For its last three seasons, the Fox TV show Fringe has won fervent fans with its portrayal of alternate dimensions and paranormal phenomena.
But when part of Fringe's story was left untold on the screen, one of the show's actors decided to tell it in a comic book.
Written by Fringe actor Joshua Jackson ("Peter Bishop"), Beyond the Fringe is a new digital comic from DC Entertainment that helps fill in the missing pieces between last year's Season 3 finale and Friday night's Season 4 premiere. Jackson's first issue of the comic, which is 99 cents per chapter, was released this week.
"I'm so familiar with the story of Fringe," Jackson told Newsarama, "that when they offered me the chance to write a story for the comic book series, instead of just pitching a story, the story I wanted to tell was a piece of Fringe that will never make it onto the television screen."
This isn't the first Fringe comic to be released by DC, but it is the first that has such direct tie-ins to the current events of the show.
A total of 14 issues of Beyond the Fringe will be released every two weeks on the DC Comics website and digital comic apps. The new digital comic series will alternate every two weeks between "A" and "B" storylines. The "A" stories will explore events tied directly to the Fringe show canon, while "B" stories will take a "what-if" approach and look at how things might change if certain elements are out of balance.
Jackson is writing "Peter and the Machine," which will be released as parts #1, #3 and #5. But most importantly, Jackson's story is canon for what is happening in the show as it begins Friday.
"They allowed me to go off into the comic book world and fill in what I think is a gap in our mythology," he said. "Hopefully, people who like the show will go and find the comic, and it will expand the universe."
When an actor's name is listed as the writer of a tie-in for his own television show, it's easy to dismiss his involvement as a publicity stunt. But that clearly wasn't the case for Jackson, who discussed the themes and contents of the comic with ease and even indicated he was tweaking his third issue.
"It was very much a creative buzz," he said of the writing experience. "Having never written a comic book before, you have the ability take advantage of larger flights of fancy than you could ever do with the TV show itself. So it actually expanded the horizons of what I'm able to do, and what we were able to dream up."
Jackson said he's actually been a comics' reader for years. "I read less monthly episodic comics now, but I grew up, like almost every guy in my generation, reading comic books," he said, but added with a laugh, "but I'm not Neil Gaiman. I'm not Stan Lee. I don't know that writing comic books is going to be my next career.
"But I've always really liked telling stories," he said. "So I love being an actor, and I enjoyed being a director, and I enjoy performing on stage, and I really enjoyed the process of putting together this comic book. So it's not so much the format that's important to me, but being able to tell stories is a great gift."
Not surprisingly, Jackson is writing his own character, Peter, as the central focus of the comic, showing how he travels through time to fix the events of the past.
In the show's season finale, it was revealed that the universe-destroying "machine" would be sent back through a wormhole to the past. But that event wasn't actually shown during the show. It was merely implied.
In the comic, fans get to see how the machine was sent into the past, and why the older Peter from 2026 chose to go back with it, putting pieces of it in different places around the world.
"Peter is this guy who avoided his fate through the first two-and-three-quarters seasons of Fringe," he said. "But then he accepted what he thought was his fate, choosing our universe over the other universe. But then he flash-forwards into the future and sees that his choice was a hugely wrong decision, and would end up destroying both universes and getting the woman he loved killed.
"So he goes back and does the 'anti-It's a Wonderful Life' and basically erases himself so that everybody else can live," Jackson said.
That "anti-It's a Wonderful Life" was the season's cliffhanger. Peter Bishop disappeared, and the "Observers" said nobody remembers him. He never existed.
That mystery has become Fox's marketing campaign for this year's Season 4 of Fringe. The tagline, "Where is Peter Bishop?," has even turned into a viral campaign.
When we asked Jackson, "where is Peter Bishop?," he laughed and said, "I'm standing in my office on a slightly gray rainy day in Vancouver!" Yet despite the marketing, the actor said Peter Bishop isn't gone from Fringe for good. Although he might not show up in the first episode, Jackson said his character will appear this season, "eventually."
"Fringe is not the story of Peter Bishop," he said. "It's not the story of Walter Bishop. It's not the story of Olivia Dunham. It is the Fringe story. So they're going to tell the story that is necessitated by the way the season ended last year. And that will involve all the characters needed to do it, and not any more."
But for all the die-hard fans of the show, Jackson's knowledge of the show is apparent in Beyond the Fringe. There are several references to things mentioned in past Fringe episodes that should be fun for fans. "We were trying to pull references out of the show, so that you could see the two things are really closely interrelated," he said.
For example, there's reference to a childhood story Peter wrote that was mentioned on the show two seasons ago, and there are latitudes and longitudes used that also tie in. "If you're a really dedicated watcher of the show, and you type in the latitudes and longitudes, which is why I put them in the comic, you'll see that they lead you back to places from Fringe that were clearly referenced in the core of the show," Jackson said.
The actor's story arc also has a theme that works well for comics, since it deals with the type of paradox often encountered in time travel stories. And Jackson even put a line in the comic where Peter says, "time travel is sticky stuff."
"Peter from the future is trying to change the past," Jackson said. "But he's not the first one to do it. He's in a time loop. Who was the first? That's exactly where you get into the time paradox. If it's looped, there is no first, which defies imagination, but it can't be the unmoved mover. It's just always been.
"That's the paradox of the Observers as well," he said, referring to the bald, hat-wearing characters that have been showing up on Fringe lately. "If they truly exist outside of time, then there was no beginning, there will be no end, because they just are.
"And that's the crux of the problem for Peter in this comic," Jackson said. "He, like you and like me, says that if time loops are a possibility, then it's just predestination. But the romantic in him wants to believe there's an answer to the riddle. He is conscious of the fact that his fate has been predetermined by virtue of the fact that he's already experienced it. But he romantically wants to break out of that and figure out a way that he can have his cake and eat it too, so he can save the people that he loved and actually still physically be there with them."
Jackson said that although he enjoyed the writing experience, he doesn't know that he'll return for more comic assignments. "I don't know if I'm ever going to be asked to do this again!" he said with a laugh. "But it's a lot of fun, that because of the comics, we can have this radical, open, hugely expanded version of the Fringe world that you can put in the comics that you couldn't put anywhere else."Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!