Other Nexus Graphica Columns
For more information, you can try the following:
Alan J. Porter
IDW's Star Trek
Checker Books' Star Trek
Graphic Imaging Technologhy's Star Trek
The Boom! Kids "Cars" collection
Recent Books of Interest
Star Trek: Countdown (IDW)
Seen the new STAR TREK movie and want to know exactly how Spock and Nero
got sucked into that black hole? Then this is the book for you. This tightly
written prequel neatly links the Next Generation era Star Trek into the start
of the new movie, seamlessly bridging the two alternate realities.
Star Trek: Gold Key Collection (Checker Books)
Checker books have published a series of trade paperbacks reprinting the
infamous Gold Key series. Not for canon-obsessed Trekkies, but a fun read
for anyone who wants to experience the early days of Trek merchandising.
Best of Star Trek series (IDW)
Current Star Trek license holder IDW not only publishes trades of
their own series, but has negotiated the rights to material from previous license
holders. These new trades reprint some of the best from the DC and Marvel comics runs.
Star Trek: The Complete Comic Book Collection (Graphic Imaging Technology Ltd)
This is a DVD-ROM that includes every US published Star Trek
comic book from 1967 to 2001. Despite the title it doesn't include the British
strips, the newspaper strips, nor any of the recent titles from Tokyopop or IDW,
however nearly everything else is there.
"Ready to Beam Up, Skipper" – The Star Trek Comics You Didn't Know About
Alan J. Porter is not only a comics writer -- his current adaptation of
Pixar's Cars for Boom Studios sold out its first printing, and is
slated for graphic novel compilation -- but a comics historian of increasingly
widespread repute. His recent history of James Bond in comics brought to
light some obscure 007 adaptations that were lively, yet had languished in
out-of-print shadows for years. He is currently doing the same thing for
the history of Star Trek in comic form.
Rick and I thought it might be good to have Alan do a guest column here
and talk of some lesser-known things "Trek." It's our understanding,
after all, that particular franchise might just be due for a revival.
Rick, meanwhile, will be here in a couple of weeks, and I'll be back in
June -- a month that also contains my birthday, and thus makes me prone
to further rumination. Until then, enjoy the merry mid-May guest prose
of the insightful Mr. P.
—Mark London Williams
Remember those funky Star Trek comics from the late 1960s/early 1970s published by Gold Key that never
seemed to get things right? The ones with flames coming out of the Enterprise's nacelles. Well they
weren't alone. At the same time that Gold Key was publishing its infamous series, other, equally
bizarre, Star Trek stories were being published on the other side of the Atlantic.
Comics based on TV shows have a long history in the UK market (and in fact still dominate today), so
it was no real surprise that, in 1969, City Magazines launched a Joe 90 title designed to
cash in on puppet master Gerry Anderson's latest hit TV show about a boy spy. Joe 90: Top Secret
was also designed to be a companion to City's other Gerry Anderson-themed comic, TV Century 21.
Traditional British comics differ from their American counterparts in two significant ways: First, they
tend to be published on a weekly schedule, and second, they are anthology books containing multiple strips
about different characters.
Joe 90: Top Secret led with a four-page strip featuring the title character, then strips on
the TV shows The Champions and Land of the Giants, the seemingly obligatory
soccer strip, several sports star pinup pages, and -- taking up the prestigious center-page double
spread -- a Star Trek strip.
The UK had a tradition of great science fiction and space-based strips that were rightly renowned for dynamic,
vibrant art and innovative page layouts and panel designs. When compared to the American Gold Key comics that
were being published at the same time, the UK-produced Trek stories appear, visually, to be a vast improvement.
However, the actual stories and scripts suffer from the same problem the early Gold Key creators had: no one
had actually seen the show. In the first story arc, published in January 1969, the commander of the "Universe Star
Ship Enterprise" is named as Captain Kurt! The USS Enterprise also shows a previously unknown ability to land
and stay upright without any visible means of support, a trick it would repeat several times in the UK
strips. At one point the Enterprise even manages to function like a submarine -- now that's a neat trick! Such
mistakes are hardly surprising, as the Star Trek TV show didn't start airing in the UK until
six months after the comic strip debuted.
Again -- as with the Gold Key comics -- as the scripts progressed, the details became closer to those shown on
the show, but very few of the writers seem to catch on to the characterizations. The fact that Star Trek was
an American show seems to have been almost completely ignored. The crew uses many British idioms, in
fact the title of this article is a quote by Spock from one of the strips; for some reason the Enterprise's
science officer often referred to Kirk as 'skipper.' Starfleet seems to be run like a combination of the
British Navy and Royal Air Force, they even manage to sneak in a World War II: Battle of Britain style
sequence at one point. Although the uniform regulations in this version of Starfleet seem a little more
relaxed as one cover illustration showed Kirk going into action wearing a pair of denim jeans. Many British
cultural interests pop up -- yes, there is even the obligatory soccer story, in which the crew of the
Enterprise teaches a race of gorilla-men how to play the game. The British love of animals seems prevalent
as well, with most of the aliens being anthropomorphic variants of familiar Earth beasts, my personal favorite
being the giant intelligent snails who rescue Kirk and crew; how lethargic do you have to be, to be rescued by snails?
Despite reported strong sales, after just 34 issues Joe 90: Top Secret was merged with
TV Century 21, and was relaunched as TV 21 & Joe 90. The only strips to move over
to the new comic were Joe 90, Land of the Giants and Star Trek. Merging
of titles is a common practice in the UK comics market, and after two years TV 21 was once again merged, this
time with the boy's adventure title Valiant. The only strip from the original Joe 90
title to survive this latest merger was Star Trek. However, it had lost the coveted center-page
spread and had become just another strip among many. Valiant was also produced on cheaper paper that couldn't
reproduce the vibrant colors. As a consequence, the strip took on a duller, more monotone look and the panel
layout became more traditional.
With no real notice, the Star Trek strip was dropped from the pages of Valiant in
1973 after a four-year run. With only two pages a week to play with, the story arcs would often run for months, but
by the end of its run there had been thirty-seven different Trek stories told.
A couple more Trek stories appeared in the Mighty TV Comic annuals for 1978
and 1979, marking the end of the only official non-US-produced Star Trek stories.
Unfortunately with the exception of a couple of the poorer quality Valiant-era strips, none
of these stories have ever been reprinted or collected.
Copyright © 2009 Alan J. Porter
Alan J. Porter is currently putting the finishing touches to his upcoming
book STAR TREK: A Comics History which will be published by Hermes Press in a
couple of months. Available now from Hermes Press is JAMES BOND: A History
of the Illustrated 007. Alan Porter is also the writer of the Disney/Pixar
World of CARS comic book series from BOOM! Studios.
You can find out more at http://alanjporter.com
or follow his exploits on his blog (gothamajp.livejournal.com/)
or via Twitter (twitter.com/alanjporter).
Mark London Williams writes the Danger Boy time travel series,
and perhaps, economy willing, additional comic tales set in the same story world. He also works as a journalist
covering both entertainment and politics,for the Hollywood trade paper Below the Line.
Despite a certain ambivalence, he recently signed on to Twitter.