SDCC: Burnham Captains "Galaxy Quest," Balances "TMNT/Ghostbusters"

IDW Publishing announced plans for a new "Galaxy Quest" series by writer Erik Burnham and artist Nacno Arranz on Friday at Comic-Con International in San Diego. Based on the cult 1999 film starring Tim Allen, "Galaxy Quest" is the second recently announced series for Burnham, who was also recently revealed as the co-writer of a "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Ghostbusters" miniseries with regular "TMNT" writer Tom Waltz and artist Dan Schoening.

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Burnham chatted with CBR News about both upcoming series, revealing what's in store for the crew of the NSEA Protector as well as what happens when everyone's favorite heroes in a half-shell collide with New York's premiere supernatural exterminators.

CBR News: Erik, what's your freshly announced "Galaxy Quest" series about?

Erik Burnham: "Galaxy Quest" answers the question of "What if a group of aliens saw a 'Star Trek'-like show, assumed it was real, and recruited the cast to help them on a mission?" Like "Ghostbusters," it's a comedy but the world is played straight. The humor comes from the people and their reactions, not the situations they face.

And what adventure does the crew find themselves in this time around?

Well, at the end of their movie, Tim Allen's character, Jason, used the Omega 13 device to rewind time 13 seconds and undo the catastrophic death of his crew. (Um... sorry for the 15 year-old spoilers!) Messing with time. Maybe that affected more than the ship. If it was more widespread, sure, most folks would just have a powerful case of deja vu. But what if it changed something else? That's what we're starting with. They're the reason a new race -- called the Drythans -- seek them out and say, "You screwed something up. Fix it."

Will this series serve as a direct sequel to the 1999 film?

Yes. As a joke, I played with the conceit of how many sequels reuse certain beats from their predecessor when I introduce the cast in a similar way to the way they were first introduced in the movie. That one may be too meta to see without being told, but it still makes me chuckle.

Will all the players from the film be making a return? Any new characters?

Everyone from the movie will be back. I was even asked to include Brandon, the role Justin Long played, so we got everyone. There will be a new race of aliens, too.

When did you first see "Galaxy Quest?"

I missed it in theaters by a week, but snapped it up immediately on DVD when it was brand new. So we're looking at 2000, if I recall correctly.

How did the idea of a "Galaxy Quest" comic come about?

Tom Waltz and I were talking one day and, mid-sentence, he remembers that IDW was going to be doing another "Galaxy Quest" comic and he thought it'd be fun if I pitched for it. "Do something really 'Star Trekky,'" is what he suggested when I asked what he was looking for.

So I wrote up a pitch -- and this is almost two years ago! -- and got it to Tom. A few months after that, I said "Hey, Tom -- did anything ever happen with that pitch?" And he says, in his way, "Oh yeah, dude! ... It, uh, well, it got turned down." When I asked why, he says: "It was too 'Star Trekky.'"

I laughed loud enough to wake my poor dog.

Anyway, IDW and the licensor both liked the pitch, they just wanted me to make some changes. Once that was done, voila, we were go.

What tone will this series take?

I'm going to play it like "Ghostbusters." It's a comedy, but the universe they'll be in will be played straight. Yes, a cast member may make a snarky comment towards an alien; but also, yes, that alien could kill them.

Why do you think "Galaxy Quest" appeals so much to the "Star Trek" and sci-fi fans it seems to mock at times in the film?

I think because the bulk of fandom, the people who truly love the stuff they're into, they're good sports; especially when the mockery isn't mean spirited.

"Galaxy Quest" took some soft (and easy) jabs at fans -- and actors! But it also showed them in a good light. Geeks can be, well, geeky -- but fandom is also well known for pulling together to help when the occasion calls for it. The movie showed that (in the most over the top way possible, sure, but it showed it!)

That explains part of it. The rest is, man, the fans are in on the joke. Everyone likes being in on the joke. And the galactic stuff holds up as well as a lot of the best "Trek" -- which often had plenty of comedy in the mix! That's a rambling "'Family Circus' map" kind of answer, y'know, going all over -- but I stand by it!

Moving on to your other recently announced project, how are you and co-writer Tom Waltz bringing together two very different worlds for "TMNT/Ghostbusters?"

Donatello has access to Fugitoid's inter-dimensional transporter plans. That would be some incredibly handy technology to have direct access to, so of course Don is going to try to build one for himself. And he does! And it works! And... then an oopsie happens and sends the Turtles to the right location in New York, but the wrong New York entirely.

Will all the main characters of both franchises be present? What version of each universe are you going with?

The four Turtles, Casey and April will be present, and the Ghostbusters plus Janine and Kylie Griffin. That's all we have room for (beyond a cameo here and there.) As to which versions? The ones you read in the "TMNT" and "Ghostbusters" ongoing series. This book is going to illuminate and seed future things for Tom's "Turtles" ongoing (and if the "GB" ongoing was still going on, I'd say the same for that!).

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How did you decide which villain to use?

Tom has a plan for "TMNT," and that's where we mined the idea for the villain. He is connected to another Turtles character and trapped in a dimensional portal; when he's set free (in the Ghostbusters universe) he has some decidedly ghost-like abilities. That's vague, I know, but I want to keep as much for the book as possible!

You say you're using a "TMNT" villain -- but how are you squeezing some ghosts in there? You can't have a "Ghostbusters" crossover without some ghosts!

We said that the villain was tied to the "TMNT" universe. Don't think we ever said they were alive...

Some of the Ghostbusters and Turtles seem to be direct versions of each other -- Donatello and Egon leap to mind as a pair that must be fun to write together. What other team-ups are you looking forward to?

Tom and I riffed for an hour on the phone about just potential moments that would be fun to have. Some have already been cut from the overall book and we've only just completed the first draft of issue #1 as I write this!

But you're right; there are similarities. A couple of smart mouths (in Peter and Raph); a couple of serious guys (Winston and Leo); two wide-eyed optimists (Ray and Mikey); and of course Don and Egon, the brains of their respective teams. They mesh so well, and I think it's going to come out awesome.

Add to the mix that Tom and I are being joined by Dan Schoening and Luis Delgado on art (hey -- it is the GB universe) and I don't think it could be anything less than awesome.

What else do you have planned for the first "TMNT/Ghostbusters" crossover?

More than we have space for! Tom and I have riffed for hours about stuff we wanted to see, and that's before we even got to the nitty gritty of the plot! I don't want to spoil too much, but I think given what's revealed online so far, I can say that there is some dimension hopping. These are absolutely the Turtles from Tom's run, and the Ghostbusters from mine, and they've never been in the same NYC before. I don't think folks expected 'canon' adventures in this crossover, but that's what it is. We have complementary personalities to play with, too. My one regret: Splinter won't be along for the ride. I would have loved to write a meeting between him and Janine.

Look for both "Galaxy Quest" and "TMNT/Ghostbusters" later this year from IDW Publishing.

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