David Reddick Celebrates Geekdom With Intelligent Life Comic Strip
How big a Star Trek fan is David Reddick? Let's go with big... huge... mega, entire-Borg-Collective level. He maintains a deep love for Star Trek and Gene Roddenberry's vision, having grown up on it obsessively, first with TOS re-runs as a kid and feeding his addiction with each series thereafter. Let's also say that he's enough of a fan to have created a comic strip, The Trek Life, about being a Star Trek fan. In fact, it ran for three years on StarTrek.com, much to his "undying, geeky heart's pleasure." These days, Reddick is the digital and social media coordinator for Garfield; yes, that Garfield, and via King Features, recently launched Intelligent Life, a comic strip that celebrates the joys of geekdom through a quartet of characters: Skip, Gwen, Mike and Barry. Intelligent Life runs in daily and Sunday papers nationwide and can be accessed digitally on 250-plus Comics Kingdom websites. StarTrek.com caught up with Reddick for a geeked-out chat about Trek, Intelligent Life and what might happen if Garfield and Data's beloved Spot ever met. Here's what he had to say.
What made now the right time for Intelligent Life?
REDDICK: The time for geek acceptance is here. When I was a kid, it was a derogatory thing to be called a geek or a nerd, something I was intimately familiar with, and even embraced. But times have changed. Geek culture has become pop culture, and has not just entered the mainstream, it *is* the mainstream in many regards.
The top-grossing movies nowadays are Marvel and DC superhero movies and other geek-tacular sci-fi and fantasy offerings. Movie producers don't rely on the Cannes Film Festival to announce and preview new movies these days; they go to San Diego Comic Con. And you'd be hard-pressed to find a non-geek who isn't familiar with what cosplay, video gaming or Comic-Con International is. TV shows, movies, smart phones, tablets, apps, gaming... that's geek stuff. A plethora of TV channels are devoted to Food, Choppers, Pawn Shops, Duck Calls, Sports, History. That's also geek stuff. Being a geek is all about fanatic passion for something you love. We're all geeks now, whether we know it or not. And Intelligent Life celebrates this and calls it out in all its delicious and unbridled glory.
What are you aiming for with the strip?
REDDICK: I want to celebrate geekdom. To have fun with, enjoy and express on an even deeper level personally, and ultimately share the things that I love, and that so many other people love, too. I want to celebrate the heart and core of what it is to be a geek. One thing Intelligent Life will never do is make fun of or ridicule being a geek. Because I am a geek. 100%. This is a world I know intimately, and celebrate unapologetically. I'm the guy who's dressed up in his Kirk uniform and worn it to work. I'm the guy who has a huge Star Trek TOS poster behind me on the wall in my office at the Garfield studio right this very moment. I'm "that guy."
As a kid, I grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons and sci-fi movies and reading comic books and sci-fi novels and playing D&D and carrying around blueprints of the Enterprise and maps of dungeons and drawings of dragons and aliens. And I'm still that kid. Only now I get to share it with others, and interact with like-minded friends old and new across the board.
I want to create a world that people enjoy visiting every day — my hope is that readers will come to know the characters in my strip, and begin to recognize them, and laugh with them. The characters and their world should be a familiar reflection of us and our world. The more true I can be and the more funny I can be, the more I'm certain readers will respond.
Hitting on both of the previous questions, are you at all surprised to bear witness to geek culture shifting from the fringe to the mainstream? If so or if not... why?
REDDICK: I’m not at all surprised and I’m infinitely thrilled. As I told you, when I was a kid, it was a derogatory thing to be called a geek or a nerd. Times have changed. Geek culture has become pop culture, and has not just entered mainstream, it is the mainstream in many regards – for all the reasons I mentioned before.
We all know a Skip, Gwen, Mike and/or Barry, but which one of them most represents you -- and in what ways?
REDDICK: While each character is some facet of either me and/or people I have known, Skip best represents me. Skip can be an oddball, a little bit of an outsider sometimes, awkward and a total dork on many an occasion. Especially with Gwen. But his personality plays perfectly with the other characters and they bring out the best, and sometimes the funny worst in him. Skip sort of has this "searching" inside... never quite perfectly comfortable, always believing there's something more around the corner, always knowing he could be more than what he is... but at the same time he's pretty happy with who he is and where he's at. I think Skip's just a likable guy with a lot of potential, and someone I'd like to hang out with. Skip's not perfect. He's real. And he's ok with that. And I like that. Because I think we all want to be ok with who we are, in both the positive and the negative, and it's not always easy to achieve, and sometimes it's the hope for or searching for it that not only allows us to move forward with open eyes, but also to maybe lighten up and laugh at ourselves a bit along the way.
Take us through the process of creating the strips. Where do you get your inspiration? How quickly can you go from idea to finished strip?
REDDICK: Inspiration comes literally from everywhere. Things I overhear in a store, random thoughts, things I see, a dream, a song, a situation I live or have lived, conversations I've had. I find myself constantly being in any given situation, such as standing in a line at a store or sitting at a movie or getting my oil changed, and thinking about Skip, Gwen, Mike and Barry and how any one of them might feel or what they might be doing there as well. Things they might talk about, opinions they might have. The key for me is thinking of them in any given situation and letting their personalities and character tell me what they'd do or say. In this way, they are perfectly alive and present, not unlike standing in the middle of a holodeck and watching them do their thing.
As far as time on a strip, I can usually finish a strip in a few hours, but there's a whole lot of extra logistical stuff that surrounds the production of a strip, which can add time to the process. It can also be unpredictable depending on how art-intensive a given strip can be, because I just plain love to draw, and I like to add little details, little Easter eggs, little nuggets of fun that either mean something or that I do simply to amuse myself.
What happens more… an image inspiring a strip -- with you having to build dialogue around it, or something you’ve heard/realized inspiring a strip -- with you having to craft images?
REDDICK: While I do sketch a lot in my hardbound sketchbook, and will doodle the characters in situations, which can occasionally cause an idea to materialize, I almost always write first. I literally write my strips in the template of the comic strip, in the boxes themselves, to help me visualize the strip as a whole and the pacing and "feel" of the comic strip. In the very beginning, I jot down endless "key words" either digitally in lists or in my sketchbook for reference when I'm in writing mode, that will spawn full strips. I like to keep the process both methodical yet also creatively open and organic, allowing myself to be receptive to ideas in any form without too much rigidity. It keeps it fresh and fun for me as a process. And I am a total process geek.
Daily and Sunday is quite the pace. It’s not the same as doodling or sketching for fun. How much pressure is there to come up with enough material… enough funny material?
REDDICK: Oh, the pressure is always on. Deadlines for a comic strip are a very real thing, and it does require a certain level of Klingon fortitude, because the moment you get a batch done for one week, well, it's time to start the next batch for the next week, and so on. You also need to switch between writing mode, drawing mode, business mode, logistics mode, social media mode, and so on. But know what? A daily comic strip is like a cute, chirping little never-ceasing creative Tribble to feed... the more you feed it, the more you get back in spades, which is good if you're not a Klingon, and it is genuinely wonderful to create this world and find that other people appreciate it as well. Through the very act of others reading your creation, getting to know the characters and ideally caring about them in some way, they interactively bring your creation to life in a much grander sense for you as the creator. I know how Gene Roddenberry felt... creating a world with characters and situations and needs and thoughts and feelings, and then finding out how real they became to others... it is both humbling and infinitely satisfying, and only makes you want to keep doing it again and again. Readers and fans are the lifeblood of a creator's world. And in this sense, there will always be enough material for Intelligent Life.
Circling back to Star Trek. How often will you sneak Trek references into Intelligent Life?
REDDICK: Oh, I'd say as often as I can get away with, haha. Because my brain is so heavily saturated and wired with Trek, I actually have to make a conscious effort *not* to reference it too much. It's such a rich tapestry of so many facets of being a human being that Star Trek really feeds my own personal philosophies in general, but also, well, Trek is loaded with really fantastic imagery, shows, movies and characters and I foresee having some real fun with the occasional Trek reference, even in small or personally philosophical ways.
Star Trek speed round. Who’s your favorite Trek character?
REDDICK: That's a tough one. At the risk of the consequences of saying "Any Orion Slave Girl," my list of faves are easily Spock, Q, Data, Worf, Sisko, Garak, and Seven of Nine. I think Worf may be my favorite of all, though. Such a rich character in emotion and passion and depth. I am all for a Captain Worf series. And upon thinking about why these characters are my favorites, it occurs to me that each of these characters has been a sort of "outsider" in some way, and had to overcome certain obstacles, in some cases, personal pasts, to change that (or in some cases, never changed it) and grow and that resonates deeply with me. I've always felt like I sort of stand on the periphery of a lot of things. I know I did as a kid. I even often do as an adult. That's why Star Trek, and in the very same vein, Intelligent Life, means so much to me. It celebrates this and welcomes us with the sort of philosophy of the Vulcan IDIC to me, "Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations."
Which Trek film was the best?
REDDICK: 1982's Wrath of Khan, easily. It was gritty. It was real. There were real consequences to the characters' actions, and it stripped away the sheen and the gloss of the TV series (and the first film) and gave me something that made me feel real fear, real heart and real loss. I cried like a baby when Spock sacrificed himself, back when I was a wee lad.
How would Garfield and Spot get along if they ever met?
REDDICK: Garfield would eat all of Spot's food and laze around Data's quarters and take up all of Spot's space. But I have a feeling Spot, who is, at least to Data, a pretty cat and a good cat... has a bit of an inner Targ Beast that would likely unleash. And, unfortunately for Garfield, it would likely come out on a Monday.
Which Trek actor or actress would you be most excited to learn reads Intelligent Life?
REDDICK: Hmm... I think in particular, some of my personal favorites such as George Takei and Wil Wheaton especially, as well as Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, Whoopi Goldberg, Simon Pegg, Leonard Nimoy and Nichelle Nichols, most of whom I've met and talked to at conventions. I think they are just some of the best people. And Gwen is a bit of a nod to Nichelle Nichols, in combination with some others I know who personally have the same qualities as her. Ms. Nichols is a true class act who I respect greatly for her open-minded uniqueness and strength of character. This is why it's hard to boil this answer down, because all Trek actors and actresses are fantastic. I don't think one can work in Star Trek and not adopt much of its core philosophy, which makes them all someone I'd be proud to have reading my comic strip.
For more information about the Intelligent Life comic strip, visit intelligentlifecomics.com.