Interview: ‘Star Trek’ Comic Writers Preview Sisko’s Return To Lead All-Star Team On A Mission From Gods

IDW is about to kick off a new ongoing Star Trek comic series that will see the return of Deep Space Nine’s Benjamin Sisko. The new series is written by Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing, the leads behind IDW’s Star Trek: Year Five series, with art by Ramon Rosanas (Marvel’s Star Wars, Ant-Man) and a wide collection of artists for additional covers. This ambitious new title promises a “bold new direction in Star Trek comics” and IDW is so enthused with it, they have already announced a spin-off series led by Worf, coming in early 2023.  

Set in the time between the end of DS9 and Star Trek: Nemesis, the new ongoing Star Trek series promises to bring in characters from across the franchise. Sisko’s mission upon returning from the wormhole is to stop someone who is “killing the gods.” Starfleet gives him a new ship—the USS Theseus—and his crew includes new characters and familiar faces like Dr. Beverly Crusher and Data.

TrekMovie spoke to authors Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing about the title to better understand what is in store.

Making an Avengers for Star Trek

The idea for this series actually predates Kelly and Lanzing’s work on Year Five to their first pitch to IDW—where the longtime fans arrived with Stellar Cartography maps and their own personal Star Trek figures—presenting an idea set in the TNG movie era that featured Jean-Luc Picard as the main character, but the project got shelved after CBS decided to launch Star Trek: Picard. Even as they moved on to work on the TOS-era Year Five series, the pair kept thinking about “returning back to TNG, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager, and specifically in that era after Voyager returns and just before Nemesis, where everyone is around and you do something as long as you put all the toys back in the box,” says Lanzing.

Given another chance to pitch after Year Five wrapped up, they dusted off their maps and figures and pitched what became a new Star Trek series which could span the different eras, as described by Lanzing:

We started talking about how we could take that same energy of using a character from TNG, a character from DS9, a character from Voyager,  a character with legacy calls to Enterprise, a character with future legacy calls to Discovery, characters that let us touch old Star Trek and new Star Trek from Lower Decks to TOS across the board. What would it look like for us to take that Star Trek and launch it as a single book? Treat the Star Trek Universe like the Marvel Universe and put together the Avengers.

The pair makes it clear they want to stick to the Prime Universe and have no plans to do any time travel. The series is not limited to a given number of issues, their only real limitation being the setting. Kelly explains:

The limit in this book, truthfully, has to do with the period in which it’s being in which it’s taking place. So as long as the book only takes place within that year and a half [before Nemesis] it can be 50 issues, 100 issues… We’re able to flex the timeline to tell as many stories as you want within that space… It’s one of the cool things that comics gets to do in general. Time in comics is such a fun thing. How much time passes between a panel, how much time passes between an issue, these are mutable things that allow us all to work at that time.

Star Trek #1 cover A by Ramon Rosanas

Fulfilling Sisko’s promise to return… but with “wormhole withdrawal”

Having Benjamin Sisko lead this new series was personal for these writers. Lanzing reveals Sisko is his favorite captain and DS9’s exploration of religion helped him “reconcile what it meant to live inside of religious societies but have pluralist scientific and rationalist beliefs.” He sees the conflict that Sisko represents as being a core Star Trek story that he wants to continue to explore in this new series. And the writers also feel they are fulfilling a promise, as Lanzing explains:

I think it’s always been really clear that when Sisko went into the wormhole, Avery Brooks famously made them add the line about “I’ll be back,” because he didn’t want to abandon his son. He really felt like that was like a bad look for the first black Starfleet captain to be like, “Oh, I’m going to just leave my son.” So when he made that point, it always felt like at some point, you need to show that. You need to get back to that moment.

Kelly adds:

He is the one captain with unfinished business very much. And like that was something that we really wanted to unpack. Janeway is getting her second run in Prodigy, which is wonderful and great; it’s time for Sisko to get some get that love. And he still has so much story to tell, and we absolutely need to unpack it.

The series has Sisko returning with a mission given to him by the Prophets. While joining the Prophets made Sisko a god, having an omnipotent character doesn’t make for good storytelling. Kelly explains how they deal with this in the Star Trek series:

The story is going to start with him coming back from the wormhole. And The Prophets have a specific task for him. And what you’ll slowly discover is it is a human task. He needs to very specifically approach this not as a god but as a man, which is why they’ve sent their Emissary. So narratively it’s going to work. But yes, you cannot have a god-level character at the center of your book.

Lanzing calls this process “wormhole withdrawal,” explaining how it informs Sisko’s arc:

From the minute that he exits to the wormhole, Sisko starts to lose godhood. And every minute that passes, his omniscience is fading. And as that withdrawal extends, and goes farther and farther, you’re going to see a Sisko become more and more human, to his own frustration. And that’s a big part of why we picked him as the protagonist as it is an exciting journey to take a character on. “I reached full apotheosis. I reached Nirvana. And now to save the galaxy, that has been taken from me. And I have to instead find my own way of living forward and engage with my humanity again.”

Star Trek #1 cover B by Declan Shalvey

Assembling Sisko’s crew and connecting to new Star Trek

Benjamin Sisko will not be alone on this journey. The comic series includes many familiar faces, including Jean-Luc Picard, who has some oversight over the mission. Sisko is given a new ship, the USS Theseus, which has a connection going back to the Star Trek: Year Five series. Lanzing describes the ship and mission:

The Theseus is not the flagship of the fleet. The Theseus is a weird hodgepodge ragtag science experiments of a ship that Starfleet effectively hands to Sisko because they need to give him something to complete his mission, but they’re really not sure that they understand his mission or totally like working for The Prophets in this way. Like, this is not a Starfleet mission. This is a mission from The Prophets and Starfleet is just enabling Sisko to do it.

Kelly describes Sisko’s crew:

The objective here is not ‘Sisko and His Amazing Friends.’ The objective here is a Star Trek crew that works as well as the TNG crew or the Deep Space Nine crew or the Voyager crew or the TOS crew. They just happen to be made up of characters from a bunch of other series and some new characters as well.

Data is the ship’s first officer. Beverly Crusher is the ship’s doctor, who is also keeping an eye on Sisko for Starfleet, who isn’t sure what to make of him. There are other legacy characters on board as well, including Tom Paris as the helmsman. There are some new characters, including Lilly Sato the communications officer, who is a half-Andorian descendant of Hoshi Sato from Star Trek: Enterprise, and she struggles to meet those high expectations.  And T’Lir, a non-binary Vulcan science officer.

With multiple current original Star Trek shows on Paramount+ set in or around the same era, it is important for the comic book team to ensure they remain consistent. Kelly explains, “We know what’s going on, and we are kept abreast so that everything fits together in one good continuity.” This will include incorporating characters from the new shows as well. As an example, Lanzing explains how this works with Lower Decks:

We’re talking to [Lower Decks showrunner] Mike [McMahan] quite a bit, he’s been an invaluable resource in terms of helping us understand how to connect certain things that we’re doing to Lower Decks, and that’s going to be a little bit clearer as we move forward. We’re really distinct because we’re playing in such a different tone than Lower Decks. This book is pretty serious. It’s pretty epic-oriented. It’s a little psychedelic. But I think the thing that’s fun about it is that when we do get to take in any character from Lower Decks, seeing them within a serious context is going to be really fun because it brings out very different things.

Kelly also made it clear that even with all of these connections, nostalgia isn’t the goal of the new comic:

We really don’t want this to be kind of a nostalgia redux. We all love so much of this world, and you want to visit everywhere, but Star Trek isn’t about looking backwards. It’s about looking forwards and discovering what’s new and over the horizon. So it’s really important for us to create new stuff as well.

Star Trek #1 Cover D by Rachel Scott

Giving all fans a reason to read the comics

While Star Trek comics have been around almost as long as the franchise itself, not all fans read them. But as noted before, IDW feels this new series can break through. Lanzing talked about how he feels the new Star Trek comics can be a gateway for fans to get into the comics:

If you’re a big Star Trek fan, if you love Star Trek, if you are reading, then most likely, you’re going to be interested in the kind of stories that are being told in the Star Trek comic book. These stories are—as far as we can keep them—fully canon. They’re going to reflect ideally to the shows and back to the comics. We’re going to be doing something here on a longer-term basis that ideally feels vital and feels specific and feels like a worthy follow up to some of the greatest television shows of all time, we hope. And if the medium is what’s stopping you from getting in on those stories, you just haven’t found how good the medium can be.

Star Trek at this point is just a huge and diverse line of not just series or timelines, but characters. And getting to use any and all of them in a big mix and match grab-bag Avengers book is a dream come true for us as creators, and certainly would be a dream come true for us as Star Trek fans. So I really hope that the fans dig in, find that character that they’re really excited about, and start to follow that story.

Kelly is a bit more direct, simply saying:

If you’re a Trek fan, and you see a cover that has Sisko, Data, and Beverly Crusher on it, how can you not get excited? Get on board!

Star Trek #3 cover A by Ramon Rosanas

Star Trek launches on October 27th

Star Trek issue #1 was will be released by IDW on Wednesday, October 27. You can order individual copies at TFAW. Or pick up individual digital editions at Amazon/comiXology.

Keep up with all the Star Trek comics news, previews and reviews in TrekMovie’s comics category.

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If I missed it, I’ll apologize, but I’d be curious if this has Avery Brooks blessing? Or was he even consulted?

Why would they need his blessing? Why would he need to be consulted? That’s not how licensing works. If you’re referring to the use of his likeness, he has allowed that since the show was on the air, which is why Sisko has appeared on many book covers and in many comics. This is just the latest licensed property to feature the character, which is owned by CBS, not Avery Brooks. So I’m not sure I understand the question. Avery Brooks has no say at all in what happens to Sisko.

Why on Bajor would anyone ever need to do that for a comic book?

Exactly. There are close to a thousand Star Trek comic books, and more than 400 from IDW alone. If they didn’t need to consult the actors or get their blessing on the other 999, would they need to on this one? Plus, did they get blessings or consultations for this issue from Brent Spiner? Patrick Stewart? Robert Duncan McNeill? Gates McFadden? Cirroc Lofton? Of course not, since that’s not how licensing works. :)

Well, I suppose if we are all going to pretend that Patrick Stewart and Kate Mulgrew don’t have discussions on the creation of content for their respective characters, you all may have a point. However, we know those discussions occur, even if it is just a courtesy. For all the chatter about wanting to see Mr. Brooks back, and because he clearly is sensitive to proper and correct perceptions of Benjamin Sisko, anything that lessens the character reduces the likelihood of him returning. I’d not be so caviler about not wanting to have his input, as a fan of the character and Mr. Brooks work.

The objective here is not ‘Sisko and His Amazing Friends.’ The objective here is a Star Trek crew that works as well as the TNG crew or the Deep Space Nine crew or the Voyager crew or the TOS crew. They just happen to be made up of characters from a bunch of other series, and some new characters as well.

Someone’s heard the criticism of PIC. ;) But, in all seriousness, very good interview. I already had the series on preorder, but this has given me a little anticipation spike.

I know this is a tiny point, but cripes, yet another uniform variation? Just stop it! :-)

It’s true. And they are ALL really derivative of the TNG uniforms. Like, try something dramatically different, if you’re going with something different. I do like them putting the doctor in white though.

I don’t bother with Trek comics very much, but I might give this a try. The creators are kidding themselves if they think these are canon, however. But I’m not going to go down that road. When Trek fans start arguing about canon I invariably want to fire people out of one.

In my personal opinion, the idea of whether or not something is canon is meaningless. Fans (and this isn’t directed at you–it’s a generalization) spend far too much time obsessing over that, yet it doesn’t matter. (Mods: I say that with no gatekeeping intended. Fans are free of course to focus on canon if they wish to, and it doesn’t make them any less fans than those who don’t. I just personally think it misses the point.) That endless argument started in the 1990s, with the rise of the Internet. Before that, fans either enjoyed stories or they didn’t. All this obsession over whether or not things carry the “canon” label has, in my opinion, seriously hurt pretty much every fandom. Licensed stories are, by definition, not canon since TV and film writers are free to ignore them. Lanzing and Kelly are very good writers, but I wish Lanzing hadn’t perpetuated this pointless argument by falsely claiming the comics are canon. If Avery Brooks agreed to come back tomorrow, it’s a guarantee that his show would ignore this comic, just like PICARD ignored Countdown. That, by definition, means it’s not part of the imaginary pointlessness known as canon. What matters to me isn’t whether or not Countdown or Lanzing’s series are canon, but whether or not they’re good reads. Countdown is, and this looks like it will be too.

I’m excited to read this. But really, I just want to see Avery Brooks act again. His tenderness with Jake and the love he showed as a father gets me every damn time as a father myself

Read it. Hated it. Dislike this Avengers team up approach. I’ll wait for Sisko’s real return on TV. This doesn’t count.

was pleasantly surprised a certain TOS character appeared in this story

Cover 1 by Rachel Scott….that hand holding the Enterprise is not attached to Beverly…makes one wonder if Apollo will show up