SPOILER ALERT: This Q&A includes details around IDW’s Mirror Universe-related Star Trek series, as well as an item in the upcoming ROBOTIC Loot Crate; if you don’t want to be spoiled, bookmark this page and come back later! (You really should do that; the answers are great, thanks for the interview, guys!)
Here at Loot Crate we are always thrilled to include exclusives, and we’ve had some pretty terrific comic book variants in past crates. However, September’s ROBOTIC theme marks the first time EVER that we’ve had an entire in-canon comic book issue that is only available in Loot Crate. Not to mention, with the 30th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation this month, we’re extra stoked that this one-off Loot Crate edition issue is from IDW’s Star Trek TNG: Mirror Universe comic series!
Recently we spoke with the amazing creative team on this book: Writers Scott and David Tipton, as well as artist Josh Hood and cover artist JK Woodward. (Colorist Jason Lewis also contributed excellent work to the issue!) They gave us some insight into the creation of this never-before seen realm of the TNG Mirror Universe and the current arc entitled “Mirror Broken,” as well as the very special tale we get to tell in this Loot Crate edition: The origin of how Commander Data joined Picard’s crew in this alternate reality! An exciting yarn to spin, for sure!
The Writers: Scott and David Tipton
This TNG iteration of the Mirror Universe isn’t your first foray into this realm of Trek in the comics. What is it about this that appeals to you storytelling-wise?
David Tipton: Mirror Universe stories are not quite as bound by the restrictions of canon as most Star Trek. There is a little more room in the Mirror Universe for the unexpected. Also, the Mirror Universe isn’t always the exact opposite of the Star Trek universe, and that brings with it interesting angles to explore. The Mirror characters are dark reflections of the characters that we know, and they have unique personalities and histories that reflect their environments and their natures.
Scott Tipton: There is definitely more freedom in storytelling, in part because there’s no Prime Directive to worry about, and in part because there have been much fewer Mirror Universe stories to keep track of.
Though the TNG series never made any forays into the Mirror Universe, it was referenced down the line on Deep Space Nine. How did you approach bridging that gap within continuity between the original TOS version, this, and DS9?
DT: We took a lot of care to fit this Mirror TNG story within the context established by TOS and DS9. While the Terran Empire at large was indeed defeated by the Cardassians and the Klingons in the Mirror Universe, our story focuses on what remains: a Terran Empire under siege, surrounded, and effectively bottled up within Earth’s solar system.
The Loot Crate edition issue is a prequel to the current “Mirror Broken” run; about how far back does Data’s origin with this Enterprise crew go, in the context of the ongoing storyline?
DT: What we see in the Loot Crate story is how Mirror Data first came to the Stargazer under the command of Captain Picard.
ST: Right. And within the context of the larger story, Data has been serving under Picard’s command for quite sometime, as indicated by Picard’s trust in (and occasional frustration with) his android officer.
What was the most exciting aspect of re-telling Data’s origin story within this framework?
DT: While Mirror Data is of course very similar to the Data we are accustomed to, his motivations and outlook are not necessarily the same. We see in this story what makes his origin so different, and we see the beginnings of the connections between Data and Picard that are unique to the Mirror Universe.
ST: So much of the prime Data’s origins are connected to his relationships with humanity, and none of that is in evidence here, so we were able to take it in a very new direction, which was fun.
Which of the Mirror Universe counterparts of the TNG cast has been your favorite to write, and why?
DT: Probably Data. As the story progresses, we see Data evolve in ways that I find very interesting. While in many ways he is so similar to the Data we expect, his character has a Mirror Universe twist that makes me wonder what could be in store for him in the future. Mirror Picard has also been very interesting, because in many ways he has a knack for personal interaction that non-Mirror Picard sometimes lacks.
ST: The biggest surprise has been how much fun Lt. Barclay is to write, especially in his unexpected quasi-friendship with Data. We elected to use Barclay as our entry point into the Mirror Universe of the Next Gen crew in our Free Comic Book Day preview issue, just thinking he’d make a great transition to the traditional ensemble, and before we knew it he’d become an integral part of our cast. I can’t imagine the book without him now.
Do you forsee any future releases digging into the back story of some of the other mirror-TNG crew members?
ST: We definitely have tales and backstories in mind for the rest of the cast, to be sure. Will we get to tell those stories? Well, that’s up to the readers. Keep buying the series, and let our bosses know you’d like more, and who knows?
DT: There’s definitely room for more Mirror Universe stories! What happened to Riker’s eye?!? We’ll have to find out sometime.
Would any of the other titles in the Trek franchise make great Mirror Universe material, and which would you enjoy tackling?
ST: I would jump at the chance to do some Mirror Universe tales in the Star Trek: The Animated Series style. Imagine how badass Lt. Arex would look in a sleeveless tunic and goatee.
DT: I love The Animated Series. Mirror Arex would cause all kinds of havoc. And I think there’s still plenty of room for more tales in the Mirror Next Generation world as well.
The Artists: JK Woodward and Josh Hood
There’s a cool marriage of what we know the TOS Mirror Universe characters looked like with the TNG character’s own personal traits and the 23rd century look. How much did you craft that, or work with the Tiptons to find that look?
J.K. Woodward: The primary characters in the mirror universe were created by me months before even the idea of comic. I was working with CBS on a Mirror Universe product style guide and was given the opportunity to create the look of the universe. I took my cues primarily from the TOS episode, “Mirror, Mirror”, where the pirate/marauder aesthetic was huge. With that in mind, I tried to create an off balance, antisymmetry to every character. In short, everyone had to have an “eyepatch”. sometimes it meant scars on one side of the face or a burn, but with Data it was an ocular implant. The look inspired the origin of Data mastering the borg nanite programming and technologies to become the dangerous android he is in the Mirror Universe.
Josh Hood: That was all J.K. They had all the design work done for me when I signed on.
Obviously Data’s look in this continuity is very striking, but there are some wild surprises for some of the other crew members too. Who was the most fun to design and draw?
JW: For me, of the initial characters I designed (Troi, Picard, The Doctor, Data, Geordi, Riker), I think my favourite was Data, with Geordi coming in a close second.
JH: I did get to design some outfits for a pre-enterprise Data and his creator Doctor Soong. I remembered from the TNG series all the civilian outfits always seemed to have extra bits to non symmetrical or non practical fabric on them so I gave some thought to what I would have designed had I been drawing in the mid ’80s.
Which comic artists have influenced your particular styles the most?
JW: Byrne, Kirby, Perez at first, then I discovered a wider range of expressive art in first and foremost, Sienkeiwitch, then McKean and Alex Ross.
JH: Early on it was almost exclusively John Byrne. Later it was the brits, Alan Davis and Bryan Hitch and all the americans they’ve influenced now. And there’s a huge bit of Kevin Nowlan always swimming around the back of my head.
Josh, your design, the bright palettes, etc. in this issue is visually quite different from what J.K. is doing in the ongoing series. Where did this inspiration come from?
When I was drawing the ships, the lab sets, I tried to make them as simple as possible without seeming empty or in any way neglected. I knew that there was a wonderful reveal later (The BORG body parts) that I wanted to dump a bunch of detail into so that it really stood out as something from a completely different part of this reality. I was inspired by the earliest appearances of the borg, all that fiddling detail that would appear in contrast to the smooth lines on the enterprise D bridge.
J.K., The cover you designed for the Loot Crate exclusive is striking, in that it really emphasizes Data’s synthetic origins. Was that intentional?
Yes. This Data’s view of humanity is very different than his counterpart. I think the focus on the synthetic makes him appear a bit more dangerous. Also, I was inspired by the Tipton script which focused on his early origins, so I decide to “deconstruct Data” for the cover in a way that hadn’t been done before. I showed what I thought would be the 5 stages of his development: The schematic, the skeleton with all the LED lights which we’ve seen before on the show , the synthetic sinew, which we have not seen before, but must be there for him to have such a human look to his expressions, the skin, and finally the integration of Borg technology. Picard is ghosted in there because he was such a vital part of Data’s origin and of course the setting is represented with the mining colony along the bottom. I had not seen Josh’s design for the exterior setting when I did the cover, so I’m excited to see how similar or different our interpretations were.
Well, you can find out now, JK! For those who would like an additional, exclusive reveal, scroll down below the jump for the cover of our Star Trek The Next Generation: Mirror Universe Loot Crate Exclusive issue, as well as a first look at one of the pages inside! Once again… SPOILER ALERT!!