John Jackson’ Millers Writers Commentary on Classic Battlestar Galactica #2, on sale now…
It’s our second issue of Classic Battlestar Galactica: Counterstrike — third, counting the zero issue — so it’s past time to shower some attention on the bad guys. And here’s a confession: my favorite character of the original series wasn’t one of the heroes at all — but very likely Baltar, who gets our first scene this issue.
Baltar, of course, was played by the great John Colicos, who was already legendary in science-fiction circles for playing Kor, the first named Klingon in Star Trek back in 1967. In the original Galactica series, his role was very nearly cut short — literally! In the Canadian theatrical version, which released before the TV pilot, and also in the U.S. theatrical version, which released later, Baltar is executed by the Cylons at the end of what would become the pilot, “Saga of a Star World.” (There’s a BUNCH of different versions of the pilot, explored in exhausting detail at http://www.kobol.com/archives/bgdiff.html.)
This leads me to a quick aside: I collect horrible unlicensed tie-ins, and the moment above created one of the worst I’ve ever seen. One of my prized possessions is an unlicensed Galactica book for school-age kids, clearly released through something like a Scholastic book club at some point in 1978. The board book, of the kind you’d find in an elementary school library, was full of movie stills — yet of all the possible images they could have chosen for the cover, they went with the execution scene. Setting aside that it’s a scene that most Galactica TV viewers didn’t see… wow. Kind of gruesome for the school kids, there, whoever you were!
It would have been difficult to run a regular TV series without some sort of face for the villainous Cylons — a face that moved, as opposed to Lucifer! — and so Baltar is spared. Thankfully, from the point of view of viewers, he would survive to appear during the first season; the later capture of Baltar is, along with the post-Pegasus episode arrival of Sheba, one of the major serialized moments in the year. You can tell where in the season you are by where Baltar is.
Baltar — whose personal history with Adama had been embellished by one of the “Memory Machine” storyline issues that Marvel released — proves a bit of a challenge to write, because the series offers sometimes conflicting information on his motivations. Is he just trying to save his neck? Does he intend to rule some truncated, enslaved portion of humanity? Is he trying to gain some larger role in a wider Cylon Empire, most of which we never see? For our series, I’ve gone with the latter, here, recalling the episode where Baltar speaks of how he hopes his impending victory will be celebrated on the streets of faraway worlds in the empire. It underscores that he’s always strategizing, always playing his own game — which is exactly what’s best about the character.
So issue #2 opens with Baltar in exactly that role, trying to manipulate the alien force known as the Comitat into doing what he wants. Artist Daniel HDR gave us some fun, scenery-chewing shots that look like they could be right out of a Colicos scene.
And away we go…
Page 1: Starship diplomacy is underway as our issue begins. Sometimes, composition choices are obvious: we needed a wide establishing shot, along with two other establishing shots that needed to be vertical. Because we’re worm’s-eye-view with Baltar and down-angle with Korbok, we don’t need a fourth panel (yet) showing where they are relative to one another. It’s assumed.
Page 2: And now we get the panel showing their relative positions. Coloring for Korbok was tricky, as we wanted to distinguish him from the Cylon Centurions. Which isn’t as easy as it might otherwise be in this scene; the Imperious Leader throne room scenes either put you in total darkness or the spotlight, so moving in between you’re not going to get a lot of contrast on metal surfaces.
Page 3: The three-panel close-ups here obviously present a visual echo of what we just got on the previous page; their movements are similar, but emotions are not. Clearly Baltar doesn’t know what to make of someone who actually believes in something!
Page 4: This is a bit of shtick with the Cylons — a little similar to some chatter I did with some guards in my first Mass Effect graphic novel, Redemption, and before that, with the HK-24 droids in my Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic comics. We saw several times in the TV show that the Cylons were capable of acerbic and cynical commentary about the events going on around them; the show was usually better for it. I don’t know if a few more lines like “Sir, you really should look at the OTHER battlestar” would have made a difference, but they always made for fun scenes.
Page 5: This issue originally didn’t have a scene with Starbuck meeting Cylons, but when I saw the variant covers with him and the Cylons together, I quickly worked up a bit with him in it. Also in this sequence, I passed the colorist a note to keep the Cylon “eye” off-center in a shot or two; the glow moved back and forth in the TV show. (And, yes, we get another Galactica word: “fumarello,” for cigar.)
Page 6: I thought about including some sound effects for the violence in this scene, but it plays just as well without. I feel like this is a very Starbuck scene, right down to the interplay with Grust.
Page 7: Always a challenging kind of page to do, intermixing events in the air with events — both large and small — on the ground. We wound up not showing the full Galactica assault force that was on the planet, but we still got the general idea from Starbuck’s dialogue and motions.
Page 8: That is a kind of shot in the first panel you don’t normally see — the Galactica from head-on. The stock shot of the bow used in the TV show was more down-angle. And again, here, we get some nifty effects from the transparent map.
Page 9: Most Galactica TV show scenes were not action or space ones, but between characters on the ship discussing something weighty. Here, we use the map and Parrin’s body language to try to make it more visually active.
Page 10: Adama is incredible conservative and cautious when it comes to the fleet and its safety; his son, Apollo, sometimes is even more so. It isn’t a Galactica episode unless something puts Adama’s caution to the test.
Page 11: We switch for this page and a few that follow to a fill-in artist; getting Daniel HDR from South America to New York Comic Con necessitated it. But we do get our first look at Cassiopeia — a fun moment with Starbuck and Parrin.
Page 12: Note the wireframe images of the ships on the visual display. That was an attempt to mimic the 1970s-era computer imagery we got in the show.
Page 13: Flight Sergeant Jolly got a number of scenes in the TV series, and wound up with the final story in the Marvel series; I wanted to make sure he had an important role in this arc.
Page 14: Back to Daniel HDR for this page. The Rising Star is the most important ship in Galactica’s fleet in the TV series; it’s the setting for many sequences. We’ll see more of it in future issues.
Page 15: And again to the pinch-hitting artist. Here’s some of Apollo being even more suspicious of aliens bearing gifts! We also meet Wilker, who is sort of the jack-of-all-trades scientist we see in the TV show.
Page 16: Boxey and Muffit! This pegs this story where I intended it to be, just in the time not long after the final episode of the first season.
Page 17: The Celestra is another ship we saw in the original series — it had its own episode, “Take the Celestra.”
Page 18: And back to Daniel HDR for the last three pages. It’s been noted by readers that Rigel is wearing blue rather than the gold outfit she normally wears; in issue #3, we’ll find out why.
Page 19: A scene that feels very Galactica — just a Viper heading somewhere, with cuts to the cockpit and back outside.
Page 20: And now Apollo finds that the Comitat has a LOT more ships than it threw at Galactica in #1. Possibly too late!