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TWG Interview
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Michael Sweeney, Jon Markiewitz
An Animated Interview with Jon Markiewitz
Jon Markiewitz: First and foremost, I want to thank the Trek Writer’s Guild for the opportunity to speak about Star Trek: The Animated Voyages. Your support of my work is much appreciated!

TWG: What prompted you to start the story telling for Animated Voyages (TAV)?
Jon Markiewitz: I’ve always liked the animated Star Trek series, so after re-watching it on DVD, I wanted to produce a comic continuing the missions of Kirk and crew. Originally that was the plan, but once I had the idea of bringing lesser-known characters to the forefront of new stories aboard a new ship, that’s all I wanted to do. I’ve always loved the idea of exploring the adventures of minor and guest characters in Star Trek, so producing that in the animated style was really appealing!

TWG: What inspirations and cues have you taken for your story telling?
JM: With so many hundreds of hours of Star Trek out there, the inspiration was not from what has been done before, but rather what hasn’t. Any creator’s goal is to make something unique. Star Trek has covered so much already, but those stories can lead to a new idea that’s totally unique by sparking the imagination, something Star Trek does quite well!

TWG: What tools do you use in your creative process?
JM: I have a favorite computer program (that most would rightfully call very out-dated) that I still use for most everything I produce digitally. It doesn’t compare to newer programs of today in terms of automation and features, but using it is like understanding a form of shorthand. So much of the work is done without the use of advanced design tools, so what you see in the paneling and graphic design of The Animated Voyages is so much “by hand” (digitally, of course) without using those advanced features. Sometimes with artistic work, when using limited resources, we create things even more imaginative because we’re forced to think “outside the box” a little bit more.

TWG: Do you have a particular story style you like to stick with, or explore different styles?
JM: I wanted The Animated Voyages to match what viewers have liked about Star Trek in terms of overall look and feel, so that was definitely present in the work. But telling these stories as comics also meant that new styles had to be approached as well. I think that blending episodic storytelling with comic paneling, especially for the serialized nature of TAV, created a unique style in and of itself.

TWG: Which is your favorite Star Trek series and why?
JM: Of them all, Deep Space Nine remains my favorite. I was a fan of the series right from the start. The serialized nature of the show was so gripping, the characters’ individual stories were explored so well, and as a family man myself, I can relate to the concept of parenthood they wrote into many of the episodes.

TWG: Captains aside, do you have favorite canon characters?
JM: William T. Riker is one of my all-time favorite characters. He’s loyal, confident, and let’s be honest, knows how to have fun on Risa. Although, I’m sure Deanna has something to say about that now! I once met Jonathan Frakes, and he was just as nice, gracious, and entertaining as you’d hope! My wife and son were with me, and Mr. Frakes was so kind to us. He had a great time making my son smile and laugh, and even sang to him! It was a great memory and makes his character of Riker even that much more a favorite.

TWG: Do you have any fan fiction authors you admire or read?
JM: Over many years I’ve gotten to know (usually online), and become a fan of, many creators and producers of different genres of fan-related work. There are too many to name out of fear of forgetting to mention someone, so what I can talk about is the common trait so many of them share, which is devotion. It takes a devoted passion to spend one’s free time, without compensation, to produce quality work, and that’s admirable! But it’s also fun, and something else I admire about fan fiction authors is the enjoyment they have contributing their stories in a multitude of creative ways.

TWG: When did you start story telling in general?
JM: I’ve been a storyteller all my life, usually writing science fiction. Some of my favorite memories from when I was a kid include drawing Star Trek comics and presenting them to my best audience, my parents. I’d mostly draw ones from The Next Generation, which progressed to drawing comics of my own sci-fi series from time to time. It’s great that Star Trek: The Animated Voyages has received such great attention from fans. This series is really an extension of all those great memories drawing comics for my parents, but this time for a much larger audience!

TWG: What draws you to Star Trek as a universe?
JM: As Picard said, “We work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity.” That sums it up. The Star Trek Universe teaches us about the strengths of Humanity today through the lens of tomorrow.

TWG: What steps do you take from story idea to publishing on the web? Do you write out your story points on index cards, bullet points or story boards?
JM: For The Animated Voyages, I’ve used a lot of different methods for preproduction, whether it’s outlining or drawing sequences. What worked best was revising during the paneling of the comics, often going back to rewrite dialogue or alter graphics prior to publication. Any storyteller knows how concepts change and evolve over the course of any project, so editing in this way can maintain the integrity and continuity of the work. I’ve found that no matter how completely I outline a story, it’s bound to change somewhere in production, so it’s best to be flexible and willing to take a new direction when needed.

TWG: What advice would you give to someone with an idea for a story, but no clear steps to work out the rest?
JM: Seek out those on web forums who have the skills to help you produce your story. There are so many people out there with similar passions who can be the pieces of the puzzle you need to create the overall image you’re going for. If you don’t need collaboration on your project, and the issue is finding direction, then it’s time to study! Read comics, novels, watch television and movies, and more. See what works. Get the rhythm of the work, the cadence. Understand how to match rising and falling action in your plot, and most importantly, be a fan of what you produce. Don’t let it become a burden or obligation, or else that negativity will show to an audience.

TWG: Do you work on commission? If someone provided a script would you collaborate on the publication?
JM: Anything fan-related, of course, can’t involve any monetary gain. If it’s just to collaborate, not in a monetary sense, if I have the time available and I believe in the project being discussed, I’d strongly consider it. But usually there are so many of my own projects that go unproduced because of other obligations or time restrictions! However, my experience also includes work in writing and producing radio and television commercials and other forms of media. In those instances as well, I always consider collaborations when it benefits the project.

TWG: Do you have lots of ideas you work out at the same time or just focus on one through to the end?
JM: I’ll typically have the “A” storyline ready to go, but then the “B” and sometimes “C” storylines go into the mix during production if they’re not already outlined. This is part of the fun for me as a writer. If I have everything planned out so strictly, the joy of creating the story is lost. I love experiencing the story as I write, going on the journey with my characters! That’s how I like to write, being an audience member at the same time I’m creating it.

TWG: Did you celebrate or do anything special for the Star Trek 50th?
JM: The biggest thing was that the concluding issue of The Animated Voyages was released in 2016, a nice love-letter to the franchise celebrating the 50th. As a Star Trek fan all of my life, not only was creating this series a lot of fun, but it was also a great way to show my fandom and offer my contribution to the Star Trek Universe.

TWG: Do you find writing for graphic art easier than prose or more challenging?
JM: I can’t say it was easier or more difficult, but I can say it was a lot more fun writing for graphic art than most other productions I’ve done. Creating the visuals, and matching that graphic art with the writing of the story through comic panels, was a great experience. As a visual-learner, “seeing” the story as I wrote beamed me into that universe with every page!



TWG: If you had to pick one episode or movie from all of Star Trek to introduce someone who had no idea what it was about, which would you pick? What elements of the story illustrate what you like about Star Trek?
JM: If I could choose only one, I would show someone The Original Series’ “The City on the Edge of Forever.” To the new viewer it would establish Star Trek as entertaining and intelligent science fiction. The episode would demonstrate the elements of higher purpose, love and loss, and friendship, and that sometimes the right thing to do isn’t always the easiest choice.

TWG: The Animated Voyages is set about the same time as The Animated Series. Was adopting a similar drawn style easy or challenging?
JM: With “Perils of Waves and War” (the pilot issue) set at the same time of The Animated Series’ last episode, I wanted the look and feel of The Animated Voyages to match what so many fans enjoyed about the show, to fit seamlessly with the animated look we already know. To make TAV unique, the vast majority of the graphics throughout my series are completely new or intricate composites, not merely screen caps. There are a lot of panels that appear direct from the animated show when actually they’re newly-created. To then match the visual style, they’d involve application of blurring or sharpening, color, contrast, and many other attributes and techniques to achieve the desired, cool “retro look.”

TWG: Have you considered other periods for graphic art stories?
JM: Definitely! If I dive back into the Star Trek Universe in this fashion, I have some concepts I’d love to explore. With the amount of time it takes to produce quality work, the challenge would be which one of those concepts to explore first. Right now there aren’t any immediate plans, but I’m always thinking about new stories in this genre.

TWG: With new Star Trek TV in slow motion and movie in limbo, what would you like to see from the fan community to fill the gap?
JM: The continuation of quality fan-work, a long tradition of viewers who want to make a contribution to the genre, is certainly something that is great to see. So many of us want to play in that sandbox, and fan productions can allow for that. The most important thing I’d like to see in any fan work is the continuation of Star Trek’s individualism, that which separates it from other work in its uniqueness and what it brings to the world today.

TWG: What do you have planned next?
JM: There are always lots of projects on the horizon! As a teacher, as well as a writer, actor, and artist, and most importantly a husband and father, I have a lot of roles I play in my life. We’ll see where I warp to next at full speed ahead, and I hope you’ll all be along for the ride. Thank you to all the fans of Star Trek: The Animated Voyages for your support, and I hope this interview offered a little more insight into its development! For more information about past and current work of mine, readers can visit www.jonmarkiewitz.com

Learn more about Jon Markiewitz and The Animated Voyages!
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Posted: 2017.03.25
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