Exclusive Interview: Tim Jones & Mike Johnson Talk Nero, Star Trek Adaptation & Future Comics

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.

Nero comic will go beyond just deleted scenes

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?

Star Trek adaptation on the way – complete with deleted scenes maybe some lens flares too

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.










Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

“We have a sort of famous Klingon”

would that be the prison guy Morgan shepard (also in ST09)?

NO LENS FLARES IN THE COMIC, PLEASE! Geez, hated them in the movie, sure don’t wont anything else fraked up by them.

I agree with #2. Those flares were just distracting, prevented me from seeing anything as clearly as I would have liked, and although I do understand what J.J. was saying when he attempted to explain why he put the flares in there, I can also say that unlike many of the other things he wanted to convey, this was one point that he didn’t get across to me – and I consider myself to be a pretty discerning fan and watcher. So, no. No lens flares in the comic – give us a break!

Yeh…No LENS FLARES and no back story for the pointless little ailen that we saw with scotty…that was just cringe-worthy!!!

I liked the lens flares and (in my opinion) they seemed to
go well with the new Trek. Now the comics on the other
hand. . . .

From one Tim Jones to another…good job! It’s funny to see “our” name associated with Star Trek!!! Keep up the great work, Tim!

Timothy C. Jones

I salute you, sir!

Sounds like a batch of good comics coming.

Why does everyone hate Keenser??? Unlike another franchises humorous alien mascot, he kept his mouth shut except once.

#7 –

I didn’t care about Keenser at all. But, my 8 year old daughter loved him, as well as Scotty’s admonition at the end of the film (“Git down!”). So, if nothing else, the Powers That Be managed to entertain myself, my non-Trekkie wife, my 14 year old son and my aforementioned daughter. All without Keenser becoming (shudder) Jar-Jar Binks. I say keep the little guy – in small doses.

I thought Keenser worked. He was a fine addition to Trek.

And the lens flares were awesome. They did exactly what JJ had intended and made a great film even more stylish, broad and epic.

Looking forward to the Nero graphic novel. Thanks for the update.

Let’s see, the next film should have a place built in that’s ambiguous, so an extended comic story can be constructed to explain it. Then a prequel comic bridging the gap between the next film and film three which also has a place(s) for a comic extenuation. Very clever, these guys.

What about the novels? Why can’t they be considered cannon? They take the Trek universe in what I consider interesting directions post-Nemesis, especially the Destiny trilogy. I’m surprised nobody has asked this question of either these guys or the Star Trek Online guys. When you read the comics that ignore what was established in novels it sort of feels like the work that the novel authors put into it was for nothing.

Yes, lens flairs go great in a state-of-the-art command center where the fate of the ship, Earth, and the quadrant depend on the crew being able to see their control panels clearly.

I ageee, get rid of not only the lens flares but also the window on the bridge. That is crazy, you are in the control center of the ship and you have a glare on the window from the bridge lighting limiting your visibility. Bring back the viewscreen.

Countdown was the first comic I’ve read probably in 30 years. I really liked it, and was grateful for the backstory to the movie. I will probably read more ST comics from these guys…

13—I always preferred the darker lighting of the bridge, for example in II and VI, as apposed to I and V. So I’d like to see them turn the rheostat down a bit on the bridge.

Other than that, my only other gripe about the bridge was the glass wall things, that Chekov ended up using at one point. I’d like to see those go.

The giant window/viewscreen, although illogical, is pretty cool. But with the materials available in the future, like transparent aluminium, it is probably just as strong as the hull itself. Speaking of logic, we all know it’s illogical to have the bridge exposed on the top of the saucer anyway. But it’s always been there, and we (us ST fans) just sort of go with it….

The Klingon cruisers attacking Narrada look great.

7. I’m with you. Keenser was one of the few things in the whole mess I didn’t have an issue with.

#13. The giant window on the bridge was conceived of for “The Cage” and “WNMHGB”. It’s right there on the exterior of the ship. Like the bridge set rotated off axis, the interior was changed, because they simply did not have the technology in the 60s to pull it off. A similar situation came up in Voyager, where they nixed a bridge viewscreen that wrapped around the entire front half of the bridge, which would have been much cooler.

Personally, the transparent heads up display approach for everything including two-way video conversations is ridiculous. They already have electronic opaque switching glass, which works on the same principle as LCD vieo. There is no reason the window cannot become opaque and function solely as a viewscreen as well as a window. Think how beneficial that would have been in TNG instead of sending Geordi out to “get a real look at it” every time they questioned their cameras. But when you want to see a magnified image of something, you want to see it, not see through it.

But the fact remains, that’s how the bridge viewscreen was originally conceived by Roddenberry and Jeffereies: as a WINDOW, much like the overhead dome, which persisted until TMP era, but returned in TNG. If anything I welcome this addition to the series and consider it a fitting homage. It is one of the few things I am in total agreement with. If the control center of the ship is going to sit exposed on the top level of the ship, then it only makes sense to have a real portal to space. Otherwise, the only logical choice would be to put the bridge in the most shielded and heavily protected part of the ship, which also would have the shortest wiring trunks to controls. But that would make the bridge about as exciting as the auxiliary control room on the TOS Enterprise.

At least we can have further adventures in the prime universe, where Vulcan is still around. At least it also proves that the original 79 episodes are still intact as well where using Quantum mechanics.


It is best to view the entire new movie as a parallel timeline, including the kelvin.

If it was MY decision i would destroy the standing consoles and mov the glass panels to the back wall as an MSD

I would then move uhura onto the back right console with sciences and comms getting theirn own clear area wiothout spock and uhura sitting next too eachother for no particular reason!!!!

I loved the nod to A Final Unity. Perhaps they can include more nods to games in future comics?

I actually LIKE Keenser. Unlike Jar-Jar, who’s Mr. Slapstick, Keenser seems more adept in dry humour.

When Scotty whines, “Is there ANY Starfleet officer who’s been more persecuted, misunderstood, and STARVED than me?”

Keenser, without missing a beat, goes, “Me.”