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Exclusive: John Byrne on the joy of creating his Star Trek: New Visions comic series

Contributed by
Dec 29, 2017

John Byrne needs little introduction to comics fans. His legendary runs on Uncanny X-Men and Fantastic Four, as well as his ambitious reboot of Superman, made him a huge fan favorite, as did his work on other books like She-Hulk, Namor, The Sub-Mariner, and Alpha Flight. Byrne has also left his mark on another iconic property, Star Trek. A longtime fan of Trek, Byrne has worked on a number of related series for IDW Publishing.

His current work may be his most personal Trek project to date.

Star Trek: New Visions utilizes existing images from the original series to tell a completely new story devised by Byrne. That's an overly simplistic description of the process for the photo plays, the term used to describe each issue of the series. Byrne actually manipulates the images from the original Trek series episodes through Photoshop, and creates new backdrops and locations using 3D model programs. It's an interesting way to use new-age technological tools to comics storytelling, not to mention immensely challenging. But if there's one artist who's up for it, it's Byrne. Experimentation -- from photo-realistic backgrounds in comics to different types of shading and coloring -- has long been part of his creative oeuvre.

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The current issue of Star Trek: New Visions, #19, "The Hunger," is now available at comics shops. It features the crew of the Enterprise encountering a deadly threat to planetary life making its way through the galaxy. Byrne's unique creative process on this series is on full display in this issue.

Byrne rarely does interviews, but following our chat at NYCC, he agreed to answer a few questions for SYFY WIRE about his new take on old Trek. Read below to see how he goes about creating new stories, why he's glad the stories are not considered "canon," and why he abandoned plans to give the bridge of the Enterprise an upgrade.

Can you walk us through the process of how you create one of these books?

John Byrne: The process starts pretty much as it does with any kind of storytelling -- at least for me -- with bits and pieces of ideas swimming around in my head until they start to attach to each other. The big difference here is my awareness of what images are available, or can be built. That's when it all gets very organic, as scenes and even whole stories can shift around as I go.

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The biggest challenge seems to be that you're working with a finite number of images to build your story around.

A finite number of images -- but that number is in the thousands! And that's without considering the number of images I can create by shifting and recombining figures and backgrounds. That's where the real satisfaction arises, working a whole different set of artistic muscles from drawing.

What about new ideas, and updating the tech on the Enterprise? How do you approach it, and are there limitations of what you can do, based on what the Trek licensors allow?

Paramount and CBS have been dreams to work with. (I'll say "so far," so as not to jinx it!) Lots of freedom. Apparently they trust me not to break the toys.

Recently I did some approved tinkering with an "upgrade" of the bridge, but I ended up scrapping those pages. I just love the real sets too much! Instead, I focus on showing areas of the ship we've not seen before.

What's the primary difference between the fumetti style of storytelling vs. traditional pen & ink?

For me it's seeing images on the page that are SO much closer to the ones in my head!

These stories are meant to take place between the episodes of TOS. Where do your ideas for stories come from?

I started out slipping my stories between episodes -- I made a chronological list of TOS and TAS stardates, so I could keep track -- but recently I've been pushing ahead into an imaginary fourth or fifth season.

The ideas come from that cloud of STUFF that floats in my head.

You're obviously a fan of Trek. Do you view your stories as lost episodes, or the types of stories you wanted to see told with the original cast?

I'm very flattered when fans tell me they feel like they're reading lost episodes -- but I also know that way lies madness. Paramount wisely considers only what they produce to be "real," so I don't have to worry about contradicting anything except the original shows.

Do you revisit the old episodes of The Original Series often while working on these books?

I do mini-marathons from time to time, but those are really for pleasure.

Do you notice new things, new details when you do that?

Sometimes. Mostly that happens, though, when I'm doing the heavy research necessary to build my 3D re-creations of the principal sets.

How many of these do you have in mind to create?

I hope to keep doing this until [series editor] Chris Ryall tells me to stop!

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