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Henning Koonert (hk)22.06.09

TZN Exclusive: Talking to David Messina

The Artist on Countdown, Nero & Star Trek

We talked to David Messina about brining Star Trek to the comic book pages. The artist recounts the secrecy around Countdown, explains what we will see in Nero and tells us why Spock is his favorite character.

Comic book artist David Messina draws Star Trek stories for the American publisher IDW since 2007. In May 2009 the first of his Trek comic books was released in German translation by Cross Cult, more of his comics will follow. TrekZone Network talked exclusively to David Messina at FedCon XVIII in Bonn, Germany. We'd like to thank both Filip Kolek from Cross Cult for arranging the interview and especially David Messina, who took time off from signing to talk to us.

David Messina
TrekZone Network: You have drawn several comics for Star Trek now. Could you tell our readers which ones are from you?

David Messina: My first was Klingons: Blood Will Tell, then Alien Spotlight: Gorn, then I did Star Trek: The Next Generation - Intelligence Gathering, Mirror Images, and now Countdown.

TZN: Do you have a favorite among those, one that you liked to draw especially?

Messina: My favorite was Countdown because it was the first comic book of Star Trek I feel is close to the way I see the sci-fi. I really enjoyed doing Mirror Images. It may be the other book I really enjoyed to draw along with Countdown. But the setting of Mirror Images was the old setting of the 60s and I really liked Countdown because we go to the future after Nemesis. We go for a more aggressive, stronger sci-fi. Because I'm a really great fan of Blade Runner, Matrix and all this kind of sci-fi I really enjoyed drawing Countdown. And the other one I liked was Klingons and after that I have no special favorite.

TZN: How familiar were you with Star Trek before you started drawing the comic books?

Messina: It's a strange story between me and Star Trek. When I was a child I, together with my big sister Debora, each week watched a new Star Trek episode with Kirk, Spock and all of the old crew. Then I stopped to see Star Trek, except for the movies. I have seen all the movies, almost all of them in the cinema, except for Insurrection and Nemesis. So I knew Star Trek mostly from the movies and not from the TV shows. I started to see some episodes of Deep Space Nine and Next Generation only when I started to work on the books.

TZN: Which steps do you usually go through when you draw a Trek comic?

Spock is Messina's favorite
Messina: My process is particular because my first concern is to handle the character's likeness without becoming addicted to the pictures. Because Star Trek is such a huge universe, each book has a different main character. I usually start with a lot of sketches to bring something to the character, understand how it must be drawn. Then I start with the rough pencil of all the pages. I always think that a good comic book should be ready without balloons, without the caption.

So I work on the circling. Then I start to finish the circling with the pencil. Then I start with the inks. After that I send the inks to my colleagues, Ilaria Traversi and Giovanna Nero, who is my ex-pupil - I teach at the Scuola Internazionale di Comics in Rome -, for digital coloring. We spend a lot of time talking about the project, how the color should be and sometimes I add already some background. Most of the background in Countdown was painted by me and Paolo Maddaleni. He colored all the people, all the characters in the book. So we talk a lot about the color because we all hold specific images about how the book should be at the end of the process in our heads.

TZN: And then you send it to Paramount for approval?

Messina: Yes, I sent Countdown to Paramount for approval at the pencil stage and then the ink stage and the color stage. I sent the other books for approval just at the ink phase. Countdown was special because I needed approval from Paramount, Bad Robot, Orci Kurtzman Productions, and Cryptic. Cryptic are the people who develop the online role playing game of Star Trek...

TZN: ...from which you copied the new uniform design...

Messina: ...yes. We did that in order to achieve consistency throughout the comic book, the movie and the online role playing game.

TZN: Do your sketches usually come back with a lot of annotations or corrections or does Paramount give you more or less free reign?

Messina: For Countdown there were not many. The other works like Mirror Images and Intelligence Gathering needed a lot of changes because the people at Paramount don't want a too graphic style, too gorgeous women or too much blood. But for Countdown my vision of sci-fi and the vision of Tim Jones and Mike Johnson, J.J. Abrams, Orci und Kurtzman was the same. So they made me change only really small stuff. For the most part the book is exactly like I drew it, without changes.

David Messina signing at FedCon

TZN: Do you know the reason why they chose you to draw the movie prequel?

Messina: It was because of Klingons that I drew Countdown because Bob Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Mike Johnson and Tim Jones really liked my work on Klingons, especially on the 5th issue. It was the most fun to draw. They gave me a lot of action, violence, and sexy girls, I really like the 5th issue of Klingons.

TZN: Everything about the new movie was top secret for a long time. Did you have to cope with extra security measures when you drew Countdown, too?

Messina: It really was top secret. Before I started to draw Countdown, I had to sign three non-disclosure agreements. Then Paramount sent me a program that created a secret link from my computer to Paramount, where I could only see, not download, some images. So every time I drew Nero, the Narada and the other characters, I switched on my computer and started to do some sketches, with the monitor in front of me. It was really, really top secret. Sometimes I was afraid to talk to my parents about my work because I couldn't say too much or only "No, no, no, I can't talk. I work on Star Trek, I can't say more."

Spock: Reflections cover art
TZN: When you draw the comics for Star Trek is there a character that you really like to draw, that is your favorite, or are they more or less the same to you?

Messina: No, no, my absolute favorite of all is Spock. It's my favorite character because Spock is from my childhood. I like several other characters. I really like Sisko from Deep Space Nine. I drew Sisko in a small panel in the second issue of Klingons. But IDW doesn't have the rights to publish Deep Space Nine. I would have liked to draw a story about Sisko.

The other characters that I really love are for aesthetics because they are really gorgeous people. Seven of Nine surely is the most lovable and really, really gorgeous. And then my favorite character was Picard. I really enjoyed drawing Intelligence Gathering especially because I could draw Picard. And now I have discovered Nero. I really like the character of Nero because it's a dark character with strong motivation. It's really a special character. Violent, but I can understand the reason of all the violence. So maybe Nero along Spock is my favorite character of all Star Trek.

TZN: Then you're lucky because the next comic you are drawing is Spock: Reflections...

Messina: Yes, I have worked on Spock: Reflections, but that's a bit strange because Spock: Reflections, except the first issue, will be my raw pencil and two other artists will finish the pencil and everything. These will be Federica Manfredi for pencils and Ilaria Traversi for colors. Because now I have to work on Spock: Reflections, an Angel project and another movie-related project with Tim Jones and Mike Johnson.

I am working on three books at the same time. It's really hard. I get no sleep, no food, nothing ... just drawing. A lot of drawing. But I really love the story by Scott Tipton for Spock: Reflections. It is so much work and is not done yet, my head hurts... Scott Tipton took hold of me to do the rough pencils. I drew all the covers and the rough pencils and some more pencils but the next issue I think I must let go before the weak pencil.

Star Trek: Nero cover art
TZN: What can you tell us about Spock: Reflections?

Messina: It's a special story about Spock since his childhood up to the age we found him in Countdown.

TZN: Will it be four or five issues?

Messina: Spock will be four issues and the other movie-related project I think four issues, too and the Angel project will be five issues.

TZN: Can you say something about the other projects already?

Messina: Top secret. I am only allowed to say that we are the same team as in Countdown. I can't say anything more.

TZN: Then we'll wait for IDW to announce it...

Messina: Stay tuned to my blog. As soon as IDW give me the okay to post images, I can start to post something.

In the meantime, the top secret movie-related project has been announced as Star Trek: Nero, so we decided to check back with David and see if he could give us a bit more information about the mini-series. He could...

Messina: The story of Star Trek: Nero is set after the events of the opening sequence of the movie and between the destruction of the Kelvin and Spock's arrival from the future more or less 25 years later. We will see Nero as a prisoner on Rura Penthe and his escape (as mentioned in the movie and as we'll see in some of the deleted scenes on the forthcoming DVDs).

It is a hard, dark and angry story about this tragic character. I really enjoy drawing it and Giovanna Niro, my colorist, is doing some of her best works!

TZN: David, thank you very much for the interesting interview.

Messina: Thanks, it's been fun!

(hk - 22.06.09)

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