The stories behind the stories

Battlestar Galactica: Counterstrike #1

“…I fear I may have made a dreadful mistake.” — Commander Adama

“Counterstrike, Part 1”

Galactica meets a second fugitive fleet. Will they make common cause?
Published by Dynamite • November 17, 2018
Written by John Jackson Miller

Art by Daniel HDR

Lettered by Taylor Esposito

Colored by Natalia Marques

Main cover by Kelley Jones with Michelle Madsen

Variant covers by Marco Rudy, Sean Chen with Cris Peter, Daniel HDR with Natalia Marques, and Walter Simonson with Mohan

Edited by Anthony Marques

One of the fun things about Counterstrike, our 40th anniversary Battlestar Galactica comics series, is that not only was I free to treat the comics series as having taken place soon after the first season of the TV show, I was able to essentially write as though our story took place after the final Marvel Comics tie-in issue from January 1981. In fact, one of our variant covers of our first issue features the recolor, seen here, of the Walt Simonson cover from Marvel’s final issue, Battlestar Galactica #23!

Marvel had picked up the license hoping to get a repeat, no doubt, of some part of the success it had experienced with Star Wars in 1977. That series gave comics its first million-copy selling issues since 1960, thanks to both variant first printings and reprints by Western Publishing, which sold the comics in bags of three to department stores and drug stores like Woolworth’s. They usually were stocked in the toy department, as a lot of those places didn’t carry comics anywhere else. Galactica got three-packs, as well, of its adaptation of the TV pilot movie in 1978 — though unlike Star Wars, which got six issues for its adaptation, Galactica had just three issues for its adaptation.

It looked briefly as if Marvel would simply adapt the TV episodes, too — issues #4-5 adapted “Lost Planet of the Gods,” the TV two-parter that followed the pilot. Perhaps it was necessary to set up the later, original stories, which would be without Jane Seymour’s Serina character; in any event, original stories indeed followed, with work by Roger McKenzie, Klaus Janson, and quite a lot of early work by Simonson.

The Memory Machine arc was a major plotline, removing Adama from the scene for several issues; another good subplot involved Eurayle, the pirate queen of Scavenge World. There was also an attempt at weightier stories; possibly the best issue of the series postulated that Adama’s wife had survived on a plague-ridden Caprica.

By the standards of Marvel’s other non-Star Wars science-fiction tie-in comics (which ranged previously from Logan’s Run to 2001: A Space Odyssey to Man from Atlantis) the series seems to have done well enough, outlasting the source TV show by a year and a half. As a reader at the time, I was impressed by how much story was packed into each issue — a make-do situation forced by Marvel’s cutback in the 1970s to 17-page issues. And Simonson was clearly a find, having fun creating lots of new aliens. That was a place where the TV show couldn’t do much, because of budget constraints; with Counterstrike, we tried to follow his lead with intriguing aliens crafted by Daniel HDR.

Readers of Counterstrike didn’t have to have read the classic comics (which are now also available in reprint form from Dynamite), but there are a few nods to them, most particularly in the ragtag fleet’s ongoing problem — that many of its ships are far slower than the battlestar. There’s even a nod later on to the pirate garb of Lt. Jolly, seen on Simonson’s cover — but don’t ask us where Jolly got enough hair for that topknot!

“We will not run into the night, forever friendless. Today, we unite!” — Commander Adama

The Cylons here attempt to “educate” the Kiernu. While the Cylons hate humanity, it’s established in the show they were pushing around other species, as well. They make deals with species like the Ovions when it suits them, but they think nothing of eradicating others. Very robotic and utilitarian!

The Galactica’s bridge set is just fantastic when it comes to interesting places to set up cameras; the transparent starmap is a great one to look through, as seen here.

Page 5 was a place where could do something that they couldn’t on TV. The Viper windows were transparent when you were up close, but tended to be opaque at distances, because there was no way to matte in an image of a pilot into a special effects shot. We’re able to see everyone!

Daniel HDR has loved drawing the interactions between Starbuck and the gruff Okaati named Grust — we get a fun bit with them here.

The Galactica shuttles all have numbers; it’s never clear how many there are. But eagle-eyed readers of my past work will know that I include the number 560 in many of my works to honor my grandfather’s ship from World War II, LST-560. (More on it here.) Now there’s a GAL-560 too!

We see a major difference between the human and Okaati fleets. The Okaati have been on the run so long, they’ve managed to streamline and perfect their industries so they can manufacture while they’re on the go. The humans, new to running, still have very different kinds of starships, and no centralized industries. The Okaati are, in some sense, the humans after they’ve had centuries to figure things out.

One reason I like describing bridges with windows on three — or even four — sides is that it gives the characters lots of different ways in which to look outside. I set a number of Star Wars sequences in transparent domes for that reason!

The Comitat’s weapons all involve electrical disruption, making them quite different from what we usually see in the series. And Daniel HDR’s design for Thane Korbok of   the mysterious Comitat is a knockout.

Page 19 is a case where we changed the dialogue to better reflect what the artist drew on the following page. The Node isn’t depicted on Page 20, so we changed the dialogue to suggest that it was still a location we have yet to reach.

And finally, Count Baltar — played by John Colicos, also of Klingon fame! This page is another good example of what can be done digitally in editing. Originally we weren’t sure what the relative sizes should be of the Basestar and the Comitat frigates; once I saw both together on the page, we were able to adjust both.