SDCC '08 - IDW's Terminator Salvation Prequel

IDW Publishing has a salvation plan for mankind (or to be more precise, comic book fans) and it begins with the letter “T”.

Tying in with next summer’s McG-directed Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins starring Christian Bale as John Connor, IDW will present an all-new prequel series courtesy of writer Dara Naraghi and artist Alan Robinson. They tell a story set years after Judgment Day, setting the stage for the big-screen battle to come. Jeff Mariotte and Don Figueroa will present a weekly adaptation of the movie, too.

We caught up with Naraghi to discuss about his version of The John Connor Chronicles.

Newsarama Note: Dynamite Entertainment currently holds the comic rights for the “Terminator 2” portion of the larger property, while IDW holds the rights for the stories, character and universe to be explored in Salvation

Newsarama: Dara, with the Igor Movie Prequel and now, the Terminator Salvation Prequel, you must’ve earned the reputation as the go-to writer for IDW's prequel comics based on film franchises, no?

Dara Naraghi: Yeah, I suppose I can see that. To borrow a joke from Flight of the Conchords, I'm the fourth most popular Iranian-American right-handed go-to writer for IDW's prequel comic book mini-series based on film franchises!

NRAMA: How did you land the gig?

DN: I wish I had some exciting answer that involved sending Chris Ryall pictures of myself wrapped in aluminum foil in my homemade Terminator costume, but that's not what got me the gig. All that got me was banned from sending picture of myself to anyone at IDW. So anyway, the boring answer is I had just wrapped up my work on the Igor Movie Prequel and asked if there were any other IDW projects on the horizon that Chris thought I’d be a good fit for. There was. It was another film franchise. It fell through (the studio had failed to mention the deadline for getting the completed first issue out on the stands was, like, a week before we even started putting together a plot). But that bit of bad news was immediately followed by "Hey, how would you like to write a prequel series to the new Terminator movie?"

NRAMA: Now, before we get to next year’s blockbuster movie, would you care to provide your views on all the previous Terminator films, The Sarah Chronicles TV series, and how they influence you on the comics?

DN: My quick thoughts on the previous incarnations of the Terminator franchise, and what I'm taking away from each to shape my limited series:

The Terminator – The one that set the tone for the whole franchise, and basically took what could have been a cheesy B-movie and turned it into a stylish blend of a thriller with action/sci-fi elements. Or is it the other way around? This movie introduced the franchise’s motif of the protagonists basically running from an unrelenting, unstoppable force until they can use their human ingenuity to figure out a way to defeat the machine. You can expect to see some of that in my series as well.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day – Now this is a way to make a sequel. They took the action and edge-of-your-seat game of cat and mouse and dialed it up to 11. A great showcase for new special effects, memorable characters, memorable one-liners, and just balls-to-the-wall action. I’m hoping to capture some of the big cinematic visuals of this movie in the series.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines – Honestly? I wasn’t much of a fan of T3. I felt it was largely a retread of T2 and with the exception of the last 5-10 minutes, didn’t really contribute all that much to the arc of the larger franchise storyline. The technology we see in this movie also post-dates the setting of Terminator Salvation and the comic, so there’s not a whole lot I’ll be taking away from this one to shape the comic. (Hope I didn’t just alienate all the T3 fans!)

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – I’ve only seen bits and pieces of the TV series, but since it essentially takes place in its own timeline and continuity and is not referenced by the new movie, I won’t be pulling in anything from it for the comic. This was at the request of the studio, which I’m fine with because it gives me more freedom to mold the setting and characters I’m interested in for the comic.

NRAMA: Let's work out the timeline for the comic now, shall we? The first Terminator film was set in 1984, while T2: Judgment Day was set 10 years later. The first Arnold Schwarzenegger model was sent back from the year 2029 while the upcoming Terminator Salvation film will be set in 2018, right?

DN: Yes, the new film is set in the year 2018. It's a bit of a convoluted timeline (aren't all time travel stories, though?) My understanding is that the new movie is not going to adhere strictly to the time continuity of the previous three films. In fact the screenplay specifically addresses some of the discrepancies. I think the producers wisely chose to reference and build upon the previous films in the series, but not be a slave to the minutiae of continuity. Which was a smart move, in light of the vast and sometimes confusing added continuity from the disparate Terminator novels, comics, video games, TV series, and even an amusement park ride.

NRAMA: What is the timeline of the comic prequel compared to the new movie?

DN: The comic takes place in 2017, a year prior to the events in Terminator Salvation.

NRAMA: Tease a little now. What can readers look forward to when the first issue hits? When does it due in stores anyway?

DN: I believe the first issue is slated for a January 2009 release. The current working title of the series is Sand in the Gears, which has both a literal and a figurative meaning. The series is going to be more global in scope than what we’ve seen in the movies so far. I’d like to show the effects of Judgment Day and Skynet’s global nuclear war on people who don’t just live in LA. So I get to introduce a lot of new characters from different parts of the world, and set them against Skynet while still struggling with the baggage of human nature; their preconceptions and prejudices. There are two main settings for the comic: in Detroit, the machines have converted automobile stamping plants into factories designed to churn out the parts for various Terminator models. Meanwhile, half a world away at the immense Arlit uranium mine in the African country of Niger, the ore is being extracted as fuel for the Terminators’ nuclear power cells. Through a patchwork system of radio transmitters, hacked satellite phones, and encrypted computer networks, resistance leader Elena Maric in Detroit attempts to coordinate and motivate fighters around the world. A decade-long companion of her, having only ever known her voice from 5000 miles away, is former Nigerien lead engineer at the Arlit mine, Bem Aworuwa. The series will revolve around these two strangers - and a disparate group of survivors and resistance fighters - will coordinate simultaneous guerrilla attacks designed to disrupt Skynet’s supply chain. Elena also has ties to John Connor, and we’ll see through the course of the series how this former LAPD officer ended up in Detroit, and how her interactions with John Connor shaped her life.

For those who missed it the first time, check out the Terminator Salvation teaser trailer here.

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