Joining A Family Of Misfits: The Return Of Firefly With Greg Pak, Dan McDaid & Jeanine Schaefer

by Hannah Means Shannon
The much-anticipated first issue of Boom! Studios’ Firefly comic series arrives in shops today, on November 14th, and creates a place at the table for readers to sit down with a large cast of characters who, for many fans, are like family. Annoying, irascible, and at times fascinating family, but family nonetheless. As well as bringing readers into this family unit, the comic series also offers an opportunity to learn about the world of Firefly in ways that have never been seen before.
Written by Greg Pak (Mech Cadet Yu, Totally Awesome Hulk), illustrated by Dan McDaid (Judge Dredd: Mega City Zero), colored by Marcelo Costa, and lettered by Jim Campbell, the series strikes a bold pose with the first issue, running headlong into an introduction of characters as well as quickly setting up an explosive plot that will help elucidate our characters’ experiences during the War of Unification.
Boom! Studios Executive Editor Jeanine Schaefer, writer Greg Pak, and artist Dan McDaid all join us here on today to talk about their experiences bringing this new series to life.

Hannah Means-Shannon: The biggest encounters I’ve had with Firefly fandom have been through con culture and convention life, so I was wondering: what do you think fans are looking for right now in terms of Firefly comics, and how does this series fit in with that?
Dan McDaid: I have a feeling about what they are looking for. I think what they want is essentially a continuation of the show that they loved. And to spend time with these characters again. To me, though I’m not a Firefly superfan, it seems like the main elements of the show are a sense of belonging and family. There’s a weird coziness among these people who are kind of thrown together. And fans want to be a part of that and see themselves in that group in some way. What I think they are going to want to see is essentially more of the same. What we’re going to give them is more of the same, essentially, but has a few surprises. It isn’t just going to be fan-service, but it’ll be taking things into new territory while being faithful to the original characters. It will show them in a slightly new, and hopefully surprising, light.
Greg Pak: All that! I’d add that one of the nice places we’re at right now is that there’s no ongoing show right now, though we may wish there was. Which means that we’re not competing with anything else for great character moments or beats. All the good stuff is right here! We’re doing real stuff with these characters that has never been done before, with the support of Joss Whedon and his folks, which makes it a special opportunity to blaze a new trail and do some things that you’ll never see anywhere else.

HMS: Absolutely. If people are reading this comic, and have actually never encountered the world of Firefly before, which I imagine will happen if people are curious and pick up the comic, what do you think they will encounter that’s essential to the world of Firefly?
GP: I actually had a really nice little glimpse of this. I heard from a reader on Twitter who had read the preview. He said that he’d never seen the show, but that the preview “sucked him in” and he was “ready to go”. As with everything that I write, I’m trying to write so that people can pick it up from page 1 and fall in love, and not be lost. From that voting pool of one, I would seem to be succeeding.
You don’t really need to know anything going in. It’s all explained within the book. If you like sci-fi, if you like Westerns, if you’d like to see a fun genre story with a huge amount of heart, with a bunch of misfits and a found family, this book is for you.

HMS: I have read the first issue, so without getting spoilery, I’d like to say that I do think that it’s very clever how the first introduces the action of a very active story, as well as slowly introducing this wide cast of characters, in case no one has ever met them before.
GP: That was the biggest challenge, to make those first four pages really work.
Jeanine Schaefer: Greg and I talked a lot about this, making sure that this comic was accessible, interesting to existing fans, and also exciting to new fans. Greg is saying it was a challenge, and hopefully I’m not revealing to many of his secrets. I had asked Greg to send me an outline of what he was thinking, and he came back and said, “I accidentally wrote these first five pages”. And those five pages have been completely preserved in the first issue.
HMS: Wow! That’s amazing.
JS: I feel that he completely captured things, immediately. That speaks to Greg’s years of experience writing stories with generational characters. Being a caretaker of characters and understanding who they are is one of the reasons I came to Greg in the first place. With those first five pages, everyone who reads them thinks they are perfect. And they were fully formed right out of the gate.
DMcD: I think the first five pages are an info dump, but never feel like an info dump. They bring you right up to speed very quickly. All the characters get a little moment to shine, with catch-all beats that say, “This is what this character is about”. It’s so subtly done that you don’t even notice it.
GP: One of the things that made that easy is that these characters are just so well defined and built in relationship to each other in the original show. I felt like I was cheating almost, when I sat down to write those. All those dynamics are so rich and fun, and I just got to play with those existing toys. It’s been a blast. Dan’s killing it. This would be a very hard script to give to some folks, but I’m thrilled that Dan’s drawing it, since he gets every little emotional moment, capturing little bits of human. A lot of the character beats rely on little exchanges, little glances between characters. They are very simple on some level, but it’s a complicated how characters interact with each other, and Dan’s eating that up. It’s so exciting.
DMcD: As an artist, you kind of have to be an actor, I think. You end up kind of doing all the characters. I’m not necessarily saying that I’m at my drawing board doing all the faces. But in some ways, I am. I’m thinking of facial expressions, and what everyone is feeling. Hopefully that comes across as performance.

HMS: Yes, there’s a tremendous amount of acting and body language for each of the characters that’s distinct from each other. I just assumed this must be quite challenging for you. The tone of the show is also something that’s beloved by fans, the sound and the texture of it. I’m assuming that in the writing that poses some challenges, but also in the artwork. Because that’s what people who are familiar with the series are going to be most aware of. They will be looking for a texture and tone that is familiar to them.
DMcD: Yes.
GP: I think a lot of credit goes to Jeanine here because she went out and found folks who were going to just “get it”. With every project, there’s a certain amount of work you have to do, but it’s like casting an actor in a movie, when an actor just really gets a character. Actors have to work and do their research, but you’re so much ahead of the game if you get a crew on board who just “gets it” to begin with. I think that quirky mix of characters talking too much, and the humor in the midst of crisis, and this rivalry and conflict between characters that’s real, but not mean-spirited—all of that. Having a creative team that instinctively feels all that has helped.

HMS: So, Greg, you didn’t feel that coming up with the language of the comic, or the jokes, was difficult in trying to stay consistent with the show? Were you watching the DVDs on repeat?
GP: I think I was at an advantage, though it’s a weird advantage—I didn’t actually watch the show when it was coming out. I saw the movie and liked it a lot, but I have never actually watched the show. When Jeanine approached me, I sat down and watched the whole thing within a couple of days. And then I wrote that first scene 3 or 4 days afterwards. The voices were all so fresh in my head. It felt pretty natural.
DMcD: The characters are so vividly drawn in the show that they imprint on your mind really quickly. You don’t even need to see every single episode, or know them all chapter and verse, to know how they are going to react in certain situations, or what their body language will be. They come across and are drawn so vividly to begin with.
HMS: My last question is for Dan: Was it challenging to have to be so versatile an artist on this series—one moment drawing spaceships and technologu, and the next moment drawing horses and deserts?
DMcD: I’ve been thinking about this quite a lot, and I think to be honest, if you ask almost any comic artist, they’ll feel the same. If you go up to a comic artist and say, “Go on, pitch any idea”, almost all of them will reach into their back pocket, and pull out either a supernatural Western or a sci-fi Western.
It’s true! It’s a really nice combination of a bleak environment, and you get to draw spaceships, and you get to draw ray guns. You get to draw all the cool things that, as a child, you loved. It’s easy. It’s a blast. The combination, to me, is so natural and obvious. It’s fun. I love the tension between the rustic, horse and cart aesthetic of any given planet that they are on, and then the high-flying starship adventure in the sky. It’s such a cool combination.
JS: I just want to say—sorry about all the horses!
HMS: Yes, most artists don’t want to draw horses.
DMcD: I’ve drawn a lot of horses’ behinds, a lot of horses’ asses. I don’t know why that is. You can blame Greg for this. The scripts call for a lot of shots of the rear of a horse!

Big thanks to Jeanine, Greg, and Dan for taking part in this interview with!
Firefly #1 lands in shops today, Wednesday the 14th of November 2018!
Also check out this preview of the first five pages of issue #1 referenced above:


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