What is it about SPACE: 1999 that inspired you to want to write more stories in that universe?
ANDREW E. C. GASKA: So much potential, most of which was never realized! The format of the first season of SPACE: 1999 was revolutionary: The series was dark and moody, and the message to the viewer was that, “Space is dangerous, and things aren’t going to make sense. Basically, you’re screwed.” It was so different to what Star Trek had presented, and nothing was tied up in a nice little bow by the end of an episode. You were always left wondering, why? And it wasn’t unsatisfying, it was more of a cosmic why, the type of why that compels man to explore the universe around him in the first place. I want to complete the arc that the story started, and bring it to its logical conclusion, based on plans of the original creators, but filtered through y own vision of this world. I want to tell “why.”
In what new directions are you taking the SPACE: 1999 story?
GASKA: Overall, its my goal to take the best of SPACE: 1999 (tone, characters, premise, etc) and augment them toward their logical conclusions in a way that old fans and new audiences alike can enjoy. The television series originally aired almost 40 years ago, and while a lot has changed in the world since then, there is a lot of 1999 that still reflects today’s society and where we are headed.
Three major ways I have set about updating 1999 are through personal journals, science, and alternative history.
The personal journals of Commander John Koenig and Professor Victor Bergman are presented for the first time, in order to get inside the heads of these iconic characters, and offer insights into both their personalities and decisions. This creates a storytelling bridge with the second season of the show as well, which offered as a voiceover the logs of Dr. Russell, the other linchpin character of the series.
Also, science has been added to the fiction. The number one complaint about SPACE: 1999 when it originally aired was that science was not being adhered to, with events such as the moon being blasted out of orbit without crumbling under its own weight, and moving so fast though the cosmos as to visit a new alien world “each week” called into question the series validity. Today, things like quantum and meta physics can explain a lot of these oddities and ground SPACE: 1999 in a reality of its own.
Finally, as the year 1999 has come and gone without us losing the moon, something had to be done about the date. As this is not a re-imagining, but a deepening and continuation of the original series, I did not want to change it (the year is so important to the series, that it is its title, after all!) With all the scientific buzz lately about alternate universes, it occurred to me that it would be logical for SPACE: 1999 to have sprung out of a world where JFK had not been assassinated, so that more and more funding went into the space program, and because of it, the international space race. This places SPACE: 1999 squarely in a world that is similar to, but not quite, our own—and allows its history to unfold, unhampered by the passage of time in our own reality.
So far, Aftershock and Awe completes the story of the genesis of SPACE: 1999. The premise is, and always has been, that the Moon is blasted out of orbit by an industrial accident involving nuclear waste stored on the moon. The errant moon takes off into the cosmos, taking our main characters to their destinies in space. But what about the earth? And who were those left behind? Suddenly losing the moon would cause widespread disaster for mankind. In this graphic novel, we not only get to see a more detailed account of the accident in the first place, revolving around the series’ main characters, but we also get to see what happens to their familiar relations who suffer though the ravages and aftershocks of a world left with no moon.
If these first offerings are successful sales-wise, we will be greenlit by [SPACE: 1999 rights holder] ITV to continue the story of what happens after the television series, and many seeds of that are planted here in Aftershock and Awe.
You are also working on remastering classic SPACE: 1999 comics. How are you improving on them?
GASKA: Yes! The classic SPACE: 1999 comics of yesterday were mostly in black and white, so first off we are coloring them for the first time! Second, due to likeness issues, we were required to make some changes to characters appearances in the original art. Rather than just do that, I thought it would be interesting to correct errors that cropped up as well, such as the commlocks (the SPACE: 1999 communicators) being held incorrectly, or the Eagles (the main spacecraft) having thrusters in the wrong place.
On top of this, the writers and artists were not given proper reference or information in order to tell gripping SPACE: 1999 stories, so the stories of the time reflect a certain generic science fiction viewpoint. With respect to the intent and spirit of the original body of work, the SPACE: 1999 CLASSIC stories have been enhanced and clarified within both the story and art, in order to bring these Alphan adventures more in line with both the established continuity of the original Space: 1999 original televised series and the new graphic novel series, creating a sort of “Season 1.5” to help bridge the gap between the changes which occurred in the show between Seasons 1 and 2.
What that means is that these are not necessarily the same stories older fans may have read as a kid, but they now make sense within the established epic that is SPACE: 1999.
You continue to work with some of the best artists in comics. How do you go about selecting artists for your projects?
GASKA: There are several factors at play here, but the top answer would have to be that I seek out the right artist for the right job.
On Conspiracy, I was blessed to work with some of the finest artists in the industry, and I have Planet of the Apes’ popularity amongst those artists to thank for it. Every painting in Conspiracy would have made a tantalizing cover of its own, but each one conveys a different emotion, and the artist chosen to convey that emotion was picked because of their previous body of work. When I contacted Barron Storey for his piece, “The Beast, Man,” he was at first reluctant. He told me that he thought I had the wrong guy, that he doesn’t do fantasy and action scenes, that his work is dark, psychedelic, and psychological. Maybe I really wanted Frazetta. I let him know that this piece in particular was about Landon’s descent into madness, and that Barron was the perfect artist for it. He understood, and delivered the fantastic piece we see in the book now.
Whether retro style or painterly, the art in SPACE: 1999 Aftershock and Awe reflects the tone of the segments they visualize. Miki, the Spanish artist who worked to “fill in the blanks” on Gray Morrow’s fantastic SPACE: 1999 art, has a great eye for capturing the essence of retro comic styles. One of my goals with SPACE: 1999 was to retell the beginning of the story for people who might be new to the franchise, but also expand it to include all the scenes that were seen in the pilot episode, and even beyond that to include the scenes that were in the original script and left on the cutting room floor, as well as new continuity linking materials. Morrow worked on two original adaptations of that pilot (“Breakaway”) in the 1970s, one 20-page version for Power Records, and a six-page version that appeared in the Charlton black and white comics magazine. Our adaptation, called Awe (the first two chapters of the graphic novel), would be 56+ pages, so we needed over 30 new pages of art! Miki was chosen because his work in many cases blends in seamlessly with Morrow’s style, making our expanded version of the SPACE: 1999 origin work without jarring the audience out of the story with the sudden appearance of a drastically different art style.
With Aftershock, David Hueso was chosen to do a fully painted realistic graphic novel, because at its heart, Aftershock is a disaster movie, about real people dealing with catastrophic events, and his work conveyed a world that you could readily believe in, and then shudder in horror as it was torn apart.
Finally, I have the pleasure of continuing to work with two of the finest up-and-coming artists of today, Chandra Free and Dan Dussault. They have become my “go-to” artists because they understand the visions I am trying to bring to life, no matter what the project. Both of them contributed to SPACE: 1999: Aftershock and Awe. I am lucky to have them in my stable of artists.
With your previous graphic novel, Critical Millennium, your illustrated prose novel, Conspiracy of the Planet of the Apes, and now, SPACE: 1999 under your belt, you obviously have a passion for science fiction. What is it about the genre that you love so much?
GASKA: Science Fiction allows us to explore the issues we face here on earth to their penultimate, and usually frightening, conclusions. When I was a kid, it was the excitement of the unknown, ray guns, laser swords, lizard people, and shinny robots that attracted me—the weirdness factor. As I got older, I realized the very best science fiction was teaching me lessons about life, by showing me our world through a fractured mirror, as happens in the very best Star Trek episodes, and of course, Planet of the Apes. In the case of Planet, the Apes are struggling so hard to be better than mankind, and shun the evil we have caused, but are actually on the same foolish path humans took—by making the same mistakes, maintaining the same types of bigotry, hatred, and most of all, fear. There are deep and resonating statements there, and in other great science fiction, that not only explores the human condition, but also strips it to its core and displays everything that’s wrong about it. I feel we can only learn from our mistakes if we are aware of and understand the ramifications of them, so I thrive on this kind of storytelling. And, yes…I still have a soft spot for the ray guns and shiny robots, too.
If you could go into space, where would you like to go first?
GASKA: I watch a lot of science programs, and actually recently finished a marathon of the entire series of The History Channel show, The Universe (over 50 hours!), spread out over a week—so this question is tough. There are so many places to choose from! I guess the craziest thing I found out was that the black holes at the center of galaxies, like our milky way, do not condense down to a tiny point that would shred a person entering it, but their mouths are gaping monsters, that theoretically, we could pass over the event horizon and actually sit inside a black hole without being torn up by the gravitational forces! The only problem is, the matter being converted to energy in there is whipped up into a super hot plasma. So…you’d be burnt to a crisp. If there was a way to prevent that, I think that would have to be the most exciting thing to ever see in our universe, the inside of a black hole!
For more information and a preview of this title, please visit our site! It is also available digitally on comiXology. The print edition of Space: 1999: Aftershock and Awe is flying into your local comic shop on December 12!