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David Alan Mack on “Farscape: Scorpius”

by  in Comic News Comment
David Alan Mack on “Farscape: Scorpius”

“Farscape: Scorpius,” the second ongoing series from BOOM! Studios continuing the adventures of Rockne S. O’Bannon’s space-faring epic, launches in April with a #0 issue. The series, starring “Farscape’s” most notorious villain, is written by “Star Trek” novelist David Alan Mack from O’Bannon’s stories and illustrated by Mike Ruiz. CBR News previously spoke with O’Bannon, who created the television series which ran for four seasons beginning in 1999 followed by a three-hour miniseries finale, about his plans for the half-Scarran, half-Sebacean baddie, and we now follow up with a discussion with Mack about his work on “Farscape: Scorpius.”

Following the events of BOOM!’s first “Farscape” miniseries, Scorpius has been ejected into space in a prison pod after Dominar Rygel returns to the Hynerian throne, deposing the usurper Dominar Bishan whom Scorpius had backed. A ten-page preview of “Scorpius” #0, which appeared recently on CBR, reveals Scorpius on his own upon a frozen world, with only the planet’s ferocious monsters to keep him company.

“Scorpius is in self-imposed exile; he is brooding – reflecting on his tormented childhood under the heel of the Scarran matron known as Tauza and pondering his politically motivated banishment from Hyneria,” Mack said of the protagonist’s situation as the series opens. “He feels as if there is nowhere for him to go and nothing for him to do.

“Then, as Bogart’s character Rick Blaine said in ‘Casablanca,’ ‘Destiny takes a hand.’ A new opportunity presents itself to Scorpius, and he takes full advantage of it. Looking back on the first four issues I’ve scripted, there might be a parallel to John Boorman’s film ‘Excalibur:’ Launcelot besting all of Arthur’s knights at the bridge.”

While ‘Farscape’ is, in both its television and comic book incarnations, a bit of an ensemble piece, ‘Scorpius’ will be focused primarily on its title character. “Scorpius is a very complicated onion – he has a lot of layers, and it’s not always clear where one ends and the next begins. He is a man driven by a powerful internal conflict between his Sebacean (humanoid) and Scarran (reptilian) biologies, as well as by a deep-seated hunger for revenge,” Mack said of the series’ lead.

“Oddly enough, despite the way he climbed the ranks of the Peacekeepers during the run of the ‘Farscape’ TV series, he has never seemed to be interested in acquiring power for its own sake,” the writer continued. “In a sense, he’s like a sinister version of Launcelot in the Arthurian myths: a highly skilled right-hand man in search of someone worthy of his service.

“I think what readers might find surprising about Scorpius’s story in the new comic book series will be the sheer scope of his ambition and the extreme lengths to which he is prepared to go in order to achieve this new objective.”

Mack said that writing a long-form story carried by a bad guy is not fundamentally different from scripting more heroic fare, at least in terms of holding a reader’s interest. “While it’s certainly irrefutable that Scorpius is a ‘bad guy,’ I would argue that such a distinction doesn’t disqualify him from being considered ‘sympathetic.’ There have been plenty of books and TV series – in particular, such HBO fare as ‘The Sopranos,’ ‘The Wire,’ and ‘Deadwood’ – in which bad guys were among the most popular characters,” he explained.

“The key to making any character work as a series lead is not necessarily to make that person likable, but to make him or her understandable,” Mack continued. “We don’t always need to to agree with characters’ points of view in order to root for them in the context of a story.

“One of my favorite examples is the main character in the novel ‘The Hunter’ (written by Donald E. Westlake under the pseudonym Richard Stark), which has been adapted into two films (1967’s ‘Point Blank’ starring Lee Marvin and 1999’s ‘Payback’ starring Mel Gibson) and a graphic novel, ‘Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter,’ by writer-artist Darwyn Cooke. The protagonist in that story is a hard-core bad guy who kills his way through the criminal underworld for revenge; he’s brutal and bereft of compassion. But he is very easy to understand, and his characterization is so compelling that you find yourself rooting for him, no matter how many horrific acts he commits.”

Joining Mack for the new series is artist Mike Ruiz, whose style complements the darker stories of “Scorpius.” “Mike’s art has been awesome. He has a rougher, edgier style than that of Will Sliney (the penciler for the ‘Farscape’ ongoing series), but it’s one whose sensibilities remain identifiably in sync with those of ‘Farscape,'” Mack said. “What’s really impressive is the ease with which Mike shifts between natural environments and technological ones, and the sheer intensity of emotion and excitement that comes through in his renderings of faces and action. The aggressive, bold style of Mike’s work has felt like a very natural and appropriate match for my style of writing. It’s my hope that as we move forward, we will get even more in sync with each other and start playing more directly to each other’s strengths.”

Mack also discussed the process of working with “Farscape” creator Rockne Obannon, who also oversees the core series written by Keith DeCandido. “Working with Rockne has been great. He writes the story breaks that govern the major developments of the plot and the overall direction of the series. My role is to structure those story arcs so that they feel properly paced over four 22-page issues, and then to add specific imagery, thematic motifs and dialogue,” Mack told CBR. “What’s so exciting (and also, at times, frustrating) about working from one of Rockne’s story arcs is that they are so densely packed with pure story. It can sometimes be hard to fit one into four issues, but that’s what makes Rockne’s tales feel so rich and lightning-paced.

“After I write a script for ‘Scorpius,’ the first person I send it to is Rockne. After he has had a chance to read it and compile his notes, we schedule a phone call to go over his notes. I make minor changes to the script while we talk, and I make quick notes or highlight sections for rewrites or more complicated revisions that I need to tackle after the call. Once I’ve made the changes, I send the script back to Rockne and also to editor Ian Brill.

With O’Bannon shepherding both ongoing series, the “Farscape” creator has also set out distinct tones for “Scorpius” and the regular “Farscape” titles. “Rockne, Ian and I agreed from the outset that ‘Scorpius,’ as a series, needed to have a different feel from the main ‘Farscape’ comics. ‘Scorpius’ has been conceived to serve as the edgier, morally darker, and more serious cousin of the lighthearted ‘Farscape’ comics scripted by Keith R.A. DeCandido,” Mack said. “One thing that I really appreciate is the degree to which Rockne and Ian not only accept but actively solicit creative input from me and Keith. They ask our opinions about new creature designs, page layouts, and story ideas. When I had a possibly wacky idea about a major element of the’ Scorpius’ series, I felt comfortable pitching it to Rockne and Ian because they’ve fostered such a collaborative and thoroughly professional dynamic among all the members of their creative teams. And I was elated when my crazy notion actually ended up being approved.”

Mack has previously collaborated with DeCandido, his “Farscape” opposite, on multiple series of “Star Trek” novels, and he told CBR that the process for coordinating their comic book universes is largely the same, save for the addition of O’Bannon drafting the story breaks for their respective “Farscape” series. “In that respect, we are laboring to stay consistent with each other’s work as well as with the big-picture vision provided by Rockne,” Mack said. “Fortunately, we have editor Ian Brill to keep us all on the same page, figuratively speaking.

“Keith and I are both kept fully in the loop on each other’s work at all times. I am copied on all story-related communications about the main ‘Farscape’ series, and Keith is copied on all similar messages regarding the ‘Scorpius’ series. It also helps that Keith and I are friends who live in the same city and hang out on a regular basis.

“Long story short (‘…too late…’), we try not spring surprises on each other when it comes to projects like this, because if we bungle something, it can make things difficult for lots of other people down the line, such as our editor or the artists working on our respective titles.”

Mack said, though, that while there was significant coordination to ensure consistency between the two series, it was too early to discuss the possibility of a direct or indirect crossover between “Farscape” and “Scorpius.” “I’ve seen Rockne S. O’Bannon’s story break for only the first four issues of ‘Scorpius,'” the writer said. “While I know that Rockne and editor Ian Brill have been working to keep consistent any details shared by the ‘Farscape’ and ‘Scorpius’ series, and that some characters who appear in one series might pop up in the other, I don’t know yet what happens even in the next four issues of ‘Scorpius,’ never mind what might be coming down the pike in terms of a crossover.”

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