The general pop culture feel of many conventions – including the Wizard World brand of shows – usually means the only connection between comics and the other media promoted there are shared fans. But it's important to remember that in this day and age of Hollywood's wholesale optioning of the comics form, plenty of actors, producers and screenwriters, plenty of new voices are working their way into the comics scene. At last weekend's Wizard World Chicago Comic Con, news broke that actor Walter Koenig (best known by sci-fi fans for playing Chekov on the original "Star Trek") would make his return to penning comics with two releases from Bluewater Productions in 2011.
First up, Koenig and Bluewater have plans for "Raver" – the twist on the superhero concept the actor first wrote as a three-issue Malibu Comics series in 1993. Telling the story of Norman Walters, a man forced to travel through grotesque alternate realities created by his subconscious while earning new superpowers in each reality, "Raver" will see its previous issues released in a trade paperback which will include a brand new story by Koenig.
In addition to that release, Bluewater will publish Koenig's "Things To Come" – a post-apocalyptic vampire epic with a twist – first as a miniseries and later a graphic novel. "First of all, I certainly didn't want to do a story that resembled in totum what was out there," Keonig told CBR News about "Things To Come" at the Chicago show. "I wanted to do something that has my own imprint and my own signature on it. I came up with this idea: what if vampires were the only intelligent species on earth, and they didn't know why they were here?"
The series will focus on a vampire race born from the bowels of the earth after an apocalypse has ravaged the surface of the planet. Koenig's story will grapple with questions of identity, including, "Does it have to do with universal law? Does it have to do with a deity? Is it random?" Koenig explained, "My protagonist in the vampires is someone who's quite introspective, he's struggling with his purpose – whether he is an evil presence or not an evil presence, whether he is the progenitor of a new world or not. We've gone through an apocalypse, and humans can not survive to walk the earth because the air is so poisoned. This mutant form of vampires can walk the earth. The sun has been shrouded by the poisons so they can easily move around during the day.
"The story has to deal with who they are, how they got there and how they came to be. There's some mystical elements into how they came to be and what will come after them. Their personal demons and the conflict between them is all a part of what the conflict's about."
The actor told us he will explain the fate of mankind in the series, but not necessarily when readers might expect. "I actually do deal with the last humans. I wrote this as a feature, and the first act really has to do with the last surviving humans, what they leave behind and how the vampires come to be. Because it's going to be a series of comics that'll eventually be a graphic novel, and because it's a book about vampires, I have to do something with the construction of the story to introduce the vampires earlier. Right now, the whole first act of the story is about the last humans. [My editor] seems to be a very astute young man and seems to get it. We're going to meet soon and talk about restructuring the story, so whether it's through flashback or whatever, we introduce the vampires in an earlier period and perhaps go back and tell the story of the humans."
Koenig went on to explain how he came into writing shortly after the end of "Star Trek's" production run. "When the series ended, I was without any employment. The phone didn't ring, and I found myself having no reason to get up in the morning. It was that depressing. I decided at some juncture that if I was going to maintain my sanity and some kind of emotional equilibrium, I had to give myself a purpose, a target, an objective. That became writing. It gave my life structure. I knew that every day I was going to get up and write for four or five hours. It brought some emotional equanimity with it. Over the course of about six months, I wrote a novel, even though I had never written before, and I put it away because a couple of people I started showing it to didn't like it. A couple people loved it, but I always go with the people who didn't like it. I assumed they knew what they were talking about," Koenig laughed.
"18 years later, [the novel] got published, but in the interim I started writing screenplays – I wrote an episode of the animated 'Star Trek' and [scripts] for several prime time televisions shows – then found myself on this course. I found it aesthetically rewarding and something I could always do when the work as an actor wasn't available. I started writing, not because I was inspired by 'Star Trek' to write, but because I just needed to find a way to survive. To psychologically and emotionally survive at a time when things were really kind of ruined. I had a wife and a small child, and I wasn't making any money. I needed a purpose and to be committed to something. The writing provided that."
"Raver" held a particular place in Koenig's own personal canon as the book became a place where he attempted to add a more psychological edge to the superhero concept. "I wrote three issues, and after I was done, I thought, 'Well, the third one's pretty good. I'm just getting into the swing of this.' But my contract was only for three issues! Since I'm going back to do it again, I went back and read the other two issues, and I think they're all pretty interesting! It's something I think has innovative storytelling, and I look forward to the challenge of writing yet a fourth one.
"We're going to do the fourth issue, and then we're going to combine them into a graphic novel," he promised, saying the work to make all these books a reality was just beginning. "I needed to reread it because there was certain backstory I had to address for writing another story. This weekend, in fact, I've been staring at the ceiling and wondering what the next story will be."