Before the internet made mobilizing fanboy campaigns as easy as scroll-type-click, the ABC network yielded to fan outcry in the form of a late 1970s letter-writing campaign and revived the just-canceled sci-fi series “Battlestar Galactica” for another go round as the appropriately titled 1980 spinoff “Galactica 1980.” Of course, the devotees who tuned in for that fateful continuation found there was one thing their letters couldn’t prepare them for: the show sucking.
But traveling a road less taken, writer Marc Guggenheim and artist Cezar Razek will attempt to turn legendary TV crap into comic book gold with a reimagined “Galactica 1980” series hitting shops this September from Dynamite Entertainment.
“What I love about ‘Galactica 1980’ is that it’s the finest example I can think of how wide the chasm can be between concept and execution,” Marc Guggenheim told CBR. “The concept is amazing. The Galactica discovers Earth! What’s not cool about that? But the execution… I have two words: Super. Scouts. I mean, the Galactica finally discovers Earth. There are a million stories to tell there and you decide to do the one about super-powered kids who play baseball? Wow.”
While Dynamite has staked its claim to the franchise over the past several years – including in-continuity explorations of both the original “Battlestar Galactica” and Ronald D. Moore’s recently wrapped, award-winning reboot – Guggenheim’s “1980” series marks the first departure from canon in an attempt to reinvigorate one of the franchise’s more lackluster chapters.
“The basic concept here is that my series is the official comic book adaptation of the ‘Galactica 1980’ series: from the parallel universe where the series wasn’t done badly,” said Guggenheim, who added, “Warning to trolls: don’t swing at the easy ones!”
Of the task ahead of him, Guggenheim explained, ” I’m sticking with the original ‘cast’ – Old Adama, Colonel Boomer, Troy, Dillon and, of course, Dr. Zee. But to give you an idea of how things are different, Dr. Zee is a ninety-year old scientist who is so sociopathic and brilliant that he transferred his consciousness into the body of a ten-year old boy once his original body gave out. Adama is contemplating suicide in the first issue. Troy is a drunk. Colonel Boomer is a hot Asian chick. Actually, that last part’s not true.”
What is true is that Guggenheim followed the exploits of the original “1980” cast from its inception as an adolescent follower of the original series. “I was a huge fan of the original series. Huge,” he said. “I was eight-years old when the show premiered and it completely rocked my prepubescent world. For me, it was like ‘Star Wars the TV Show’ (as the eventual lawsuit demonstrates). I was just blown away on a weekly basis. That first – and only – season seemed to run for years, not months, to my young eyes.
“Being only eight, I didn’t know that the show had been cancelled. There was no Internet in the old days and I was only eight, so I wasn’t reading magazines like ‘Starlog’ at the time for news. Everything I knew, I got from the old boob tube and, as far as I knew, ‘Battlestar Galactica’ wasn’t cancelled; it was just going to continue as ‘Galactica 1980,’ and even better, Galactica was gonna find Earth! This was the coolest thing I could ever possibly imagine. ‘Galactica 1980’ felt like wish fulfillment in its purest form.”
Ultimately, the original show proved an early example of “be careful what you wish for” for Guggenheim, but the writer explained that in reimagining “Galactica 1980” for a new audience, he opted to keep close to the pieces on the board introduced with that show’s launch. “I didn’t want to stray too far from the original ‘Galactica 1980’ cast,” he said. “In fact, Dr. Mortinson – played by Robert Reed in the original series – is even in the series and plays a fairly prominent role. However, one character from the original series makes an appearance, but you’ll have to read issue #2 to learn who that’s going to be.”
One thing that will remain unchanged is the prevalence of Captain Troy and Lieutenant Dillon, the main characters for the run of the 1980 series, although Guggenheim noted that the silly baggage that went with their original adventures will be checked at the door. “Troy and Dillon start out as the main characters in this iteration as well. However, protecting the colonial children would be one of those elements that is not available to me because of my self-imposed rule to avoid anything that’s lame.”
Overall, Guggenheim plans on drawing inspiration for his miniseries from the original “Battlestar Galactica” – a program which helped shape his ideas of how TV writing works years before he was a successful television writer himself. “The construction of that original ‘BSG’ season was really remarkable. The way they put various pieces on the board – the Borellians, the Alliance, etc. – then started playing them off each other made a deep impression on me, even then,” Guggenheim recalled. “I really love the way everything starts to fit together by the latter third of the season. Episode 21 – ‘Baltar’s Escape’ – is one of my favorites because it relies on the combination of all these different ingredients that the writers had been subtly weaving into the show. I know that the original ‘BSG’ isn’t exactly held up as the pinnacle of TV writing – and it wasn’t, exactly – but they did a lot of things that I thought were very smart and sophisticated, particularly in 1978 and 1979.”
Helping carry the storytelling weight will be Cezar Razek, who’s had experience in adventure comics by way of Dynamite’s “Zorro” series. “Cezar’s storytelling skill is, I think, his greatest strength and that translates across genre, time and place,” Guggenheim said. “That having been said, once you see his sci-fi work, you’ll really be amazed at how much range he has.”
And for the skeptics who were burned by the original “Galactica 1980” television series and may want the past to stay just that, Marc Guggenheim offered an olive branch of fandom to help bring them on board for the new comic book. “I’d say that I’m writing the series for them. This series is wish fulfillment for people – including myself – who thought that ‘Galactica 1980’ was a terrific idea, executed terrifically poorly,” the writer said. “Proving once and for all that I have no commercial instincts whatsoever, this is really a book for all the people who think it’s going to suck. It’s for the people who don’t remember the original series fondly and felt burned by it, as I did. It takes you back to the time – which, for me, was the first commercial for ‘Galactica 1980’ – when you thought that this might be the greatest series ever. That’s my hope and ambition, at any rate.”