In 1989's Back to the Future II Marty McFly and Doc Brown went to the year 2015, and now that we're in the year 2015 they're coming back.
On October 21, IDW launches the five-issue miniseries Back to the Future with original screenwriter Bob Gale on-board to steer the proverbial DeLorean alongside writers John Barber and Erik Burnham. Gale describes the series as an "untold tales" spin on the movie franchise, offering him the chance to put Marty and Doc Brown in new situations to develop the characters further.
The first issue is illustrated by Brent Schoonover and Dan Schoening.
Gale, who has written for both DC and Marvel in the past, talked with Newsarama about the return to the franchise he helped create over thirty years ago. The screenwriter spoke about the untold stories he's always wanted to tell, the characters he wants to spend more time with, and the chances of a fourth film.
Newsarama: Bob, how'd you get involved with IDW's Back to the Future comic book series?
Bob Gale: IDW was the prime mover – they approached Universal, who then approached me (which they do with most things involving Back to the Future) to see if I thought there was a way to do it that wasn't simply exploiting the property, which I would never do. After discussions with editors Tom Waltz and Chris Ryall, we got to “Untold Tales And Alternate Timelines” as a viable concept. The series will allow us to explore aspects of the movies and characters that enhance what people already know. Everyone knows we won't do a fourth movie, so this is a good way to give our fans a little more Back to the Future.
Nrama: As the co-creator of the movie franchise, what do you think of it fitting into comic book storytelling?
Gale: Obviously different mediums have different requirements, different strengths and different weaknesses. I think that my previous experience in writing comics has been helpful in figuring out what Back to the Future stories can and should be told in the form of comics. And I like the fact that these are going to be short all-in-one tales. If you don't like what's in one issue, you'll find something different in the next.
Nrama: So how would you describe your role with these IDW comic books?
Gale: “Godfather!” (I've always wanted to be called that!) I'm the guiding hand. I've provided John and Erik with a lot of story ideas and areas to explore, and they're developing the ones that resonate with them. If they get lost or start wandering too far off the property, I'm here to get them back on the right path. That might mean actually doing some writing, or it just might mean a conversation. For Back to the Future #1, I did a lot – I wrote both stories, and co-scripted the first tale. For #2, less, because John and Erik had a better sense of everything – and they came up with a lot of great stuff on their own.
Nrama: Is the idea of more Back to the Future stories -- be it comic books, animation, film -- something you've thought a lot about since the third movie?
Gale: Remember, we did 26 episodes of Back to the Future:The Animated Series for CBS in 1991 and 1992, which is finally available on DVD on October 20. And there was the seven issue Harvey comics series based on that, and then there was TellTale's excellent videogame in 2011, which will be re-released and enhanced for the Xbox platforms and PS4 on October 13. So while I don't normally spend a lot of time thinking about other Back to the Future stories (because we're not making another movie or rebooting the franchise), the popularity of the franchise has a way of pulling me back to it every so often.
Nrama: Is there a story or moment from the movies that you wanted to get in but never did that you'd like to with the comic books?
Gale: Not exactly, but the conceit of this series will allow us to explore aspects of the movies and characters that were always in the back of our minds...like how Marty and Doc first met, which was the natural first choice story to tell.
Nrama: This series is announced at just four issues, but do you see material where you could do more if the interest is there from readers?
Gale: News flash! I've just learned that we're going to five! And if the demand is there, I imagine that IDW will want us to keep going.
Nrama: Is there a favorite lesser known character outside of Marty, Doc Brown or Biff Tannen you'd like to focus more on with these comic books?
Gale: Doc and Marty are the glue that binds the “Back to the Future Universe” so the focus will be on them. But who knows – maybe someday will find out why Uncle Joey Baines went to prison!
Nrama: What other time periods are you interested in visiting with future Back to the Future stories?
Gale: The focus of this series is on the characters, not on time travel or time periods (which was the focus of the animated series). So if there's a reason for Doc or Marty to be seen in a particular time period, fine, we'll go there. But just because an artist might say, “I want to draw the French Revolution,” that's not a good enough reason to have Doc Brown marched to the guillotine. Given the quality of the content I'm seeing so far, I hope we'll be around long enough to explore a lot of aspects of our characters, their pasts, presents, and futures, and their alternate timelines. As the saying goes, “you never know what the future might bring!”