Karl Kesel talks to Byron Brewer about Battlestar Galactica: Gods and Monsters #1, on sale in November from Dynamite. Cover art by Alec Morgan, Pete Woods and Brent Schoonover.
KARL KESEL: Exciting and intimidating. Not too long ago Battlestar Galactica was THE show to watch on TV. It had— and still has— some of the most complex, nuanced, and interesting characters in the history of television. With gripping, edge-of-your-seat stories that constantly took unexpected— and yet completely understandable— twists and turns. It was one of the most fearless, compelling shows I'd ever seen. So of course I was a huge fan. Getting to do more with those characters and settings, to play in that sandbox, was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. And yet makes me start to sweat every time I sit at the keyboard.
BB: You are continuing the Re-imagined 2004 universe storyline. For those fans of the "classic" BSG, tell us a little of what readers can expect as far as differences, if you would.
KK: Well, I've never seen the "classic" version of BSG— at least not an entire episode— so my knowledge of it is vague at best. But as I understand it, the two biggest changes are that: 1) the Cylons— the machines out to destroy what's left of mankind— look human (or at least some/a lot of them do) so you could be standing next to a "toaster" and not know it; and 2) Starbuck— the hotshot fighter pilot— is a woman. I was recently talking with Cullen Bunn, who's writing a Classic BSG story right now— and he said Classic Apollo would instantly agree that Re-imagining Starbuck as a woman was a GREAT idea.
BB: How does a writer meet the challenge of bringing new readers into this re-imagined world?
KK: The same way you'd bring readers in to any already-established universe. Really, on that level this is no different than someone picking up their first issue of Superman or Avengers. You give them what they Need To Know— and that's a question I'm constantly asking myself: "What does the reader Need To Know to understand what's going on here, now, at this moment?"— and go from there. You don't need any prior knowledge of Galactica or the Cylons or anything to be able to enjoy this book— or any well-told comic, for that matter.
BB: From the solicits, it looks like Baltar is finally going to go all "mad scientist" on us. How much sheer fun can you get out of cutting loose on a character like this, and can you hint at the ramifications his act(s) might cause our heroes?
KK: Baltar is a man with a deep need for adulation and instant gratification. He rarely sees the Big Picture or thinks long term. The thing is, he's a scientific genius so Our Heroes need to keep him around. In the story Alec and I are telling, Baltar rebuilds a Cylon Centurion from battle-damaged parts mostly because he can, and because it will put him in the spotlight. He never considers the ramifications, such as: can he really reprogram it? But I think the most interesting reactions come from the handful of "skin job" Cylons hidden among the fleet— the Centurion knows what the various Cylon models look like. He can recognize them. That can cause them huge problems… if the Centurion has been successfully reprogrammed. IF.
BB: A living Cylon Centurion? Are we in for a cosmic rendition of the Frankenstein tale?
KK: I think there's more than a little of that classic man-made-monster story in ours. They certainly start similarly— the hubris of a man playing God to create life— but do they end similarly? Well, you really need to read the comic to find that out, don't you?
BB: One of the difficulties with writing characters who are based on real people, especially in this kind of iconic franchise, is that most readers who were fans have a notion of a character's "voice." What "voice" in this book has been the hardest/easiest for you to pin down thus far?
KK: The voices of the various Battlestar characters— thanks to the outstanding writing and acting on the TV series— are so distinct and clear that they almost seem to write themselves. Others might— and probably will— disagree, but I like to think I've captured the feel of all the characters pretty well. I honestly can't think of one who's given me more trouble than the others.
BB: Continuing the thought of comic book characters based on living actors, how would you say artist Alec Morgan has met that challenge thus far? How is it working with him?
KK: Alec is doing outstanding work. I was thrilled when I heard he'd signed on to the project. He's constantly added layers to the story that I hadn't seen or expected. Surprising camera angles and compositions that work beautifully and give certain moments a new interpretation, a new twist.
BB: Karl, any projects current or near-future you'd care to tell us about?
KK: I just finished layouts for a Marvel Infinity web comic— a Civil Wars tie-in featuring the Inhumans Karnak and Ulysses— that was wonderfully written by Al Ewing. I'm also in the middle of inking a DC Comics crossover of a lifetime— which I don't think I can specifically name yet. (At least a quick Google search didn't reveal any news about it, so I best keep my trap shut). Write this, layout that, ink that other thing— I do a little of everything for everyone!