Warning – this interview contains irreverence, innuendo about embarrassing truck stop photos, stream of consciousness and nostalgia. Kevin Dilmore and Dayton Ward’s writing partnership has formed into an epic Star Trek bromance. The two sat down with TrekMovie to discuss their latest offbeat project – Star Trek: Waypoint #2, how they wound up stuck working with one another, and more.
Chemistry is that one intangible that either exists in a situation or doesn’t, and has contributed to form some of the greatest partnerships of all-time, including Lennon/McCartney, Kirk/Spock, and Star Trek writing partners Kevin Dilmore and Dayton Ward. In fact, the duo is perhaps the greatest off-screen bromance seen in the franchise’s history. Having already written 12 Star Trek novels and 12 Star Trek novellas, Ward and Dilmore have now cracked a new storytelling medium – comic books.
An e-mail from IDW’s Star Trek Editor Sarah Gaydos invited Ward to write a story for the six-issue Star Trek: Waypoint anthology to celebrate the franchise’s 50th anniversary. Ward immediately recruited his frequent partner in crime, Dilmore, and the two were off to the races. After they narrowed down their story wish list to either The Animated Series or former comic publisher Gold Key, the decision was made to go crazy (what else should readers expect?) and the latter became the setting for the duo’s story in Star Trek: Waypoint #2.
Larry Nemecek is either to blame or thank (depending on how readers decide to view the work of Ward and Dilmore) for this team up of writers. The former Star Trek: Communicator editor-in-chief assigned Dilmore to pen an article about the first wave of winners in Pocket Books inaugural Star Trek: Strange New Worlds contest, in which Ward was published.
TREKMOVIE: How long have you two been writing partners?
Dayton Ward: Now you’re asking me to remember all kinds of crap.
Kevin Dilmore: If there was only somewhere on the internet we can check this out.
Dayton: Kevin had these embarrassing photos at a truck stop.
Kevin: This is the problem you get when you talk to us at the same time.
Dayton: We’ve been writing together for 16 years. Our first collaboration was a magazine piece.
Kevin: All of it came about through Communicator. It was through my interest in promoting the Strange New Worlds program. It was a cool idea, and still is. The only criteria was that you had to have fewer than three published stories. This was back in the day I was doing interviews on the phone. I’m not even sure I had e-mail. [SNW Editor] John Ordover would give me all the telephone numbers for the winners and I would call them. Dayton was a half hour away from me and I asked if he want to meet in person, and that was the biggest mistake he ever made.
Dayton: I still talk about it in therapy.
Kevin: There was a [Star Trek] con coming up, and his wife didn’t want to go, mine didn’t want to go: ‘You want to go?’ We just started getting chocolate over our peanut butter.
Dayton: Our wives were both glad we finally found a playmate.
TM: What was the first Star Trek novel or novella you wrote together?
Dayton: Because “Yesterday’s Enterprise” was 10 years old. I don’t remember if Larry [Nemecek] asked you with something. I was in no way involved with Communicator, this was all Kevin.
Kevin: I’m going back in time; my guess is we thought it would be cool to do something [on the episode] together. I think I did the interviews and you did the timeline and some research woven into the article.
Dayton: Either that, or we started talking about it, or we said, ‘Let’s write it together, what could possibly go wrong?’
Kevin: John (Ordover), who then edited the Star Trek titles for Pocket Books, called me with a scoop, just like the old newspaper days. He offered it as an exclusive to Star Trek Communicator and StarTrek.com, which was his announcement of the Starfleet Corps of Engineers ebook series. As I interviewed him on the topic, we discussed the types of stories he planned for the series.
Our conversation went something like, ‘Oh, so a story like someone figuring out how to pull the Defiant out of interphase, that kind of thing.’ John: Um … exactly that kind of thing. Me: Oh, cool. (pause) Um, can I pitch that story to you? John: Well, YEAH.
And after the interview, I immediately called Dayton, said I sure as hell couldn’t do that by myself, asked whether he wanted in, and the rest, as they say, is ridiculous. We wrote the pitch thinking it was going to be 25,000 words.
Dayton: They made it a two-parter and said to make it 50,000. We took a lot of heat for that later on, because these were supposed to be ebooks only, but then they thought it could make a lot of money in print. So, when the first two SCE paperbacks came out, Part I of our story was in the first book, and Part 2 was in the second.
Kevin: The way it broke apart, Part I was bundled with Palm Pilot for free. So people needed to buy the second part. We were outselling [Jack] Ludlow.
Dayton: It was us, Stephen King and the guy who did Dilbert [Scott Adams] who sold the best. We were a bestseller for a year. I’d look at the site continuously for 18-20 months and it [Star Trek: Corps of Engineers “Interphase”] was always in the top five sellers.
Kevin: The Corps of Engineer program ended before the ebook really took off.
Dayton: The idea was definitely ahead of the game at that point. They were literally a decade ahead of their time. Now it’s not a second thought. We missed the window by a decade. Everybody asks if we would ever do that series again – there’s like 75 novellas out there, but if they called tomorrow wanting more, we’d be all over it.
TM: Did you pitch Sarah Gaydos with a story idea for Star Trek Waypoint, or did she contact you?
Dayton: Sarah reached out to me through Twitter. I was excited by the idea because I always wanted to try my hand at writing a comic book. The anthology’s idea was to get different voices to celebrate the 50th anniversary. I asked if I could pull in Kevin, since I couldn’t imagine doing it without him, plus he had scriptwriting experience. After getting him on board I asked him what we wanted to submit. I said, ‘I would love to do something that’s tied into The Animated Series, or if you really want to go crazy let’s do a Gold Key homage.’ Nobody had apparently thought to pitch Gold Key before then, so why not?
Dayton: One paragraph each. She hit on one she really liked, that sounded the most Gold Key of the ones we had.
Kevin: It was the one for us that was the absolute most fun. We thought there was no way she was going to pick that one.
Dayton: Kevin broke down the script.
Kevin: A lot of that was the fact that I read so many comics. I went to film school. Anybody who watches movies can write a comic, knowing what picture you want in the frame when [characters] say something.
Dayton: We broke it down with a Gold Key layout, a very rigid six-panel base layout, with some variations that would be two across, three down, to mix things up a bit.
Kevin: Anyone that is familiar with the Gold Key comics should be able to look at it and get it. The artist made sure that there were no borders, just color. He was very mindful of the level of detail of the 1960’s.
Dayton: We got Gordon Purcell, who has done a lot of Star Trek comics.
Kevin: He cranked out the coolest pages I ever seen.
Dayton: The last couple days we have been getting the pages (issue two has since been released, read the TrekMovie review). The color and lettering are now being applied to the pages. This is going to be the most ridiculous thing we’ve ever done.
Kevin: Every person who’s touched this has said how much fun they have had. Everybody’s having a blast.
Dayton: Jason Lewis is really nailing the color. He is really going all out. I had to look twice because I thought my monitor went out on me. He used a filter that makes the page look like newspaper. He has included stuff I didn’t even catch. Every page with background color is different than the one before. It’s just like the originals. That’s how much attention to detail is going into this story. While Gordon’s style does not absolutely mimic, I call it loving homage, it evokes the Gold Key style, but still is Gordon. It’s as close as its going to get. One panel Kirk has his finger up and pointing to the sky, and I would wager [that pose] was in half of the Gold Key comics.
Kevin: Gordon is your favorite band covering a song by your second favorite band.
Dayton: Today I finally got how incredibly cheesy this story is. I think we out ‘Gold Keyed,’ Gold Key.
Kevin: I don’t want to overpromise, but the first person who says we nailed Gold Key will be overly gratifying.
Dayton: I want one of the interior art pages. I want Gordon to send me one. Send me one for Christmas, dude.
Kevin: The cover feels like almost a painted version of the art that is inside, which makes it even more Gold Key; just one more kernel of homage.
Dayton: The Enterprise has fire belching out of its nacelles, transporters wash out the colors of everything when they beam down, everybody is wearing green shirts, Spock’s ears are bigger, and everyone on the landing party is wearing backpacks.
Kevin: [Gold Key] did not have a picture of James Doohan in the beginning, or the bridge, which looked like a submarine.
Dayton: We have used all the exclamation points, there are none left.
Kevin: I think there might be two sentences in the whole script that doesn’t end with an exclamation point.
Dayton: And one of them is the end.
TM: Why did you choose the Gold Key era for the setting of your story?
Kevin: I’ll be honest; I did not like the Gold Key Star Trek comics when I was kid. As a young fan, I had a stick up my ass: ‘This isn’t right.’ My enthusiasm for Star Trek comics in general got fired back up when I participated in the “New Life and New Civilizations” essay anthology edited by Joseph Berenato published in 2014 by Sequart. Rich Handley’s projects collecting Star Trek newspaper comic strips really got me looking back at material I’d never had the chance to read in its entirety. Rich is a huge advocate for Star Trek sequential-art storytelling (which sounds so upper-crust; they’re comic books, damn it!) and we’d likely not have some of the resources we have as fans were it not for his efforts. As far as Gold Key, Dayton’s love for those comics played as big of a role as anyone’s in my revisiting them in recent years. The list of inaccuracies – the very ones we celebrate in Waypoint – made me hate those books as a kid.
Dayton: I did it for two reasons: one it was an insane idea that was never done before, and if someone was going to do it, I thought it should be us. I thought the more outlandish our idea, the better chance we’d have at landing in the starting lineup – if I threw something out of left field she would have to go do that. Whatever the reason, we have this reputation for doing things a little goofy once in a while, and not taking ourselves seriously. Of course we will do something insane like this. Worst case she would say no, and we would do something more conventional.
TM: What was your goal with the story?
Dayton: We just wanted to do a lost issue, the issue 62 that never got published. It’s not a deep story by any stretch. We wanted to just evoke the charm and the insanity of those books.
Kevin: As goofy as they are, in the first issues, there’s stuff like Kirk and Spock beaming down looking like pirates, dumb and ridiculous things. What these people were trying to do was tell a Star Trek story that people of all ages think were cool enough to turn the page. You are not going to get any insights into the characters or nuances into the universe.
Dayton: Everyone should go out and buy like 400 copies [of Star Trek: Waypoint #2].
TM: Did you have Gordon Purcell in mind when you wrote the project?
Kevin: Not in my wildest dreams.
Dayton: It was Sarah’s idea to reach out to him because he has a style that is similar.
Kevin: He is an ace at likenesses, which eases the approval process.
Dayton: He still draws and inks everything by hand on his kitchen table.
Kevin: I will divulge this, when Dayton got the news, he called my office, which is rare, he started texting me in ALL CAPS: ‘You are not going to believe it, Gordon Purcell.’ His run on DC comics is probably my favorite Star Trek of all time.
TM: How different was it writing a comic rather than a novel together, and how did it change your collaboration?
Kevin: The main difference is, that when we are writing a novel or fiction, we are playing much closer to the type of story a reader is going to expect – we’re very true to the voices, telling a story that is going to feel like Star Trek. With this one, everything was out the window. We have people yelling at each other, the characters are not the characters we know, don’t talk the way we expect them to talk. We know we’re going a little bit off the rails.
Dayton: We wrote dialogue and gave a minimum of direction to Gordon. Brevity is your friend. Don’t choke them with details of what you want to see. I think our biggest thing was making sure the panel and story structure was observed, which was a vital component for these stories.
TM: What is one positive you took away from writing this story?
Kevin: The first time I saw art come back on a page we had written, it was the first time I thought I was kind of a comic book writer.
Dayton: I posted it on Facebook that we just gotten a check, and so now I could finally say I’d been paid to write a comic.
Kevin: Achievement unlocked. It’s nice to get a check, but to see that first page and Gordon sending us an email, ‘Hey, what do you think?” I felt like I was ten years old. I wanted to figure out how to write a comic for 40 years.
Dayton: I had misplaced dreams of being a comic book artist or cartoonist.
Kevin: He drew me a picture of Jay and Silent Bob I still have.
Dayton: I’ve wanted to find a way to write a comic book, but the catch-22 is that I can’t sit down and write a comic book story and send it to someone. Like editors don’t have enough people bothering them with their hopes and dreams. At the same time, I don’t expect a comic book editor to hire me without experience. In fact I told Sarah I had no comic writing experience, and she could withdraw the offer if she thought it best for the project. Instead, she said, nah, you’ll be fine.
Kevin: If she needed to put the brakes on it, she would have. IDW wants Waypoint to do well. They’re not going to take a hit on an issue just because they wanted to be nice.
Dayton: It’s been fun; the entire process has been a complete blast. Probably the biggest takeaway is becoming friends with Gordon and Jason. We’re all nerds.
TM: Would you visit the Gold Key universe again if given the chance?
Dayton: I would not even think twice about it. When do we start?
Kevin: I am confident we can come up with something dumber than this.
Dayton: My secret wish is Sarah comes back and asks us to do one a year. I’m pretty sure that’s a pipe dream however.
TM: What do you hope fans walk away with after reading your story?
Dayton: They are about to get a rude awakening. This IS your father’s Star Trek comic!
Kevin: I’m assuming that Waypoint may have an editor’s note. Sarah will bring everyone up to speed.
Dayton: I just hope they have one big goofy grin on their face.
Kevin: If it was me coming to this story, the last panel on page 10 gave me that grin.
Dayton: It’s so quintessentially Gold Key, it’s ridiculous.
Kevin: I hope people will be entertained and get a little bit of glimpse what Star Trek was to kids 50 years ago.
TM: Any last thoughts?
Dayton: IDW has been in the process of reprinting the Gold Key volumes in hardcover with remastered digital pages. There’s no escaping the art style.
Kevin: They are gorgeous.
Dayton: I told Sarah, ‘Your quest to collapse my bookshelf remains unabated.’ — I’m old-fashioned, and I still want the hard copy in my hand.