It's Star Trek Month, and part of the avalanche of Trek-themed content is IDW's Star Trek Voyager: Seven's Reckoning, a new comic from writer Dave Baker (an IDW Trek veteran, whose Night Hunters with Alexis Ziritt is hitting comic shops soon) and artist Angel Hernandez (Star Trek/Green Lantern). In the story, Voyager encounters a damaged ship deep in the Delta quadrant. It isn't long before things get weird and what seemed like a simple repair mission has drawn Seven of Nine into an ancient and complex conflict that will test her newfound humanity. The four-issue series launched last week.
Voyager is getting some love this month; in addition to Seven's Reckoning, Hero Collector has a hardcover coffee table book titled Star Trek Voyager: A Celebration. Baker joined us recently to talk about Seven's Reckoning, which you can get at your local comic shop or digitally via ComiXology or other digital providers now.
Star Trek is already a pretty visible property, but is it cool to get dropped into "Star Trek Month" at the last minute?
I mean, Star Trek Month is definitely an apt description of what I've been doing for the last couple weeks, haha. Going on podcasts, doing interviews, and just generally trying to promo Seven's Reckoning as much as possible. However, I found out about the CBS "Official Star Trek Month" along with every one else. I'm happy that our book is coming out during the big push with everything else.
Hopefully, Angel Hernandez, the brilliant illustrator of the book, and I will get a bump or a few more eyeballs on it because of the increased visibility...but honestly, who knows?
For a guy who has worked primarily outside of the corporate comics bubble, is it kind of strange to go from a project like Night Hunters right into arguably the most corporate product imaginable, with a licensed comic from a large (or large-ish, anyway) publisher?
Yeah, I've worked on some properties on the film and TV side of things. I wrote on a project for Fox, based on one of their long-running franchises that was fully produced but then held back and is now just in Disney limbo forever, probably. I've also written for the new Ben 10 TV show on Cartoon Network, so I'm pretty comfortable in both arenas. I have to be honest, though, and say that I love working on indie comics because of the freedom to fully manufacture a reality.
But on the other hand, getting to write Tuvok and Janeway banter was a blast. I love Star Trek and, so far, the readers I've talked to have seemed to think I captured the voices of the various Trek characters pretty well. Which is a good feeling.
Night Hunters is so different from Trek I kinda just compartmentalize them in my head. One is a passion project that Alexis Ziritt and I have been working on for literally years. The other is something I've been wanting to do since I was a kid. I've always been a huge Star Trek fan. So, getting to write sarcastic exchanges about how Seven and Tuvok don't like dealing with humans who are always cracking jokes was just super fun. They're equally exciting to me, just in different ways. If I was a better writer I'd have some perfect analogy, but I don't. They're just two things I love in deeply personal and divergent ways.
How much backstory do fans need to know going into this? Do people who have seen the show like, one time back when it was on TV, need to fire up a DVD player or CBS All Access or something?
It's pretty self-contained. I did my best to try and make it a story that hardcore Voyager fans will really love and the casual reader will be able to pick up and jump right in. The story itself follows Voyager discovering an inter-generational colonization vessel, adrift in deep space. From there we track with Seven of Nine as she is sucked up into an alien culture, that's grappling with a class conflict.
This alien race's society completely revolves around story. They call their ship a 'narrative' and their queen is the 'Grand Protagonist'. Their culture assigns people roles, basically from birth. Some of which are tantamount to slavery. As such, Seven, who comes from The Borg, who have no stories, is confused and intrigued by this culture and starts asking questions... which then results in one of the aliens asking the ultimate question... "Are these stories I'm being told... true?"
The overarching theme of the book is that the stories we tell each other matter, and the stories we tell ourselves matter most of all.
We talked in our other conversation about how so many comics professionals don't pay a lot of attention to form. Is there something that you can do to push yourself, or push boundaries, when writing a book like this?
Absolutely, you just have to be a little sneaky about it... because it is a very corporately controlled product, watched over by Mr CBSman, Esquire. There's a specific motif that runs through the opening of all the books, and is structured that way to have a pay off later which I won't spoil.
To put a fine point on the answer to your question though, it's a balancing act. All art in a commercial medium is founded in compromise, whether that's personal or professional. This book is a very specific thing. It's a licensed comic for a TV show from 30 years ago. It has a specific target it needs to hit. I can't just do whatever I want. It needs to feel, sound, and look a certain way to be accepted by people care about Star Trek. And I'm one of those people.
I take this stuff very seriously. Every book has a design remit. If you're building it from scratch you get to determine what that point of terminus is. If you're working on someone else's project then you need to develop a means by which to remain honest to your own Artistic North Star but still act as caretaker for the space you're occupying.
I know personally, I get really excited when I can see people pushing or pulling at threads on a bigger stage. It's easy to be avant-garde off in the corner with a bunch of art school nerds. (Which I am, and I do, quite often) It's pretty exciting, to me, when something like Prometheus or Alien Covenant gets produced. That's someone taking a HUGE swing, telling a deeply personal story, and trying to really push what's acceptable in a very concrete and solidified modality of storytelling. Did it work totally? I don't know. I loved both those movies. A lot of people didn't. But you know what? I'd rather watch fifteen Swinging For The Fences And Fail projects then one I'm Just Trying To Cash A Paycheck job.
There has to be something to be said for the metaphor of a Star Trek story where the aliens openly say their ship is just a thing that exists to facilitate a narrative, doesn't there?
Absolutely, I think theirs a plethora of metaphors to make... some of which I explicitly channeled... others I left to the reader. I'm a bit hesitant to outline or delineate any of them here, just because I want the reader to fully embrace those connections on their own. But I think there's something very powerful about a culture that is honest about their deep reverence for the concept of story.
I think America functions that way to a large degree, just not as honestly. We're the 'Land of Opportunity', that in and of itself is a story. We're 'The Greatest Nation on Earth'... but are we? Or is it a bizarre self-created myth. Where we've said it so many times to ourselves and to each other that we all believe it and people outside of the bubble of the myth of American Exceptionalism are going, "Guys...you're all looking pretty dumpy and kinda like a country that's bordering on authoritarianism, and you allow all your multi-national corporate conglomerates to produce sneakers with third-world child labor and none of you care at all. For being there Greatest Nation On Earth, you sure seem ok with taking advantage of literal slave kids..."
Now, does my Trek book ask these questions as confrontationally? No, they're shrouded in metaphor and story. Because more often than not humans get lost in the details. Their identities become tied to a political party or a social position and they stop being able to fully hear and reconcile with ideological concepts.
As such, being able to discuss hard hitting social issues through the lens of metaphor allows us to detach and examine our existing biases. Again, back to the power of story. It builds empathy.
That's what I love about Star Trek so much. Infinite diversity in infinite combination is something I believe in passionately. I know it might sound cheesy to say that a moniker from a fifty year old tv show is a battle cry for me... but it truly is. I think that the future Star Trek presents, one of hope, prosperity, and minimized strife and animus, is absolutely the future we should all be working towards. Do I necessarily think that humanity will evolve to a point where we literally don't have conflicts with ourselves? I don't know. Part of me thinks that it's in our nature to hate and lust and steal. But I think aspiring to be better and conflict free is half the battle. To push us further and further into the stratosphere of emotional maturity is the highest goal imaginable, to me. Today more than ever.0comments
That's the aspect I'm most proud of with Seven's Reckoning. It's a story I care about. It's something I did my best on, and it's something Angel knocked out of the part. But at the end of the day I'm so proud to be included into the 50 year tradition of people telling stories that all have a simple and elegant call to action: "We can be better."
That's the core of Star Trek to me. Through increased diversity, through fostering understanding, through working together to achieve what seems impossible...we can be better. And even though the world seems pretty dark to me right now, I take solace in the fact that for 50 years there's been people putting invisible brick on invisible brick building a monument in the minds of Star Trek fans everywhere that signifies just that...we can be better.