|BOB GALE, JOHN BARBER, & ERIK BURNHAM GO BACK TO THE FUTURE
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DF Interview: Bob Gale, John Barber and Erik Burnham take us Back to the Future
By Byron Brewer
IDW is taking everyone Back to the Future again – including Marty McFly and the gang from the fondly-remembered 1980s film trilogy – in a new 4-issue miniseries publishing in October.
Under the guidance of franchise creator/movie screenwriter Bob Gale, writers John Barber and Erik Burnham will explore various untold stories and other alternate realities in and between the movies.
In the first tale of the debut issue, we head back to 1982 and witness the very first meeting between Marty McFly and Doc Brown. In the second chapter, we head back even farther to 1943 and see how Doc Brown got himself mixed up in the infamous Manhattan Project.
For more info, Dynamic Forces sat down with Gale, Barber and Burnham to ask the questions YOU readers wanted to ask. Here is what they said.
DYNAMIC FORCES: Bob, you were the creator, producer and screenwriter for Back to the Future. How does it feel to see that classic franchise come to comic book form, and can you tell me a little about how that came about?
BOB GALE: As you may know, there was a 1992 Harvey comics series based on the BTTF Animated Series (finally coming to DVD on October 20!), but it was nothing like what we're doing here. This is going to be squarely in the Universe of the trilogy, so it's exciting to explore elements of the characters and the story that Bob Zemeckis and I had thought about, but didn't fit into the actual films.
As far as how it came to be, IDW approached Universal, Universal came to me and asked if I'd be interested. Well, heck, I've been reading comics since I was 7 years old, of course I was interested! So I had a phone call and some correspondence with Tom Waltz and Chris Ryall, and we came to the conclusion that “Untold Tales and Alternate Timelines” would be the right way to do this. Tom thought two stories per issue, at least for #1-4, was a good approach, and it seems very viable. I like it because we're being up front with the readers – we're clearly not doing some “epic” or an ersatz BTTF-4 – we're exploring some interesting aspects of the trilogy and the characters everyone loves.
DF: Bob, what will be your role in the story/writing process?
BG: I intend to be the pain-in-the-ass old guy who makes everyone crazy! Actually, I've already come up with a whole bunch of story ideas to explore, and I want to let John and Erik play in the BTTF sandbox with those toys, and provide just enough supervision that they don't break anything or put anybody's eyes out. Everything has to pass muster with me, so I feel like I did when I was Executive Producer of the animated series: I have very talented collaborators to whom I'll give guidance. I expect we’ll have frequent phone calls to kick things around, because I'm a believer in that sort of give and take. Zemeckis and I did that when we wrote the movies, and back when I was involved with Spider-Man, we had these very productive “writers' room” summits.
DF: John and Erik, how does it feel to work with not only such an iconic franchise as Back to the Future but with the gentleman that created it?
ERIK BURNHAM: It feels fantastic! BTTF is the kind of toybox I love to play with – full of possibilities. And Bob is a generous collaborator, encouraging us to have fun with this world. Not everyone is so open to that! So yeah, putting it mildly, it’s been a blast so far.
JOHN BARBER: It was amazing, getting that first outline from Bob and seeing/hearing the characters speaking again. Here was Bob Gale, who wrote these lines that have become part of the iconography of America, of the world — here he is writing Marty and Doc again. It was really special, and a little intimidating, to get to be a part of that.
DF: You have probably said already, but let’s put it out there anyway: Will these be new stories or adaptations of the movies trilogy?
EB: We bring you new content -- bunches of questions asked by the trilogy that we get to answer! For example: how did Doc and Marty meet? Bob and John (along with Brent Schoonover) will show you! This is the kind of stuff I love to see as a fan. New stuff that expands on what you know in the best of ways.
BG: I see no need to do a comics adaptation of the movies, because we can just watch the movies for that experience. So this will be supplemental material, and us riffing on elements from the films.
DF: John and Erik, can you talk a little about your collaborating process, both with Bob and with each other.
EB: It started with Bob throwing together a laundry list of ideas he had for the series, things that might be worth exploring. (It was a GREAT list, full of some intriguing possibilities!) From there we picked a few that we liked – encouraged by Bob to go for what appealed to us most. We also had a quick conference call (with editor Tom Waltz) to bounce around where we’d like to go with issue #2 and beyond. Issue #1 was mapped out by Bob – I stuck fairly close to his notes on that, so that was a pretty true collaboration. I haven’t put my head together with John yet, but there are still three issues to go…
JB: Yeah, we’re still working it out, I guess, but for my story in issue one, Bob had an outline for the issue—the first half was really detailed, the end a little looser. We talked on the phone, and came up with a sort of wraparound device, where we see Doc in the 1800s working on rebuilding the flux capacitor, and we integrated that into the outline and I turned it into a script.
Bob had written a lot of dialog in some places; some staging in others; and I sort of fleshed it out, sent it to Tom and Erik and Bob, and Bob came back and rewrote parts, and we got it to somewhere really good. I think every step got us a better script—and Brent is going to kill it on the art. There’s definitely some parts in there where he’s got a whole lot of crazy stuff to do.
DF: So we will be seeing a furthering of the canon here, questions that were never answered in the films?
EB: Like I said above, that’s the name of the game! My only problem was option paralysis with the ideas Bob presented! What to pick, what to pick…
BG: There's that word again, “canon.” The thing is, BTTF posits alternate timelines with alternate realities. So that means EVERYTHING is canon – everything happened, and then it was erased from existence! But yes, we'll explore those questions, absolutely. However, the real point of the series is another word: entertainment! We want the spirit of the movies to be reflected in the comics.
DF: How do you guys feel about the revolving slate of artists that will be working with you? I believe #1 is to feature the works of Batman ’66 artist Brent Schoonover as well as Ghostbusters penciler Dan Schoening?
EB: I can’t speak for the others, but for my backups? The more the merrier! I’m excited to get to do some quick little stories with some great artists. Dan is one of my favorite collaborators, and I know at least one of the other artists I’ll be working with – though I don’t think I can speak their name yet. (And knowing Brent as well, John’s in good hands for the big debut!)
JB: I think it’s great. Brent is amazing, as you might have seen in the Ant-Man Annual he just did. I’m really excited to get to work with him. My issue 2 collaborator is Marcelo Ferreira, who I worked with on Angry Birds/Transformers which, seriously, is really good. Marcelo is crazy-versatile, and can move between drama and comedy with an extremely light touch. Which is exactly the right skill to have for Back to the Future.
BG: What they said!
DF: Can you tell us any of the storylines going forward … in a non-spoilery manner, of course. (smiles)
JB: It’s all stories tied to the original trilogy—things you asked yourselves in the theatre or in front of the TV—stuff that adds to the mythos without breaking the crazy-tight continuity of the films.
EB: I’ve pitched one idea that wasn’t in Bob’s list. All I’ll say is it features a character that is not Doc or Marty being shown something amazing and not giving a rip. If it clears all hurdles, it might be my favorite story. I also have at least one time travel story in the cards for the backups, and a fun story of Doc cataloging some of his other inventions. I hope everyone has as much fun with these stories as I am!
BG: I'll quote Doc Brown: “You never know what the future may bring!”
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Bob Gale, John Barber and Erik Burnham for taking time out of their busy schedules to answer our questions. Back to the Future #1 hits stores October 21st!
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Get your Dynamic Forces EXCLUSIVE Back to the Future here:
BACK TO THE FUTURE #1 DF EXCLUSIVE BY KEN HAESER
BACK TO THE FUTURE #1 DF EXCLUSIVE SIGNED BY KEN HAESER
BACK TO THE FUTURE #1 DF EXCLUSIVE SIGNED & REMARKED BY KEN HAESER
BACK TO THE FUTURE #1 ARTIST'S EDITION BLANK VARIANT SIGNED & REMARKED WITH A MARTY MCFLY SKETCH BY KEN HAESER
BACK TO THE FUTURE #1 ARTIST'S EDITION BLANK VARIANT SIGNED & REMARKED WITH A DOC BROWN SKETCH BY KEN HAESER
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