TFAW Interviews: Farscape’s Keith R.A. DeCandido and Will Sliney

by Jeff

jan111030 TFAW Interviews: Farscape's Keith R.A. DeCandido and Will SlineyWith only a few short days left of BOOM! Month at TFAW, we’re breaking out the big guns and finishing it in style. We tracked down Farscape writer Keith R.A. DeCandido and artist Will Sliney for a frelling awesome interview and the accompanying Farscape Contest. Here’s how it all went down. –Warning, some spoilers below– What was it like, moving from writing the Farscape novels to the comics, Keith?

Keith R.A. DeCandido: Well, just in general, the transition from prose to comics has been fascinating. In prose, you’re a lone wolf–everything rides entirely upon the writer’s words. But in comics, you’re only part of the storytelling, with the art, the colors, the lettering all playing a big role. Plus the storytelling space is much more proscribed.

In a novel–even in a short story–you have a certain flexibility of length. But in a comic book, you have to tell the story in 22 pages–no more, no less. That presents all kinds of challenges, as it dictates the pacing and forces you to boil the story down to its essence and its most important elements. As with many sci-fi shows, Farscape has a dense history in terms of plot and lots of regular and recurring characters. What do you focus on, when fleshing out new stories?

KRAD: Depends on the needs of that particular story. Farscape is a sufficiently broad franchise in the types of stories that can be told and in the sheer volume of interesting characters that the focus changes depending on the needs of the story. What’s the creative process like between you and Rockne O’Bannon? How involved is he now?

KRAD: Up until the current “The War for the Uncharted Territories” storyline, the process was as follows: Rockne wrote a very detailed plot of each four-issue arc–usually about 20 pages of a PDF–then I’d write a page-by-page breakdown, which might add some details. Rockne and I would go over that, and then I’d write the script, which would go to Rockne, and he’d then give me notes on the script.

That changed with “TWftUT” arc because Rockne’s situation changed: he became Supervising Producer on the new V television series, and suddenly he no longer had the time to go over so many specifics with me. But Rockne also–very generously–trusts me with the characters, especially after two years of working together, so he wrote an overview of the 12-issue storyline (one that was about as detailed as the four-issue arcs of the past), leaving me to fill in the blanks of the plot and write the scripts. That’s why I have a co-plotting credit on this particular storyline. The broad strokes are Rockne’s, as are some of the details, and the remaining details and the script are mine.

But Rockne and the Jim Henson Company have final say over everything. How much influence do you have on how the stories develop?

KRAD: I’ve had more as time goes on. And sometimes I’ll make a suggestion that Rockne will like. As an example, it was my idea to bring Sikozu back. Rockne wanted to bring back Grunchlk, and since he was last seen with Sikozu in The Peacekeeper Wars, it seemed a natural that she be there too. And he liked the dynamic she added to the storyline.

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Farscape #17 page 1 preview Will, has KRAD been pretty hands-on, or have you been given a lot of freedom to leave your mark on the franchise?

Will Sliney: I’m lucky to have gotten to know KRAD as the series went on. He definitely knows how to write for artists, and at the right time every once in a while I get a note telling me to go crazy on a page, which of course I like. The guy loves Farscape, and if there ever is any specific direction from him on how to do something, then it’s going to be the right way to handle it. Will, you have a lot of Farscape issues under your belt, what have been your favorite moments in the series so far?

WS: I have a few. Getting to draw the crew on the bridge of Moya for the first time was a special moment for me. Aeryn taking over the Peacekeepers is probably my favourite story moment. I read the plot and got real excited when I knew that moment was coming up, because it’s such a profound moment in Farscape history. As for fun moments, that’s gotta be issue #17 of the ongoing, which stars just Rygel and Scorpius. I love those two guys. Keith, you’ve been writing Farscape comics for years now–what has changed in that time for you, as a comics writer?

KRAD: I think I’ve gotten more comfortable with the medium. I recently re-read my first comics work, which was way back in 1999–a Star Trek: The Next Generation comic book for WildStorm–and it was painfully awkward. After doing this for almost three years, and with more than 40 Farscape comics under my belt, I’ve settled into a nice rhythm. I think the issues are better paced now and I have a much better sense of what the medium can do and how to write properly within the form. Those old Trek comics read way too much like a prose writer trying comics for the first time . . .

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Farscape #17 page 2 preview Were you a fan of the TV show before you started working on the comic, Will?

WS: Yep, absolutely. I watched Farscape back when I was in college. My roommate was a huge sci-fi fan and converted me onto it. I had seen a lot of it on the BBC, but that was the first time I got to watch it chronologically. I was just about caught up before the Peacekeepers war hit.

There is a line in the DVD of the movie which I distinctly remember, where someone at Jim Henson mentions that they hoped Farscape continued in some form some day, so it was great as a fan to be part of that continuation. Keith, there have been some huge changes to the Farscape universe under your pen: Aeryn is now the Commandant of the Peacekeepers, and characters like Kirlix and Sikozu are dead. What have been some of the most controversial developments, in your mind?

KRAD: Well, besides Aeryn becoming leader of the people who kicked her out, and away from whom she thrived, I’d say the most controversial is having Chiana get together with a killer who’s going after Crichton and Aeryn’s son. How did you come to work on Farscape, Will?

WS: BOOM! pretty much plucked me from European comics. I had a trial for another series, and thankfully they chose me for this one instead, as it has gotten quite a healthy run. Keith, when we interviewed you at SDCC last year, you had a fan come up who was pretty fired up. Does it surprise you how invested fans are in your work?

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Farscape #17 page 3 preview

KRAD: No, because I was part of Farscape fandom long before I became involved professionally. I used to post on the old Sci-Fi Channel Boards on their Dominion website back in the mists of prehistory, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and “wireless” was what people used to call radios in the early 20th century.

I still participate in the discussions on the boards that continue to talk about Farscape to this day. I know exactly how passionate the fans are, because I’m one of them. It’s why a comic book based on a TV show that had been off the air for half a decade has been a success. Do you have any fan stories, Will?

WS: Yeah I do. I’d get to meet tons of fans at comic cons, and they all seem really happy that Farscape was brought back. Those are definitely the best moments. Some have even gone as far as to send me reference imagery of the Farscape props and original costumes that they own. So the events of Farscape: Scorpius have converged with the regular series, bringing the godlike, villianous Kkore to the Uncharted Territories. Were you excited to have Scorpius to play with?

KRAD: Amusingly, I was initially against having Scorpius even show up in the first miniseries. I got over that, though. I also wanted to have Rygel condemn him to a dungeon on Hyneria rather than exile him. But after reading what Rockne and my buddy David Alan Mack did with him in the Scorpius series, I was thrilled at the notion of getting him to write for.

A part of me thought that Scorpius’s story was more or less finished when the Command Carrier blew up at the end of the third season, and I was never entirely comfortable with having him on Moya in the fourth.

But the Kkore storyline has done a wonderful job of showcasing what makes Scorpius such a fantastic character, and he’s been a joy to write. In fact, my absolute favorite issue of any Farscape comic book to write to date has been issue #17 of the ongoing series, which is basically a Rygel and Scorpius road movie.

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Farscape #17 page 4 preview So far, the Kkore seem unstoppable: they have the technology, the will, and the intelligence to do whatever they wish. Even Scorpius feels they might be his superiors. What is the point of pitting our heroes against an omnipotent force? How can they possibly succeed?

KRAD: You’ll just have to keep reading . . . It seems that Scorpius doesn’t always agree with the Kkore’s directives–such as destroying peaceful planets–but so far he’s fine with carrying them out. Scorpius knows their power and capabilities, but I can’t picture him not trying to subvert them in the future–am I right?

KRAD: There’s a comment Scorpius makes: “Reflected glory is no glory at all.” There’s only so long he’s going to serve an agenda that isn’t his own. Sikozu underwent such a journey, as a character. She sacrificed everything for her people, was shunned because of it, and just as she was finding her feet again, she discovers that her people are dead, then sacrifices herself for the greater good. When was this decided, and why did she have to die?

KRAD: Rockne, our editor Ian Brill, and I all agreed from the outset that this storyline had to have consequences, that characters we knew and cared about had to die in order for this to be effective as a story in the Farscape universe. Trust me, Sikozu’s not the last death we’re going to see . . . We’ve received some answers as to how Deke’s mutation occurred–systematic poisoning of the Peacekeepers’ food supply–but does that mean that there are other children out there who share it? Can they also affect time?

KRAD: Yes and we don’t know. Yet. Speaking of PK children, Commandant Cleavage (Grayza) and her child have been exiled, much as Aeryn was. When will we see them again?

KRAD: Good question . . . Deke is still an infant in the comics. Will he experience any rapid aging, as many kids on TV shows do, to move his story forward?

KRAD: I see no reason to. Honestly, there are plenty of ways to tell Deke’s story without the artificial aging. Besides, right now we’re still in the “past,” as it were, since the comics take place in the first couple of years after PKW, which took place in (roughly) 2003-2004 or so. So all we have to do to age Deke is to jump ahead a few years into the actual present of the second decade of the 21st century . . . All in all, we’ve only read the first part of The War for the Uncharted Territories, which will be a 12-part series. Can you tell give us any hints of what’s ahead?

KRAD: Lots more death and destruction. Actions having consequences. Rygel and Scorpius together again. And copious uses of the word “frell.”

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Farscape #17 page 5 preview Do you have a favorite character to draw, Will?

WS: Well, it used to be Crichton, but as the series went on, and because it was a long long time before he came into the ongoing, Scorpius is definitely my favourite. I’m really tickled by Scorpius’s lizard friend, “John.” Is there any significance to his name? Also, could you please assure me that nothing bad will happen to him?

KRAD: It was Dave Mack’s idea to name him John, and why not? After all, nobody has been a bigger force in Scorpius’s life the past couple of cycles than John Crichton, and while Scorpius isn’t renowned for his sense of humor, he does have one, and I think he derives some satisfaction from naming a helpless creature that he rescued from a frigid wasteland after Crichton.

And I have no plans to do anything to John, though he will go through quite a bit in issue #17 . . . In “Gone and Back,” in an alternate timeline, John Crichton and Scorpius are friends. What do you think it would take for them to be friends in the original timeline? Is that even a possibility?

KRAD: I don’t see any way for them to be friends in the mainline timeline because their relationship started with Scorpius torturing Crichton for, y’know, a while. And there’s likely never going to be a circumstance under which Scorpius will ever regret that particular action, nor the many reprehensible actions he’s taken since then (killing a bunch of Banik slaves just to get at Jothee, leaving Crichton with his brain exposed and his language center frelled, threatening Deke).

It’s possible that some day, Crichton might consider the possibility of forgiving Scorpius, but that’ll be a very very long time from the present, and that still doesn’t mean he’d be willing to befriend him.

(Scorpius and Crichton are friends in the “Gone and Back” timeline because they didn’t meet on the Gammak Base. They only went there to save Aeryn, after all. Scorpius never tortured Crichton, and they encountered each other later on in the timeline.) What are you most looking forward to in the Farscape universe?

KRAD: The fan reaction to issue #17, which is the Rygel-Scorpius road movie I was telling you about . . .

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Win this Scorpius sketch by Will Sliney What other BOOM! books are you digging right now, Will?

WS: All the books from the Irredeemable universe are pure gold, and I was delighted to see that their Stan Lee superhero books are great too. 28 Days Later is great too, but my favourites are the Mark Waid books.

We’re psyched that Will offered up this sketch of Scorpius for our Farscape Contest. All you gotta do to enter is post your favorite Farscape moment (from the comic or the TV show) by March 31, 2011. For complete rules and alternate entry methods, please visit the Farscape Contest page.

What has your favorite Farscape moment been? Post your comments below to enter to win this sketch!

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