Exclusive: Writer Travis Beacham on Comics, 'Pacific Rim' - and a Sequel



pacific rimWe are still nearly a month away from Pacific Rim’s release in theaters on July 12th. The giant robots versus giant monsters movie directed by Guillermo del Toro is sure to be the biggest genre film of the summer. If you are impatient like me, you can pick up the new graphic novel, Pacific Rim: Tales from Year Zero. Travis Beacham wrote the graphic novel in addition to the screenplay, and he tells us about why Tales from Year Zero won’t be a spoiler to the movie.

How did you go about adapting the idea of Pacific Rim into a graphic novel? Because the graphic novel is not just a tie-in with the film, but a new story.

I had the story idea back in 2007 and kind of sat on it for awhile, to let it come together until I felt equipped to talk about it to other people. I think it was around 2011 when Legendary picked it up, and Guillermo very quickly came on board. It started to come together as a movie at that point.

Was the graphic novel always part of the Pacific Rim plan?

There was always this idea that we would do a graphic novel, because Legendary has their comics imprint. It came about in a weird way, or at least the story did. The movie that we were doing takes place in a world much bigger [than the movie]. In order to make it feel organic and alive and realistic, you have to imagine all the details and history of that world, even the stuff you might not eventually use. So we ended up with a lot of supplemental material and a lot of backstory and a lot of history. The movie takes place about a decade after the first kaiju attack. So that is the world we come in to. When we got to talking about a graphic novel, I think we all thought that, instead of doing a straight-up adaptation of the movie, it would be fun to utilize a lot of this supplemental material, to create something that would add to the experience of the movie. It fills in some of the history that the movie doesn’t necessarily go into. 

So it’s a prequel to the movie. In the graphic novel, we see the first kaiju, we see the first jaeger, and we meet a few of the characters early on in their careers and see some of the formative moments that made them who they are. We also meet some new characters who, in their own way, are very important to the mythology.

pacific rimFrequently screenwriters are done with a movie the moment they type “The End.” How involved were you?

It has come together in a way that nothing I have ever worked on has. Usually you turn in your first draft of something and you cross your fingers, then however many years later you see the trailer. With this, I was fortunate that Guillermo trusted me and the producers trusted me, and they kept me in the loop as much as they possibly could. So I got to see it come together and I got to be involved. I was on set - not constantly, but I made appearances. There is so much choreography with a film like this: the sets, the action scenes, especially when you are in the cockpit of the jaegers... there is not a lot of writing on the fly, apart from improvisational exercises that the writer and director play around with. I think Guillermo might be more comfortable with that than having writers actually dictate the pages.

Are you a big fan of monsters?

Oh yeah. I’ve always loved giant monsters and giant robots. I used to watch Voltron when I was a kid; I burned out my tapes of Godzilla. I was really, really nuts about that stuff. I think when I got to be a screenwriter and I started thinking about what movies I wanted to see, it was a modern version of that subgenre.

I think this applies to the comic and the movie: You know the robots are going to be fun to write, and you know the monsters are going to be fun to write, but you don’t necessarily know if you have a story at all unless the stuff in between is fun to write; that the characters and the problems are interesting; that you feel something for them. The movie, much to my delight, as well as the comic, have all the monster and robot action that I have come to love, but also has the character depths that I had hoped they would have. There is no reason why a character can’t be interesting.

Will the art style we see in the comic “match” what we see on the screen?

Yeah. The artists had a lot of reference material to go from, but they also brought their own visual style to it. We have five pencilers who each have their own unique style that they bring to the story. The design aesthetic, as far as what the jaegers and what the kaiju look like is very connected to the design process of the movie. We actually used unused designs from the movie in the comic. So if you see a jaeger or a kaiju in the comic, it is likely that it came from the movie design team. There really is a unity of purpose between the two, and the story and the look weave together because the creative teams behind each were basically the same people.

Is the graphic novel just a one-off, or is there a plan to serialize it?

I would do as many as people wanted to see! I loved playing around in this sandbox, and the world definitely has the potential to have more stories come to life. I would definitely not rule out further exploits in any medium, really.

“Any medium?” Are you guys already working on a sequel to the movie?

Oh yeah! That’s definitely something we are talking about. It is a world that we are constantly imagining stories taking place in. That is what is really interesting to me.