StarTrek.com, over the past several weeks, has been reporting on IDW Publishing's ambitious new Star Trek comic book series set in the Star Trek (2009) universe and depicting Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the rest of the Enterprise crew in stories based on classic TOS episodes -- and paving the way to the next feature film. Now, we're pleased to present an exclusive interview with Mike Johnson, who penned the sold-out first issue, Star Trek #1: "Where No Man Has Gone Before" and upcoming issues, and Roberto Orci, the co-writer of Star Trek (2009), who is on board as the project's creative director. Johnson and Orci talked about the Star Trek comics, Star Trek (2009), the upcoming Star Trek (2009) video game and even a little bit about the next Star Trek feature.
First, let's go back to Star Trek (2009). To your thinking, in what ways did that film re-set/re-open the Star Trek universe?
Orci: It’s tough to sum it up in one word, whether the word is re-set, re-boot, prequel, even sequel!
Johnson: The real genius of the ’09 movie was to make it a continuation of everything that has come before, not a “re-boot” in the sense that it made everything that had come before irrelevant. Trek never re-boots, it just evolves into the future.
The film's alternate timeline had its supporters and detractors. Supporters loved the idea that these familiar characters could go on new adventures without necessarily affecting the events and characters of The Original Series, while detractors disliked the changes, most notably destroying Vulcan and killing off Spock's mother. Bob, as the co-screenwriter, how surprised -- or not -- were you by the strong, diverse reactions?
Orci: I’d like to say I was surprised, but as a fan I was going through all of those reactions myself as we came up with the story and how to revisit the characters for the new movie. The only surprise was how well-received it was.
This new comic book series sets in motion the countdown to the next film. So, give us a preview. What can readers expect to see?
Johnson: The first few issues of the series are adaptations of TOS episodes, as the “new” crew encounters some of the same threats the original crew did, but with differences that reflect things like Kirk being a younger captain and Spock losing his homeworld. As we get closer to the next movie, the stories will begin to foreshadow the events of the movie, such as possibly introducing new characters we will see onscreen... pun very much intended.
More specifically, the very first title re-imagined "Where No Man Has Gone Before." Without spoiling too much for anyone who's not read it yet, in what ways does it re-imagine the second pilot?
Johnson: Most importantly, it reflects the fact that Bones and Chekov were not yet a part of the crew in the original episode. Also the fact that in this new timeline Kirk is younger than Gary Mitchell, not a more experienced officer.
What other episodes will you tackle, and what excites you most about your fresh takes on those episodes?
Johnson: Each episode will be told in two issues, so in issue #3 and #4 we will revisit the events of “The Galileo Seven.” I’m excited about this one because it’s a Spock-centric story that explores his brief experience as a commanding officer and how he was affected by losing command of the Enterprise to Kirk in the last movie. I can’t spoil which episodes come after that, but I can say that events will deviate more and more from the TOS versions as the new timeline evolves.
Orci: Re-visiting original episodes in the new timeline is great for two reasons. First, we can do things we can’t do in the movies, simply because we don’t have the time to explore so many different adventures in the course of one film. And second, it’s so much fun to revisit the classic stories. Imagine being invited to jam with your favorite band. The classic songs will never change, but you get to play them in a new way.
How much, if at all, will what you're doing ultimately tie into the next film and its story?
Johnson: Very much so, much in the way that the “Countdown” series set up backstory for the last movie. It’s fantastic to have Bob’s input, because he can steer us clear of story elements that might conflict with what’s coming up in the next movie, and we can lay in subtle clues to what’s coming up so that once you see the new movie you can go back and see how it evolved in the comics.
Talk a little bit about working together. What's your process?
Johnson: Bob and I talk about which original episodes would be right for adaptation in the new timeline. I go off and write the comic script, and Bob reviews it for ways to use the comic to hint at the story and character arcs that we will see in the next movie. Bob reviews the finished comic art, and our partners at IDW Publishing work their magic to create a great book to put on the shelves.
Orci: Mike was with us from the very beginning of development on the first movie, working at our production company. Now that he’s moved on to writing full-time, it’s a blessing to have someone working on the comics who has been there from day one and understands the characters so well.
Johnson: Bob and I have discussed the major beats of the next movie, which is a great help in laying clues in the comic. We have very few secrets, that I know of anyway.
Orci: Umm, yeah.
Johnson: Is there something you need to fill me in on?
Orci: Later. Not here on the internet.
What did you guys learn doing "Countdown" that you brought to bear on this new comic-book series?
Johnson: Most importantly, we found that fans really embrace comics as an extension of the Star Trek universe. In 2009, “Countdown” made the New York Times graphic novel bestseller list, which is testament to the faith and enthusiasm of the fan base. The success of “Countdown” made us all the more committed to delivering a great new ongoing comic series.
Bob, you've also consulted on the video game. How important is it to you to have a hand in the various spin-offs, to be the keeper of new Trek's continuity?
Orci: It’s important only to the extent that it serves Star Trek as a whole. There’s no point in being involved just for the sake of being involved in everything. But if the new material can be seen as coming from a collective voice working on the property, I’m happy to help.
Bob, since we're talking, what updates can you give us about the next Trek film?
Orci: The cast is excited. We have a director. We’ve started scouting locations. The second time around the crew is already together from the start, so we can jump right into the adventure.
Mike, you're usually juggling several projects at once. What else do you have going on at the moment?
Johnson: I’m helping out with the new Star Trek video game coming out next year, and we have plans already underway to tie the comics, game, and new movie together. I’m writing for the K/O-produced animated show Transformers: Prime, and I’m co-writing the new Supergirl series for DC Comics.
Keep an eye on StarTrek.com for news about upcoming Star Trek comic-book adventures from IDW.