Neither comparison is perfect – J.J. Abrams’ television series tend to be in classes unto themselves – but the point is, while the comic isn’t necessary to enjoy the show, it sure does help. “The comics are going to fill in the blanks,” said “Fringe” co-creator/writer/executive producer Roberto Orci. “There will be a payoff.”
The first six-issue series (which kicks off September 3) will focus on the history of Dr. Walter Bishop, played by John Noble as a brilliant but deranged scientist who acts as a consultant to a female FBI agent investigating cases of the paranormal, with his son, played by Joshua Jackson, acting as a conduit between the two of them. “It’s what Daddy was up to before he got institutionalized,” Jackson said.
“Walter is every actor’s dream,” Noble said. “He’s got an IQ of 190, but I have a theory why he’s unsafe to be around. I think he conducted some sort of experiment in which someone was killed, and that he was due to stand trial for manslaughter before they determined he was unfit to stand trial at all.”
Noble’s theory about his character is put to the test in the comics, which follow Bishop as a newly appointed professor at Harvard. “It’s about how his scientific career began and how he got involved in the fringe sciences,” said Zack Whedon who writes for both the show and the comic. “He’s sort of singularly focused on scientific discovery, to the point where he doesn’t really consider the consequences.”
Bishop shares a lab with collaborator William Bell, who is not physically present in the show but is referred to. “There’s a lot of mystery surrounding that character on the show,” Whedon said, “so it’s fun to get a little glimpse of who he is that you won’t get in the show.”
Besides the Bishop-Bell history, the comics will also include stand-alone stories, some of which connect to other characters on the show, and some which just add to what the show calls “the Pattern.” “They’re straight-up ‘Fringe,’ sort of ‘Twilight Zone’/’Weird Science’ sci-fi tales,” Whedon said. For instance, one involves a man who wakes up in someone else’s body, “which is terrible, especially for this guy, because it’s the wrong body,” Whedon said. “He’s now in prison.”
Where the show has to try to resolve various mysteries, the comics are free to leave some things unexplained. “Some are related to Walter’s work, some are part of the Pattern, and some are just inexplicable,” Whedon said. “And if this works out, we can do even more of them and take readers up to the events of the show. Who knows? This could go on forever.”
“We can give a richer experience to the show this way,” said “Fringe” executive producer Bryan Burk. “Because oh God, yes — ‘Fringe’ is a comic book universe.”
Are you looking forward to “Fringe”? Are you planning to read the comics? What do you think of what you’ve seen so far?