Comics: The Final Frontier

Chaos in Print

You have to admit that Star Trek’s expanded universe hasn’t gotten the same kind of respect that the Star Wars expanded universe has. With Star Wars, everything’s done under the auspices of Lucasfilm, making sure everything remains faithful and true. The fans like it, because it fleshes out those funny-looking guys who were running around in the background. Besides, Lucasfilm has also never stepped forward and said, “The expanded universe is not canon.” So, many read the novels and comics thinking that maybe, just maybe, this all really happened.

But not Star Trek. Paramount made it clear a long time ago that the Star Trek expanded universe is non-canonical. Star Trek’s expanded universe just kind of exists; another facet of the multitudes of merchandising. Besides, between five shows (6 if you count the cartoon) and 10 movies, is an expanded universe even necessary? But I digress.

As long as there has been Star Trek merchandise, there have been Star Trek comics. I’ve grown reflective of the Star Trek comics as of late. Granted, I was never a full-blown collector, but I did pick up the odd issue of DC’s Star Trek: The Next Generation, usually when the new issue of Ninja Turtles wasn’t in yet. I’m guessing no one notable has ever worked on the comics. J. Michael Strazynski, the Babylon 5 creator, wrote a few story arcs when he was a struggling writer. Peter David, whose work on the Incredible Hulk is legendary, has also written a few arcs. (David is also considered to be among the greatest of the Star Trek novelists.) In case you’re curious, here’s a brief history of Star Trek in comics:

Gold Key: 1967 – 1979

Gold Key Comics was the first company to pump out Star Trek comics, starting when the original series was new. It pumped out 61 issues over its 11 year run. It also pumped out something called “Mission Logs,” which were reprints of the issues in a sturdier, paperback-novel like format. I guess they were precursors to trade paperbacks. Paramount revoked their license in 1979. It should also be noted that a company called Checker Books has started releasing these in trade paperback form under the title Star Trek: The Key Collection.


Marvel: 1979 – 1982

Now we see Marvel take over. Marvel’s initial run ran for 18 issues, starting with a 3-issue adaptation of The Motion Picture and then continuing from there. Marvel cancelled it because it just wasn’t selling well. Hey, at this time, Marvel was still pumping out their Star Wars comic. If there was ever a prime opportunity for a Star Wars/Star Trek crossover, this was it!


DC: 1984 – 1996

This kind of explains why my only memories of Star Trek comics are DC Comics. DC’s first run on Star Trek was from 1984 to 1988. These six years saw the creation of 56 issues, 3 annuals, the comic book adaptations of The Search for Spock and The Voyage Home, and even a Star Trek Who’s Who. Two storylines from this period have been released in trade paperback: The Mirror Universe Saga and Who Killed Captain Kirk? DC ended Star Trek in 1988….

…And promptly re-launched it in 1989. After having done a little more research, I learned that the reason for this break was because the license came up for renewal. Star Trek (Volume 2) went on to run for 7 years, giving us 80 issues, 6 annuals, 6 specials, the comic book adaptations of the Final Frontier, the Undiscovered Country, and Generations, and even one graphic novel. Only one storyline from this era has been trade paperbacked. It’s called Tests of Courage.

DC actually did some cool stuff with the original crew. As you may recall, Search for Spock ends with the destruction of the Enterprise, and they didn’t get a new Enterprise until the end of The Voyage Home. This is how they dealt with the two year absence of the Enterprise in the comics. Captain Kirk was given command of the Excelsior, and took most of the original crew with him. Spock was given command of the science vessel Surak, and took Savvik with him. So, we’d alternate between Kirk’s crew stories and Spock’s crew stories. But, let’s leave Kirk and Spock behind and jump 78 years into the future.

While DC was going strong with the original crew, they started giving us Star Trek: the Next Generation in comic form. It started with a 6-issue miniseries in 1988 (which has now been released in trade paperback), and that led to a regular series that ran from 1989 – 1996. In the regular series, there were 80 issues, 6 annuals, and an undisclosed number of specials. One storyline has been released in trade paperback format: The Star Lost.

Q was a frequent guest star in The Next Generation comics. He was a big fan of “transforming the crew.” There was this one where he said that, even though humans are a dangerous child race, they could be worse. And to prove this, he turned the whole crew into Klingons. Worf, being the only one unchanged, had to set things right. Or, there was another one where, at a funeral for a fallen crewman, Picard expressed an envy of Data’s emotionless state. So, Q snapped his fingers, and everyone became an emotionless android. That was Data’s turn to save the day.

Anyway, Star Trek’s 25th anniversary was in ‘91. To celebrate, DC released a special miniseries called Star Trek: the Modala Imperative. This was a wacky time travel adventure that saw the original crew and the Next Generation crew joining forces. And yes, it’s available in trade paperback.

A British company called Titan Books has signed a deal with DC and Paramount to release ALL of DC’s Star Trek comics in trade paperback form. The first two volumes – one for Star Trek and one for The Next Generation – will be out in the fall.


Malibu: 1993 – 1996

The small comic book studio best known for giving the world Men in Black beat out DC to get the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine license. Besides the regular DS9 series, they also gave us a bunch of DS9 miniseries including a massive crossover with The Next Generation that was co-produced by DC. They also embraced many comic book trends of the time, like variant covers. Of course, Malibu was acquired by Marvel, and that led to….


Marvel/Paramount: 1996 – 1998

Marvel went nuts with the Star Trek comics, and while many lament that this wound up ruining Star Trek comics, many acknowledge that some good and experimental stuff went on here. Marvel even started an imprint just to handle all their Star Trek comics, calling it “Marvel/Paramount Comics.” Marvel first picked up where Malibu left off by continuing the Deep Space Nine comics. They also gave us the Star Trek Voyager comics. Voyager only ran for 17 issues, but they came back and resolved the loose ends in a miniseries called Star Trek Voyager: Splashdown. Now here’s where we get into the good and experimental stuff. They pumped out a comic called Star Trek: Early Voyages. Set 10 years before Captain Kirk took command of the Enterprise, this followed the adventures of Captain Christopher Pike and his crew! That lasted 17 issues. There was also Star Trek: The Untold Voyages. This filled in the gap between The Motion Picture and The Wrath of Kahn, and featured everyone in their grey uniforms. It only lasted 5 issues. Finally, there was Starfleet Academy, which focused on a group of hotshot cadets, including Nog, Quark’s nephew and the first Ferengi in Starfleet. Again, it only ran for 17 issues. One of the favourites was called Star Trek Unlimited, a bi-monthly, double-sized comic that gave people one original crew story, and one Next Generation story.

But truly, the highlight in this era has to be the Star Trek/X-Men crossover. Using the old “Enterprise falls into a parallel universe” plot device, we had the Enterprise fall into the Marvel universe. I’m not exactly sure why, but this led to an adventure with the X-Men. It was a one-shot, but it was followed by a sequel featuring the X-Men teaming up with the Next Generation crew.

Marvel lost the license in 1998 as part of their bankruptcy woes.


WildStorm: 1999 – 2001

Marvel’s loss was once again DC’s gain, only this time, DC passed the license down to their WildStorm imprint. WildStorm followed the example set by Dark Horse and the Star Wars comics. Instead of a continuing series, they focused on a variety of one-shots, specials, and miniseries. Highlights in here include a one-shot based on Peter David’s Star Trek: New Frontier novels, and a Voyager one-shot called “False Colours,” which sees Seven of Nine becoming the Borg Queen. WildStorm released a lot of this stuff in trade paperback. WildStorm gave up the license in 2001, citing that it just wasn’t profitable.


Tokyopop: the not-too-distant future

American manga importer and producer of American manga-style books Tokyopop has signed a deal with Paramount to do a Star Trek manga. Rumour has it it’ll be The Next Generation in manga form. We’re all a twitter.

And that’s it for now for Star Trek comics. I got all this info from a great website called The Star Trek Comics Checklist. Over there, you can find a summary of every issue. They’ve even got scans of every cover to every issue. Check it out if you’d like to learn more.

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