Andy Schmidt: IDW's Star Trek Captain
By Keith Dallas
After stepping down as a Marvel Comics' editor in June 2007, Andy Schmidt focused his energies on writing freelance assignments, developing his Comics Experience school for budding comic book writers and artists, and, most of all, taking care of his newborn son.
In June 2008 though, IDW Publishing lured Andy back to the editor's chair and put him in charge of their G.I. Joe and Star Trek lines, among other comic books.
I caught up with Andy to gauge his transition back to editing as well as learn about IDW's 2009 plans for their Star Trek line of comic books.
Keith Dallas (KD): It has been several months since you assumed your IDW editorial duties. How well did you settle back into the editor's chair? And how does your current editorship compare to your Marvel experience in terms of workload, atmosphere, standard operating procedure, etc.?
Andy Schmidt (AS) : Wow, that's not a loaded question at all. I left Marvel for personal reasons, to stay at home to be with Cale as much as possible during the first year or so of his life. IDW presented several unique opportunities to give me a much larger leadership role and work with some very intricate (and therefore appealing to me) projects and characters. That led to my returning to the work force. I was just really interested in taking my role to the next level and IDW wanted that as well.
Workload is about the same. I don't think any editor in the industry has an easy or manageable workload, but I really like the people here and the weather is nice too.
KD: Yeah, the San Diego weather is a nice perk.
As I'm sure you know, there's been a lot of buzz lately about the new Star Trek movie trailers. Watching them, I began thinking about IDW's license to produce Star Trek comic books. What are your (and [IDW publisher] Chris Ryall's) expectations for the future of Star Trek comic books in light of the upcoming movie?
AS: That it will trend upwards. From where I'm sitting, we're on the verge of a re-invention of arguably the most successful pop-culture franchise of all time. Yes, bigger than Star Wars (Star Trek has produced 11 movies, an animated show, and five successful TV series). And the content that we're putting together now for the comics is really top-notch. Folks will dig it!
KD: If I may linger for a moment longer about the trailers, they seem to have produced a dichotomous reaction. On the messageboards, a lot of long-time Trek fans have expressed disgust with what they saw (e.g. Uhura getting naked? Spock losing his temper?). On the other hand, a lot of other people are exclaiming, "I've NEVER been a Star Trek fan, but I'm REALLY looking forward to seeing this movie!" It's obvious what's getting these people either disgusted or excited is how differently the Trek concept is being presented in J.J. Abrams movie. Given this dichotomous reaction, should or shouldn't IDW change how it's publishing Trek?
AS: Funny, I'd say IDW should change how the publish Trek regardless of the new movie. The content has been good and the stories fun, don't get me wrong, I don't think IDW has put out a single bad Trek comic, but I think it's time with no TV series ongoing, for another medium to step up and take the reins of the franchise and go forward. The new movie is going to do that with people who both are excited and some who are kicking and screaming. But IDW is priming to be a part of the new and still respect the old--but above all, we're going to be doing things that Trek fans (even fringe ones) won't be able to resist picking up.
KD: Okay, then I have to ask how you intend on retaining those who have been faithful IDW Star Trek comic book readers while attracting new Star Trek fans generated by the movie. If the presentation of Trek is radically changed in IDW's books, don't you risk alienating the long time fan? But if the presentation of Trek isn't radically changed, don't you risk turning off potential new readers who could possibly perceive IDW's comic books as "old school"?
AS: I don't think it's mutually exclusive, no. What we're planning in no way contradicts either the new or the old. What we're doing is taking Trek in places it hasn't gone before (and isn't that what Trek is all about�exploring new territory?). We're doing books based on the original series and the next gen. and the new movie. But all three of these franchises (for lack of a better term) will feel new and fresh not because of snazzy new outfits but because we're not retreading old ground, because we're breaking new ground.
Man, I don't know if that made sense but I know what I mean.
KD: Well, considering how much "old ground" there is in Star Trek, I understand you to mean you're undertaking a monumental task. So let's discuss IDW's 2009 Star Trek plans. Any upcoming projects you can reveal?
AS: I've got three major launch points lined up. The first is in January with the premiere of the very-closely-tied-to-the-movie prequel Star Trek: Countdown. The story for this comes right from the screen writers of the movie and leads up to the opening of the film. There's a LOT of dramatic and action-packed backstory that couldn't make it into the movie but is perfect for a comic book�so don't miss it! It's your first chance to meet the new villain for the movie and get some MAJOR hints as to what the movie is about!
Then in March we're launching a couple of awesome Original Series projects. Crew is by John Byrne and explores a very important bit of business prior to Kirk's taking control of the Enterprise starship.
John Byrne drawn cover to Star Trek: Crew #1,
scheduled to arrive in stores in March 2009.
Mission's End is by Ty Templeton and Stephen Molnar and it tells the story of the final mission of the original five-year mission, and you know what? THE STATUS QUO CHANGES. That's right, you'll see friendships suffer and crumble as well as really great action. This book is going to lead up to some really big changes for the Original Series franchise.
Kevin Maguire drawn cover to Star Trek: Mission's End #1,
scheduled to arrive in stores in March 2009.
KD: Alright, wait a minute. How can you make "big changes" while respecting the continuity established by the movies? Was there something that Templeton (or you) noticed within the movies that suggested a "shattered friendship"?
AS: In April, we're publishing the early anticipated and long-awaited Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan movie adaptation. I'm adapting the screenplay myself and artist Chee who I wrote a mini-series for last year is doing the art. He's an amazing talent! And we've got Chris Ryall editing it. We are finally getting this thing published! And you know what, it's a really good comic book too!
KD: I have to admit that as soon as you said IDW is publishing an adaptation of Star Trek II, I asked myself, "Why publish an adaptation of a movie that came out in 1982?"
AS: Because it's the only Original Series Star Trek movie that HASN'T been adapted into a comic book.
KD: Really? Didn't Marvel publish one in 1982? [Searches on-line comic book databases] I stand corrected. Wow. I can't believe that movie has never been adapted into a comic book.
AS: No, it didn�t. What happened is that Marvel had the license for the Motion Picture--the first one--and it was considered to be something of a flop. So Marvel dropped the license and very few companies picked up on Star Trek II. Of course, that was the big hit and so everyone jumped back on the Trek wagon for the third film. DC Comics took over the comic book license from then on and has adapted every movie since. So, yeah, this one has never been done.
After all that, we then get into the Next Generation stuff, but oh my, lord, if I told you want we have planned, it would blow your mind. But I'll say this�no one is safe. Seriously.
KD: Well, since I know you're not going to provide any teases about that, let me instead ask about your approach to the Wrath of Kahn adaptation. Is it mostly "shot for shot" or did you find a different way to present the story?
AS: It's not shot for shot. Most adaptations suffer because there's never enough room. It's normal that they will be crowded, but it's still possible to do a faithful adaptation and trim it. I haven't cut as much as I have combined things into one scene. So theoretically, the comic script is even tighter than the movie script--and that script is pretty darn tight.
I wanted to make sure that we also had some big visuals. This is a cat and mouse chase movie, and it's really great and got to be big and dramatic, so finding a way to let the art breathe was extremely important. Each issue has several double-page spreads--sometimes with multiple panels--but the scope feels much larger for it.
And I did change a few things in terms of how the reading experience goes. For example, the reader (if unfamiliar with the movie) won't know why Chekov is acting strangely, just that he is, so the dramatic reveal that he is (spoiler alert!) being mind controlled comes much later. That allowed me to play the scenes in a different way so that the reader is getting a different, yet entirely accurate, experience from reading the comic. I love this kind of thing. It's like working on a giant puzzle and I think it�s turning out really great.
KD: How did you separate Wrath of Khan into appropriate chapters for comic book serialization?
AS: That was the hardest part because we're doing it in three chapters and the movie doesn't naturally break into thirds. So the first chapter is about the crew getting ready and Kirk getting honest with himself until he has to take over the ship.
The second chapter focuses more personally on the revenge story and the life/death themes of the film. It ends after Kirk has been kicked around by Khan and we get just the faintest glimmer of hope that they might make it out alive.
And the third chapter, of course, rises up to the climax of the film and resolves the conflict. It's great stuff and it's an honor to be doing the adaptation.
KD: So, is IDW's Star Trek publishing slate for 2009 all planned out already?
AS: We�ve been killing ourselves to revitalize the comic book part of the franchise and we�re in great shape for all of 2009. So, short answer, yes.
Editor's Note: For solicitation information on IDW's March 2009 releases, including several of the Star Trek titles referenced in the interview, visit ComicNewsi.com
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