Johnson & Jones on "Star Trek: Nero"

In anticipation of the theatrical launch of the new "Star Trek" franchise in May, IDW Publishing joined forces with Paramount Pictures, J.J. Abrams' Bad Robot Productions, Kurtzman/Orci Productions and CBS Consumer Products to publish a four-issue miniseries entitled "Star Trek: Countdown."

Plotted by "Star Trek" executive producer and co-writer Roberto Orci, written by Mike Johnson ("Superman/Batman") and Tim Jones and illustrated by David Messina ("Angel: The Curse"), the series bridged the gap between "Star Trek: Nemesis" - which featured the Jean-Luc Picard-led Next Generation crew -- and the paradoxically latest/earliest voyage of the Starship Enterprise seen in the hit new film.

More importantly for those with a vested interest, "Star Trek: Countdown" was a critical and commercial success.

As a result, the creators of the series are back again for "Star Trek: Nero." This time around (using some scenes cut from the movie), the team is telling the story of what the big bad - a Romulan played by Eric Bana - was doing during his 25-year search for Spock, a quest hinted at in the movie but not explored.

CBR News spoke with Johnson and Jones, who both work for Kurtzman/Orci Productions at Dreamworks Studios, about the series.

CBR: You work with Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman on a daily basis. How is life in the office after the release of "Star Trek?" Folks must have been pretty thrilled about the response to the movie from Trekkers and non-Trekkers alike.

Mike Johnson: Life is good! I think we are all really excited not just for the overall success of the movie, but because it's showing it has "legs," as obnoxious Hollywood folk say. People are going back to see it and encouraging their friends to see it too.

Tim Jones: To use an Orci phrase... Merry Trekmas!

Are Orci and Kurtzman involved in the development of "Star Trek: Nero?"

MJ: The basic story in the series derives from Alex and Bob's screenplay for the movie, including scenes that we don't see in the final cut. And then Bob, being the greatest Trek fan of them all, has been working with us in detail on each issue.

TJ: I will concur with that.

Was this comic book always in the works or is it happening now because there was a feeling Nero's story needed to be further explored?

MJ: We were planning for this series even before "Countdown" was written. We wanted to wait to see how "Countdown" did as a gauge for the audience's appetite for new Trek comics, but luckily "Countdown" has done really well so that encouraged us to go ahead with our plans for "Nero."

TJ: "Countdown?" That's so mid-Spring. Summer's here. It's all about the dark moods of the Narada and Rura Penthe now. Let's brood over the loss of our beautiful wife and unborn child, not to mention the destruction of our entire home world.

Nero is the hero in his own mind. Will he be portrayed in this manner in the story?

MJ: Nero definitely believes he is on the right side of things and we see more of that in this series, particularly how he stays committed to his cause during the years before he meets up with the elder Spock again.

TJ: We love Nero. I think that affection will be reflected in his perspective and motivations.

Though it's the backdrop of the series, can you at least tease us something about what Nero has been doing for the past 25 years?

MJ: Let's see: Robau, prison, ear damage, green blood, the Narada, explosions, astrophysics, red matter, 47 Klingon ships. And more.

TJ: He is getting so pissed off - 25 years of getting really, really pissed off.

Part of the reason "Countdown" was so well received was because of the role the Next Generation characters played. Any cameos like that planned for the "Nero" series?

MJ: No TNG cameos in this one, but there are cameos from TOS ["Star Trek: The Original Series").

TJ: Actually... from the original motion picture.

Who fills out the supporting cast? Members of Nero's crew, surely?

MJ: Yes, Ayel in particular plays an important part in the series. And the most important character other than Nero is Spock himself.

TJ: Spock Prime, Quocch, Clavell, and an entity whose name escapes me at the moment.

Is it great working with artist David Messina again? He seems to really get these characters.

MJ: We wouldn't do "Nero" without David. He defined Nero's look on the page, and more importantly he really understands the character and his motivations. David's pouring his heart into the work and it shows in every panel.

TJ: Judging by what we've seen so far from "Nero," he seems to really be getting these characters even better. We are very lucky to be working with such talent again.

What else are you working on? Specifically, are you involved in the production of "Cowboys & Aliens" at all?

MJ: Alex and Bob are currently writing "Cowboys & Aliens" with Damon Lindelof. We have a comedy called "The Proposal" starring Sandra Bullock and Wade Wil... Ryan Reynolds coming out in a couple of weeks. And then at the end of June we have a quiet little character piece coming out about a robot named Optimus.

TJ: And please keep your fingers crossed for more Trek books coming from K/O's Bungalow.

"Star Trek: Nero" #1 goes on sale August 26 from IDW Publishing.

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