Jerwa: The Ghosts of Battlestar Galactica

The Ghosts of Battlestar Galactica

For Battlestar Galactica fans, we’re in the middle of a long, dry stretch.

The final 10 episodes are slated to begin showing sometime in early 2009, but until then…not much.

Unless you count the comics.

Dynamite’s Battlestar Galactica projects have explored the cracks and crevasses of the world Ron Moore made, and in September, Brandon Jerwa expands the world even more in Battlestar Galactica: Ghosts, a four issue miniseries about a black ops Viper squadron now on their own.

We spoke with Jerwa about the miniseries.

Newsarama: First off Brandon, when is Ghosts set in relation to the larger Battlestar Galactica timeline?

Brandon Jerwa: Ghosts takes place pretty much right beside the first TV mini-series and moves forward from there. That’s really a flashpoint for the whole Galactica epic, so I thought it seemed the most logical place to start. The Dynamite books have covered a few different eras, so this is sort of bringing it back home, as it were, for everyone who was sucked into this fantastic world on that first night (like me)!

NRAMA: And with the characters and setting - this is all-new, in regards to what's come before, correct? You're playing with new toys?

BJ: Pretty much, yeah. The human characters are all new and unrelated to anyone. No cousins of Starbuck here, no tenuous connections to major characters. The Cylons will be very active in this story, but we’ll see them in relation to these completely different characters and a slightly different situation from the one presented in the show.

NRAMA: Got it. So, groundwork laid, what does "Ghosts" in the title refer to?

BJ: “Ghosts” refers to the Ghost Squadron, a black-ops Viper team. But it also refers to all of our lead characters and the life they’re forced into after the Cylon attack. They are spirits in the material world, to quote one of my favorite songs: lifeless entities searching for something to ground them to reality again.

Boy, does that sound like some writer’s B.S. – but I swear, it’s all true!

NRAMA: Before the war and Cylon attack, what did the Ghost Squadron do? What was the nature of their missions? Given that, according to the solicitation, they were associated with the Pegasus and thereby, with Cain, they probably weren't very nice guys...

BJ: Well, they float around. They’ve spent time on the Pegasus and many other ships, depending on mission necessity. I know the solicitation info specifically assigns them to Pegasus, but that’s my fault: I had that in my original pitch, but pulled it back during the scripting. It just seemed like an unnecessary tie to the greater story, so I stationed the Ghosts on the Battlestar Therion instead.

The Ghosts perform several different functions. They’re definitely a bad-ass strike team who can be counted on to clean clocks at a moment’s notice, and the stealth capabilities of their ships make them ideal assets in black ops situations.

NRAMA: Who's in your cast? Can you give us a brief outline of the characters?

BJ: There are a lot of characters, but – spoiler alert! – not everybody’s gonna live to see the end of the book, sorry. Let’s look at some key characters.

The Ghost Squadron consists of six Stealth Vipers, two Viper Gunships (awesome two-seater heavy gun platforms) and a Raptor Ultra designed to carry 12 Marines and a crew of two. Their leader is Captain Alexander Chen. He’s that stoic kind of guy that inspires complete and total loyalty from his pilots, and he’s also the first to jump in the thick of things during combat. No armchair captain here!

Lts. Jorianne Landry and Myer Castall are a married couple who continue to serve in a gunship. They have two kids. Too bad they’ll never see them again after the Apocalypse.

Lt. Dozil Pennit…oh, he’s just a Leoben-model human Cylon. Does he know what he is? Guess you’ll have to read the book to find out.

NRAMA: And they meet with the ship called Orion. Who are they?

BJ: The Orion is a passenger ship that also frequently performs salvage and cargo retrieval operations. In fact, it’s the same type of Starliner as the Astral Queen (the passenger ship converted to prison ship that Tom Zarek was first seen on).

The Orion is captained by Arvin Tyler. He is not a leader that inspires confidence, because he’s really not a terribly great guy. He has his moments, but the truth about his chosen profession makes him pretty hard to trust completely.

Arvin is married to Sola Tyler, although they’re separated. She owns half the ship, so she’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Their relationship is made that much tenser because of Arvin’s very open affair with Teresa Manning. And how about that, Teresa sure looks familiar! Do you think she knows D’anna Biers, AKA Cylon Number Three? Does Teresa know what she is? Interesting questions all around, eh?

Ronnie Dyson is the happy-go-lucky business partner who just wants to get rich by hook or by crook.

One of the things that I did with this story was actual casting for the characters. I picked specific actors for specific parts. Maybe we can reveal those casting choices after the first issue comes out, just for the fun of it.

NRAMA: Bigger picture, what's life like for those who aren't on a Battlestar or part of a larger convoy after the Cylons have attacked? Do they still need to fear the Cylons, or are survivors like the Ghosts or the Orion too few to be of much concern?

BJ: Oh, they very much need to fear the Cylons. The Ghosts and the Orion come into contact with each other through some complicated circumstances, and they all end up in the wrong place at the wrong time.

NRAMA: So what's the story here - black ops guys meet up with a salvage crew...merriment ensues?

BJ: Damn it, you just blew my whole plot! Actually, it’s more like “black ops guys meet up with a salvage crew that is not what it appears to be and then the Cylons attack the twelve Colonies. Bloodshed, hatred, fear, loathing, sex and secrecy ensue.”

NRAMA: What kind of freedom do you have here in Ghosts? You've worked in the BSG-verse before. How does what you're doing in Ghosts compare, given that this is a new, hitherto unexplored corner?

BJ: When Nick Barrucci came to me asking for an original BSG pitch, it sort of gave me pause. “Original” is a difficult word to process when it comes to an established property, and I thought it might be hard to switch my brain off from all the continuity-mining I’ve been doing over the last couple of years. But then I sat down to write, and it just sort of came out. It was all there on the page, and I was pretty happy with it. I’m pretty sure this was the same day he asked for it, in fact, or at the latest the following day.

As things moved forward, cover artists Dennis Calero came in and did some great concept work, so I was definitely pleased with that. And then my editor told me I’d be working with Jonathan Lau again, and I just about plotzed myself. Jonathan was my wingman on the Pegasus book, which was frankly a very difficult situation in terms of revisions and me going crazy trying to make a new story out of something that had been quite different at the outset. Jonathan was a total pro and he really made it come alive. He’s really amazing in his ability to take what I write in a script and give it that much more detail and depth. It really makes it exciting for me because it’s like opening a Christmas present: Yeah, I knew I was getting a sweater, but this is the best-looking, best-fitting sweater I’ve ever seen.

I haven’t seen any notes from Universal as of now, and issue one is already on its way to being colored and lettered. I think it’s probably pretty easy for them to let me run free with this one, because it doesn’t have to tie into a million different things and really isn’t subject to the same specific character scrutiny that the regular books are.

The format for this series is four issues, 32 pages per issue. Originally, I was really thankful for such a wealth of space…but now that I’m into it, I’m like “can we go to six issues? Twelve? Fifty?”

Keep in mind, too, that this is one of the few times in my entire career that I’ve been able to play with toys that I built from scratch, so that’s extra fun and a lot of self-imposed pressure. It’s one thing to get Adama’s voice right or have Starbuck acting in character, but making your own creations sing and dance is even more of a chance to shine.

NRAMA: Given that you see the possibility of unlimited expansion, where do you place the Battlestar Galactica universe in the larger field of science fiction worlds and universes in regards to its breadth and depth for future stories, even say, after the television series wraps? You got any particular areas you're looking to poke around in?

BJ: I’m always up for more Galactica work, because I think it’s a really rich mythology that is more human-scale rather than epic-scale. It’s certainly an epic, but I think it’s been a human drama as opposed to a fantasy, and that’s what sets it apart. I do believe that the series ending will close the door on moving forward past the end-point, and that’s actually a good thing in my eyes. The comics will definitely have to evolve to survive, because I think we’re going to eventually hit the wall in terms of the readers’ interest in mining the existing continuity. Maybe the Caprica series will open some new doors for the comics world; I guess we’ll have to wait and see. Projects like Ghosts are definitely a good way to test the public’s reaction to new ideas in this familiar setting, and I’m honored to be spearheading that.

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