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Star Trek ® Comics: A Brief Retrospective
by Bennet Pomerantz

Feature Article
Strange New Worlds  Issue 11 - December 1993

SNW Issue 14
SNW Issue 13
SNW Issue 12
SNW Issue 11
SNW Issue 10
SNW Issue 09
SNW Issue 08
SNW Issue 04

SPACE THE FINAL FRONTIER . . . These immortal words, first spoken by William Shatner, remain fixed in modern popular culture. For twenty-seven years, several generations of fans have enjoyed Star Trek. Of all the licensed Trek products on the market today, my favorite to collect and enjoy are Star Trek comics.

Three different comic book companies have featured the original Star Trek characters within their pages. In late 1967, Western Publishing’s Gold Key Comics attained the rights to the comic book adventures of Captain Kirk and crew. In 1979, Marvel comics took the helm with its adaptation of the first film, Star Trek: The Motion Picture. After the release of the second Trek film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, DC Comics, home to both original Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation comics, took on the task of keeping the vision alive.

Gold Key released the first issue of Star Trek in July of 1967. The next three issues followed at six month intervals. The poorly rendered art of these Gold Key comics failed to adequately capture the likenesses of Kirk, Spock, or McCoy. In early 1979, after sixty-one issues and two dynabrite reprints, Gold Key stopped publishing Star Trek and most of their other comics. Western Publishing's children's division, Golden Press, assembled thirty-five issues of their Trek series into four book collections, Star Trek: The Enterprise Logs volume one to four. These books were sold alongside their other collections: Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, and Lassie.

During this time, Power Records, a division of Peter Pan Records, sold original Star Trek children's stories. Each record or tape included a full-color comic book. The art was not of high quality, nevertheless, it helped enjoyably illustrate the audio story. Peter Pan also produced records based on Space 1999, Planet of the Apes, Frankenstein, Superman, and The Fantastic Four.

In December 1979, Star Trek crossed the line from television series to theatrical attraction. As Star Trek: The Motion Picture opened in movie houses throughout the world, Marvel Comics added the Star Trek characters to their stable of comic book superstars. Star Trek joined Marvel's other licensed science fiction lines Battlestar Galactica and Star Wars.

An adaptation of Star Trek: The Motion Picture appeared in Marvel Comics Super Special #15. Marvel reprinted the adaptation in the first three issues of the new Star Trek comic. This premiered in January 1980. The creative team had many problems translating the movie Trek universe into comic format. They recycled many Classic Trek story lines: a haunted house in space seems to me too much like the episode "Catspaw" by Robert Bloch.

The film’s success did not help sales of the comics. Marvel halted production after only eighteen issues.

Following the huge success of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, DC took the helm of Starship Enterprise in early 1984. Without Spock, the first comic stories were extremely weak in style and texture. However, writer Mike Barr made up for the missing Vulcan by creating additional characters. He also sought characters from the original TV show to enliven this comic series.

After the release of the third film and comic adaptation of Star Trek: The Search For Spock, the comic book storylines improved. For the true Star Trek comic connoisseur, issues nine through sixteen of the first Star Trek DC series are a must. This eight-part story "New Frontiers" features the Mirror Universe, Klingons, and the return of Spock. If you do not want to pay collector prices for these back issues, try DC Comics trade paperback reprint of all eight chapters. (List price $19.95) This oversize paperback features a sharp new cover by artist Ken Christie.

In January 1988, DC Comics launched a six-issue miniseries based on the newest Trek television show Star Trek: The Next Generation. The comic book miniseries was exceptionally successful for DC comics. But DC did not abandon the original Trek universe. DC published three annuals, two more movie adaptations (Star Trek: The Voyage Home and Star Trek: The Final Frontier), a two-volume Who’s Who in Star Trek and fifty-six issues of Star Trek. Issue 56, dated October 1988, was a loving tribute to the original television show and its five year mission.

After a short hiatus, DC returned to the Star Trek comic business in September 1989 with not just one Star Trek title, but two. DC gave Star Trek: The Next Generation a monthly series alongside their second series of the Kirk and company adventures. In the summer of 1991 both Star Trek universes intersected in an eight-part mini-series from DC. The first four issues of The Modala Imperative involve the original Star Trek cast during their first five year mission. The second four issues reunite an elder Spock and McCoy with the cast of the Next Generation. (This comic pre-dates the rescue of Scotty in "Relics.") The entire series is available in a large paperback format with forward by Walter Koenig and stunning cover art by Sonia R. Hillios. Ms. Hillios also painted some of the most exquisite art in the Star Trek Masterworks trading card collection. In the summer of 1992 DC published the first hardcover Star Trek (original cast) graphic novel, Debt of Honor. This graphic novel is now available in trade paperback format. DC Comics still publishes Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation each month.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is the newest entry in the Star Trek family of comics. Printed by Malibu Comics, Deep Space Nine premiered in August of 1993. Writer Mike Barr brings his formidable Trek experience to the Deep Space Nine comic. l

Also see:

bullet Books about Comics Collectibles at
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ALSO In this issue:
We don't get no respect
History of Comics Industry
Elfquest, Indy Success Story
The Comics / SF Connection
Star Trek Comics
Comics by Star Trek Actors
Displaying your collectibles
Star Wars Models
Kids and the Fan Parent
Reviews : Alien Nation books
Review: History of SF Comics

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