While I have extensive experience with superhero comic books, my experience with manga is relatively small. I know that my local Barnes & Noble has a significant amount of shelf space devoted to manga, and that quite a number of my students are often seen walking around with Tokyopop trade paperbacks. I once flirted with anime a little bit, but going so far as to dive head-first into that particular world of fandom was never something I even attempted.
That being said, I am sure that I’m not alone in my generation by mentioning that as a kid I had exposure to Japanese comics and cartoons through Voltron and Robotech. I suppose I’ll get around to talking about Voltron some other time, but Robotech seemed to have far greater reach, at least in terms of manga/anime as a whole. Of course, I think that “true” fans of the genre and the work refer to it (or at least part of it) as Macross, but considering I have spent my life being nothing but mainstream, I’ll just go with Robotech.
My first exposure to Robotech was when the animated series ran on WPIX 11 every afternoon when I was in elementary school. It was an enormous show that had more episodes and storylines than I could count, but to be quite honest I wasn’t interested in the plots or character development when I was eight years old. I just thought it was awesome because the character flew around in planes that transformed into robots that looked exactly like the Autobot named Jetfire (or was it Skyfire? There was an enormous debate between my friend Evan and myself about this when I was a kid. Evan, at one point, even claimed that there were two separate toys and he had the other one … but never produced it). There was a comic book series put out by Comico that retold the television series verbatim (it even had a little “As seen on TV!” box in the middle), which you can probably pick up in a dollar bin somewhere; and a toy line put out by Matchbox which was compatible with G.I. Joe (I had the motorcycle).
However, Robotech was for the most part forgotten after it went off TV and toys were relegated to that “aisle of random and forgotten toys” in Toys R Us. None of my friends ever really got that into it and so I was kind of alone in my love of the mecha series and gave it up to concentrate on the Joes, movies like Aliens, and baseball.
Then, when I was in the ninth or tenth grade, a new store called Bassett Book Club opened up next to K-Mart on Sunrise Highway. The place was huge, several times bigger than the B.Dalton and Waldenbooks I used to frequent at the mall, and the first time my mom took me there, I went straight for the science fiction section to check out their selection of graphic novels and Star Trek books. After marveling at the fact that the store had the novelization of just about every movie as well as books that I’d only seen listed in my Star Trek Fan Club magazine, the spine of several books with “Robotech” written on the side caught my eye.