STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE Comics!

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Back when I edited Star Trek for IDW, I put together a proposal for a series of reprint collections that I called Star Trek Archives, culling the best stories from 40+ years of Trek comic books  and re-releasing them in a deluxe format. Most of the comics in the “Trek oevre” appeared prior to the current industry trend of omnibus editions, so most had never been republished, and entire series–like some great titles from the second Marvel run of “Paramount Comics”–were at risk of falling into total obscurity.

I pitched an entire range of collections, not just “Best of Star Trek” but editions that focused on creators, characters, storylines and even villains. The project would also create the opportunity to collect special issues that had been scattered across the years, such as film adaptations, as well as dig through a few older, scandalously forgotten series to give them new life.

Star_Trek_Archives_vol01_BestOfPeterDavidcvr_largeI had wanted to put more Trek books on the shelves to coincide with the new film–the reason the Archives began appearing near the end of 2008, to coincide with the movie’s original December release date–but it would also let us tip our hats to some of the marquee Trek creators whose work had appeared throughout the years; such as fan-favorite Peter David, writer/creator of the Fallen Angel series I edited for IDW, and John Byrne, whom IDW recruited to do the first-ever Trek series of his long, iconic career after he tested the waters in the Alien Spotlight series.

And so, in October 2008, fans began seeing Archive editions like The Best of Peter David, with stories that Peter and I hand-picked from his DC Comics run, as well as The Best of Gary Seven, to go along with  Byrne’s IDW series showcasing the character, which would see its own collected volume hitting the stands at around the same time. Readers also received The Best of the Borg–a favorite of mine, obviously–collecting both Marvel and DC issues but which had the good fortune to feature cover art from the Borg Alien Spotlight I had written for IDW.

Star_Trek_Archives_vol02_BestOfTheBorg_largeSome of the collections I developed for the Archives series eventually became the roster for the spinoff Omnibus line that IDW now publishes, including the entire reprinted run of the gloriously bizarre first Marvel series, along with its later Star Trek: Early Voyages title that recounted some exceptionally well-crafted tales of Captain Pike. It also included a Trek Movie collection, to feature a new Wrath of Kahn adaptation that Risa Kessler of Paramount and I had conspired to schedule for quite some time as the only TOS film–thanks to a quirk in Trek licensing history–that never received proper comics treatment.

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Last Generation #4, by Gordon Purcell, which featured Sulu in command of the Excelsior.

It’s been tremendously gratifying to watch those projects come to pass, first under my successor Andy Schmidt and now with the talented leadership of Scott Dunbier, along with other projects I originally developed plans for at IDW, such as the second Alien Spotlight series showcasing the Klingons, Tribbles and the Q, or the upcoming Captain Sulu miniseries, featuring his command of the Excelsior. (Did I just mention a new Sulu-Excelsior series to be published by IDW? Why, yes I did…)

But though these are good reasons one and all to launch the Star Trek Archives, even that conceals my true motive for the project, and for recruiting my already busy IDW cohort Clydene Nee (of San Diego Comic-Con fame) to help me out. The true reason that I conceived, pitched, negotiated and developed the entire Archives project is:

I wanted to publish Deep Space Nine.

The problem with DS9 has always been that, as has been widely discussed, IDW’s initial Trek license covered only TOS and TNG, with simply an option to pick up ancillary series like DS9, Voyager or Enterprise. And, just like with the TV ratings, comic sales for spinoff series have always been the bastard stepchild of the flagship franchises. So the question becomes: If you have only a handful of Trek titles available on the schedule, will you slot them with Kirk and Picard, or with Sisko and Kira, when you know one is likely to make reliably less money than the others?

But, again, like the TV show, DS9 has nothing if not an insanely dedicated and loyal following, and was easily the most consistently, heavily-requested Trek franchise among IDW’s readers whenever we’d ask what they wanted next. If I could test the waters for a DS9 series–some way to gauge fan support, without a full commitment to the schedule and the license–I’d find out if we could still make the Deep Space Nine numbers work.

ST-Archives-Vol4new-cvrAnd thus: Star Trek Archives: The Best of DS9.

I had known the guys from Malibu Comics, the original DS9 publisher, from way, way back in the day, when I worked as a founding writer for Wizard Magazine, and I thought they had produced some great DS9 stuff–it had even featured art by Gordon Purcell, now one of my artists on Trek at IDW, and who would go on to pencil my series Star Trek: The Last Generation. It also featured standout scripts by Mike W. Barr, who had written Trek for virtually every publisher to hold the license (minus the early Gold Key), and who I had met back during his Ultraverse days.

All of which represents an extremely lengthy and self-indulgent preamble to the news that, after years of discussion and massive fan requests–dating back to the days of my predecessor Dan Taylor in the Trek editor’s seat–it looks like IDW will now finally pick up the Deep Space Nine license.

Keep in mind, however, that like all projects not yet officially announced, this could all be the result of inside information gone frighteningly haywire, that there are infinite possible outcomes in an infinite universe, and as the saying goes, it’s not canon until it’s canon.

idw_logo2But, take note, IDW has played it extremely close to the vest about its upcoming  Trek lineup, apart from a nuTrek movie tie-in slot, the finale of John Byrne’s Romulans saga and an occasional Alien Spotlight one-shot scattered sporadically across the schedule. The runaway success of the film has propelled Trek back into the pop culture stratosphere, and IDW will be coordinating its upcoming schedule to reflect that.

I can’t say whether the DS9 Archives played a decisive role in this development, or if it’s simply the fact that the nuTrek franchise has momentarily sidelines Shatner-era TOS titles; perhaps a combination of the two, along with IDW’s longstanding posture of soliciting reader input and being responsive to what fans want. In that respect, it’s got one of the best reputations in the business.

So, what shape will new DS9 comics ultimately take? I’m speaking now from personal experience as the Trek editor and my years in the comics biz, and not from any additional inside info; but I would speculate that they will not interface with the DS9 Relaunch novels from Pocket Books. IDW has always been quite independent in its Trek storytelling, and I would expect that it will pursue its own creative path without the obligation to proactively incorporate the prose-novel efforts.

Avatar,_Book_One_coverIDW will probably do what it can to avoid actively contradicting such stories, but keep in mind that both producing comics and novels remains acutely work-intensive, and it’s difficult enough already to keep in mind 168 episodes of the TV series, let alone what happens on every page of every novel that Pocket Books has ever published. Add to that the fact that Senior Editor Marco Palmieri has been laid off from Pocket without replacement and Paramount recently lost the encyclopaedic knowledge of  Trek guru Paula Block, and you can start to imagine the difficulties involved.

That said, it seems unlikely that IDW would examine the post-TV era anyway–major characters exited for parts unknown during the series finale, and it would be counterintuitive for IDW to pay license for those characters,  only to not make use of them; moreover, Pocket has already re-examined their fates, so retreading such recently familiar ground would only invite unnecessary comparison.

Instead, what you’ll probably see, much as IDW has done for TOS and TNG, are stories set during the arc of the TV show; perhaps the Dominion War–by far and away DS9’s most popular contribution to Trek lore–and, more specifically, stories that feature Worf’s presence on the station, since that would allow IDW to integrally market a major TNG character and remedy concerns that a DS9 series might not sell as well.

comiconIDW will most likely unveil its DS9 plans at the San Diego Comic-Con next week–so, if the universe unfolds as it should, you would begin seeing new DS9 comics by either the end of this year or early 2010. I’m led to believe that a writer has already been hired, with an interior artist to follow shortly (if not already); and, if it is indeed slated for a Comic-Con announcement, then promotional artwork will already have been produced, so we may see the first new DS9 images even before the end of this month.

I’ve moved up and on to other companies and projects since IDW, but even still, it’s the one announcement I’m going to be paying closest attention to at the show next week.

Now about that Sulu series…


Related posts:

LAST GENERATION Original Artwork for sale!

last-generation-logoHeya! Just wanted to post a note that my buddy and inker extraordinaire, Bob Almond, whose work made Star Trek: The Last Generation look so incredibly polished, has put original artwork pages up for sale online for the entire miniseries.

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Bob Almond

If you’re a collector of original comic book art, or just want a cool-as-Kahn Star Trek collectible, you should definitely check it out. Bob makes regular convention appearances where you can pick up his Last Gen pages and stuff from other titles  (Marvel Comics, etc.), but a number of spankin’ pages from the Trek series have already sold, so you might want to look into it now before all the best ones are gone.

Bob’s so notable in the industry that he runs the Inkwell Awards (the comics biz’s premiere awards for inking work), so I was incredibly lucky to have him rock my world on The Last Generation. He’s also about as nice a guy as you’re likely to meet, so if you do run into him at a show, chat him up and he’ll tell you a couple of cool stories.

There are a number of great pieces still up for grabs, but I’ve reproduced a few of my favorites from the series below. Click on the link above to go to the Comic Art House site, which handles sale of Bob’s work.

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WordPress Top-100!

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Wow, I just wanted to say that the Star Trek movie script review that I published this week has easily become one of the most heavily-trafficked posts in the short history of this site–literally thousands upon thousands of visitors during just a few days. It even charted in the Top-100 posts for all of WordPress (#54, see above–click for full size), with this site itself hitting #78 on the Top Blogs of the Day.

In fact, according to my metrix software, this site actually ranked considerably higher for the week than the blog for the entire company of Radical Publishing, where you can find my most recent work. That just blows my mind, and let’s hope my friends and colleagues there don’t hold it against me. 😉

Thanks to all of you for reading, and hope you like the film.

Pax,

ASH

STAR TREK Movie Script Review: FIRE EVERYTHING!

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With the world premiere of Star Trek unspooling tonight in Sydney—and no, the International Date Line does not constitute time travel—I thought I’d finally break my silence about the script, as one of the few people in the galaxy to actually read the screenplay ahead of time.

A word of caution as we begin: breaking my silence doesn’t mean breaking my non-disclosure agreement with IDW, Orci/Kurtzman or Bad Robot, who would all be happy to set their phasers to kill if I genuinely ruined any surprises. So, expect a spoiler-free review below; and if you actually like spoilers, you’ll already be surfing a tsunami of them tomorrow and won’t need any from me. (In fact, thanks to Twitter, you’ll probably even get them during the screening itself).

First, however, some background: Director J.J. Abams, the mastermind behind the franchise’s reboot, is notoriously secretive with the details of his projects, a lesson cannily learned from the successes of Lost and Cloverfield; so even reading the script ahead of time required a perfect storm of opportunity and circumstance.

trekmovielogoAs the Trek editor for IDW, which routinely publishes comic book prequels for its licensed titles, the “Supreme Court” of J.J.’s creative circle had tapped me to write the four-issue miniseries that would lead into the film, with the comics hitting the stands in 2008. Soon thereafter, though, Paramount execs repositioned Star Trek as a 2009 summer tentpole release, having laid their eyes on the film’s early footage. Meanwhile, I left the Trek captain’s chair to freelance full-time, and the logistical insanity of creating both the film and the prequel simultaneously finally forced J.J.’s team to shift gears and create the comics series in-house. (No cards or flowers for me, please—it’s not the first time that’s happened in Hollywood, and it won’t be the last.)

During the interim between the two, however, I had the chance to drive up to Universal and read the script at the Orci/Kurtzman offices (where, by coincidence, I actually met one of the guys who’d ultimately write the prequel). This by itself took an extraordinary amount of negotiation, including a maze of round-robin phone calls, several rescheduled appointment dates, and finally a comprehensive resume of published works demonstrating my geek cred. When these people said they intended to keep the story under wraps, they weren’t kidding—in fact, even some key people at CBS/Paramount hadn’t read the script yet, and quite possibly still haven’t. (Did it help that I went to the same high school as Trek producer and Lost Abramite Damon Lindelof? Probably not, but you never know.)

I recognize that such secrecy has occasionally frustrated fans—Trek at its most basic might be a mere copyright, but it’s also a global cultural touchstone and the centerpiece of imagination for legions of true believers. When the custodian of that mythology says he’s going to rewrite the testament, but keep its secrets from the congregates, there’s naturally going to be disquiet among the faithful.

At the same time, however, this secrecy has delivered its exact desired effect: Fans have become more abuzz about this film than perhaps any other in Trek history, and unveiling the reworked franchise with one single flourish has proven much more effective than had J.J. piecemealed it out. Or, to put it in my familiar comic book terms: it would have been like reading a scattershot series of panels, released haphazardly, then attempting to gague whether the issue was any good.

So, enough preamble. Having read the script in a single flourish, is it any good?

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The answer is: Oh, my, yes. You’re goddamn right it is.

The Supreme Court has powered up all its storytelling weapons and—paraphrasing Nero—fired everything. Action, drama, mythology, philosophy, characterization, romance…literally, all here. Pulse-pounding action sequences, so well choreographed that they actually unfold right on the page. More in-depth characterization than some players receive during entire seasons of Trek. And, most importantly, such elements used not in place of the story, but in direct service to it.

Let’s start with action. As a writer, I use a couple of rules when crafting action scenes: #1: Good action is cool shit happening in interesting places. #2: Everything is more exciting when it’s airborne. And #3: Never pass up the chance to explode a helicopter. The script exploits the first two with consistent and often breathtaking effect; and, while there obviously aren’t any copters in Star Trek, Orci & Kurtzman blow up nearly everything else, again always in service to the story, and not merely CGI showpieces for a picture-frame plot.

The drama? There are a couple of rules when crafting drama as well. #1. Desperate characters struggle against rising stakes; #2: External conflict should be matched by internal conflict; and #3: Get the hell out of the helicopter, douchebag, it’s about to explode.

Here again, the script utterly nails it—especially #3, in which (once the story goes to warp) characters find themselves in almost constant jeopardy, either through action itself or the tension leading up to it. That alone speaks to the skill behind the script, since it keeps moments stretched drum-tight even when we’re all well aware—because, of course, this is the relaunch of the franchise—that most characters aren’t about to get cut in half by a lightsabre midway through the second reel.

spock-and-kirkOK, enough with the rules-numbering. Let’s talk about the characterization. Having written and edited licensed Star Trek, I can tell you that it’s really not that difficult to get Kirk’s voice onto the page or make Spock sound like Spock. Even Slash/fanfic’ers can do it; we’ve all seen the episodes and movies dozens of times and know exactly who they are and how they talk. The challenge for this film is to deliver an origin story about how those characters came to be.

On that level, it’s a story that will appeal not just to Trek fans, but universally to any fans of good storytelling, who can connect with individuals and the relationships that develop between them, with their character arcs of growth, failure and sacrifice, and their authentic human experiences even amidst the backdrop of exploding photon torpedoes.

neroWere there things I didn’t think were perfect? Well, sure. I thought that Nero actually read a little flat on the page—no pun intended—but, having seen even just brief clips of Eric Bana’s performance from the TV spots and trailers, I realize now that he could see in the script what I didn’t. He’s definitely taken the character and punched him through to the stratosphere.

I also thought there was one brief action set-piece that felt a bit too familiar to one from another film of the same genre (again, no spoilers, so I won’t say what); but when you’ve seen as many SF films, episodes, comics, scripts and pitches as I have, sooner or later you’ll find all sorts of moments that can start to seem familiar. It’s the only one I found in the script here, though, and if it’s executed correctly on the screen, it’s going to be a fantastic sequence.

So, all right, it’s a great script. But Star Trek scripts need to be more than great stories; they need to be great Trek, and that means fidelity to all the precise continuity that goes along with it. Talk of reboots and reworkings and reimaginings makes fans afraid that they’re about to rewatch Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes. We’ve all seen Greedo shoot first, and in Hollywood the words “trust me” and “fuck off” often sound remarkably identical. When I moderated the Star Trek publishing panel at the San Diego Comic-Con last year, the subject of the film naturally came up, and Wil Wheaton, sitting next to me, put it best: “We are all living in a Post-Phantom Menace World.”

I also have a number of good friends who have written Trek professionally for the screen, and as much as I fully respect them, there’s a sentiment among some that resists not just change, but any change. Those friends might very well disagree with me about this script, but it’s likely that they would have been disappointed no matter what story was made. Hell, some Star Trek fans already have Internet firefights worthy of the Dominion War, and that’s just for stories that didn’t restart the franchise. I couldn’t produce stories that pleased every single one of those fans when I ran the Trek titles at IDW, and Orci/Kurtzman don’t make the mistake of attempting to do that here.

enterpriseBut, just in case you’re concerned that this story marks its new continuity by pissing all over the old one, let me reassure you: That isn’t what happens here. The script doesn’t ignore 40+ years of continuity, it doesn’t replace it and it doesn’t even eulogize it. It constructs a deceptively elegant narrative device to leave in place all that has gone before, while striking off in a bold new direction. It’s a fresh coat of paint on the ship that we’re all already familiar and comfortable with.

There is indeed a moment in the script—I won’t say what it is, even though it’s already been leaked and widely discussed, since I promised no spoilers—that indelibly marks this as a new continuity; it’s sure to be controversial among the fans, but it’s not a cheap stunt or way of dismissing the old stories. It’s the story’s way of cementing a new identity all its own.

It’s also entirely fair to say that Paramount has hoped to refit the franchise for a new generation, acutely aware of the gently aging demographic that has devoted itself up until now; and in that respect it definitely represents a more modern sensibility and departure from the back-to-basics, “Enterprise gets involved in two warring factions on a planet” type of routine story that made Insurrection such an epic fail.

But while teens will most definitely love it, I’ll also say that my dad is 72 years old, wouldn’t know a phaser from a fork in a toaster, and I’m going to make him see it on opening weekend. It’s a story that communicates everything we’ve loved about Trek, to the masses who could never quite fathom why we loved it; it is, in almost every way, the Star Trek movie we’ve been waiting for.

LAST GENERATION: Coverama II

With the grand finale of my Star Trek: The Last Generation miniseries hitting the stands last week,  I thought I’d give s a bit of cool background on some more great Last Generation covers previewed during my blogging absence–this time from the recent past, and therefore not so tragically behind the curve:

Star Trek The Last Generation #4, by Gordon Purcell.

Star Trek: The Last Generation #4, by Gordon Purcell.

Gordon Purcell has been one of the premiere Star Trek comics artists of his generation. Known for his spot-on and yet remarkably expressive likenesses, it’s virtually impossible to think about Star Trek comics in the ’90s without his signature style coming to mind. (He’s such a vet of the franchise that his first Trek work was actually for DC’s first TOS series, in 1988.) Since then, Gordon’s worked on the second DC Trek series, their TNG series, Malibu’s Deep Space Nine and even Wildstorm’s Voyager efforts. (And that just about covers it, yah?)

Gordon Purcell

Gordon Purcell

So, when a fill-in issue opened up in our IDW schedule, it was a no-brainer for us to hire him on. We liked his work so much on that issue that we phoned him up again to wrap up the first Star Trek: Year Four miniseries, and then draw the entire run of the second Year Four series, from Trek grande dame D.C. Fontana and noted TV scribe Derek Chester. Gordon’s one of the most professional, steady and reliable artists I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with as an editor, so it was great to finally have him draw a series for me that I had written.

It was also well past due that Gordon finally drew a cover for us, so I called up Last Generation editor Andy Schmidt, my successor at IDW, and he thought it was an excellent idea. Since Gordon was already handling the interiors, this cover didn’t require much participation on my part, other than to tell Gordon, “JK’s already doing the space battle, so maybe you’ll want to do the mano-y-mano between Sulu and Worf.” (Yes, I know, a moment of breathtaking art direction.)

Gordon then turned in an image so perfectly suited to the story that it can practically be inserted directly into the comic, between pages 15 and 16, and have it make the climax of his epic fight scene somehow even more dramatic. That’s quite an accomplishment, considering that the cover was probably drawn months before he tackled the interiors of the issue.

Star Trek The Last Generation #5, by JK Woodward.

Star Trek: The Last Generation #5, by Nick Runge.

Nick Runge did some fantastic cover work for me when I edited the new Badger series for IDW, featuring the inestimable Mike Baron’s classic indie character from the 1980s. Here, he pulls off a ripping homage to the movie poster for The Undiscovered Country, this time with the Last Generation characters in place of the original Enterprise crew, since issue #5 involves the Last Gen cast traveling back in time to the climax of Star Trek VI . (There’s even Worf’s menacing gaze in place of Chang’s, complete with riveted eyepatch. Nice!)

Movie poster for Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country.

The original movie poster for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

You will notice one essential difference between the two images–the explosion’s a bit bigger, colored with a more limited palette. That’s actually intentional, to accommodate a very cool placement for the trade dress (series logo, etc.), since the composition of the original image wouldn’t have allowed for its usual location across the top.

But, as inspired as this cover is, I also can’t take any credit for it–it was kept secret, as a complete surprise for me, by my wily Last Gen editor Andy Schmidt. When I first laid eyes on it, that immediately became one of my favorite moments working on the Last Generation project. It was simply a stroke of genius to execute a second homage cover (after JK Woodward’s cool-as-hell rendition of Uncanny X-Men #141 for the first issue), and have them both serve as bookends for the completed series.

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Star Trek: The Last Generation #5, by JK Woodward

My pal JK Woodward served as the main cover artist for the entire Last Generation series, including this incredibly atmospheric image that harkens back to–and, really, surpasses–some of the best covers of the classic 1980s and ’90s DC Comics run.

Strangely–perhaps because JK served as the main cover artist for the series–the Internets credited him, rather than Nick, for the Star Trek VI homage cover when it was first released. Obviously, if you read it on the Internet then it must be true, so people were pleasantly surprised when JK later unveiled this stellar (no pun intended) painted work.

LAST GEN #5 On Sale — UPDATE: Selling out!

last-generation-logoWent to my Friendly Neighborhood Comic Book Store at 5pm to pick up Star Trek: The Last Generation #5, and… it had sold out, on the very first day. So, I drove 20 minutes to another, larger store, and–sold out!

For the first time in a long time, I actually felt thrilled to drive home empty-handed.

Colorist John Hunt, who worked on part of the issue along with Mario Boon, told me he had a similar experience, in which he went to his comics shop and found the very last copy available. I’ve even had a reviewer contact me looking for a copy, since it was gone on the first day at his shop, too.

It’s not a question of retailers ordering fewer copies–the numbers for issue #4 actually went up from #3–which almost never happens for a miniseries (and it didn’t have any Retailer Incentive covers to increase orders, either).

Issue #4 appeared in the retailer order guide the same month that #1 hit the stands, so rack sales and customer reaction to the first issue must have been unusually strong. And, based on these sales for #5, it looks like it continued through the entire series.

If you can’t find #5 on the stands, ask your retailer put in a reorder and it’ll show up in about a week, usually the next Wednesday or Thursday. Or, pick up the collected edition, which hits both comics shops and book stores in July, just in time for the San Diego megashow.


STAR TREK: THE LAST GENERATION #5 On Sale!

Q’plah! The time-warping series finale of Star Trek: The Last Generation hits the stands today, with the climactic issue #5! Art once again by Gordon Purcell and Bob Almond, with colors by Mario Boon and John Hunt and covers from the brushes of JK Woodward and Nick Runge.

I hope you all had as much of a blast reading it as I had writing it, and special thanks go out to Paula Block, late of CBS/Paramount, and Marco Palmieri, late of Simon & Schuster’s Pocket Books, for their help in getting it all off the ground. Look for the collected edition to be out in July, just in time for the San Diego Comic-Con.

Here are the covers and solicitation text again, just in case you missed them from a few days back:

“The time-shattering conclusion! In an alternate history in which the Klingons have conquered Earth, Jean-Luc Picard and his Resistance travel back to the past in a daring, final gambit to restore the timeline and liberate the planet. But what awaits the rebellion may not be what it expected at all, and the fate of the Federation itself hangs in the balance.”

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