Dynamite Entertainment in a major announcement today said that New York Times bestselling writer Tony Lee (Doctor Who, The Gloom) will be writing a mini-series focusing on Battlestar Galactica’s Starbuck character.
Cosmic Book News Managing Editor Byron Brewer was the first reporter to buttonhole Lee and exclusively discuss the Starbuck limited series.
Comic Book News: Tony, is this mini-series for Starbuck a project you pitched to Dynamite?
Tony Lee: Funnily enough, it's one that if I'd thought of it I would have pitched -- but I never did. I assumed that with the Abnett and Lanning Battlestar Galactica series, this was simply off limits for a while. Luckily for me it was after a conversation with Nick on a totally unrelated project that the suggestion for a Starbuck Year One kind of story came up. Once it did, there was no way in hell I was letting him forget he'd mentioned it.
Tony Lee: Absolutely. I remember being taken to see Saga of a Star World at my local theatre by my brother Kevin, and being massively excited when I learned that there were more stories of these guys out there. I used to have the “photo books” that were all the rage in the ‘70s and I'd read and re-read them constantly. I was the kid who understood why Dirk Benedict did the double-take as the Cylon Centurion walked past him in the A-Team credits after the third season. And of course I've enjoyed the re-imagining that's revitalized the characters over the last few years.
Funnily enough, I was supposed to be at ComicPalooza in Houston this year but had to cancel due to house moving issues, but one of the things I really wanted to do while there was go to Galacticon 3, which was a sister convention on the same site, as the green room for both conventions was shared. Out of the original series I've only met Richard Hatch at a SDCC a few years ago, so it was quite a disappointment to miss it. It was even more of one when good friend Frazer Hines (Jamie in Doctor Who) kept sending me photos of him and Dirk Benedict together, smoking cigars.
I hate Frazer Hines.
And of course Jane Seymour (Serina in the show) comes from Hayes in West London, where I was born, so you always have to support the local lass, don't you ...
Tony Lee: Well, the biggest thing about this series is that it's set two Yahren (years) before the attack on Cimtar that started the series, so it's not really a case of having to worry that much about continuity, as everything we know in the show hasn't happened yet. What is important, however, is ensuring that the dominos are laid out correctly so that it matches up eventually with the show.
The first issue starts during the Cylon attack of Umbra, which is where Starbuck was orphaned as a small child (although he meets his biological father again many years later) and works all the way up to his graduation as a Colonial Warrior. We get to see how he meets Apollo, what his connection to Adama is, and we see his first meeting with Adama's daughter Athena (who he has a relationship with before the show begins), things which for me as a fan was something I really wanted to look at, as these were things never really explored due to the show being cancelled after one season.
Starbuck had to get his cigar (or fumerello) smoking habit from someone, after all!
So we see Starbuck grow from a scared and feral five-year-old all the way to his twenties. Then, in issue #2 we jump another few years, until we're almost at the point where the show starts, and we begin the real story, which starts with Starbuck in a very bad place.
Tony Lee: Well, although we're not working on established threads that stem for the show, we do provide a lot of Easter eggs for the Galactica fan, as this is effectively a flashback story read with hindsight. For example Apollo's brother Zac is a main character, and we know he dies at the start of the pilot episode, so there are some bittersweet moments where we see him wanting so hard to emulate his older brother, not knowing what the future holds. Starbuck at one point is helped by a certain and unlikely future member of the Council of Twelve which was incredibly fun to write, we show Adama and Tigh from when they were Colonial Warrior wingmen and we have a lot of cameos from the cast.
At the end of the day, I wanted to have this as a fun read for the long-term fan of the show, yet at the same time create a solid stand-alone story for someone who's never seen the series before.
Tony Lee: I sat and watched every episode of the TV show, including Galactica 1980 before I started writing the story, so I suppose that's really influenced the comic, but apart from that I've really just hammered down to create a comic as close to the original series as I possibly could, while taking the elements and making them work for a modern audience. Which sounds easier than it is, as I also had to ensure that I kept away from the Galactica reboot aspects, which did a very similar thing.
Tony Lee: Well, without giving too much away, it's very much a potted history of Starbuck, from child to man. The one event that created him in fire and pain was the Cylon attack of Umbra, a farming community on Caprica, where thousands died. As a graduate he learns from a freighter pilot that someone let the shields down that night and years later he starts to piece together what happened, realizing that a member of the Council of Twelve is not only to blame, but is still working for the Cylons.
And of course nobody believes him, so he's forced to prove it himself.
And while he does this the Aerian Councilor Osiris, the traitor he's hunting, frames Starbuck for murder, sending him on the run with only Apollo, Adama and a few others standing beside him as he pieces together what happened that night, hunting a rogue Cylon basestar with his friends and an ambitious Tylium magnate named Baltar who offers his help. And shenanigans ensue. Anything else and I'll be shot!
Tony Lee: Oh, you couldn't have a Battlestar Galactica story without the Cylons being the bad guys. They're on the page from the first scene all the way to the last. And as for new faces, we have a few including the aforementioned Osiris and his daughter Diana. There should be interesting times ahead for those two.
Tony Lee: Honestly? I want them to enjoy the original Battlestar Galactica rather than compare it to its later counterpart. It's very easy for someone in this day and age to state that it was hokey and a bit rubbish, like so many of the other sci-fi films and shows of the time that tried to follow the Star Wars behemoth, but what the people who say this neglect to really examine is the heart of the show, the characters in the show and the relationships that keep them together.
For me, that's the one thing I want to get out of this series, the friendships and the sacrifices that people are willing to make for people that they love.
That and the fact that Starbuck and Apollo are bad-ass pilots!
Tony Lee: Well, apart from this I'm working on Dead Man’s Hand, a four-part story for Doctor Who and IDW, which comes out from issue #13 and involves the Doctor and Clara meeting Calamity Jane, Oscar Wilde and an undead Wild Bill Hickok among other things. At San Diego I have the collected Graphic Novel of The Gloom launched at the Arcana booth (in conjunction with MTV who ran the series online as a serial in 2011-12) and that'll be great to finally see. I have another annual from Dynamite that I really enjoyed writing that's hopefully due to be announced soon and my Image MacGyver series that I co-wrote with Lee Zlotoff comes out in October as a collected trade.
Apart from that, there's nothing else I can mention without half a dozen NDA lawyers breaking my fingers ...
Cosmic Book News would like to thank Tony Lee for talking with us. We would also like to thank Dynamite’s Nick Barrucci and Kevin Davidsen who helped make this interview possible.