CCI: Rockne O'Bannon on BOOM!'s "Farscape" Comics

BOOM! Studios announced at their panel Friday at Comic-Con International in San Diego that their upcoming "Farscape" comics would feature stories by original "Farscape" creator Rockne O'Bannon. O'Bannon's involvement signifies that the ongoing, back-to-back four-issue miniseries of comics will be part of "Farscape" canon, picking up where 2004's "Peacekeeper Wars" television miniseries left off. Though full details regarding the creative team has not yet been confirmed, the first issue will ship in November. CBR News caught up with O'Bannon to discuss "Farscape's" move to comics, his own involvement in the series, and what the new medium allows that could not be shown before.

The long history of "Farscape" is a story of innovation, and provides strong insight into the benefits of its new incarnation as a comic. "Farscape began back in 1993. I was approached by the Henson Company, Brian Henson had just taken over after his father had passed away," O'Bannon told CBR, "Brian was looking to do a show that might have more adult appeal, and something that would show what the company was capable of. Not only with the animatronics and the puppetry, but they were getting into early CG at that point, so they wanted something that would show all of the things that they could do.

"Brian said, 'I want a show with lots of creatures' -- they gave me that carte blanche, I'll take it. I went off and created a series where essentially our lead, a man from Earth, was the only human in the entire series. And the only people that looked like humans were the bad guys. At that point, '93, we were developing for the Fox network, but we couldn't afford to just do a pilot because there was a lot of building of sets, and animatronic creatures and all that. And Fox was still early in their incarnation, they couldn't afford to give us a series order. But we really needed 11 episodes to amortize the cost. So it didn't happen at Fox, but Brian, much to his undying credit, wouldn't let the project die. Finally, television came up with what we needed, which was a cable station dedicated to science fiction, the Sci Fi Channel. They bought it, they put us on, so from the get-go it was a very big show."

Eventually, though, the same financial burdens that made it difficult to launch "Farscape" led to the series' cancellation after the fourth season. "We got left hanging with a cliffhanger," O'Bannon said. "So again Brian went to work, he put together financing to do a four-part miniseries, the 'Peacekeeper Wars,' which essentially brought it all to a place that could have been a conclusion. But as any fan of 'Farscape' knows, things seem to be settled and then a nanosecond later it twists off into something else. So my feeling was, after the 'Peacekeeper Wars' miniseries, if this is the last of 'Farscape' it's a good place to end it -- but to my mind, those characters are still out there, and it's still a dangerous world in which they live. And they are still the characters and the personalities that they are, and it's not in them necessarily to sit still, on the front porch in their rocking chairs.

"So I had it in the back of my mind that they were out there, doing something, we just weren't there to see them doing it. So along comes BOOM! Studios, who are huge fans of the series and have been incredibly respectful and reverential of the original material, and they approached me about being involved with the comics series, and I was thrilled, because here's my opportunity to present the unseen season five of 'Farscape.'" O'Bannon added that BOOM! had already secured the license to create "Farscape" comics (as announced at the New York Comic-Con) when they approached him, but that they were "anxious to make it canon, clearly a part of the ongoing mythology." The first miniseries picks up immediately after the events of "Peacekeeper Wars."

As to what that story will involve, exactly, O'Bannon isn't ready to say--though he is happy to share one bit of particular excitement, which was made possible by the shift to comics. "One of the things that came up in the 'Peacekeeper Wars' was that Rygel, who had been ousted from his home planet of Hyneria, returned to Hyneria to try and regain his throne. So in the comic book series, it gives us the opportunity to go to Hyneria," O'Bannon explained. "In the [television] series, he's a puppet with multiple operators. Every year of the series, we looked at what we would want to do in this season, and every year the thing we would have loved to have done was to deal with Rygel and the fact that he had been dethroned, and him trying to get back the throne--we would have loved to go to Hyneria. The problem is, Hyneria is populated by Hynerians, who are little furry froggy guys like Rygel and all puppets. And so there was no way to do that. We had one episode where there was a second Hynerian, and that was just killer. So it was something we could never do.

"For me, one of the very exciting aspects of doing this in comic book form is that all of those restraints are off. We can portray a class of creatures, and a multitude of creatures, without the restrictions of television production and budget. The scale of this comic book is going to be the dream version of 'Farscape,' the unrestrained version of 'Farscape.'"

Fans will also get to catch up with characters on a more personal level. "One of the things at the end of the 'Peacekeeper Wars' was that the character Aeryn gave birth," O'Bannon said. "And Aeryn, as fans of the series know, was this very hardline, militaristic former peacekeeper soldier. Now she's been introduced to a new role, the role of mother. Even though she loves the child dearly, has bonded with him and everything else, at the end of the 'Peacekeeper Wars' after the child was born there was a lot of running and jumping and things--so it wasn't a typical introduction to motherhood. Now in the comic book series, she's settling into this role.

"Aeryn's somebody who, in the course of the four years of our series, faced literally her own death--she died and came back; she faced the death of Crichton, the love of her life; and faced, with gun or fist, countless numbers of deadly, slobbering, terrifying enemies. But in the comic book series, she's going to face the one challenge that might do her in," O'Bannon laughed.

The revitalization of "Farscape" represents an unexpected second chance, and O'Bannon is eager to make the most of it."The great joy is that even though the television series is finished, there's still life in it, people are still interested," he said. "We're also doing original webisodes for the Sci Fi channel. I'm working with Brian Henson on those, and Rick Manning, one of the original writers for the series. There are characters introduced in the comic who will play a significant part in the upcoming webisodes.

"The series evolved over its four seasons on the air, plus the miniseries--we were ready for it to become an ongoing saga. There was definitely a mythology building throughout the series, and that's something as fans you can really jump on to, and you follow it and you get hooked," O'Bannon said. "So for fans of 'Farscape,' 'Farscape' is continuing in these new media."

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