NYCC 2022: Exploring The `Star Trek’ Mirror Universe With Artist JK Woodward

by Tom Smithyman

During a panel discussion at New York Comic Con 2022, IDW Star Trek Editor Heather Antos announced a new Star Trek: The Next Generation – Mirror Universe Collection omnibus that collects three recent story arcs: Mirror Broken, Through the Mirror, and Terra Incognita. Artist KJ Woodward drew several covers and interior pages for the series and sat down during the con to discuss his love of the mirror universe and why Data actor Brent Spiner is so grateful to him.

Tom Smithyman: You’ve done a lot of Star Trek and mirror universe covers and interiors now. Do you prefer the mirror universe over the regular one?

JK Woodward: Most of the time, absolutely. You can tell I have a lot of fun with that. I designed these characters for a style guide for CBS before it was ever even a comic book. I designed them that way because I always wanted to do superheroes. So I just made Star Trek into superheroes – superhero builds. That’s why they’re all kind of buff.

There’s two ways you can go with a mirror universe design: You can lean into the fascism and the Nazism, which Star Trek: Discovery did, or you can go sleeveless! They’re half-pirate, half-Nazi. So I leaned more into the pirate so we could have fun with it, just assuming someone is going to come along and do the Nazi thing later. It’s a comic book. Let’s have fun.

Smithyman: Why do you think people get so excited about the mirror universe?

Woodward: I’ve been asking myself that question. I know why I love it, and I assume it’s the same thing. I enjoy having the familiar turned upside down. I enjoy saying, `You can’t do that with Picard, but yes we can, because it’s the mirror universe.’ Once you do that with a character, I’m done! I’m good with having my fun with the character, then I get bored.

I think what we did that we enjoyed so much was bringing in these obscure characters – these admirals that you saw in one episode. And the reason that we were doing that was because we have fun turning the characters on their head. I think that’s what people are responding to when they buy the book. I hope I’m right. (Laughs)

Smithyman: You really had an opportunity to exploit a missed opportunity in Star Trek. The mirror universe was introduced in the original series episode Mirror, Mirror then picked up again in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine several times. But It skipped Star Trek: The Next Generation altogether.

Woodward: I feel like it was mean to be one and done on the original series. They didn’t know that Star Trek was going to exist past this one series at that point, so they certainly didn’t know the mirror universe was going to become a thing. And it wouldn’t have unless Deep Space Nine wouldn’t have done that very special episode. And because they did that, that’s the reason we’re asking ourselves why The Next Generation didn’t do it.

That’s what led me to do what I did. Because after Deep Space Nine did it, of course Enterprise did it, and there’s going to be a mirror universe in everything from now on. It just skipped that one generation – pardon the pun.

Smithyman: But that ended up being a boon for you. It enabled you to redesign the characters we know and love.

Woodward: Yeah. I should mention that Voyager never had a mirror episode. But both Nex Gen and Voyager had a mirror-like episode. In Voyager, the Doctor’s program gets picked up 800 years later, and they got the history all wrong. And, of course, Yesterday’s Enterprise was a mirror-like episode – and one of my favorites.

Smithyman: You mentioned that you originally designed the mirror universe characters for CBS. Was that on spec? What led that?

Woodward: I had done a lot of work, off an on, for CBS. I do the comics, so it makes sense that the same people who have to approve the comics see my art. And when they want something, they’ll come and get me for it.

I got a call from CBS and they said, `We’re doing a style guide. It’s for the mirror universe and we don’t have any Next Generation stuff. We could use you.’ And I was like, “You got it!” I went up to the offices and went to work. We had many meetings. We also worked with a design firm from New York, and we were going back and forth with them.

There was an action figure on the table. There was a modded out Captain Picard 12-inch. They ripped the sleeves off and drew a little beard on it and put a little phoenix sash on the side. And I was like, `That’s probably going to be our Picard.’

Smithyman: Have you gotten feedback from any of the Next Generation actors about the mirror universe characters you created?

Woodward: Actually, I was at a convention in Edmonton, and Brent Spiner was there. And I met these guys before on the Star Trek cruise. We shared a green room. He made it a point to come over because people were giving him the comic to sign all day. He wanted to come over to meet the guy who gave him such wonderful muscles.

He came over, and he started telling me the story. `My trainer is about to kill himself. He’s been working on me, and I just can’t grow muscle. I can’t grow muscle!’ So he was really grateful to see, at least somewhere in the universe, Brent Spiner has muscles.

Smithyman: What’s next for you?

Woodward: Right now, I’m doing mostly covers for Star Trek. I’ll always be doing covers for Star Trek. I’m doing a little less of it right now, because I’m doing just the covers. I did the cover for Star Trek #2. And if you were at the IDW Star Trek panel, you heard me ask Heather if I was going to be doing covers for the new Star Trek: Defiant series. And she said yes. In public. So I think I’ll be doing that.

Other than that, I’m doing my own intellectual property, finally. If you’ve looked at my Star Trek, you can tell that I’ve always had kind of a horror tint to it. I like doing horror. So I’m doing a book called Behemoth. Issue #1 is already out. Issue #2 is coming out next month, so it’s out there. It’s sort of a body horror tale. It’s about this teenage girl who is changing. She’s basically turning into a monster, and she finds herself snatched up by the government. And now she’s trapped in a camp, and she is being trained in something called `Project Behemoth,’ where we get the name. So it’s a sort of military/body horror story. And I’m having the time of my life with it.

Smithyman: Who is publishing it?

Woodward: I’m doing it through Black Caravan, which is a division of Scout Comics.

I also have some books coming out – more horror stuff – Shakespeare Unleashed is one of them. It’s the Shakespeare universe. It’s all the characters we know from Shakespeare, but they’re all horror stories. For instance, we have a zombie Romeo and Juliet story. The story after they story. They come back from the dead and eat flesh.

We’re also doing a 50th anniversary of Kolchak: The Night Stalker. I started my career doing Fallen Angel with Peter David. So me and Peter David are working together again, and we did a 12-page Kolchak story for this anthology. And I did an 18-page story right after that, which is also for the Kolchak book that I just finished. And that should be coming out in about four or five months.

Smithyman: Peter David has got to be the perfect writer for a Kolchak story, right?

Woodward: Well, Kolchak, Star Trek or Doctor Who, because he a fan of all of it.

Smithyman: OK, I’m going to put you on the spot. What is your favorite character in the mirror universe?

Woodward: Oooohhh! I’m going to have to say Data, and not just because I created him. We call him Lego Data because he just keeps taking part off of himself and putting Borg parts on him. I think I like him the best because he’s so much fun to draw, because he looks different in every panel. I don’t have to worry about consistency. I can just go to town. Data doesn’t have arms in this one, he’s a robot! He has an eye patch in this one, or he doesn’t. He’s always in his workshop building parts for himself. That’s a lot of fun!

Smithyman: Thanks very much for the time. Best of luck with the covers and the new stories you’re working on.

 

 

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