‘Pacific Rim’ graphic novel: Travis Beacham on ‘formidable’ Del Toro

June 05, 2013 | 3:03 p.m.
pacific rim Pacific Rim graphic novel: Travis Beacham on formidable Del Toro

Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Becket and Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori in "Pacific Rim." (Warner Bros. Pictures)

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Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Becket and Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori in "Pacific Rim." (Warner Bros. Pictures)

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Idris Elba, left, as Stacker Pentecost and Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Becket in "Pacific Rim." (Warner Bros.)

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Idris Elba, left, Rob Kazinsky and director Guillermo del Toro on the set of "Pacific Rim." (Warner Bros.)

apphoto cinemacon 2013 warner brothers2 Pacific Rim graphic novel: Travis Beacham on formidable Del Toro

Guillermo del Toro, director of the upcoming film "Pacific Rim," at CinemaCon 2013 on April 16 in Las Vegas. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/Associated Press)

“Pacific Rim” opens in theaters July 12 with its tale of an invading alien species of kaiju and the massive Jaegers developed by man to save life on the planet from the beastly threat. For those looking for a comprehensive grounding in the universe of the film before it opens, a new prequel graphic novel has arrived.

“Produced” by the film’s director, Guillermo del Toro, and written by co-screenwriter Travis Beacham (“Clash of the Titans”), the “Pacific Rim” graphic novel features pencils by Sean Chen, Yvel Guichet , Chris Batista, Geoff Shaw and Pericles Junior; inks by Junior, Steve Bird, Matt Banning and Mark McKenna; and a painted cover by Alex Ross.

Beacham recently spoke to Hero Complex about the genesis of the Legendary comic tie-in, out Wednesday, its relationship to the film and working with Del Toro.

HC: The “Pacific Rim” graphic novel serves as a prequel to the upcoming movie. In what ways does it inform the story that moviegoers will see on screen?

TB: The movie takes place in a world that’s much bigger, and we had to flesh out the details of that world, in a sense, before we even got rolling on the movie, even on stuff that you don’t think you really need because it helps inform some of the action in the movie, and it really informs your confidence in breaking out the story. So, you end up with a lot of supplemental material and a lot of back story and in-world history and moments that we don’t really get to in the movie. So when we started talking about doing a graphic novel, rather than do a straight-up adaptation, we decided pretty early on that we’d have sort of an additive type of thing that complemented the experience of the movie. We’d do a prequel using the supplemental material and supplemental story matter that we’ve generated just as a matter of putting the world together. It flows together very nicely: You have the same creative team on the graphic novel as was on the movie, even the visual end of things. We have the pencilers and they bring a great deal of personality to the pages. Then as far as the design goes … When you see a kaiju or a Jaeger in the graphic novel that wasn’t in the movie, it was very likely designed by the same people who designed the kaiju and the Jaegers in the movie.  We used a lot of designs of the kaiju and the Jaegers in the graphic novel that don’t appear in the movie.

'Pacific Rim' graphic novel (Legendary Comics)

‘Pacific Rim’ graphic novel (Legendary Comics)

HC: You mentioned that there were some creatures or ideas featured in the graphic novel that didn’t make it to the film. Could you elaborate?

TB: I think in the graphic novel, we get to play a little bit with what it’s like to be connected to someone else’s mind. I think in the movie we have the functional and practical details of how the Jaegers look, but it doesn’t get too trippy. It is what it needs to be in the movie, but the graphic novel gives us more room to play around with it in the people’s heads. There’s a few places in the graphic novel that were fun to write and conceptualize. Visually, there’s one monster that I really liked that’s not in the movie that’s in the graphic novel, and his name’s Karloff. You’ll know him when you see him.

HC: What’s the most tangible connection between the movie and the graphic novel? A main character?

TB: I think Stacker Pentecost, Idris Elba’s character, is delved into more deeply than he is in the movie. I think in the movie he has kind of a mystique about him, a certain bearing and certain presence that’s necessary for the plot of the movie, but if you’re at all curious as to the back story of his career and what made him into who he is today, I think the graphic novel answers questions. Apart from that, we see other characters like Raleigh, Charlie Hunnam’s character, and Mako, Rinko Kikuchi’s character, at different points earlier in their timelines. The familiar character from the movie that has the most face time in the graphic novel, though, is Idris Elba’s character.

HC: Did you have much input in terms of choosing the artists for the graphic novel?

TB: We talked about it from the very beginning. Since the story was so episodic, and there’s natural breaks in it from one to the other, we really wanted a team of artists that could bring their own unique style and unique voice to their particular section of the graphic novel. We wanted each to have its own kind of feel to it. I think it basically succeeds at that. You can look at a page and see where you are in the history of the world. I think that the artists did a fantastic job interjecting their personality into the graphic novel.

HC: How was the experience working closely with Guillermo del Toro?

TB: He’s an incredibly fun guy to work with. He has passion for this sort of thing, and he loves it deeply and very sincerely, so it makes the whole process that much more fun, and it makes it that much more possible to be really creative about it. In the graphic novel in particular, he was very involved in it. I think there were some times in the middle there where he was busy with a multitude of things… But when we were getting pages from the pencilers, he was definitely giving very, very specific notes and was very tuned in to what was happening. He’s been a formidable presence in every creative aspect.

HC: “Pacific Rim” is unique in that it is a wholly original concept rather than a sci-fi film based on an existing work. Did that make it a hard sell for you as a screenwriter?

TB: Coming up with it was very fun. The idea came very natural to me. The hard part, I think, would ordinarily be convincing producers and the industry as a whole to invest in that sort thing when they’ve gotten so used to proven material. But I think we were very, very lucky in that when I started taking the outline and the concept for “Pacific Rim” around, I was very lucky that Legendary was the first place that it landed at. They immediately became very passionate about it and had such conviction in the fact that it could be something on its own terms. I think having producers who were that bold in their convictions really, really helped.  My hope is that it becomes a model for other types of materials and other ideas that people want to shake out, a model of success to help those other things find their voice and find their outlet. As much as I like iconic properties that have been around for a long time — I’m interested in seeing the next “Avengers” — and as awesome as ["Man of Steel"] looks, and I’ll be there in line for the next “Star Wars,” I would like to see a constant flow of new ideas and new material originated in the medium hitting theaters. I grew up in the ’80s when that stuff was happening all the time. We had “Ghostbusters,” “Back to the Future,” “Gremlins” — it was just constantly new material. I would love to see that kind of creativity rise again.

HC: What can you say about making this an ongoing book for Legendary, and in terms of the movie, how are sequel plans progressing?

TB: Oh, yeah, that’s definitely something we’re actively talking about. We love the world, and we’re definitely itching to explore it in movies — and in the sequel. Frankly, I had such a fun time writing the graphic novel that I would probably write as many of them as people wanted to see. It’s definitely a sandbox that I could see myself playing in for a long time…. Sequel-wise, [talks are] substantial, but there are no details yet. In terms of an ongoing comic title, I think it’ll be based on the reception of this graphic novel.

– Jevon Phillips

Follow us on Twitter: @LATHeroComplex

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