Interview: ‘Farscape’ and ‘Scorpius’ writers David Alan Mack and Keith R.A. DeCandido
BOOM! Studios announced today Farscape: Scorpius, an ongoing series starting in April. Written by series creator Rockne S. O’Bannon and David Alan Mack (the Star Trek novelist, not the artist on Kabuki, just to get it out of the way early) it finds everyone’s favorite black leather clad villain deposed from his throne on Hyneria and making a bold new discovery that could put him back on top of the Uncharted Territories.
We took some time to chat with Dave (with Keith R. A. DeCandido, the scripter for the Farscape ongoing series, throwing in little bot mots because as readers of ComicMix know, he just shows up everywhere) and asked him about the new series, and what it’s like to write a story from the antagonist’s point of view.
ComicMix: There are precious few comics that have been
focused on the bad guy in the story… but is Scorpius a bad guy?
David Alan Mack: He
certainly doesn’t see himself that way. From his point of view, he’s probably
the only rational actor in a universe populated by fools and madmen. Of course,
Scorpius is not going to judge his own actions using our brand of moral
compass. He is, in many respects, an amoral individual.
In my opinion, Scorpius is willing to espouse a sense of
duty and offer his loyalty to whomever appears to be on his side, and in the
moment when he makes such a declaration, it’s possible he even means it. But if
he needs to betray his allies to accomplish what he thinks is the most
desirable outcome for himself, he won’t hesitate to put knives in their backs
and twist the blades.
Keith R.A. DeCandido:
Oh, he’s definitely a bad guy—at least by the standards of the people
reading the comic book (and who watched the show). When we first met him at the
end of the first season, he tortured Crais for no good reason, just to be
absolutely sure about something. Scorpius admitted up front that the accusation
Crichton had made simply had to be false, but Scorpius was still willing to
torture a Peacekeeper captain just to be 100% sure.
ComicMix: And yet
he does it in such a mannered and genteel style. Very precise. Play out a little bit of the Scorpius series for us. Where are we starting from?
DAM: We catch up
to Scorpius while he’s in self-imposed exile. He’s been kicked off Hyneria by
the triumphantly returned monarch Dominar Rygel XVI. Left with nowhere to go,
Scorpius is on what one might consider a contemplative retreat.
Then, as Bogart said in Casablanca,
“destiny takes a hand.” Scorpius finds himself in the right place at
the right time, and he makes the most of a new opportunity.
ComicMix: So this
is a decent place for new readers to jump in and get up to speed?
The first four-issue arc of Scorpius is
designed to introduce the character to new readers by interspersing flashbacks
from his past, while detailing the new political situation brewing in the Farscape universe, especially in the
does this fit into continuity?
DAM: We’re in the
era after The Peacekeeper Wars miniseries,
and after “The Beginning of the End of the Beginning” arc in the Farscape comics by Rockne S. O’Bannon
and Keith R.A. DeCandido.
KRAD: In fact,
when Scorpius commences, it’ll be
more or less contemporary with the monthly Farscape
comic book. The new political situation Dave mentioned is also going to be
playing out in Farscape.
ComicMix: How is
the work that you and Rockne are doing on the series different than what Rockne
and Keith are doing in the Farscape
DAM: Rockne and
I, as well as editor Ian Brill, sought to make the Scorpius series darker in mood and more visual in its storytelling
than the main Farscape series. Whereas the Farscape series
by Rockne and Keith sports a large cast, Scorpius
has a much narrower focus: it has only one principal character.
Also, the Farscape comics
tend to be rich with humor and puns; Scorpius
strikes a more serious tone, and it eschews puns for cruel wit and implied
ComicMix: This isn’t the first time you and Keith have written
DAM: No, it
certainly isn’t. Keith helped me break into the prose-writing business back in
2001, when he agreed to cowrite the Star
Trek: S.C.E. novella “Invincible” with me. At the time, I had
experience in scriptwriting but not in prose. After working with Keith on that
first short project, I became enamored of the narrative richness of the prose
format. With Keith’s encouragement, I tackled my next S.C.E. project, the short novel Wildfire,
on my own in 2002.
KRAD: After that,
Dave and I worked together on a number of Trek
projects. I followed up Wildfire—a
major turning point in the S.C.E.
series—with Breakdowns, and he
and I wrote the concluding volumes of the big Next Generation nine-book maxiseries A Time to…, which chronicled the year leading up to Star Trek Nemesis. More recently, I
wrote the followup to Dave’s Star Trek
So we’re used to working together and coordinating our
DAM: Later this
year, Keith and I will be working together again, when the Farscape and Scorpius
series’ respective arcs lead to an epic crossover event.
written for television and have more than a dozen novels, but not a lot of
comics. What do you find to be the advantages of this format?
DAM: I like the
brevity of the comic script format. Also, one thing I can do in comics that is
almost impossible to do with equal clarity and ease in prose is counterpoint an
image with text in a poignant or funny way. It’s the print-medium equivalent of
changing the effect of a filmed moment by altering its music—for
instance, making a fight scene tragic by overlaying “Adagio for
Strings,” or making it funny by dropping in “Benny Hill” music.
is a perfect place for you to tell me about the art and the artist.
DAM: Ah, yes. The
team at BOOM! found a really great artist named Mike Ruiz to do the pencils for
Scorpius. Mike has brought an edgy,
fresh look to the series. He’s been really great at combining different styles
to help differentiate the flashbacks from the main story. Fans of the Farscape comics who think this series
will just be more of the same are in for a pleasant, exciting surprise.
KRAD: Yeah, I
think that the juxtaposition of styles between Mike and Will Sliney on Farscape works perfectly for the feels
of each of the two books.
ComicMix: How did
you get hooked up with the lunatics at BOOM!?
DAM: As with my
prose-writing career, blame for this can be laid squarely at the feet of Keith
R.A. DeCandido. When the editors first began looking for a writer to take on
the scripting duties for Scorpius,
they asked Keith if he knew anyone who might be right for the job. For reasons
that surpass understanding, he recommended me for the gig.
KRAD: Dave has
always excelled at writing complex characters, and even his total bastards are
never one-dimensional. He also is very good at writing unpleasant situations in
a compelling manner. I thought he’d be a letter-perfect fit for a character as
layered (and nasty) as Scorpius.
Plus, as we said before, we’ve collaborated on projects like
this before, so I knew we’d have no trouble coordinating our work with each
DAM: Ian Brill
contacted me in August of 2009 and asked if I was interested. Not being a total
moron, I immediately said, “Yes, I am.” He asked me to write an
audition script featuring the Scorpius character from any era of his life
depicted in the TV series.
A week later I submitted my Scorpius audition script, and it was apparently just what Ian and
Rockne were looking for, because a few days later they offered me the scripting
job, which I gladly accepted.
it like working for them?
awesome. Rockne and Ian have been great to work with. Their comments on scripts
are always spot-on, and they’re great about praising what they like. For an
insecure writer, that kind of positive feedback is a dream come true.
Just as important, in the short time I’ve been working with
the BOOM! team, they’ve already helped me improve as a comics scripter. Ian
especially knows the finer points of the medium, and he’s great at sharing his
experience and insight in his notes.
As an added bonus, I get an inside look at how the fevered
mind of Rockne S. O’Bannon crafts new narratives and plans long-term story
arcs. Who wouldn’t dig that?
Dave said goes double for me. Rockne is a twisted genius, and Ian really knows
the craft. I should also add that the Jim Henson Company employs some smart
cookies in their licensing department, and their feedback has always been
sensible and thoughtful, and inevitably improves the story.
are the advantages, for you, of working for them?
DAM: I think that
because BOOM! is an independent publisher, its team is able to pay more
attention to the work of its writers and artists. Their commitment to quality
is evident in all the work they produce, and as a result I’ve been motivated to
work harder so that I can meet that standard and deserve the opportunity
they’ve given me.
Professionally, it’s just a good headspace to be in.
KRAD: I really
like the creative energy at BOOM! and their commitment to the craft. Of all the
comics editors I’ve worked with, Ian (and Matt Gagnon before him) have been by
far the most hands-on, and it’s a real joy to work with them. Plus, they have
an excellent marketing department (waves to Chip and Jenny) that has done a
good job of elevating the company up the ranks.
time. Are we going to be seeing Harvey showing up in here as well?
DAM: Harvey is
Crichton’s albatross, not Scorpy’s. I did draft some pages featuring ol’ Harvey
at the start of this gig, but they were for my audition script. That’s not to
say readers will never see that mini-story, but I don’t think BOOM! has any
plans for that script at this time.
KRAD: And before
you ask, there are no current plans to resurrect Harvey in Farscape. That could change, of course, but personally I prefer for
dead characters to stay dead—even virtual ones.
Ultimately, of course, it’s up to Rockne. So, y’know, ask
last note. Dave. I’ve known you for over twenty years. We were college
roommates. We were groomsmen at each other’s weddings. Are you sure you’re not the guy who does Kabuki?
DAM: Yeah, I’m
pretty damned sure.
there’s a David Mack painting on your wall…
DAM: I bought it
from him because it was the cover art for my Wolverine novel, Road of Bones
. (Which I wrote as David Alan Mack, just as I’m doing on the Scorpius series.)
ComicMix: So one
David Mack wrote the book while another David Mack did the cover. Were you
trying to break Amazon?
DAM: I figured it
was worth a shot. Truth be told, I just wanted a classier, more
artistic-looking cover for my book than I had seen on some previous Marvel
books being published at that time, so I suggested David Mack as the cover
artist and was given permission to contact him on behalf of the publisher.
I sent David an e-mail and asked if he would be interested
in painting the cover art for my Wolverine
novel, and he graciously agreed. I loved the final painting so much that I
bought it from him, had it framed at a SoHo gallery that specializes in fine
art, and now display it on the wall of my living room.
ComicMix: How can
we tell the difference between you and the other David Mack?
DAM: Easy. He’s
svelte, athletic, and good-looking … and I’m the novelist.
You can see a photo of the two David Macks on the FAQs page of this David Mack’ web site: http://www.davidmack.pro/faq.html You can follow him on Twitter @DavidAlanMack and friend him on
Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/david.alan.mack. You can find Keith R.A. DeCandido on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/kradec,
and my inane ramblings can be found at http://kradical.livejournal.com.