John Jackson Miller's Writers Commentary on Classic Battlestar Galactica #1

John Jackson Miller writes,

One of the fun things about Counterstrike, our 40th anniversary Battlestar Galactica comics series, is that not only was I free to treat the comics series as having taken place soon after the first season of the TV show, I was able to essentially write as though our story took place after the final Marvel Comics tie-in issue from January 1981. In fact, one of our variant covers of our first issue features a recolor of the Walt Simonson cover from Marvel's final issue, Battlestar Galactica #23!

Marvel had picked up the license hoping to get a repeat, no doubt, of some part of the success it had experienced with Star Wars in 1977. That series gave comics its first million-copy selling issues since 1960, thanks to both variant first printings and reprints by Western Publishing, which sold the comics in bags of three to department stores and drug stores like Woolworth's. They usually were stocked in the toy department, as a lot of those places didn't carry comics anywhere else. Galactica got three-packs, as well, of its adaptation of the TV pilot movie in 1978 — though unlike Star Wars, which got six issues for its adaptation, Galactica had just three issues for its adaptation.

It looked briefly as if Marvel would simply adapt the TV episodes, too — issues #4-5 adapted "Lost Planet of the Gods," the TV two-parter that followed the pilot. Perhaps it was necessary to set up the later, original stories, which would be without Jane Seymour's Serina character; in any event, original stories indeed followed, with work by Roger McKenzie, Klaus Janson, and quite a lot of early work by Simonson.

The Memory Machine arc was a major plotline, removing Adama from the scene for several issues; another good subplot involved Eurayle, the pirate queen of Scavenge World. There was also an attempt at weightier stories; possibly the best issue of the series postulated that Adama's wife had survived on a plague-ridden Caprica.

By the standards of Marvel's other non-Star Wars science-fiction tie-in comics (which ranged previously from Logan's Run to 2001: A Space Odyssey to Man from Atlantis) the series seems to have done well enough, outlasting the source TV show by a year and a half. As a reader at the time, I was impressed by how much story was packed into each issue — a make-do situation forced by Marvel's cutback in the 1970s to 17-page issues. And Simonson was clearly a find, having fun creating lots of new aliens. That was a place where the TV show couldn't do much, because of budget constraints; with Counterstrike, we're trying to follow his lead with intriguing aliens crafted by Daniel HDR.

Readers of Counterstrike don't have to have read the classic comics (which are now also available in reprint form from Dynamite) to know what's going on, but there are a few nods to them, most particularly in the ragtag fleet's ongoing problem — that many of its ships are far slower than the battlestar. There's even a nod later on to the pirate garb of Lt. Jolly, seen on Simonson's cover — but don't ask us where Jolly got enough hair for that topknot!

Now, a walk through #1:

John Jackson Miller's Writers Commentary on Classic Battlestar Galactica #1
PAGE 1: While this is technically issue #1, Adama's referring to the events of our real first issue, the 35-cent #0, still available at your local comics shop. #1 continues where #0 left off.

John Jackson Miller's Writers Commentary on Classic Battlestar Galactica #1
PAGE 2: The Cylons here attempt to "educate" the Kiernu. While the Cylons hate humanity, it's established in the show they were pushing around other species, as well. They make deals with species like the Ovions when it suits them, but they think nothing of eradicating others. Very robotic and utilitarian!

John Jackson Miller's Writers Commentary on Classic Battlestar Galactica #1
PAGE 3: Lucifer is one of several of his kind in the series (though he thinks he's the best); one thing's for sure, it had to be an uncomfortable costume.

John Jackson Miller's Writers Commentary on Classic Battlestar Galactica #1
PAGE 4: The Galactica's bridge set is just fantastic when it comes to interesting places to set up cameras; the transparent starmap is a great one to look through, as seen here.

John Jackson Miller's Writers Commentary on Classic Battlestar Galactica #1
PAGE 5: Here's a place where we can do something that they couldn't on TV. The Viper windows were transparent when you were up close, but tended to be opaque at distances, because there was no way to matte in an image of a pilot into a special effects shot. We're able to see everyone!

PAGE 6: From where the voice is coming from, it's apparent that this room is one of the pilot briefing rooms, and not the council chamber. It would make sense that there'd be rooms like this in the hangar deck sections.

PAGE 7: Daniel HDR has loved drawing the interactions between Starbuck and the gruff Okaati named Grust — we get a fun bit with them here.

PAGE 8: The Galactica shuttles all have numbers; it's never clear how many there are. But eagle-eyed readers of my past work will know that I include the number 560 in many of my works to honor my grandfather's ship from World War II, LST-560. (More on it at Now there's a GAL-560 too!

Also, watch what Grust is doing. It's a callback to the joke on the previous page.

PAGE 9: We see a major difference between the human and Okaati fleets. The Okaati have been on the run so long, they've managed to streamline and perfect their industries so they can manufacture while they're on the go. The humans, new to running, still have very different kinds of starships, and no centralized industries. The Okaati are, in some sense, the humans after they've had centuries to figure things out.

PAGE 10: One reason I like describing bridges with windows on three — or even four — sides is that it gives the characters lots of different ways in which to look outside. I set a number of Star Wars sequences in transparent domes for that reason!

PAGE 11: We're clearly at red alert in the shuttle, too, given the color wash on the second panel.

PAGE 12: Ah, Thane Korbok. Daniel HDR's design for this warrior for the mysterious Comitat is a knockout.

PAGE 13: The Comitat's weapons all involve electrical disruption, making them quite different from what we usually see in the series.

PAGE 14: It's not always clear in the TV series, but the Vipers emerge from the sides of the landing decks, through diagonal chutes — which the Comitat bladeships here act to block.

And there's also a we'll-fix-it-in-the-trade moment — for reasons too complicated and boring to explain, we wound up with the wrong font on the Galactica's landing deck sign. (The correct one's on Page 6.) Enjoy it now, because it'll be changed in the trade.

PAGE 15: And here's Sheba! Daughter of Commander Kane from "The Living Legend," who got a lot of screen time in the second half of the 1978-79 season.

PAGE 16: I tend not to ask for more than three panels in a horizontal sequence — it's up to the artist to see what fits. Daniel HDR made a four-panel sequence work, because it was all talking heads.

PAGE 17: And now Adama sees what has come of his decision in #0. This was always the game: confront him with the danger of cutting corners. A nicely moody scene.

PAGE 18: The humans are rightfully slow to trust anyone after the events of the TV show pilot — but Adama's guilt puts a new element into the mix. Things are definitely about to change.

PAGE 19: Here's a case where we changed the dialogue to better reflect what the artist drew on the following page. The Node isn't depicted on Page 20, so we changed the dialogue to suggest that it was still a location we have yet to reach.

PAGE 20: And finally, Count Baltar — played by John Colicos, also of Klingon fame!

This page is another good example of what can be done digitally in editing. Originally we weren't sure what the relative sizes should be of the Basestar and the Comitat frigates; once I saw both together on the page, we were able to adjust both.

John Jackson Miller's Writers Commentary on Classic Battlestar Galactica #1 John Jackson Miller's Writers Commentary on Classic Battlestar Galactica #1

About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.

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