Greg Pak Makes Friendly With The Toasters in "Battlestar Galactica"

Thu, February 23rd, 2006 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Arune Singh, Staff Writer

Photo Cover of "Battlestar Galactica" #0

The Cylons were created by humans. They rebelled. Now there are less than 50,000 humans alive and in search of the fabled planet Earth. Oh, that's the GOOD news. The remaining humans need to find a way to survive, despite their differences, and the Battlestar Galactica, the colonies' last warship, is humanity's last hope. Every Friday on the Sci-Fi network, fans race to their televisions to watch "Battlestar Galactica," a thrilling update of the seventies cult classic, and fans have made it the network's #1 program. Dynamite Entertainment announced their plans for a "BSG" series last year, and this May, fans will get their first taste of the series in a 25-cent issue #0, much like the way the company drew in readers with "Red Sonja," Writer Greg Pak, who's been making a name for himself at Marvel Comics, is writing the series and spoke to CBR News about working on the book, his plans and how he got involved.

"After the first issue of "X-Men: Phoenix - Endsong" hit the stands, I got a call from Dynamite," explained Pak. "They initially wanted to talk about another project, but let slip that they had the rights to do the comic book tie-in to the new 'Battlestar Galactica' series. I'd loved the old show as a kid but was absolutely blown away by the new show -- it's the only television program in years that I've actually built my schedule around watching. The chance to be a part of anything associated with it was too good to let slip by."

For the uninitiated, "Battlestar Galactica" is the most acclaimed science fiction program in years, and as Pak explained, it's a layered series as well. " 'Battlestar Galactica' tells the story of a rag-tag fleet of starships containing the last known remnants of the human race. Led by Commander William Adama and President Laura Roslin, the survivors are on the run from the robot Cylons who wiped out their home planets -- and on a quest to find the legendary thirteenth human colony, a planet known as Earth.

"The comic book fits right into the continuity of the television series, providing an untold adventure that takes place between the first and second seasons -- right after the return from Kobol and right before the arrival of the Battlestar Pegasus.

"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."

If this all sounds a bit overwhelming or if your only familiarity with "Galactica" is the allegations of swiping from "Star Wars" (a claim leveled against the original), then don't worry: Pak is writing this book for you too. "We're doing our best to provide all the necessary exposition as seamlessly as possible within the comics themselves so that readers who know nothing about the series can jump right in," said the scribe of new readers. "At the same time, the comics will be full of details and character development that will have added resonance for fans of the show.

"'Star Wars' is brilliant for using fantastical genre elements to evoke mythic truths about the birth and death of heroes. 'Battlestar Galactica' undertakes a very different challenge -- striving for realism rather than myth, documentary rather than fable. The heroes of 'Battlestar Galactica' aren't Chosen Ones or superheroes -- they're just everyday people struggling to do their jobs in times of unrelenting crisis. So just as in real life, in every crisis they're learning something new and at any moment they may fail -- and the show is utterly compelling as a result."

The new version of "Galactica" has been seen by fans as one of the grittier, more unforgiving shows on television, not just in the sci-fi realm, but also when compared to more "mainstream" shows. In translating the series to comic book form, Pak isn't going to ditch any of the show's intensity and promises to stay true to the show's virtues. "The beautiful grunginess of the production design, the verite vibe of the cinematography, and the visceral, real-world feel of the violence of "Battlestar Galactica" contributes to that gritty feeling. And those are things we may see on television and in comics all the time. But what really makes the show feel special is that in every episode, our heroes must take responsibility for making life and death decisions when there's not enough information and any choice could lead to disaster. The emotional and moral stakes are as high as they can be. And that's the core of the dramatic tension we're striving to maintain throughout the comic book series."

Pak's favorite character, Commander Adama, played by Edward James Olmos

While "BSG" is a very tightly woven show, with very strict continuity, Pak will be utilizing your favorites, from Helo to Starbuck to Tyrol, but won't be limited to characters already created. "Most of the main characters in the comic book series are leads from the series - the show has such a big, rich cast that it's not hard to find great folks to use. But we've been given the discretion to create new characters as necessary, and every issue should present something surprising and fresh for readers. Some great moments are coming up for Dualla and Gaeta in particular.

"Adama's absolutely my fave. He's the heart and soul of the show -- his struggles epitomize the show's biggest themes and all of the emotional threads ultimately trace back to him. He's also a great character to write because so much of what he's thinking or experiencing isn't verbalized, which opens the door for subtle but powerful scenes which turn on small nuances of human interaction and curt but evocative dialogue loaded with subtext."

Some writers have said that working on licensed properties, especially ones such as "Galactica" that have such vocal fans, can be difficult because of constraints. "Continuity-wise, it might actually easier to work with "Battlestar Galactica" than some comic book properties," posits Pak. "You can watch a few sets of DVDs and see everything there is to see in the Battlestar Galactica universe. But for some comic book characters, there might be forty to sixty years of monthly comics to wrap your head around, often with conflicting storylines and character histories. It's pretty exciting to come into a universe like this at such an early stage."

Pak's partner-perhaps Viper wingman is the correct term-in crime on "BSG" will be artist Nigel Raynor and of his skills, the scribe says, "Nigel Raynor is the penciller. He has a great feel for panel-by-panel storytelling and is doing a tremendous job of capturing the emotional tensions of the first storyline. And he draws a mean Cylon Centurion."

So, if you're overwhelmed by the veritable onslaught of superhero comics, want something new or are just plain curious about "Battlestar Galactica," Pak implores you to check out the series, "Because it's the comic book tie-in to the 21st century's greatest science fiction television show -- and it works within the continuity of the show to explore our characters in stories which can't be found anywhere else.

"Because we're doing our best to provide the most satisfying issue-by-issue reading experience we can with an overarching storyline which will pay off enormously in the long term and individual issues packed with tons of story, action, and character development.

"Because it continues the most emotionally shattering storyline from the television series' first season. Because it will reveal things about the Cylons that have never been revealed before. Because you won't believe what they let us do when you hit the last page of Issue #0. And because old and new fans alike have never seen anything like the climax to Issue #3."

 
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