Nothing seems to stop the invading monsters that have risen from the murky depths of the Pacific Ocean. Known as the Kaiju, these sea monsters are waging an apocalyptic war against humanity. The “Pacific Rim: Tales From Year Zero” graphic novel, follows key players from the movie as they begin to build the Jaeger, a giant robot-fighting machine, which will one day fight against the Kaiju. The graphic novel is written by Pacific Rim screenwriter Travis Beacham, who spoke to Bloody Disgusting about the beginning stages of writing a comic book script, bringing characters from his screenplay into another medium, and working with director Guillermo Del Toro.
Bloody Disgusting: Tell me about the inspiration behind “Pacific Rim: Tales From Year Zero?”
Travis Beacham: It started off when we were working on the movie, creating the world around the movie. When it came time to talking about the graphic novel and the shape it would take, we decided rather than a straight-up adaptation of the movie, maybe it would be better if we did something out of the experience of the movie, that utilized a lot of the material. Things we couldn’t get into too much detail in the movie and to introduce people into the world we see in the movie.
BD: What interests you about Stacker Pentecost, who plays a central figure in the movie and comic?
TB: Pentecost in the movie is very necessarily mysterious. I think he has a lot of mystique about him. It’s sort of like Obi Wan in the first “Star Wars.” You don’t want background on him. He has a presence. Part of what’s fun about making a graphic novel, we have a chance to see some informative, earlier moments in his life. Things he does in the movie are put in a slightly different context. If you read the graphic novel before you see the movie, I think you’ll understand things about the Pentecost character that the casual viewer won’t necessarily get. The movie is in a different world. It gives what it needs to give you in order to make the story work. With characters like Pentecost, the graphic novel provides a lot of answers.
BD: Tell me about the challenges of adapting characters from a screenplay into the comic book medium.
TB: It’s funny. That wasn’t so much of a challenge. I’ve been living with them for so long since 2007. I have been living with these people, with their voices for so long. It’s just a matter of taking them one medium to the next. They’re still the same people. The biggest challenge was that they’re two visual mediums essentially. The experience of watching a movie and reading a graphic novel are vastly different. As terms as writers, you have to structure the story very differently. You have to think about space, time, and transitions very differently. You’re not watching a movie three hours straight. You’re picking it up as they run. You have to be, as a writer, very conscious. I like to think I got the hang of it.
BD: Was research essential while writing the comic book script?
TB: I did read a lot of other comic book scripts. I read scripts by Matt Wagner and Warren Ellis. They all have extremely different voices. It took awhile for me to realize this format was much more freer than screenwriting. For screenwriting, when you’re writing, you’re talking to hundreds, hundreds of people who might be interpreting what you’re saying. When you’re writing a comic book, you’re really only talking to the artist. That leaves a lot of freedom in deciding what the format is and what your voice is going to sound like. That was a lot of the format research.
For the world itself, a lot of it comes from the research that we did in preparation of the movie. We were putting this world together as we were developing the movie. By the time we were thinking about doing the graphic novel, it was just a matter of finding the opportunity for stories to tell that were in already in the research and in the world-building we had already done.
The movie takes place ten years after the first Kaiju attack. We come into it, for the most part, as if we’ve had Jaegers for a little while. The graphic novel takes place at the other end of that timeline. We’re seeing the first Kaiju attack, the first Jaeger, and the Jaeger Academy. We’re seeing how our world becomes the world in the movie.
BD: Tell me about communicating with the artists, Sean Chen, Yvel Guichet, and Pericles Junior, about how you wanted the monsters and robots to look like.
TB: It was a great conference. They had a lot of reference images to take from the movie. They’re a few Jaegers, a few Kaijus in the graphic novel that aren’t in the movie. For most part, they’re taken from the designs that we didn’t use in the movie. Designing the monsters for the movie, it was kinda of a free-for-all. Guillermo had a lot of designers and artists coming up with monsters, throwing ideas out there. At the end of the day, you basically had a pile of designs. You had to decide which would be used in the movie. The ones that were left, we actually used them in the graphic novel. They look very different, but they sort of look like they share a common ancestry and come from the same place.
BD: When writing the comic, was it easier to find the voices, the dialogue of the characters because the actors were already set?
TB: Yeah! I think that was definitely there. They interpret the characters very well. They bring a lot of personality to their characters. On the other side, I was really surprised at how well they did. A lot of screenwriters write certain characters, certain parts with actors in mind. I don’t really tend to do that. I describe them as specifically as I can, but I don’t really picture anyone in particular. Having not pictured anyone when I was writing the screenplay, I was actually surprised and impressed how well they internalized the images, the voices of the characters I had in my head.
BD: What were your first impressions with the cover art by famed artist Alex Ross?
TB: I was very flattered, very honored, and very intimidated. I was blown away when I heard he was doing the cover. It really reminded me of his work in Marvel. You have that bystander eye-view of something really incredible happening in the background. He captures that extraordinarily well. I wish I had it hanging on my wall.
BD: What was it like to collaborate with Guillermo Del Toro?
TB: I think it’s fantastic. He’s an incredible force of nature. He’s not intimidating about it either. He’s very generous and very creative. He’s very enthusiastic about this thing. We come from the same background and interest. That is always really fun when you get to work with a director you understand and uses references you can identify with. It’s a really rewarding experience. You know everyone is working towards the same movie and the same end.
BD: What are your expectations with the audience when they see “Pacific Rim” in July, especially in 3D?
TB: I hope they like it! I’m excited to see it with a real audience. I’ve seen it like four times now, generally with people who’re involved in the movie. I’m really excited to see it with a crowd of real people. That’s part of what I remember about seeing the movies that influenced me, the experience of watching them with a crowd and how they react to something. I can only say I’m very confident of it and very proud of it. I’m not sure I would change anything about it. I love it so much!
BD: What are you working on now?
TB: Right now, we’re definitely talking about “Pacific Rim 2.” They’re very serious discussions that we’re having. Additionally, I’ve got a sci-fi television show I’m developing with AMC called “Ballistic City.”
The graphic novel adaptation, “Pacific Rim: Tales from Year Zero,” hits stores on June 5, 2013.
Pacific Rim will hit movie theaters on July 12, 2013.