With the most basic foundations of identity stripped away, six men and women fight for survival aboard a derelict space craft, not even comprehending the source of the danger — or whether they can trust their companions. Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie, writers on “Stargate,” from “SG1” through to “SGU,” bring their latest science fiction epic to comics in “Dark Matter.” The four-issue miniseries, featuring art by Garry Brown, debuts in January from Dark Horse. Comic Book Resources spoke with Mallozzi about the series, “Dark Matter’s” development and the similarities and differences between comics and television.
“Dark Matter” finds six crew members of a space vessel waking up from stasis with no memory of what’s come before — who they are, how they came to be on the ship, nothing. As they struggle to put the pieces together, the ship’s security system marks the crew as a threat, dispatching a single-minded android to eliminate the amnesiac men and women on board the craft.
“Given that they have no memories of their past lives, they start by assigning themselves numbered designations in the other in which they awakened, One through Six,” Mallozzi said of his “Dark Matter” cast. “As they begin to explore the ship and interact, their personalities come to the fore: One — positive and principled, Two — incisive and dominant, Three — mercenary and suspicious, Four — reserved and enigmatic, Five — impish and excitable, Six — imposing yet amiable. Conflicts arise, suspicions mount, but it quickly becomes clear that they will need to rely on each other to have any hope at survival.”
The crewmembers’ confused state puts them at a disadvantage when the security system activates, and the actions that may have awakened it give One through Six further reasons to distrust their fellow castaways. “The security system, it turns out, is a robot that, once activated, seeks and destroys anything it deems a threat to the ship — in this case, six individuals recently awakened from stasis. What sets it off and why it targets the presumed crew is one of the many layers in this grand scifi mystery,” Mallozzi said.
Mallozzi and Mullie have built up significant sci-fi cred through their work on the “Stargate” franchise, but “Dark Matter” is their first foray into comics. Mallozzi, however, told CBR that he’s not at all unfamiliar with the medium. “I’ve been reading comic books, on and off, for most of my life,” he said. “I want to say my tastes have changed since I was in high school collecting the ‘Avengers’ and ‘Uncanny X-Men,’ but the truth is I still enjoy most of the same titles I enjoyed back then. The only real difference is that my tastes have broadened. I now pick up a wide variety of trade paperbacks, from the over-the-top (‘Chew’) to the down and dirty (‘Scalped’). It was my discovery of these wildly different works that made me realize the creative opportunities available in comics.”
One of those opportunities, Mallozzi continued, would be to bring one of his own creations to life. The realization would change the shape of his “Dark Matter” concept, which already had a long gestation. “I’d been working on the ‘Dark Matter’ concept for years in anticipation of ‘Stargate’s’ end. The plan was always to write a pilot script and then attempt to set it up as a television series when the time came. The only problem was the time never came as ‘Stargate’ kept getting picked up, forcing me to shelve the project indefinitely. On the bright side, the extra time allowed me to truly flesh out the idea, create backstories for the characters and, most importantly, arc out the series — beginning, middle and end,” the writer said.
“As Stargate was finally winding down, I contacted my agent about the possibility of actually doing ‘Dark Matter’ as a comic book first and then, eventually, using the comic as a springboard to a TV series, miniseries, or maybe even a feature,” Mallozzi added. “As a medium, comic books would allow Paul and me to tell the story we had envisioned free of outside interference. We thought Dark Horse would be a great fit given their track record — and they have proven just that. Our editor, Patrick Thorpe, has been sharp, instructive and incredibly supportive.”
Mallozzi quickly discovered that writing for comics and writing for television is “different in some ways and very similar in others.” “At the beginning, I simply assumed we could deliver the script we had written for the television pilot and have the artist translate that to the page. Alas, no dice,” he said. “We had to deliver a script in comic book format which, to be honest, isn’t that dissimilar to a dramatic script. The layout is different and took some getting used to, and the task of conveying time cuts through visual cues was challenging. It certainly helps to have a great editor on board and, of course, to be working with a wonderfully talented artist. In fact, I see the artist as the comic book equivalent of the film or television director, someone who is able to bring life to the written word through his or her vision of its visual representation.”
That artist (or director) for “Dark Matter” is Garry Brown, who is perhaps best known as the cover artist for Mark Waid’s “Incorruptible” at BOOM! Studios and whose work has previously appeared in Dark Horse’s “Creepy” horror anthology. Mallozzi considers Brown an integral part of bringing “Dark Matter” to life. “‘Stargate’ was very much an inclusive production. I always saw the script as the blueprint to a much more elaborate finished product in which many contributed. In the case of comics, only a handful of individuals may be involved, but their contributions are crucial in achieving a truly great book,” Mallozzi said of working together on a creative team. “I was familiar with Garry through his work on ‘Incorruptible’ and was ecstatic when I heard he’d be working on ‘Dark Matter.’ His style is unique, possessed of great energy and brilliant compositions. His artwork delivers a sense of raw reality, a visual grounding that perfectly compliments the series’ darker tone.
“Like I said, it’s a collaborative process that’s not unlike a relay. Paul and I write the script, establishing the story and the characters, then we pass the baton to Garry who runs with it, fleshing out the various narrative elements, bringing them to life.”
Mallozzi clearly has high hopes for “Dark Matter,” in its incarnation as a comic book miniseries and beyond. “If you like science fiction, character-driven drama, action, humor and surprises, then this is the book for you,” he said. “Check it out when it hits the stands — January 11, 2012 — so you can compare the original to the eventual TV or film production!”