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Henning Koonert (hk)30.01.11

"A Great Voyage with an Awesome Crew"

TZN Exclusive Interview with comic artist David Messina

Comic artist David Messina, who may have minted the look and feel of Star Trek on the page more than anybody else over the last years, puts down his pencil. The Star Trek movie adaptation will remain his last Trek comic book for the time being. During Messina's last visit to Germany, the artist took time off signing for his fans to talk to Henning Koonert for the TrekZone Network about his work on Star Trek, the reasons for his departure from the franchise and his latest big project: a True Blood comic book.

TrekZone Network: David, between the last time we talked and now you have penciled, inked and colored three more Star Trek comics - Spock, Nero and the Star Trek movie adaptation. Both Spock and Nero focus on a single character. Where did the ideas for those stories come from?

David Messina: The idea for the book about Nero came from Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. Their idea, which they pitched to IDW, was to tell a story about the lost years of Nero. In the movie, after all, we don’t see Nero for 25 years. So they wanted to show to the audience what happened to Nero during this time in the Klingon prison.

When I was working on the early stages of this book, IDW had the idea to do a book about the other main character, Spock, so they talked to Paramount. Countdown showed this friendship between Spock and Nero, which turned into something really awful and terrible. They thought it could be a great idea to tell two stories, one about Nero and one about why Spock is on Romulus. Since they wanted a strong link to the movie, and to Countdown, they brought me on to do both books. Eventually, I had to manage two books at the same time. It was very hard.

TZN: You announced a while ago that the movie adaptation will be your last Star Trek comic. Why did you make the decision to move on?

Messina: It's been almost three years of full-time work on Star Trek It seemed the right time for me to do something else. I think with the trilogy of the movie adaptation, Nero, and Countdown, I have said everything there's to say about this universe of Star Trek. I felt the need to do something else because, apart from Spock, I had been working only on the new timeline for almost a whole year. I really felt exhausted because I put all my energy into this work. I have drawn Nero, just like Countdown, almost completely by myself. I also did the colors for some pages because I had a strong idea of how the work should appear. For Spock, I did the pencil and the covers and I did a lot of work in order to link it to Countdown.

I felt the need to move on, to find something else and draw new energy from that. Maybe I will be back with a project that is related to the next movie, but it's still far too early to think about that.

TZN: Your first project after Star Trek was a comic book tie-in to another genre show, Alan Ball's hit-series True Blood. Can you tell our readers a bit about your work on this comic book?

Messina: True Blood is something that IDW offered to me because it's really far away from Star Trek. It's dark, it's violent, it's hard, it's horror. Therefore, I tried to change my style also. It is not exactly the same style as in Star Trek because I wanted to make it different. I worked for some time simultaneously on the Star Trek movie adaptation and the True Blood comics. The Star Trek movie's tradition is bright, it is full of energy and optimism. True Blood in contrast is in a way sick, and bloody.

True Blood: All Together Now was a complex project, just like Nero and Countdown and the movie adaptation and Spock. Plus, Alan Ball has been involved in the script. The authors, Mariah Huehner and David Tischman wrote the script together with Alan Ball, and the story is set inside the show. That's why I have to work on all the details because True Blood is a show with strong creativity and I must not do anything the wrong way: the eyes of the characters, the look of Merlotte's...

The story itself is a story about the past of the characters. It's about the characters' past and it's a story that explores something which was just hinted at in the show and not fully explained. Each book turns around a different character on the show. It has been six comic books, which will be published also as a trade paperback in February 2011. It has so many chapters because True Blood is a current show with a lot of characters. We can't simply do something on Sookie or two characters only, we need more space, more room to tell the story for each character.

TZN: Have you caught True Blood on television? In Germany, it was broadcast on Pay TV only so far but will be broadcast on Free TV beginning this spring.

Messina: Yes, I watched all of it. And now I started with the book because I feel the need to understand the difference between the original book by Charlene Harris and the show by Alan Ball. I really love Alan Ball as a writer, I loved American Beauty and Six Feet Under. It actually came as a surprise to me that Alan Ball moved to a project like True Blood with vampires and demons. So I need to understand the deeper meaning of the project that Alan Ball wants to achieve in this new world.

TZN: Would you say that the Klingons: Blood Will Tell comic s are the Trek comics that come closest to your True Blood comics?

Messina: I don't think so because in the Klingons book I was a little shy of violence and of rage and in True Blood I move forward on that. I think Nero is closer to the True Blood feeling. In Nero Tim Jones and Mike Johnson let me really unleash the violence because Nero is a violent character. They said to me: "start with the violence and show the people why this man is so full of rage." I also believe that while the story in True Blood is very different and about the past, there's the same violence and the same feeling.

TZN: On Star Trek, you worked with two writing teams: the Tipton brothers and the people from Orci/Kurtzman productions. Was there a difference between working with these authors?

Messina: Yes. They are different and complimentary at the same time. The Tipton brothers are true Star Trek lovers and have a deep understanding of the world of Star Trek. Scott and David are big, big fans of the Star Trek universe. They know all about the different races, the dynamics inside every ship, and the crew of the ship.

Orci and Kurtzman have a deep respect for the show and a deep respect for Star Trek but at the same time they are really iconoclasts. They trusted me to move on, to bring the Star Trek franchise to a new horizon. They tried something different [in the movie] with the action sequence and the characters' relationship, so these are really different teams of writers.

Sometimes I feel that without such writers Star Trek would be lost because there is the old timeline in the past of Star Trek that is really a strong icon but that is something that they need to push over to go ahead. So it really depends. In my own opinion, these should be two sides of Star Trek, each on its own, the new timeline and the old timeline. They all really love Star Trek.

TZN: Looking back at all the comic books that you've done for Star Trek, which one is your favorite?

Messina: Of all the books, I love the last chapter of the Klingons book. I really enjoyed the last issue when we come out of the flashback situation about the Klingon angle on the classic episodes and we start to move on with the story of K'Ahlynn and her grandfather. Another book I really loved was Mirror Images because this book, after Next Generation and Klingons, was a deeper step into Star Trek for which I had to understand the complexity. With Mirror Images, I started to understand what kind of Star Trek I wanted to read, and therefore which kind of Star Trek I have to do for the readers. I feel most related in one way or another towards these two out of all my books.

TZN: Did you feel you were given more freedom in bringing in your own ideas in the later comics? Was there a development process in which, once the writers got to know you, you could contribute more ideas?

Messina: I was very lucky because both Mike and Tim and Scott and David gave me the room to paint as I saw fit - except for the movie because the movie is very well-known already. Lots of people have seen it, so the shots and the presentations of the characters are already established from the movie. For example, in Spock and Mirror Images, I was free to draw something of my own, so I was really lucky. Both writing teams really trusted me and every time tried to help me to come close towards my taste and my way of seeing the universe.

TZN: One last question to wrap up: Now that for the time being your Star Trek time is up, do you feel that there were missed opportunities, something you would have liked to do but didn't have the chance to do?

Messina: No, because I had a couple of my own ideas that I talked to Scott Tipton about and we knew that one day or another we'd be back to these stories, the stories set in the mirror universe and the Star Trek universe. So I don't have that feeling. In the Star Trek universe I have told the most important stories and the strongest books of Star Trek. I had every chance. In addition, the fans and the relationships with them were really great and new to me. They wrote to me about what they loved in the comics and in the movie. I really liked it. I have no complains. It was a great voyage with an awesome crew.

TZN: Thank you very much, David.

David Messina graciously provided us with all the pictures used in this article for illustration. Click to enlarge.

(hk - 04.02.11)

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