If you've ever felt disrespected, invisible, and helpless at work, take a deep breath and remember, at least you're not Miles O'Brien. Fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation (and Deep Space Nine) know him simply as "Chief," and mainly as the Irish-accented transporter conn of the USS Enterprise-D, who is relegated to a recurring, but bit part of the cast. Even according to the actor who played him, Colm Meaney, who told author Hal Schuster in The Trekker's Guide to Deep Space Nine, O'Brien "was just there, not really established as a character, and that went on for a bit."
Picking up on this feeling, San Francisco-based illustrator Jon Adams created "Chief O'Brien at Work," a wickedly wry weekly online comic that focuses on the most slighted (and pitiful) man in all of space. Every comic takes place with O'Brien behind the control panel in the transporter room, waiting for anyone who might need his services, but mostly, who's just standing there, forgotten and dismissed by others, even by Starfleet's Computer.
I emailed with Jon to talk about Star Trek, horrible jobs, and what's next for Chief O'Brien (hint: it starts with a "B" and ends with an "ook").
When did you start "Chief O'Brien at Work?"
I started it around April of 2013. I did a few of them just for fun, posted them online and forgot about it. Months later it found it's way to Reddit, io9, and Buzfeed, and the traffic crashed my site. When I realized there was a big audience that was really enjoying it I started doing it again, and now do it weekly.
How did you come up with the idea for the comic? It seems like it's really focused on feeling powerless and disrespected on the job – was this something you personally saw happening to yourself or someone else in the workplace?
As someone who once worked at a motel that offered rooms at hourly rates, I've certainly had my share of less-than-ideal jobs. Most people have, but the comic isn't in direct response to anything. The idea just popped into my head one day when I realized that the transporter attendants are always just standing there whenever someone walks in. Just standing and waiting, all alone, waiting to do something.
What's your level of Star Trek love? Are you, or have you ever been, the type of Trekkie who goes to conventions and gets super nerdy about Star Trek?
I'm by no means a Trekkie, although I'm impressed by anyone committed enough to learn Klingon. I watched The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine and a little Voyager. I have a lot of fondness for TNG, but watching it now, it's not a very well written show, especially the early seasons. There are some great characters and stand-out episodes. Riker is pretty unbearable.
If you knew Miles O'Brien in real life, would you be friends with him?
The Miles on the show or the parody I've created? Mine, yes, probably, if only out of pity.
Do you know if actor Colm Meaney has seen "Chief O'Brien at Work" and/or do you know what he thinks of it?
Colm Meaney has seen it! Someone made an unofficial "Chief O'Brien at Work" print and brought it to him to be autographed at a convention. They posted a photo online and then someone else sent me a link to it. It was this weird mix of emotions for me. I was elated to see the subject of my comic looking at it, but I was also upset someone made a low-res print with the comics reformatted and my name misspelled. It was well-intentioned though, and my excitement outweighed my despair.
I also know Wil Wheaton and Jeri Ryan have seen it which is pretty neat!
If you were to draw an alternate world for Miles O'Brien, one in which he ruled the world, how would you depict his life?
It would be a world where he was the only human left alive.
If you hadn't chosen Chief O'Brien, are there any other characters from any iteration of Star Trek that you would've wanted to draw an ongoing comic about? If so, who and what would it focus on?
If I had to, probably it would be Riker. And at the end of each comic he would be killed violently and no one would try to help.
What other projects are you working on at this time?
Aside from my normal freelance design and illustration work, I recently signed the paperwork for some cartoon shorts I created and am writing (but can't say too much about yet), I'm adapting an MTV cartoon I did with artist Dave Johnson for print that will be a mix of both our art. And also, I just launched a Kickstarter for a "Chief O'Brien at Work" book.