When screenwriter Travis Beacham wanted to make a movie about robots punching monsters, he knew he needed something that made it a unique story. When he finally came up with the idea of the Drift — a mind-linking process used by the pilots of giant robots — he knew he had a concept that would give the action film its heart, and that film was Pacific Rim.
Now a new title from Legendary Comics, Pacific Rim: Tales from The Drift, gives Beacham the chance to delve even deeper into the concept while introducing fans to new characters and ideas based in the same universe as the hit film.
Pacific Rim: Tales from the Drift is being co-written by comic book writer Joshua Hale Fialkov, who recently added "TV writer" to his resume with Chicago Med. Taking place before the first Pacific Rim film, this series features Marcos Marz on pencils and inks, and Marcelo Maiolo on colors.
Newsarama talked to Fialkov and Beacham to find out more about what readers can expect from Pacific Rim: Tales from the Drift and what concepts might make it into a Pacific Rim film sequel.
Newsarama: Travis, why did you want to tell this part of the story that came before Pacific Rim?
Travis Beacham: When we were planning the movie, we had imagined a lot of backstory anyway. The movie begins in earnest at a very late point in the whole Kaiju conflict story. So there's always been this sort of sweeping backstory that wasn't really delved into in the movie.
And the story of these two pilots, Duc and Kaori, has always been a story that I've been interested in telling.
Initially, they were actually part of the first draft of the movie, but as the movie evolved and we tried to tell the best story we could, things changed. But they've always been very interesting characters to me.
And their Jaeger in particular looks so much different from the other Jaegers — very lean and very fast-looking.
So they're an interesting pair, and then their Jaeger is very interesting to look at. So it's been on my radar for those reasons for a little while.
Nrama: Joshua, can you tell us more about these two characters and what you're getting to explore through their story?
Joshua Hale Fialkov: Yeah, the main focus of the story is on two pilots named Duc and Kaori Jessop. They're brand new characters. They weren't in the movie. So we're getting our big introduction to them here.
And they are, like I said, this odd couple who've been jammed together.
What all these stories are meant to be, and what Guillermo is passionate about, what Legendary's passionate about, and what I'm passionate about, is making a story that is set in the world, part of the universe, but is its own self-contained, whole story.
So if you've never seen Pacific Rim before, you can still read and enjoy the comic book.
Nrama: Josh, you've worked on a lot of different types of comic book. What does this allow you to explore as a writer?
Fialkov: It was a chance for me to tell a story, just before the movie, which deals with my favorite part of the movie, which is the Drift. The idea, at its core, is that, in order to pilot the Jaeger, it takes two minds working as one.
In the movie, we get to see sort of different versions of that. In the beginning, we get to see two brothers who've spent their entire life together, who are best friends, and that's how they're able to do it. And the we get to see two people who, while they've just met, they're both sort of desperate to make it work.
What we didn't get to see, and what we get to do in the comic book, is have a pair who, when they first met, hated each other more than anything on earth. They're complete opposites, have nothing in common, no desire to work with each other, who, by the time we see them in our story, are not just best friends, not just partners, but are deeply in love and have a very, very concrete dependence on each other.
So what we get to do, because of the Drift, we get to tell a very active story as they're fighting a Kaiju that's also intercut with this story of how they came to be and what actually gives them their strength and what makes them so damn good.
Nrama: Travis, the idea of the Drift was one of the more unusual parts of Pacific Rim. What was the genesis of that idea, and why did you want to make it an important part of this comic story?
Beacham: The idea of the movie — you know, giant monsters fighting giant mechs — isn't really a pitch. You know, it's not something you can go in and tell a studio. It's not a complete thing.
The idea that really made it all come together for me, when I knew I had the story and I could imagine the world, was when I realized it takes two pilots to drive this thing, and their minds are linked up. That's when I knew what the human story was — in that it could be about the people and about the relationships — and I knew what the heart of the story was. That's when I knew there was a movie and there was a world.
And I think that's the idea that's made it stick with the fans more than any other, this idea of collaboration and needing someone else, and needing community and needing family. That's something a lot of people can relate to.
Nrama: Josh, is this a different project for you. Superhero readers are familiar with your past work, but did this kind of take you in a different direction?
Fialkov: Yeah, you know, I come at story from one very simple axiom, and that is that every story is a story about the worst day of someone's life. A good story is about the best person on the worst day and how it affects them. So whether that's in The Bunker, where it's a guy who finds out that everything he hopes and dreams is going to happen and is going to come true, but its consequence is that it's going to destroy the world, of in The Life After, it's about a guy who wants to find love but only finds it when he's in the afterlife, and how he has to cope with that and make his way through it.
I love coming at stories that are in genre clothes, but then have this more delicate, human part to them. And again, I think that's really what Pacific Rim is.
And by using the Drift as a storytelling technique, you get to do that in Pacific Rim, because the Drift is the most intimate part of your life. Imagine having your spouse see every dark thought in your head — every single flash of bad that's in your mind, every self-doubt, every fear, every weakness, is all on display.
And to be able to find a person you can do that with and trust them, and have that actually make you stronger — that is a hard thing to find.
As much as I love robots punching monsters — which, let me tell you, I love — I think that side is not only just as important but just as interesting.
Nrama: Illustrating this book is Marcos Marz, with colors by Marcelo Miaolo. You've worked with a number of artists, but what sticks out to you for them?
Fialkov: Marcos hasn't done a ton of stuff, but he's incredible, and he's going to be a huge star. And then Marcelo was actually my colorist on I, Vampire, and he's doing Old Man Logan over at Marvel. He's also drawing King for me over at Jet City right now. So he's a guy I've worked with a ton.
And the two of them together are just fabulous. Guillermo del Toro picked Marcos out of all the offers he had. They picked Marcos and Guillermo really believes in how his art looks and how it speaks to the world. It feels like it's part of the Pacific Rim universe while still being very much its own thing. I'm super proud of how it turned out.
Nrama: The movie felt larger than life. So Joshua, how do you get that across in the comic book, or is this more about character exploration?
Fialkov: I think it's both. That's something that comic books can do that's actually really hard to do in film, is that we can tell both of those stories simultaneously. You get a very intimate look and feel at what it means to be a Jaeger pilot, and what it means to live in the world of Pacific Rim — to have, essentially, death being rained down on all of humanity every day, and to be that last line of defense, and to have to kind of learn to depend on a partner.
For me, the franchise is about one thing, and that one thing is humanism — the idea that we, as a species, when we can put aside every one of our petty, stupid differences, all the things we fight about, all the things we disagree on, and we all admit that we're a team, that it's always us against the universe. If you can get over all the other stuff and get there, then you can do great things.
We get to do that in these battles between the robots and the monsters, but then you also get to do that on a micro level between Duc and Kaori.
Nrama: Travis, what does the format of comic books offer you as a screenwriter to tell this story in a new way?
Beacham: I think the strength of comic books is in the pacing, and the way that time plays out. They're often compared to movies, because they look a lot like film storyboards. But I think where it's different is, and it's crucial in comic books, that I can look at a single panel and look at it as long as I want. And it's not like a movie where it plays out in a timed way. I can look at one panel, I can skim over a panel. I can put it down and make a sandwich and come back to it.
So you have to think about time and space in a really different way. And I think that lets you explore these more abstract concepts — like the Drift — in a more detailed way than you can in film.
Nrama: Travis, you said that you guys have a whole backstory to the film. Do you have an idea of what happens after? Do you know what a Pacific Rim sequel would be?
Beacham: Yeah, we have a general idea about what a sequel would be. When we were putting together the bible and the world and the backstory, one of the things — we wanted to keep that area after the movie kind of loose so that we can explore it and have freedom to move around and change our plans.
Part of the fun of making movies is, you know, just discoveries that you make when you're putting it all together. The backstory was necessary for the creation of the movie. You need to have details of the world.
But as far as a sequel goes, in the future, it's not yet written. We do have a general idea of the tone and the bigger emotions of how a sequel would play out. But I think a lot of details are open to discovery as we put it together.