The revival of the 1970’s sci-fi classic Battlestar Galactica has taken fandom by storm. Originally launching in 2003 as a miniseries, the resurgence has so far spawned two TV seasons and now, a return to the spinner racks.
An evolution of the late 1970s obsession with all things sci-fi, a fixation fuelled by the wild success of Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica defined a generation of fans. For a show that ran for such a short time, its impact was profound.
With such a deep cultural resonance and a wildly successful television re-launch, is it any wonder that Battlestar Galactica has finally returned to comics, via Dynamite Entertainment, in May?
Jason Berek-Lewis: Greg Pak, Nigel Raynor, thank you so much for joining Industrial Evolution! Can I start by asking whether you are fans of the 1970s TV series?
Greg Pak: You bet. I still periodically find myself humming the tune song to the Cylon Bubble Machine commercial.
Nigel Raynor: Well, I was probably only about 3 or 4 when it first came out, but I saw some of the reruns in the Eighties and enjoyed them immensely—but to be honest, at the time I was all about Knight Rider and the A-Team!
Ah, yes, Knight Rider, we are children of the 80s! Why do you think the 2003 re-launch has been so successful?
Greg: The new show’s the first television program I’ve actually built my schedule around watching since the Bill Bixby Incredible Hulk show.
I think it’s been so successful because it’s found a way to tell a thrilling genre story that feels utterly real and relevant. The creators of the show know that we love the eye candy of the spaceships and robots, but that what makes us come back week after week is that we’re totally hooked by the incredibly high-stakes struggles of the characters.
Nigel: I think when you put that much talent on one project, whether it be the design, direction, script or cast, you can’t help but make something special that’s going to make people sit up and take notice. The show’s content is something we don’t usually see in TV space dramas either. The relationships and interplay between the characters is practically Shakespearian. There’s sex, violence, love, hate, psychoses, politics and lets not forget all that frakkin swearing!
Ha! Frak! I love it! Who are your favourite characters and why?
Nigel: Always been a fan of Edward James Olmos, he really is the centre of the show. Baltar makes me laugh out loud more in one episode than the ten seasons of Friends.
That said, who couldn’t fall for Starbuck? A cigar chompin’, tough talkin’ blonde hottie who’d beat you at cards, then kick your ass for losing. Sweet.
Yes, Starbuck, aahhh, moving right along ... Greg?
Greg: Adama, Starbuck, and Gaeta are probably my three faves. Adama, because he’s the heart and soul of the show, and there’s something hugely powerful about the way his enormous emotional turmoil is conveyed so subtly. Starbuck, because she has this great combination of total competence in her work and total confusion in her personal life. And Gaeta, because I love his quiet competence and wry humor.
The comic series is kicking off with an issue #0. Where is this set in the TV series continuity?
Greg: In the middle of the second season, after the return from Kobol and the arrival of the Pegasus. It’s a great time to tell our untold epic. The fleet’s reunited, so we have access all the central characters, but it’s soon enough after the conflicts and betrayals of the previous episodes that emotions are raw, and there’s a real space to explore what’s pulling characters together or tearing them apart.
The solicitation information has been very general. Can you reveal some elements of the plot for the comic series and which characters will be making an appearance?
Greg: Adama, Starbuck, Roslin, Dualla, and Apollo are the main characters we’re following in the first issue, with Gaeta, Baltar, Number Six and Sharon playing key roles as the stories continue. There are twists and turns every step of the way, with a huge surprise at the end of issue #0 and an even bigger stunner at the end of issue #3—don't ya dare miss it!
Greg: Here’s our teaser copy for the first arc:
In our first issue, an introductory “0” issue priced at just a quarter, the Galactica discovers a group of human survivors in a small Medivac ship under attack by Cylons. Adama suspects a Cylon plot, but Roslin points to the Sacred Scrolls, which contain an ancient prophecy: “The dead shall return in an ark of fire.” Who are the “Returners”? Will they unite or divide the fleet and heal or break the heart of Commander Adama?
During the course of the series, we’ll discover more about the origins of the Cylons, learn about an underground group of human saboteurs trying to prevent the Galactica from reaching Earth, and follow our flawed heroes as they struggle with their harrowing responsibility to make life-and-death decisions in times of terrible crisis.
Is that all? Ha! That sounds amazing. Allow me a fanboy moment please ... OK, back to the questions, how have you both sought to capture the spirit of the show in the new comic series?
Nigel: It’s just been about modifying the art to reflect the mood and style of the show’s direction and lighting. I’ve been using more widescreen paneling and a lot more blacks than I usually would. Also, I try to put as much background in to every panel, as time will allow, so that the reader stays anchored to the BSG universe.
Greg: I immersed myself in the show, watching and re-watching the miniseries and first season in particular, trying to absorb the rhythms and nuances of the characters and the overwhelming sense of dread which permeates the Battlestar Galactica world.
As I see it, the show’s all about normal human beings thrust into a time of insanely high danger and tension. They never have enough information or resources, but they still must make decisions every day that may mean life or death for thousands. That’s an almost unbearable amount of responsibility, which makes for great human drama, which is what I’m doing my best to bring to life in the comic book.
I’m tense just reading your answer.
Greg: Also, there are certain relationships and conflicts between characters which the first season set up beautifully; the emotional core of the comic book series is the exploration and deepening of those relationships and conflicts.
Finally, one of the big ideas behind the show deals with humans versus robots, with the question of what it means to be human, what it means to be a Cylon, why the two species must fight, and who deserves to live. Over the course of our 13 issues, we’re going to delve deeply into these questions in some surprising and even shocking ways.
Greg, how closely have you worked with the show’s writers? Nigel, how closely have you worked with the designers and the special effects team? Have the actors played any role in the comic?
Greg: When I started working on the outline for the comic series, I had no idea what Universal would or wouldn’t approve. So, I shot for the moon, developing a story that would matter, that would grapple with the most intriguing questions about the Cylon/human conflict and the most compelling character conflicts of the first season.
The editors at Dynamite sent the outline to Universal, and I got the chance to talk with Ron Moore, the genius behind the new series. He had a few key questions and suggestions, which we addressed in the next draft, and then Universal gave us the green light.
It’s a huge kick in the pants to be able to work on such an amazing property, and I’m still stunned and thrilled that they’re letting us tell the stories we’re telling.
Nigel: Any reference I need is right there in the frame. Schematics and design sheets are great, but to be honest, its a lot more helpful having the show running in front of you to try and capture the ships, costumes, actors, etc. under the right lighting.
How many stories are you hoping to tell? Is this a miniseries or an ongoing book?
Greg: It’s an ongoing book. We’ve planned out the first 13 issues, which form an epic storyline made up of three smaller arcs.
Awesome! Nigel, when operating in such a visually-defined world, what challenges do you face? Have you been able to put your own artistic spin on these characters and their universe?
Nigel: From day one, I had no interest in doing a photo-realistic book. It’s just a personal taste thing, but unless they’re done by someone with a real flare for that style, the characters tend to come across as stilted and lifeless. I decided the best way for me to do the book was to be completely faithful to the design aesthetic, to capture the look and feel of the show as exactly as I could but to populate it with my take on the actors.
Given the fan support for this show, there is obvious potential to expand the audience for the comic beyond traditional comic book fans. How has Dynamite Entertainment spread the word outside the world of comics?
Greg: Dynamite’s been doing a tremendous job of getting the word out, and I hear rumors of some crossover media coverage, which makes me very happy, since I’m always excited about pulling new readers into comics.
Nigel: I believe they’re working on this through Universal and SCIFI, and have some BIG plans to spread the word and drive the fans into the stores.
Thank you both for your time. I am sure that legions of fans are eagerly awaiting this comic. May can’t come soon enough!