Bob Gale Goes Back to the Future With IDW Mini-Series

by Vince Brusio

If you grew up in the 80s, then you probably remember Marty McFly. He was portrayed by Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future, one of the biggest movies to hit the screens for movie-goers eager to see how a DeLorean could act as a time machine while Huey Lewis & The News be-bopped in the background, urging us to get “back in time.”  Fast-forward to the present day, and you’ll see BTFF creator/screenwriter Bob Gale is now giving us Back To The Future #1 (AUG150320) from IDW Publishing. No, it’s not a comic adaptation of the movie. This is the next chapter in the BTTF legacy, and according to Bob in this PREVIEWSworld Exclusive interview, Stephen Spielberg’s advice for the film’s sequels was the most important advice to follow when developing this new comic series.

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PREVIEWSworld: When you originally conceived of Back to the Future, did the trilogy concept translate over for the film treatments in its entirety?  Or was there material left over? Was that material we’re now seeing for the first time in this new book from IDW?

Bob Gale: Back to the Future was conceived as a one-off film, with never a thought for a sequel much less two.  The success of the original made a sequel inevitable, and Bob Zemeckis and I came up with two movies' worth of material, so we convinced Universal to let us make two sequels, back to back.  Nothing in this IDW series was originally created for the films.  However, there are certain ideas Bob Zemeckis and I discussed as back story for the characters that will be the subject of some of these tales.

PREVIEWSworld: As Back to the Future is one of the most successful films to come out of the 80s, why bring back Marty and company for a comic book series? Do you have more liberties this way?

Bob Gale: IDW was the instigator – they approached Universal, who then approached me (which they do with most things involving BTTF) to see if I thought it made sense.  After hashing it out with Tom Waltz and Chris Ryall, we got to “Untold Tales and Alternate Timelines” as a viable concept.   Interestingly, BTTF seems as popular now as it's ever been, and the series will allow us to explore aspects of the movies and characters that enhance what everyone already knows.  Everyone knows we won't do a Part 4, so this is a good way to give the public a little more BTTF.

PREVIEWSworld: What are the challenges in writing stories for this four-part series with the characters being so firmly entrenched in pop film culture?

Bob Gale: I'll quote Steven Spielberg's advice when we began BTTF-II: “Don't f*** it up!”  The most important thing is to be sure that the characters “stay in character.”  The plus side is that we can hear their voices in our heads, and that helps keep them consistent.

PREVIEWSworld: Could you describe how the mechanics worked between you and the writers on this book, John Barber and Erik Burnham? What leg work was involved?

Bob Gale: No leg work – it's 2015 and we use computers and cellphones!  Tom Waltz at IDW is responsible for bringing the talent aboard.  For issue 1, I wrote both stories and partially scripted the first one.  John and Erik took them to finished scripts; Tom gave his notes, then I got the scripts, I had a few notes, and that was that.  For the rest of the series, I wrote up 2 pages of ideas and things I thought worth exploring and then I let John and Erik choose the ones they were most interested in. We all had a conference call to discuss things, as well as some things to improve in issue 1 (such as a clever framing device conceived by Erik), and so we continue into the future!

PREVIEWSworld: Without spoiling the books, what scenes could you tease that would let fans know what kind of madcap hijinx they can expect from this series?

Bob Gale: We're going to try to answer some of the questions our fans have posed over three decades.  It may not be exactly “madcap hijinx,” but it should be fun!

PREVIEWSworld: Can you leave us with some last words of yours for this series?

Bob Gale: I want to stress that this is a General Audience series about the characters from the movie and things they did before and between events in the movies.  It's not, “what time period are we traveling to this issue?”  If you buy this with the idea that you're going to get Part 4 of the movies, or that you're going to see the flying DeLorean dodging jets and being attacked by alien space craft, you're going to be disappointed.  If you buy this because you love these characters, I think you'll have an enjoyable entertaining experience.

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