In some ways, spinoff novel authors have less freedom than movie writers. For example, we know Timothy Zahn is not going to kill off John Connor in “Trial By Fire” (July 2010). On the other hand, as “Salvation’s” John Brancato reveals in a blog post, screenwriters can be handcuffed, particularly on blockbuster movies, owing to the perception that simpler stories draw wider audiences. As such, his idea that John Connor be replaced with a Terminator/human hybrid at the film’s end was scrapped.
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Greg Cox’s “Cold War” (October 2009) is the first spinoff material to come out after “Terminator Salvation,” but it’s actually another prequel story, like “From the Ashes” and “Sand in the Gears.” The major tie-in to the film is the backstory of General Losenko; his story in the wake of J-Day alternates chapters with that of an Alaskan Resistance group right before “Salvation.”
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The very first “Terminator” spinoff materials – the Now comics – explored the Future War, but aside from flashbacks/flash-forwards, it took another two decades for the Future War to be explored on screen. This makes “Terminator Salvation” (2009) stand out among the saga’s screen incarnations, even though the plot points and themes will be familiar to readers of the spinoff materials, particularly Dark Horse Comics’ early 1990s work.
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Around the same time that the novel line provided a “Terminator Salvation” prequel with “From the Ashes,” IDW – the seventh (and, as of now, final) comic company to hold a “Terminator” license — launched its line with a four-issue prequel story called “Sand in the Gears” (February-April 2009). Unlike the book, it doesn’t introduce any film characters, but it works as a stage-setter.
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Even as Fox deemed the “Terminator” franchise not popular enough to renew “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” for a third season, the movie wing of the franchise was betting the TV network was wrong. From the ashes of “Chronicles” rose the “Terminator Salvation” franchise, which would eventually rank second only to the “T2” franchise in pumping out the most spinoff materials. I personally don’t think it was better than “Chronicles,” but apparently it was more commercially successful, or at least more aggressive. (“TSCC” spawned no spinoff materials at all.)
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“Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” Season 2 (2008-09) is a decompressed stretch of low-key epic storytelling that continues to chronicle central “Terminator” ideas. John and Sarah ferret out organizations that might be the proto-Skynet, and resistance fighters and Terminators pop up in time bubbles on specific missions relating to Skynet or the Connors.
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Watching “The Sarah Connor Chronicles” Season 1 (2008) after reading the post-“T2” comics and novels, it seems certain that producer Josh Friedman is doing a loose adaptation of those materials. However, listening to his episode commentaries, it seems that’s not the case after all, as he cites only the films as influences. It goes to show that when continuing from “T2,” the story, character and thematic points are obvious. This is perhaps why James Cameron had nothing more to say after two movies and a theme-park ride.
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Dynamite Comics seemed to have little regard for continuity when it abruptly and inexplicably switched to a new timeline between Issues 5 (the last issue of “Infinity”) and 6 (the first issue of the “Painkiller Jane” crossover) of its “Terminator 2” title. After “The Sarah Connor Chronicles” TV show gave us still another new version of post-“T2” continuity in 2008, Dynamite came back with “Terminator: Revolution” (2009). Despite the new numbering system, though, this is a continuation from the “Infinity” universe rather than yet another reboot.
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The track record of crossovers in the “Terminator” saga has been a bit shaky so far, with guest appearances by “Robocop,” “Superman,” “Aliens” and “Predator.” Of all things, it turns out to be “Painkiller Jane” that provides the most entertaining crossover up to this point with Dynamite Comics’ four-issue “Terminator/Painkiller Jane: Time to Kill” (2008).
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While not exactly a failure, the “Terminator 3” franchise petered out fairly quickly compared to other “Terminator” multimedia campaigns, with the last novel coming out in 2004. Three years later, the saga was resurrected, although new license-holder Dynamite Comics (acquiring the “T2” license previously held by Malibu Comics) opted to play in the original “T1″/”T2” timeline rather than pick up on the “T3” threads left dangling by Aaron Allston’s books. It’s likely Dynamite also acquired “T3” licensing rights (previously held by Beckett), as it incorporates elements from that movie as well.
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