Villordsutch chats with Scott Tipton and J.K. Woodward about IDW’s Star Trek: Harlan Ellison’s The City on the Edge of Forever…
Earlier this month, IDW – using the writing talents of Scott and David Tipton and also the artistic talents of J.K. Woodward – released Harlan Ellison’s original teleplay of Star Trek: The City On The Edge of Forever in a comic book format you can read our review here). We managed to catch up with both J.K. Woodward and Scott Tipton and asked them a handful of questions about this comic book adaption, and now being involved in such a memorable piece of Star Trek history.
Villordsutch: With Harlan Ellison’s story being such a classic amongst fans was there are trepidation in accepting this torch and bringing it to comic format? I for one was excited in wanting to see it arrive yet in the back of my head I had this protective feeling towards the story being used.
J.K. Woodward: I was too excited to feel any trepidation, I think. This story was just so visually inspiring that I couldn’t wait to start painting the planet, the guardians, the red sun, the vortex, etc. It was just such a thrill. I did however, have what I’d call a healthy fear of meeting Harlan, but I quickly learned that he can be just as outspoken with things he likes as he is with things that aggravate him and he expressed happiness with the work I was doing so that went well.
Scott Tipton: There was a little trepidation, to be sure. The episode is a favorite, and Harlan has been a literary hero of mine since I was 12 years old. But it’s also the kind of assignment you can’t turn down.
V: How did you come together to get the story and art bonded and published? Did the IDW bosses call in the Tiptons and you said, “We want Woodward or we’re out!”?
JK: I think this was all Chris’ [Ryall] idea. I heard about it through him in an email. He told me I’d be working with the Tipton’s again and I was thrilled. I later got an email from Scott saying, “We’re getting the band back together!” and we haven’t stopped talking about it since
ST: Luckily, our editor, Chris Ryall, pretty much brought this to the table with the notion of reuniting the ASSIMILATION SQUARED team, thinking that JK’s realistic, epic arts would be the perfect fit, and there was no argument from us.
V: How much breathing room where you given in the aspects of your collective skills with Harlan’s original teleplay? Were you allowed to expand certain parts of the story and if yes did you?
JK: My feeling as far as the art goes is to make it look as much like Harlan’s vision as possible. I want this to feel like the episode Harlan wrote if it aired. There are of course some things you can do with paint that a TV budget in 66 might not allow (grand sets, vast helicopter shots , etc.) but with few exceptions, I tried to make it feel like we just found a lost reel.
ST: We didn’t add anything to the story, nor did we have any desire to. Our role here was to bring pure, unexpurgated Ellison to STAR TREK for the first time, as if the teleplay had been produced in 1966.
V: Did you get the seal of approval from Harlan Ellison himself? Did he bring anything up that he liked which you had added to the comic that wasn’t in his original teleplay or did he ask for anything to be removed (and you did)?
JK: Yes! I was thrilled to find out he was happy with what I was doing. We were all in contact with Harlan throughout the process and I worked a lot of what I painted under his guidance. He’s been very generous with his suggestions and probably most surprisingly, with his praise. Working with him has been an incredibly positive experience for me.
ST: Yes, we’ve been working closely with Harlan throughout the process. He’s made some minor changes here and there, just tweaking some details, but since we’re mostly following his directions in the teleplay to the letter, he hasn’t asked for many changes. Which I take as quite the compliment.
V: Can you pick a scene out of this series that you would say stands out as your favourite part for you whether due to work put in or story behind?
JK: There are so many. Harlan is a very visual writer and he constructs some fantastic visuals in his stories. LeBeque’s hallucination in issue 1, the guardians and their planet, the city itself, Kirk and Spock’s trip through the time vortex are all really fun scenes, but I think the most fun I had was the fight scene in the transporter room that begins issue 2. Wow! what a thrill! and quite time intensive.
ST: There’s a scene coming up in issue 4, I believe, that’s just a conversation between Kirk and Spock that really illustrates the struggle Kirk is going through, It’s some of my favorite writing of Harlan’s and it was cut from the filmed episode, so seeing that on the page will be quite a thrill.
V: As a final question can I ask will we ever see a Doctor Who/Star Trek Assimilation3? I know the future may say no as IDW owns Star Trek and Titan Comics owns Doctor Who but I have my hopes and I never like to say never.
JK: I honestly couldn’t say. I would absolutely LOVE to see it happen though! Maybe a battle between Klingons and Sontarans, or maybe the Romulans team up with the Silurians, Daleks and Borg sharing tech…But the idea I always wanted to do was a body switch story between Q and The Doctor where Q would find himself trapped in the Doctor’s body and the Doctor was suddenly part of the Q continuum. Q would see the TARDIS, as great a force as it is, as limiting and we could learn a great deal more about what it means to be a Time Lord from that. The Doctor could show us just what it means to be part of the continuum as well, the responsibility, the dangers, the laws(are there any) and the struggle to even comprehend the limitless. I always thought that would be a great character story for both.
ST: Those are decisions above my pay grade, but it’s been gratifying to hear from people who enjoyed ASSIMILATION SQUARED and would like to see more.
I’d like to thank both J.K. Woodward and Scott Tipton for taking the time to answer these questions for us and if you want to find out more information on what currently J.K. is doing you can do so at his blog Sequential ARTiculation or his Podcast. You can find more news from Scott at his website Comics101.com and both men can be found on Twitter to @JK_Woodward and @Scott_Tipton.