Mike Johnson On the Frontier For Star Trek
Jun 10, 2013
Mike Johnson was given the captain’s chair when the time came for IDW to launch its Star Trek comics. The support he received from CBS and the folks at IDW Publishing were more than enough when it came for Mike to hit warp factor 10…and he’s bouncing along star systems since 2009. Now with Star Trek: Into Darkness hitting theaters — and Star Trek #24 (JUN130405) marking over two dozen issues for Mike's run on the series — we thought it was a good time to check in with Mike, and see if his command was secure on the starship Enterprise.
PREVIEWSworld: Mike, you’re cruising with the crew of the Enterprise for IDW’s ongoing Star Trek series. A mighty fine gig if you’re a Trekkie. Are you a Trekkie? Or do you take offense to the term? Should I instead be asking you if one of your dreams finally came true? Bottom line: how was it that you got the gig for writing Star Trek, and what did you show IDW that made them tap you a writer for the book?
Mike Johnson: I am a Trekkie, no offense taken! In a previous life I was working in film development for Trek writers/producers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, and at the same time I was working as a comic book writer on Superman/Batman for DC. When the idea came up to do a prequel comic with IDW for the 2009 movie, Bob and Alex pointed at me and said “make it so”, and the rest is (future) history.
PREVIEWSworld: What resources do you consult in brainstorming for your scripts? Are there any particular books, movies, web sites that you frequent to get the creative juices going?
Mike Johnson: I’m very lucky to have great partners in the folks at CBS, who own the rights to Trek and oversee all licensing and merchandising. They’ve given me amazing access to the wealth of Trek material from over the years, which is great for referencing all things Starfleet.
When it comes to actually writing the comic, I re-watch the 2009 movie to make sure I’m capturing the voices of the new cast.
When I’m actually typing, I’ll listen to Michael Giacchino’s amazing soundtracks to get inspired.
PREVIEWSworld: As this is sci-fi storytelling, do you try to cross-breed any of your research into past Star Trek history to see where you’ll come out on the other end? Kind of like trying to see where the black hole takes you?
Mike Johnson: We are definitely using characters, places, and events from Trek history, as a way to show how this new timeline diverges from the past. We are moving away from simply re-imagining old episodes. Instead, we are telling new stories and then introducing familiar faces as part of that.
PREVIEWSworld: As issue #24 of Star Trek has been listed in the June issue of PREVIEWS, this marks two years worth of stories that you’ve been able to deliver on this series. Since you’ve been at this since the series kicked off, what story arc could you say proved to be the most challenging for you, and why?
Mike Johnson: The trickiest story arc was actually not in the ongoing series, but was the “Countdown to Darkness” prequel mini-series we did before the film came out. We couldn’t spoil anything in the film, so we had to take a more thematic approach to the prequel, foreshadowing things like the Prime Directive and Starfleet shenanigans. Hopefully we were able to tell a cool Trek story that stood on its on own, as well as hinting at what was coming in the movie.
PREVIEWSworld: I noticed that issue #24 introduces readers to the Gorn, one of the most popular characters from the original Star Trek TV series. As you’re cross-pollinating characters from the TV show into your book, has that been a direction that has you first consulting with the Gene Roddenberry estate? Or have you been given carte blanche to do as you will?
Mike Johnson: I have a great amount of freedom in coming up with new stories. As far as cross-pollinating, everyone involved in Trek is interested in creating a cohesive Trek universe that tells a story across various media. So we mention the planet Nibiru at the end of the game, and we reference the game story with the Gorn in the comic, and the comic now follows on from the events of the movie. That’s a trend we want to continue.
PREVIEWSworld: Right now there’s a lot going on with the Star Trek franchise, as Paramount’s movie Into Darkness hit theaters this year, and there’s a new Star Trek video game by Namco Bandai Games. With all this going on, are you able to talk with any of the people in these other camps? Or are you more of a one-man expedition to go where no man has gone before? And do you prefer it that way, or are you hoping maybe an opportunity might arise for you once the summer conventions kick into gear?
Mike Johnson: I deal primarily with Bob Orci, who is as knowledgeable a Star Trek fan as there is on any planet, and who cares deeply about ensuring that new Trek stories are worthy of the name, whatever media they appear in. Fortunately I get to work with the great team at IDW, so I never feel like I’m piloting a lonely one-man ship out in the void. Comics are like the starship Enterprise: it takes a family to keep them flying.