speech was the only time he sounded lame and in the end he never won the argument. Next, the “I’m a girl” speech. I hate because it just sounds fake. I ‘m a teacher and I’ve never heard a girl say anything like that before (other teachers may have and I will not debate you). Arya Stark doesn’t say it, and since she’s the measuring stick for my Princesses neither will they.
Still, it made sense that some of both speeches would come into play at some point so I wrote it similar to a conversation between a parent and a stubborn teenager. Ultimus makes the speech but Zara’s not hearing it and telling him to shut up without saying it. Much more fun.
Naturally, this segued into the Princesses saying “your not stopping us, here’s why” and Wheeler telling Ultimus he’s not stopping them…but there’s a way for both of them to achieve their goals. Think the Princesses are going to follow his orders? MINOR SPOILER: They won’t, but that’s next issue. (Hint. Hint.)
The sun has risen. The battle is about to begin. The Princesses are piloting their robots and ready to fight the Decimators head on. Will they succeed? Find out next issue!
…But first a little back matter.
Once again we get another incredible portrait from Kristen Gudsnuk.
I felt this piece fit because it a) told a story from one of the kingdoms b) showed that there is a world beyond Chromia and the Five Kingdoms that can be explored and c) since the “Princess songs” play such a prominent role, convey how much focus and belief goes into singing a song that summons animals. From Clarisse’s words we get the impression that to sing animals into helping it takes a lot of focus and faith that things will turn out good.
To merge those two is hard, especially when you’re in a hopeless situation. Estrellia, like the Princesses in this issue, was in a hopeless situation. But she never lost faith and persevered. Just like our Princesses will have to do.
Unfortunately, this will be the last piece of back matter in the series because next issue you’ll be getting two extra pages.
I’ve been building this fight for three issues, so I’m throwing everything including the kitchen sink into it. So, pack a lunch, bring your popcorn, and bring the kids because next month the robots and princesses are slugging it out with the fate of Five Kingdoms hanging in the balance.
It’s the Princess story that Keira Knightley always wanted.