Exclusive Interview: Tim Jones & Mike Johnson Talk Nero, Star Trek Adaptation & Future Comics July 25, 2009by Anthony Pascale , Filed under: Comics,Star Trek (2009 film),Star Trek Into Darkness,TNG , trackback
At the Comic-Con IDW panel this week, Tim Jones and Mike Johnson talked a bit about their two follow-up comic books to “Star Trek Countdown,” but nothing we hadn’t already covered here. However, in an exclusive interview with TrekMovie, not only did they talk details on the two announced books, they also talked about the books coming next. Find out below.
Jones and Johnson talk Star Trek comics
Tim Jones and Mike Johnson work very closely with Star Trek scribes Bob Orci and Alex Kurtzman, in fact literally closely as they work for Kurtzman Orci on the Universal lot. This close collaboration worked well with the hit Star Trek movie prequel comic Countdown earlier this year, and the team are going to continue with a number of new comics. We talk about the Nero and Star Trek adaptation comic below, along with hints at another comic set in the Next Gen era, and a comic tied to the next Star Trek movie.
Comic Con Exclusive Countdown #1 (being signed today at Comic Con by Jones and Johnson at IDW booth)
TrekMovie: Let’s start with "Countdown" which was a big success for IDW. In my review of the Star Trek movie, and others noted this, I felt Countdown was required reading for Trek fans who wanted to fully understand the movie and the backstory. Was that your intention for Countdown.
Mike Johnson: Yeah that was the intention, as you well know since you there at the inception, was a way to to tie the new movie to the old movies and Next Generation. And definitely another big part of it was exactly what you said, giving people who really enjoyed the movie or were anticipating the movie, something that would add to their enjoyment. Things that if you saw the movie and hadn’t read the comic you wouldn’t notice, but if you had read the comic there would be all kinds of things where you would know, like the tattoos on the Romulans, or that Geordi designed the Jellyfish…little things that especially fans would get a kick out of.
TrekMovie: There were some little discrepancies between the comic and the movie. Were those things you were conscious of, but felt the were needed to make the comic better? The big example is how it appears that Nero and Spock had not met until right before going into the black hole.
Mike Johnson: You could interpret the film that way, because he said "he called himself Nero", but we always knew there was more to their backstory and if you watch the movie, realize he is telling Kirk an abbreviated form of what happened. It is just up to interpretation, and those are the things that are really hard to avoid.
TrekMovie: Instead of having the the last page of Countdown lead straight into the movie, with Nero and Spock falling into the black hole, Countdown carries on to show a little more of the Next Generation era. Was that an effort to make it clear that the black hole and time travel didn’t end the entire TNG universe?
Tim Jones: Yes. Picard and everyone is OK.
Mike Johnson: That actually came from Bob [Orci]. Let’s show the Next Gen guys alive and well. And it worked for the story, because we were sharing someone’s POV of ‘where did Spock go?’ And it was more fun to know we would get the answer in the movie, as opposed to ending the comic with Spock’s line getting cut off as he gets sucked into the black hole. We actually talked about having a more extended scene with Picard and Data and more of a scene where they talk about Spock and his legacy, but that was too much and took away from the cliffhanger aspect. So two pages felt like the best way to do what we wanted, which is to say: this alternate timeline is alive and well.
Countdown carried on to show Picard and Data (and the TNG universe) survived after Nero and Spock traveled back in time
TrekMovie: Getting to the Nero comic, one of the things noted in many reviews, including mine, was the hole in the film where people wondered ‘where was Nero for 25 years?’ Is that the reasoning behind the comic?
Tim Jones: Absolutely. Yeah there is a huge story sitting right there in the middle of the movie that, obviously, they didn’t have a lot of time to go into on-screen with everything else going on. So we get to fill in a little bit of that in graphic form.
Mike Johnson: And it isn’t just the Shawshank Redemption, or ‘Neroshank Redemption’. He is in prison for part of the series, but how did he know where to be to meet Spock. A big part of the mini-series is about how he learns that.
TrekMovie: So this covers the entire period from the destruction of the Kelvin, to when he captures Spock?
Mike Johnson: Yes. Issue One, the opening of the mini-series, and a lot of the fourth issue tie back into the movie.
TrekMovie: How much is based on the deleted scenes, and how much on new stuff?
Tim Jones: It is based pretty heavily on the deleted scenes.
Mike Johnson: One of the things we did with the Nero comic is keep it consistent with those deleted scenes as much as possible. For example when he was at Rura Penthe, David Messina is using that as his visual reference. There is an alien in those prison scenes, that has a speaking part in our mini-series and we give him a little more to do.
TrekMovie: Will we be seeing other characters besides the Romulans? Maybe Kirk or Spock or possibly some famous Klingons?
Mike Johnson: We have a sort of famous Klingon. There are are characters, things, entities from the Star Trek universe that are in the comic that were not seen in the movie, that actually tie into the story. There is a new human character that is unique to the comic. We do see Spock, but which Spock?
TrekMovie: Nero is the villain of the movie and is destined to create a Vulcan genocide, yet he gets his comic series. So is he the hero of the comic? Are you guys making him more sympathetic? JJ Abrams told me one of the reasons they cut the Rura Penthe scenes is that test audiences didn’t know who the bad guys were, the Romulans in prison or the Klingons keeping them there.
Mike Johnson: That is a really good question. What makes Nero cool is that he is one of the villains that is as bad as it gets, but he is sympathetic when you realize what drove him insane. It doesn’t forgive him, but it makes him more interesting. He is an anti-hero. In the book, he is the hero to the extent that he is the main character and we are following his emotional journey, but he doesn’t do very nice things in the comic either. What the comic helps us do is flesh him out more. Some of the feedback from Countdown was that the switch happened pretty quickly, and the Nero series gives us some more room to show his evolution into crazyland.
TrekMovie: Moving on to the Star Trek movie adaptation, it was announced to be six issues instead of the usual four for adaptations at IDW. Is that because of the film or to fill in extra material?
Mike Johnson: It is really both. The movie is so big in terms of scope and what goes on. But we also want to put more deleted stuff in there. Four is too short, and eight issues gets you to the point where fans are not going to want to go for 3/4 of a year. So with it coming in January, we wanted something to come in this period between the two movies and give fans something to enjoy.
Tim Jones: It is not going to be an exact duplication of the movie. We will be able to hear some inner dialog from our characters, which you don’t get on screen.
Mike Johnson: We don’t want to just tell the scenes verbatim, because you can just watch them in the movie. Se we would rather just use the comic form and take advantage of it. So show scenes that you know, but show them from a different perspective.
TrekMovie: Will you go beyond the deleted scenes and tap into any scripted scenes that were never filmed?
Tim Jones: That is our intention and hope, but we need to get approvals from the powers that be.
Mike Johnson: And we are looking at old drafts. I know Bob [Orci] is excited about looking at the evolution and what we can use that would add something so it isn’t just a strict adaptation. So we are looking at drafts and finding new lines and things.
TrekMovie: Isn’t there going to be duplication between the Nero series and the adaptation? Won’t the same deleted scenes end up in both?
Tim Jones: I would say no. We would steer further away from it, since we are doing that in the Nero series, we will probably not spend as much time with those deleted scenes in the adaptation.
Mike Johnson: We took some deleted scenes for the Nero series, and others for the adaptation. The ideal is, hint hint, that one day you could put all of these three mini-series together [Countdown, Nero, Star Trek adaptation] into one giant awesome heavy Star Trek comic book.
TrekMovie: The movie was great, but there are always second thoughts on things. Are there going to be tweak to dialog or other things to maybe make things clearer here or there? Maybe throw in the word ‘parallel’ somewhere?
Mike Johnson: [laughs] It is actually going to be called "Star Trek Parallel" so I hope that answers that question.
Tim Jones: Perhaps. But not sure how revisionist we all want to be.
Mike Johnson: I think it would be more fleshing things out than do-over.
TrekMovie: You mentioned the next movie, if that movie comes out in 2010 this adaptation will come out in the year in-between. You guys are writing the adaptation of the first movie while Bob, Alex and Damon are writing the sequel. So, could there maybe be some foreshadowing or hints of the next movie in the adaptation?
Tim Jones: There has been no discussion about foreshadowing the next movie.
Mike Johnson: But there has been discussion about doing a Countdown-ish project before the second movie.
TrekMovie: You mean a prequel to the second movie?
Mike Johnson: Yeah. It is pretty much too early to say to say about any kind of foreshadowing. We have to talk to the ‘Supreme Court’ [Abrams, Orci, Kurtzman, Lindelof, Burk]
TrekMovie: Speaking of future comics, have you talked about doing a sequel to Countdown that would carry on the Next Gen story after Spock and Nero leave? Essentially carrying on after those last two pages with Data and Picard and the TNG gang?
Mike Johnson: We have had conversations with IDW, but to jump back and tell a story between Nemesis and Countdown, to show how Data came back and became captain of the Enterprise, and what happened to Picard and their relationship and other members of the crew. We are huge Next Gen fans, so yeah there is another story to be told where Countdown left off, but more on the front burner is the prequel to the prequel, Countdown. The plan for the comics is to keep the fires burning as we wait for the build-up to the next movie.
TrekMovie: One last question about the adaptation, and this may be better for the artist David Messina, but will there be lens flares?
Mike Johnson: That is a great question! We will talk with our comics cinematographer, David and see what we can do. Any particular flare moments you prefer?
Get your Jones & Johnson Star Trek comics
You can pick up the TPB of Star Trek Countdown, written by Jones and Johnson, at Amazon.
The first two issues of the four issue "Nero" comic can be pre-ordered now from TFAW.