Adapting Wrath of Khan - 27 Years Later

Adapting Khan - 27 Years Later

Issue #2

Star Trek has a long history in the world of comics. Although not it’s medium of origin, Star Trek stories have been in comics as early as 1967 with the Gold Key books, all the way to the present day line of Star Trek titles at IDW Publishing. These comics have been both adaptations of the TV series and movies as well as original stories, but through all the Star Trek comics published, there’s been one notable absence – a comic adaptation of the second movie, Star Trek: Wrath of Khan.

Whether you be a Trekkie, a Trekker or a comics fan – that’s an oversight you’d definitely want fixed. And IDW is doing that, adapting the classic 1982 movie – some 27 years after its release – with a three issue miniseries by writer Andy Schmidt and artist Chee Yang Ong. Scheduled for a brisk bi-weekly release in June and July 2009 to hit in roughly the same time frame as the new movie, it will later be collected into a deluxe omnibus collection all of the movie adaptations.

What is Wrath of Khan? Don't worry - we won't tell people you don't know.

The quick version - an enemy from Captain Kirk’s past (the Original Series episode "Space Seed") comes back to seek vengeance on Kirk and his crew. The eponymous Khan, played by Ricardo Montalban, established a very personal feud with Kirk and his crew, leading to the memorable “Khan” scream that could almost echo in space forever.

And the story has echoed – into follow-up movies, popular culture and now here to the comics medium where it’s finally put down as sequential art. For more, we talked with Khan Schmidt about the project.

Newsarama: Andy, it’s good to speak with you. I’ve read the reason behind adaptation this is to make up for it being the only Star Trek movie not adapted to comic books. Was this an idea generated at IDW to do this, or something the film people brought up?

Andy Schmidt: I actually brought it up in a meeting. With the new movie coming out, I suggested we publish a collecting of all the adaptations. Then when I did the research, I discovered, for interesting reasons, that the second film was never adapted. So I brought that up at the meeting and they agreed to let me do it.

NRAMA: What was the research process for this like with you – putting the movie on repeat, reading the screenplay, what?

AS: Actually, both. The screenplay was great for pacing on a page, but I did have the luxury of having an actual movie to watch. The real challenge is getting it all down to three issues. That's not a lot of space. And, for my part, I'm willing to cut more so that the comic reads well. It's still tight, and I think stays true to the heart of the film, but there are lines and even an occasional scene or two that didn't make the cut.

NRAMA: Writing an adaptation is hard work – I’ve read where writers are on a tight rope trying to portray the film as best as possible without being hampered by the translation to comics. How faithful is the adaptation?

AS: That's a great question and it depends on one's definition of faithful. Personally, I don't care for an adaptation that just packs every line of dialogue into the comic without giving consideration to the fact that it is a comic, not a movie. The reading experience is different. In that regard, I believe my adaptation is extremely faithful. No line of dialogue was altered without a reason as to why. What I tried to stay true to was the characters and the themes of the film.

And let's talk for a second about my partner in crime, Chee. His art is breathtaking along with colorist Moose Baumann, these two guys have brought the movie right off the screen. They captured all the body language, subtle facial expressions--everything. And it's exciting to read as a comic too.

NRAMA: And did you take any chances to develop something differently than in the movie, or use any foreshadowing for future events?

AS: I don't do much in the way of foreshadowing future events but there are a couple of things that play differently. For one thin, in the adaptation, you don't know what's wrong with the crew of the Reliant (they're being mind controlled) until much later in the story. This works just as well. In the comic version, it's a question the reader will ask and then get a cool reveal on later, whereas in the film, the audience knows right away. It's a different kind of tension. We also play the ear-worm reveal scene slightly differently. It always bothered me that those slugs were supposed to kill the characters but then just didn't. So, in our version, it's subtle and quick, but Bones (the doctor) actually has something to do with it so that our friend doesn't die. And there are a couple more little twists. But let's be real: this is the great Trek movie. So there's not much to change. I just wanted to keep it exciting and I hope fans will agree.

NRAMA: In Star Trek fan lore, this was the movie that turned around the franchise for Star Trek – much like the upcoming movie hopes to do. Since you were knee deep in adapting it, what do you think was the engine that made this the comeback movie for the Star Trek franchise?

AS: I love both of the first two Star Trek films. The major difference for me, and why I like the second one more, is that it's really about the characters. It's about something very human. The first one is about encountering the unknown. The second one is about dealing with death. Sadly, the first film is more true to the concept of space exploration....

NRAMA: And lastly…. If any of our readers come up to you at a con, will you give them a ‘KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!’ scream?

AS: Yes, I will. I'll even do it loud enough to echo in space.

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