Back in September, Pacific Rim fans learned the disappointing news that Pacific Rim 2 has been delayed, pushed out of its planned August 4, 2017 release to an undetermined time frame, to give director Guillermo del Toro and writer Travis Beacham more time to perfect the story. Thankfully, fans can get a new glimpse inside this fascinating universe right now. Long before this delay happened, those filmmakers teamed up with writer Joshua Fialkov for a new comic book series entitled Pacific Rim: Tales From the Drift, which is available now from Legendary Comics.
The comic follows the best-selling graphic novel Pacific Rim: Tales from Year Zero, taking fans back to the frontlines of a larger-than-life battleground, featuring all-new Kaiju creatures in this thrilling continuation of the Pacific Rim universe. The story is set in 2016, following a husband-and-wife Jaeger team, Duc and Kaori, weaving between their battle with a Kaiju, and how they first met. The first issue was released this week, the first in a four-part series with subsequent issues released each month.
Working from a story by Guillermo del Toro and writer Travis Beacham, Joshua Fialkov was tasked with writing this four-part comic. Not only does this talented writer have plenty of experience in the comic world (The Bunker, I, Vampire, Elk's Run), he also wrote The Crazies, a motion comic TV series based on the 2010 movie of the same name, and he currently serves on the writing staff of NBC's upcoming series Chicago Med, which debuts November 17. I recently had the chance to speak with Joshua Fialkov over the phone about the comic series, his thoughts on Pacific Rim 2, Chicago Med and much more. Here's what he had to say below.
I read the first issue of this, and I really liked it, but I haven't read the comic series that came before this. Can you talk about the process of coming in and continuing that story in this series?
Joshua Fialkov: This series is a new jumping-off point. You don't need to have read anything else, or even see the movie. If you did see the movie, there's all kinds of fun stuff for you that will hopefully tickle your funny bone. Funny bone is the wrong word, but it will tickle you. What happened is this is a story that Travis Beacham and Guillermo del Toro, the writer and director of the original film, had come up with. They brought me in to kind of help develop it and turn it into a series. It's cool because it's in the universe. It's part of the world of Pacific Rim, but, at the same time, I was given a lot of freedom to tell the story the way I wanted to tell the story. It's set in the years between the previous comic series, and before the movie. It's completely set up to be a stand alone thing. You can really just jump right in.
I had to look it up, but the first thing you see on the comic is K-Day. I saw that and thought, 'I should know that...' (Laughs).
Joshua Fialkov: (Laughs) Yeah, I had to do math. You do not want a writer to do math. So, K-Day is how many days after the arrival of the first Kaiju we faced. What you're getting in the story is you're getting a much earlier time than what we saw in the movie. It's a time where we had Jaegers, but we weren't quite kicking their asses yet. From the movie, we know they're going to win this war, eventually, but what we don't know, is how these two are going to fare. You get to really explore... one of my favorite genres is war stories. I love war stories. They're so powerful because they speak to something that I don't understand. Every story is the story of the worst day of someone's life, or the worst thing that could possibly happen. You're right smack dab in the middle of the worst thing that could possibly happen to anybody. Falling in the middle of a war is a nightmare for everyone, so having them in that and having our two characters, Duc and Kaori, who have been doing this and then find themselves completely out-classed. Who they are and their training kind of figures in to how they're going to survive. I think it's super-powerful. This book, more so than the movie... what you get out of comics is the ability to tell a story from a very personal place. This is very much a relationship story, the story of two people who are brought together and really, really hate each other, who, over time, not only find a way to co-exist, but they actually need each other to exist. They become completely symbiotic of each other. I think it's such a cool thing. In the movie, there isn't a lot of room for it to explore, so getting to explore that in comics form has been a real dream come true for me.
What I enjoyed about the structure of the story is you start with them at their worst part, and we go back and forth and see how they first met. Was that part of the plan early on, to show people what they're up against now, and then go back and show how it all started?
Joshua Fialkov: Yeah. For me, my beloved form of storytelling is telling hard-genre stories, told as elegantly or as delicately as possible. What I liked is there is an inherent problem in telling stories set both in the past and the present, which is, we know how it ended in the past. The peril is much lower, because we know how it ended. What the drift gives you in the comic book, and what the world of Pacific Rim allows us to do, is to tell those two stories, and have their stakes actually be tied to each other. So, as they're revisiting their past, them getting through their past and getting to where they need to be is part of the challenge of actually surviving, you know. You can tell a story that has a bit of a foregone conclusion, but it isn't a foregone conclusion because it has consequences. That part was the most exciting thing. I think there might have been a little bit of that, in what I was brought on to do, but that was really the part that I brought forward.
You said earlier that Travis Beacham and Guillermo del Toro had formed the story for this. How hands-on were they during the writing process while you were delivering these four issues?
Joshua Fialkov: You know, Travis gave us a pretty great document, and then Guillermo and I sat down for an hour and talked about the story and everything. Guillermo has been on board every step of the way, giving notes. What's incredible about Guillermo, because the guy is working on four million things at any one given time, he's so crazy busy, but he can talk to such explicit detail about the world of Pacific Rim. We would be talking and he would say, 'Oh, just so you know, they don't have touch screens yet. This year wasn't touch screens, that year was touch screens.' Holographic touch screens. He would literally be able to go into that level of detail, which is just insane. I work on way less stuff than he does, and it's hard for me to keep that much stuff straight. And then Legendary, as the keeper of the property, is very hands-on, but in the best way. They know the continuity. They have this gorgeous bible document... I know it doesn't sound exciting when you use the word "document" in a sentence, but let me tell you, this thing is unreal. It's the coolest thing. Then in the process of getting to work with them, you get to build something that feels so much a part of the universe, and it feels like an essential story. If you're a fan of the franchise, you're going to get a little more insight into how the technology works, into where some of the characters in the movie came from, you're going to see all of that stuff in the book.
There are four issues in this series, so going forward, are you going to keep going back and forth? Is their current encounter with this Kaiju the thread that moves this forward, and then you go back and explore different parts of their past? Is that how this is formatted?
Joshua Fialkov: I don't want to spoil it, but that idea, playing with how the past moves them forward, and how that keeps changing and altering, is, for me, one of my favorite surprises of the book. You get to see more and more of what happens to them, and how they survive, or, I don't know, don't survive. You get a better sense of, not just the world, but also their personal journey, and how they've become this symbiotic thing, how the two of them have combined to be a sum greater than their individual parts.
The concept of The Drift itself is one of the things that I was utterly fascinated about in the movie. I interviewed Heather Doerksen, she was one of the Jaeger pilots, and she was telling me all of this stuff that they had to go through for the drift. It was just amazing. I almost want to see a whole movie just about The Drift.
Joshua Fialkov: I'm 100% the same way, and that's sort of what the comic is. The comic really does explore... not just how it works, there is some of that to some degree, but what it's really about is what does it mean? Every story being told, to some degree, is about love, right? This story involving The Drift is truly about love, because you have to embrace your partner in a way that is sort of even our understanding of love. Your knowledge of who they are, your knowledge of what they want, every sin and every mistake and every desire, makes it so much stronger than what we consider love. At the same time, it's such a great analogy for what love really is. When you find that person that you want to spend the rest of your life with, the reason you find them is they are that thing. It's the person that completes you, and it's all about finding your other half, and that's what Pacific Rim is. The movie itself, structurally, is about these two brothers who have become a single entity, they've become a unit, and when one of them dies, the other one completely loses all purpose. It's a journey for him to find his purpose again, and he finds his purpose by finding who turns out to be his true partner. When you frame it like that, it sounds like this delightful independent dramedy, but the great part is it's wrapped in giant monsters and giant robots! It's the best of both worlds!
You've done some film and TV work along with comics. Do you like mixing it up between those two worlds? It must be a completely different set of muscles you have to use for both mediums.
Joshua Fialkov: I mean, it is and it isn't. My true passion in life is serialized storytelling, which sounds so weird. Literally, as a small child, you know everyone my age had one of those Fisher-Price tape recorders, when they were kids, right? What I would do on mine is, every day, I would come home from school, go into my room, and I'd hang a little sign on my door that said "Recording," and I'd do that afternoon's shows. I had a five-program block, that was like five minutes each, with commercials, and I would do shows. I would do today's episode of these five serialized shows. Then, the next day, I would come home from school and put up my little recording sign, and flip over the tape, and I would record the next five shows. Unfortunately, nobody told me that just flipping the tape did not preserve it. It was the same tape that was recorded over, literally, 300 times. It sounds silly, but I dream in serials. I dream in cliffhangers. My dream gets to whatever the crisis point is, and then I wake up. The next night I go to sleep and it's like, 'Previously...' I've worked in animation, I've worked in film, I've worked in TV, I've worked in video games. I love telling stories and I love talking to audiences, and any audience who is willing to listen to me, I will happily speak to.
Is there anything you're working on now, either comics or film or TV, that you can talk about?
Joshua Fialkov: Sure. I do a book called The Bunker at Oni Press. It's about a group of friends who find a military bunker that contains letters from their future selves, telling them they're going to cause the apocalypse. One by one, they each have to decide if they're going to throw away all of their hopes and dreams, in order to save the world, or, if they're going to be selfish pricks and doom us all. I'm going to give a spoiler, they're selfish pricks. Also at Oni Press, I do a book called The Life After, which is about a guy who wakes up in the afterlife for suicide. He does not remember committing suicide, doesn't know why he's there, goes on an epic adventure through the afterlife, through all the different planes of the afterlife, with Ernest Hemmingway. So the second volume of that coming out shortly. Bunker, there's three volumes of, and I just started a new book at Jet City Comics, which you can get at Comixology or Amazon or your local comic shop called King, which is a post-apocalyptic adventure book about the last man on Earth, in a world where literally every apocalypse has happened. Every worst thing has happened, and all the last man wants to do is get to work to get paid. It's a funny adventure book about the last man on Earth. I'm super, super proud of that. It's with Bernard Chang, who drew the Green Lantern Corps and did Batman Beyond, The Life After is with Gabo, who was nominated for a Russ Manning Award this year, and The Bunker is with Joe Infurnari. Those are the only three comics... that's the other thing, I stopped doing work-for-hire. I haven't done a work-for-hire comic book in almost a year now. Getting to work on Pacific Rim is the thing that I love enough that I will go work for someone else, to get to play with these totally awesome toys. It's a dream come true for me, because I'm just such a huge, huge mark for the franchise.
They haven't told you anything about Pacific Rim 2, have they?
Joshua Fialkov: They've told me little bits and pieces, of which I'm not allowed to speak. I know that Legendary and Guillermo and everybody I've worked with is super-committed to the franchise, and to growing it. Every conversation we have about the comic is about the future of Pacific Rim, and what we can do with it. My suspicion is, I don't know anything specific, but my suspicion is you will be seeing more Pacific Rim, in one form or another, very soon.
Is there anything in film or TV you're working on right now, aside from the comics?
Joshua Fialkov: I'm actually on staff of the NBC show Chicago Med, which premieres on November 17. It stars Oliver Platt and S. Epatha Merkerson. It's super-good. I'm very, very excited for it. It's fun having a day job that you love. I literally spend 18 hours a day working on stuff that I love. There is no better feeling. It's really, really nice.
They shoot all three of those shows (Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D. and Chicago Med) in Chicago, right, but are you on location?
Joshua Fialkov: Right. They're in Chicago, but I'm on the Universal backlot. Every morning I drive through Back to The Future, Hill Valley. Until I was horribly injured, I would jog every morning through Jurassic Park and I would jog through Jaws, Amity Island. It's super, super cool. I've got three creator-owned (comic) series, I've got a fourth creator-owned series I'm starting soon, and I got to work on Pacific Rim.
Since those are all set in the same world, is there a ton of crossover that happens between all three of those shows?
Joshua Fialkov: There is, there is, yeah. It's weird because I came from writing superheroes, to essentially writing a superhero universe, minus the superheroes. It's weird because you do crossovers, when cops bring someone in, it's cops from Chicago P.D., or its paramedics from Chicago Fire. It's neat because they all shoot on the same backlot in Chicago, and everyone is just there. It's that and Empire, which we do not cross over with, although I do recommend they do it. If they were smart, we'd be crossing over with Empire! Fox probably would complain. They probably would have a problem with that.
Is there anything you'd like to say to fans of the movie about why they should check out Pacific Rim: Tales From the Drift?
Joshua Fialkov: The reason I'm writing this comic, when they brought me in to meet with me about something, they didn't tell me what I was meeting with them for, I said, before we got started, 'Hey, just to let you know, if you guys ever do more Pacific Rim comics, I will happily write them for free. Then I signed an NDA, and asked me if I was still willing to work for free. I said 'I am, but I prefer to get paid,' but I literally am writing them because I love the movie and I love the world. I'm genuinely crazy about it, and getting a chance to play in that world, I think it comes through in the book. I hope people like reading it as much as I've enjoyed making it.
That's my time. Thank you so much.
Joshua Fialkov: Thanks, brother. Have a good one.
You can pick up the first issue of Joshua Fialkov's Pacific Rim: Tales From the Drift right now, with the forthcoming issues in this four-issue series being released each month. Be sure to stay tuned for more on Pacific Rim 2, and on any future comic books set in the ever-expansive Pacific Rim universe. Is there an aspect of this beloved movie that you would like to see explored in the sequel or another comic book series? Let us know what you think below.