Interview: Mike Johnson Talks Writing ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ And ‘Boldly Go’ Comics

On Wednesday IDW releases the first Star Trek: Discovery comic tie-in (see preview). TrekMovie had a chat with co-writer Mike Johnson to talk about the new Discovery series as well as the Kelvin-universe ongoing series Star Trek: Boldly Go.

Mike Johnson holding up Star Trek: Boldly Go #10 at SDCC 2017

Getting real with Discovery

Can you tell us a bit about the process for writing this Discovery comic? When did you start and what were you able to see from the show in terms of scripts or actual footage to help you with it?

I became attached to write the comics before production on the show started, when the writers were still formulating the overall plot for the first season. I teamed up with Kirsten Beyer, one of the show’s writers, and together we cooked up the Klingon story for the first Discovery comics mini-series. We had access to all of the scripts and footage, which was invaluable in making sure the comics (and also the novels) lined up with the show.

Did collaborating with Discovery staff writer Kirsten Beyer make the process different from, say,  your work on the Boldly Go series? Did it make it feel more ‘real’ in a sense?

Working with Kirsten was (and is) a godsend, both as a collaborator and as the person tasked with making sure the tie-in materials stay true to the show. When it comes to Boldly Go, I like to think that its origins in the original comics overseen by Roberto Orci make it as “real” as it can be.

What can you tell us about the story of this four-issue series, is it entirely focused on T’Kuvma’s backstory?

Its primary focus is T’Kuvma’s journey from childhood to the moment we first meet him in the show, but the story is bookended by scenes of Voq and L’Rell as they recover from the Battle of the Binary Stars. This allows us to provide meaningful backstory for the Klingons, while also tying directly into what we’ve witnessed in the show.

A young T’Kuvma in Star Trek: Discovery #1

Would you draw a parallel between this series and the Countdown series, in terms of filling in gaps and informing character motivations?

Very much so. Both series exist to flesh out characters in a way that there just wasn’t time to do onscreen. Also, even though we saw T’Kuvma’s death in the show, there is still a lot to reveal about him that informs what we have seen and will see in the show. Just as fans could enjoy Countdown after seeing Nero (spoiler alert) die in the movie, readers can enjoy the Discovery comics even after they’ve seen the first two episodes of the show.

Without spoiling too much, what can you say about what this new series teaches us about the Klingons and T’Kuvma?

Don’t judge a Klingon book by its spiked metal cover.

You do like to drop easter eggs into your books, is that something we can expect from this series?

I have to restrain myself on this one, because I want to stay within the story-lane established by the show.

It has been announced this is just the first of a series of mini-series for Discovery. Can you say anything about what we can expect next?

Possibly a mushroom or three.

Cover art for Star Trek: Discovery issue 3

Going beyond with Boldly Go

Switching gears, will we see more original stories in Boldy Go or will we continue to see new interpretations of TOS versions, or both?

I would like to continue to do both, with an emphasis on new stories of exploration. The new interpretations of TOS episodes only work if there’s a reason for things to play out differently in the Kelvin timeline.

Should we assume Boldly Go will remain set in the gap during the construction of the Enterprise-A? Could we ever see it before the next movie?  

Boldly Go is explicitly set after the events of Beyond, and will stay there until the next movie. We probably won’t see the 1701-A before the next movie, simply because we want to make sure the interiors match whatever they look like in the next movie.

Kevin’s story was a delight. You took the line “Hey Kevin, still no pants?” and turned that into a fully-realized character. How did you come up with the story and can we expect to see more of Kevin? Or possibly more stories born out of little moments in Beyond or the other films?

I would love to do more of those stories. For Kevin, I realized that two of those little dudes made it back onto the ship when Kirk beamed back, so I extrapolated what might happen if one of them, in this case Kevin, decided to stick around. If he did, it’s likely his people would come looking forward, and it unfolded from there. I’m so glad people enjoyed his story.

Kevin from Star Trek: Boldly Go #10

You mentioned that a dream would be to have the Enterprise visit Cybertron. Is Transformers the next big crossover for the Kelvin crew?

That would be great, wouldn’t it? I can’t say anything at the moment.

Are there any dream artists you’d love to work with? Or another writing collaboration? Will you be working with Ryan Parrott again?

I’m living the dream working with Tony Shasteen, and my luck has only increased working with the artists on IDIC: Josh Hood, Megan Levens, Tana Ford, Angel Hernandez, and Marcus To. As for Ryan, he’s busy writing Power Rangers adventures, but it is inevitable that we will work together again.

Boldly Go #17 cover by Marcus To

Star Trek: Discovery – The Light of Kahless issue #1 and Star Trek: Boldly Go issue #14 are due in comic ships on Wednesday, November 29th.

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