Scott Tipton had been writing comic books for years before he hooked up with Star Trek – and tapping out Trek-centric comics, to him, represented the Holy Grail. Tipton was already writing Angel titles for IDW Publishing when IDW landed the Trek license. He wasted no time in reaching out to Chris Ryall and informing the IDW editor that he was eager to snag a Trek assignment. Tipton suggested ideas for a Klingons series, all the powers that be gave their consent and the result was Klingons: Blood Will Tell. Tipton – often in tandem with his brother, David -- has since created numerous other Trek (and non-Trek) titles, including the eagerly awaited, four-part Khan: Ruling in Hell series that IDW will launch this month. StarTrek.com recently caught up with Tipton for an interview in which he talked about Trek titles past and future, working with his brother and his other current projects.
When you look back at that your first Trek comic and compare it to what you're doing now for Trek, how does that first book hold up?
Tipton: I’m happy to say that I think Klingons: Blood Will Tell holds up really well these four or so years later. I glanced through it for the first time in years when it was recently re-released in IDW’s Star Trek Omnibus, and I was pleased to see that I was overall very satisfied with it. There are always things you think you could’ve done better with the benefit of hindsight, but I can hand that book to someone to read today, with no qualms. It certainly helps working with an amazing collaborator like David Messina, who did his first Trek work on the project, and did an outstanding job.
You've written TOS, TNG and DS9 comics and ventured into the 2009 reboot movie universe with Spock: Reflections. Which spoke in the franchise comes most easily to you?
Tipton: I think TOS and TNG come most naturally, just because I’ve been immersed in those mythologies, especially TOS, for so long. But I was pleasantly surprised at how easily I was able to slip in to the world of DS9. I think the DS9 characters having such distinct voices, which were allowed to have more of an adversarial edge compared to the other Trek series, made it very easy to channel those personalities.
Which particular Trek character do you most enjoy writing? Why?
Tipton: Every series brings with its own unique pleasures. I’ve gotten to work with Spock a lot, and I think I’ve got a good handle on him. Picard is a delight to write, to tinker with the cadences and find that line or phrase you could really hear Patrick Stewart deliver. I expected to have trouble with Sisko, but found that his voice seemed to just come together naturally.But I think by far the most fun is the Kirk/Spock/McCoy triangle. McCoy really allows you that opportunity for humor that’s a little harder to come by in some of the other series, and playing off that relationship between the three of them gives you so much to work with.
In addition to Trek, you've written stories based on existing franchises before, with Buffy and Angel. How deep into shows do you dig, so that the words, actions, attitudes, etc., of the characters you're writing reflect what readers know/expect from the original incarnations?
Tipton: Oh, tons. Whether it’s Angel or Star Trek, before I start any new series, I’ll re-watch a whole mess of episodes that focus on whatever characters are most significant in the new story, both to try and make sure that what I’m doing is consistent with their character and their back story, and also to get their voice firmly in my head as I’m writing dialogue. Fans know these shows and these characters inside and out, and it’s my responsibility to try and re-create that experience as closely as I can.
You frequently collaborate with your brother, David. Who handles what on a given title? Do you work together in the same room? Separately and email back and forth?
Tipton: I write the nouns and he writes the verbs, and on every other issue, we switch. Seriously, though, we work together on the whole process, top to bottom. We “break” the story together at the early proposal stage, then plot the whole series out together, issue by issue, page by page. When it comes to the actual scripting, we usually divide up each issue into its individual scenes, and each handle writing the first draft of those separately, then each take rewrite passes over the completed script until we’re happy with it. We tend to have the same ideas about what makes for a good Trek story, so it works out smoothly.
You guys just did the Burden of Knowledge miniseries. How satisfied were you with the result?
Tipton: We were very happy with it. I thought our artist, Federica Manfredi, did a marvelous job of capturing the classic sixties feel of TOS, while still making it feel modern and vibrant, and the reviews agreed. We were really trying to recapture the feel of TOS in this one, going with episodic stories that tackled contemporary themes, and I received an e-mail just today from a reader who said the series “transport[ed] [him] back to the '60s to tell stories that Roddenberry himself might have wanted to tell, and done the way he would have wanted.” He also called the book “the gift of four newly discovered episodes.” That kind of response is incredibly gratifying. It’s why we do it, quite frankly.
You'll be attending the Hollywood Xpo this weekend. What's the kick you get out of meeting the fans and your peers, and what do the fans most often ask you?
Tipton: Meeting the readers is one of the best parts of the job. They don’t so much have common questions as much as they just want to talk Star Trek, and I’m certainly always happy to oblige. I was signing my Trek books at a convention in Germany last year, and a fan came up with a big stack of my books for me to sign, and also a schematic of one of the Starbases I had used in my recent series, and wanted to show me how it should have worked in the scene. I love that. That kind of investment in the story is a boon for any writer, to have a built-in audience ready to go who wants to like what you do. We’re trying like crazy to keep them satisfied.
What else are you working on? New books, new comics? Your site?
Tipton: Well, my Web site, Comics 101 (www.comics101.com), continues to be updated every Wednesday with my weekly column on comics history, humor and whatever else comic-related strikes my fancy. And I’m currently writing a new Angel miniseries for IDW, Illyria: Haunted, with Mariah Huehner and my frequent artistic collaborator Elena Casagrande. There are also a few other things in the works, but like every freelancer knows, best not to mention them until it’s a done deal, you know?
Give us a preview of the Khan: Ruling in Hell series. And are there any other subsequent Trek books you'll be involved after Khan?
The Khan series has been a blast. We’re looking at Khan’s lost years, between the events of Space Seed and The Wrath of Khan, his years marooned on Ceti Alpha V. We want to explore what happens to a man so powerful, so capable, who’s confronted with this kind of loss, the ultimate “no-win scenario,” if you will. It’s the first time I’ve ever written a tragedy; it’s been quite an experience. The art is by Fabio Mantovani, and he’s turning in beautiful, emotionally rich pages. I can’t wait for readers to take a look. And coming up in 2011, Star Trek will be taking part in IDW Publishing’s colossal crossover event Infestation, with my brother and I handling the script. More details on that soon, but it’s going to be wild.