TrekInk: Trek Celebrity Comics | TrekMovie.com
jump to navigation

TrekInk: Trek Celebrity Comics March 5, 2008

by Andrew Steven Harris , Filed under: Comics , trackback

As the Star Trek editor for IDW Publishing, one might think I would use my ‘guest TrekInk columns’ as a venue to hype our latest releases, but instead, I’m actually going to talk about all of the Star Trek stories that we don’t publish. Either comics that have come before—little gems of storytelling from other publishers that you might have missed the first time around—or, also, interesting pitches that we receive, which for some reason we’re not able to use. This week we will focus on past comics from Trek celebrities.

Judging from years past, one of the easiest ways to write for Star Trek comics is to be an actual cast member from a Star Trek series. (Of course, becoming a cast member is the actual hard part.) Celebrity authors always attract the interest of fans, and comics are no different: over time, an actor develops an intimate understanding of a character, and readers want to see what he or she can do with a showcase for that knowledge. Sometimes they’re even comics collectors themselves: Walter Koenig was the first cast regular to write a Trek comic, and he’s been well-known as a lifelong comics fan. Some have been natural storytellers who partnered with collaborators to acclimate themselves to the format of comics, such as George Takei, who co-wrote an issue with veteran Trek writer and comics icon Peter David; or Aron Eisenberg, who worked with Mark Paniccia, now a Marvel Comics senior editor. Others, like William Shatner himself, co-authored a prose novel, and then collaborated on its adaptation into a graphic novel. Still more, like Mark Lenard, John deLancie and Wil Wheaton, took up the graphic storytelling challenge on their own.

 

Mark Lenard
Interestingly, some of the best celebrity-authored comics are the ones that don’t feature the characters that the actors portrayed. Mark Lenard’s Deep Space Nine one-shot from Malibu Comics in 1995, “Blood and Honor”,  sidesteps the obvious choice of Spock’s father Sarek in favor of the son of the Romulan commander from the all-time classic TOS episode “Balance of Terror”, the role in which Lenard first made his Trek debut. The result is an intriguing sequel to the episode, and one that makes effective use of the DS9 setting as a crossroad for diplomats at the same time. (By sheer coincide, the IDW Romulans Alien Spotlight from John Byrne also features that commander’s son, at a much younger age, in a prequel story to “Balance of Terror”. There—official Trek plug accomplished!)

Wil Wheaton
Like with Lenard, Wil Wheaton skipped the easy Wesley Crusher story (are there any other kind?) to pen a TOS tale for Tokyopop’s second Star Trek: The Manga collection that debuted last year, and it’s easily one of the best in the book. Drawn by E.J. Su, recently of IDW’s Transformers comics—official non-Trek plug accomplished!—Wheaton’s “Cura Te Ipsum” (Latin for “heal thyself”) tackles a Kirk vs. the Prime Directive tale with surprising skill, and establishes his cred as a comics creator well beyond his celebrated cult of geek.

William Shatner
Shatner, of course, earns opinions of all stripes for his novels, but the only comics adaptation of one of his books, the 1995 graphic novel Ashes of Eden from DC Comics, is actually pretty damn good. Co-authored by his collaborators Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, and released at the same time as the novel, Shatner lapses into the typical Kirk-centric glorification that you would expect: bedding the hot girl, and looking more strapping and barrel-chested than ever in even the original series. But, at the same time, he crafts a sequel to Star Trek VI—the finale film of the original crew—that does solid justice to all the characters involved, including his fellow series regulars… and, in a fitting climax, to the Enterprise itself. It’s not a canon story, of course—none of the comics are—but it certainly has the feel of one.

George Takei
In 1990 DC issued longer format annual #1’s for both Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation, each featuring a celebrity writer (George Takei and John deLancie respectively). while they’re both worth a read, it’s Takei’s that edges out the other. (Of course, it’s hard to go wrong with Peter David as your partner.) I think most readers would agree that Takei’s story, about a long-lost love with whom he reconnects under dangerous circumstances, suffers a bit under the art of Gray Morrow, whose likenesses aren’t entirely consistent, and perhaps takes the intentional ennui element of the alien world narrative a bit too literally. But, there’s real texture on the surface of the story and real depth at its heart, and ultimately it expands the character of Sulu in ways that aren’t typical of licensed comic books. The collaboration between Peter David and George Takei led to an ongoing creative relationship. The pair later worked together on the audio-only Trek novel Cacophony, and Takei even starred in the David-written indie sci-fi film “Oblivion”. (Yeah, I know, I’m one of the few people who’s seen it; but there’s a Trek joke in there from Takei that’s absolutely classic.)

John deLancie
In the 1990 DC Annual #1 for TNG John DeLancie delivers a Q tale—as you might expect—one that, in retrospect, has become awfully familiar, though at the time it likely seemed in perfect line with the character (and was). After a strong start and engrossing middle, deLancie ultimately takes the easy way out, employing a twist of fate that seems both convenient and author-orchestrated (like, perhaps, some of the lesser Q stories)—although until that point it’s a solid read.

Aron Eisenberg
Aron Eisenberg’s foray, the August 1995 one-shot “The Rules of Diplomacy” (a word-play on the Ferengi “Rules of Acquisition”) may be the low point of the celebrity comics. Perhaps my disappointment comes from the fact that I thought Eisenberg was simply awesome as Nog, easily earning his place among the regular cast members; and I really liked the Dragonlance stories that he co-wrote with Jean Rabe and Margaret Weis as well. It’s also a great premise—Nog, as Starfleet’s first Ferengi cadet, must grapple with the conflict between the Ferengi’s Rules of Acquisition and the Federation’s own rules of conduct. But, somewhere along the way, the story becomes more about a Klingon teen and not Nog himself—as if Nog can only be seen in counterpoint to another character (like Jake). Which, quite frankly, wasn’t the case at all by the time that the issue appeared.

Walter Koenig
But, if Eisenberg’s issue fell short of my higher expectations, Walter Koenig’s story in issue #19 of the first DC series blew past them at Warp 10. The first celebrity-authored tale—and the best—I’m forced to make a confession here: Pavel Chekov was initially my least-liked character among the original crew. That bad haircut, all that “wessels” business—it just didn’t work for me. If aliens across the galaxy could pronounce the letter “V”, why couldn’t this guy? But that all changed for me after this issue. Koenig makes his comics debut as an extremely confident writer, willing to let the reader think that he had blown it completely—individuals acting out of character, an unnatural but predictable focus on himself getting the hot girl, and so on—before finally pulling back the curtain to reveal that, yes, he really did know what he was doing all along. I won’t say any more to keep from giving away too much—which is saying something for an issue that came out more than 22 years ago—but it’s definitely one that readers should track down and pick up. (Koenig wrote an episode of The Animated Series as well, and that’s also become a favorite of mine.)

 

Coming Up in April
For my next guest ‘TrekInk’ we’ll tackle the flipside of the “celebrity” author, and take a look at that long and storied (literally) tradition of—Star Trek fanfic. As a professional Star Trek editor, I think you’re going to be surprised what some of us on the other side of the word processor think. See you then!

 

Andrew Steven Harris is the Star Trek editor for IDW Publishing and most recently the author of Star Trek Alien Spotlight: The Borg.. Andrew will be providing periodic (monthly likely) guest ‘TrekInk’ columns.

 

Comments

1. Allister Gourlay - March 5, 2008

hmmmmmmm

2. Dr. Image - March 5, 2008

Didn’t realize there were so many.
FIR…. nah.

3. Irish Terran - March 5, 2008

Not the Usual stuff thats on this site then??????????????

4. Pah Wraith - March 5, 2008

A slight problem with Aron Eisenberg issue cover – it’s link leads to DeLancie’s “The Gift” cover image.

Nice article!

5. Shatner_Fan_2000 - March 5, 2008

Andrew Steven Harris, I’ve said this before – why don’t the current IDW Star Trek year 4 stories have titles?? The lack of grandiose titles is one of the most unTOS-like things about them.

Also, I have the first 6 issues, and so far no familiar characters aside from the main bridge crew have appeared. Why no Sarek, Kor, Mudd, Guardian, etc, etc? In fact, not even a single Klingon, Romulan or Orion has appeared.

Finally, I realize this sounds nitpicky, but more attention to little details is needed in depicting the characters. Christine Chapel was no longer blonde by the end of season 3, Janice Rand (prominently featured on one cover) was long gone, etc. Honoring small visual details like that would truly make it feel more like Year 4, IMO.

All that said, I am looking forward to the D.C. Fontana miniseries.

6. Fleet Captain Kor'Tar - March 5, 2008

Interesting, I was fortunate enough to pick up a copy of The Ashes of Eden when it came out. In fact I still have it and read it from time to time. It is an awesome story with a good plot and awesome artwork. If you get the chance you should try and find it at your local comic shop or online, trust me it is well worth the price.

7. Andy Patterson - March 5, 2008

You’ve piqued my interest with the Koenig book I may look up a copy from my favorite shop eitehr in El Paso or Houston.

8. websbestcomics - March 5, 2008

Ashes of Eden is possibly the best Trek comic ever. It looks and feels like what Star Trek VII could have been if they’d decided to use TOS crew one more time.

9. RTC - March 5, 2008

Great look at the comics, well done! One question: Didn’t Koenig write “The Infinite Vulcan” for The Animated Series, which (if memory serves) was not the first episode of TAS…? Or did I miss something?

10. Shatner_Fan_2000 - March 5, 2008

I agree that Ashes of Eden was both a great novel AND a great comic. The TOS crew should’ve gotten at least 2 more feature films and kept on trekkin’ until their 30th anniversary in 1996. Or at least a great tv miniseries. Hindsight is always 20/20, eh Paramount?

11. Arch - March 5, 2008

Ashes of Eden is about the best TREK ever!! It would have been the best of movies. (OK.. maybe it could not beat Wrath of Khan but what can?)

Star Trek would have been in a better place if Ashes of Eden had been made instead of Generations. I have always wanted to know how much Shatner was involved in writing this story. Do we have him to thank for great insights on the Kirk character or was it really the coauthors?

This was a great ensemble story, all characters had fun and interesting parts. If you have never read Ashes of Eden (book, comic, or audio) you really missed a great trek!!

12. Ralph F - March 5, 2008

I always thought that, if there was a brain trust at the TREK offices, they would have shelved YESTERDAY’S ENTERPRISE and made that into GENERATIONS. You could have tied it in with the Khitomer conference, even.

13. lodownX - March 5, 2008

Everyone who checks out Trekmovie.com daily (like myself) should give the Comicbook-Trek its due … if you haven’t already… My opinion may be skewed though by the fact I part-owned a Comicbook store in my past.

Regardless… there are many good stories out there waiting to be read…. while we all WAIT for the new movie.

14. Paul - March 5, 2008

anyone willing to loan or sell the Ashes of Eden to me? i’m very trustworthy. anyone interested i will send you my e-mail address

15. Jeyl - March 5, 2008

“It’s not a canon story, of course”

Why the heck do they even bother with the whole “This is canon” and “This is NOT canon” stuff anyways? They’re all as fictitious as the works they’re based off of and they’re authorized and approved by the studios for crying out loud. I mean, what’s the harm of saying it did happen?

16. Danny L - March 5, 2008

I would love to read mark lenard’s tale, and ive actually seen the gift but i dont really remember it that well.

about 10 years ago in the uk we had satellite TV, so we could pick up some german and french stations!!!!!! on it was the ashes of eden, and at about 10 years old i thought the artwork was outstanding, and for a while i was looking for it

i found it in london, and even after seeing things like convergence, telepathy war etc, this is the one trek comic that i generally feel is like a lost movie, absolutely great

17. RM10019 - March 5, 2008

#15 There was a time that Roddenberry was losing control of the ‘franchise’ as Paramount called it, and wanted to be able to keep his stamp of approval on things. Also, there were rights issues with the TAS and by de-canonizing them, he could affect their value in the marketplace.

He assigned Richard Arnold to patrol the franchise, and this earned Richard a very harsh reputation in the Pocket Books world.

18. Denise de Arman - March 5, 2008

Ashes sounds like a good read. There are a couple of great comics stores where I live – I might have to call them and ask them to pull some strings and get me a copy. I’m also excited about Andrew covering fanfic – there are some amazing stories out there in fanzines, many much better than the ST novels. I wrote some fanfic myself in my teens and it’s so much fun to get lost in these well-established characters (of course, mine is probably pretty ugh, since I WAS a teenage girl at the time…).

19. OM - March 5, 2008

“the art of Gray Morrow, whose likenesses aren’t entirely consistent…”

….Which is why when Morrow was working for Charlton in the 70s and did the Space: 1999 B&W Magazine, about 75% of his faces were tracings of promo pics of the cast members. Like John Byrne, Morrow’s art falls apart when it comes to faces. Which is why I will not be surprised when Roberta Lincoln winds up looking like Jean Grey, and Gary Seven looks like an older Scott Summers.

“[Wheaton's] celebrated cult of geek.”

…This is not a typo, kids. Wil has a cult following of exactly one geek.

20. OM - March 5, 2008

“He assigned Richard Arnold to patrol the franchise, and this earned Richard a very harsh reputation in the Pocket Books world.”

…Actually, it’s more despicable than that. “Melakon”, as he came to be known amongst Trek fans, was one of GRs assistants who wound up taking what little authority Gene had given him and abusing it in Gene’s name. Roughly 85% of the Trek-related novels, comics and even some *quality* merchandise were either negatively altered and/or outright cancelled because Arnold, and not GR, didn’t care for some aspect. One of the biggest targets of his harassment was Peter David, whose novels Vendetta and Q-In-Law were the subject of a pair of battles that were the topic of dozens of threads on rec.arts.startrek.*. The former novel was released almost as PAD wrote it, with some minor tweaks and a big “Arnold Mandated” disclaimer about this being the “writer’s interpretation of the Trek Universe” – one that never appeared on any other Trek novel. IIRC. The latter Arnold had ordered Pocket to not print, period, because by that time PAD’s taking his plight to the fans had pissed Arnold off so much that he was about to ban PAD from all Trek writing in retaliation. PAD did the logical thing – he gave a copy of the manuscript to Majel, and since the focus of the novel was on Lwaxana…well, you can guess what happened next. Like Vendetta, Q-In-Law remains one of the most popular TNG novels, and tends to rank high on lists of novels that fans wish had been actually filmed.

…Arnold did, however, have his revenge. He orderd DC to remove PAD from the comic, citing “far too many issues with his scripts”. To prove it was a personal grudge, DC published one final TOS story by PAD, only using a pen name, but clearly in PAD’s style. The script came back approved with no corrective notes whatsoever, which proved what many had suspected – Arnold was targeting PAD specifically, and had a “vendetta” of his own in place.

…Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. As Gene’s health was going down the toilet, Arnold did exactly as Melakon did – he kept Gene isolated from the publishing side of things, and even started imposing himself on script approval. According to some sources within Paranoidmount at the time, if there was something about a second season episode that didn’t “ring right” with regards to characterization, it can be traced back to Arnold’s interference. Ditto for some of the 3rd season’s weaker shows.

…Arnold’s presence on the Paranoidmount lot was only tolerated because he was Gene’s assistant, and self-professed representative. It became more and more difficult to get to Gene for clarification on approval issues because Arnold was adept at redirecting such queries with “Gene’s not feeling well, better ask his attorney, Leonard Malzish”, who was by all accounts an even bigger “Melakon” than Arnold was, However, as with the fall of John Gill, when GR died his body hadn’t even gotten cold before Rick Berman ordered Arnold’s office locked and his being barred from the studio lot. The scene when Arnold returned from lunch and found he’d been evicted and fired by all accounts was very similar to that “Tony Clifton” experienced when he was thrown off the lot for the stunt Andy Kaufman pulled to get his Taxi contract nullified.

…To this day, those who still work for Paranoidmount who worked on TNG who had to deal with Arnold in the least have nothing but utter and complete derision for him. Some have even wished they could inflict bodily harm on him, as he unnecessarily made their jobs far more difficult than they needed to be. Considering all the stories I’ve heard about the problems he caused with the novels alone, I can’t blame them. In fact, I’d find it an honor if I got the chance to break his balls with a 2×4 before he has a chance to contaminate the Gene Pool.

21. Captain Otter - March 5, 2008

Somewhere, I’ve got that Walter Koenig comic. I’ll have to dig it up and give it a re-read.

22. steve623 - March 5, 2008

The Ashes of Eden was excellent. Would have made a great movie. Or miniseries.

23. steve623 - March 5, 2008

And the second DC Trek series, post-Trek V, had some truly excellent cover art courtesy of Jerome K. Moore. It was like getting a movie poster every month. Beautiful stuff. He and Keith Birdsong really classed up Trek publications in the early 90s.

24. Edith Keeler - March 5, 2008

They drew Shat’s hair such that it almost looks real. Well done!

25. Alex Fletcher / Sulfur - March 5, 2008

…Arnold did, however, have his revenge. He orderd DC to remove PAD from the comic, citing “far too many issues with his scripts”. To prove it was a personal grudge, DC published one final TOS story by PAD, only using a pen name, but clearly in PAD’s style.

Which story was this? I’ve never heard that told before… more deets!

If they’re not fit for the public eye, email alex@trekmovie.

26. Iowagirl - March 6, 2008

Ashes of Eden is a fine novel, and the comic sounds like a very good adaptation.

I also welcome this site covering fanfic, as it’s a fascinating and diversified area and there are some very good authors out there.

27. DJT - March 6, 2008

That George Takei comic rocked when I was a kid. It was quite a touching and tragic love story.

28. Dan Taylor - March 6, 2008

Having sat in the Star Trek editor chair at IDW before Andrew I can help answer some of Shatner_Fan_2000’s inquires. As for the lack of familiar characters, the right to use the actors’ likenesses would occasionally get in the way of using certain characters.

29. John Trumbull - March 6, 2008

I’m still reeling from your criticism of Gray Morrow’s likenesses. I remember them as pretty consistently dead-on, unlike the regular Trek book from DC where Tom Sutton seemed to have trouble differeniating Chekov and Sulu. Morrow was one of the best Trek comic artists ever, IMO.

And the Peter David issue that was submitted under a psuedonym was David’s last, the one about Kirk trying to write a eulogy for a secuirity guard that no one really knew. IIRC, the alias they used was Robert Bruce Banner. :)

30. Stringfellow Hawke - March 6, 2008

I have that Koenig issue sitting in plastic at my folks house. That particular DC run of Trek, were in my opinion, the best of the lot published then and now (no offense, Andrew!), short of my personal favorite in the Gold Key run. This coming from a Marvel kid and former avid collector.

31. Victor Hugo Carballo - March 6, 2008

“Ashes of Eden” was an amazing book and a great comic book, but the best Trek comic book is by far “Star Trek: Debt of Honor” written by Chris Claremont and amazingly illustrated by Adam Hughes.

http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/c/chris-claremont/debt-of-honor.htm

32. Irish Trekki - March 6, 2008

They all look really good, but I still think the books are probably better! I suppose it’s cause I never really got into comics in general!!

33. Shaun - March 7, 2008

Andrew, fun article! I have many of the very comics you’ve reviewed here. I think the Koenig comic may be the only I don’t have. I don’t recall that story at all, but I’m going to go back and check my longboxes and see if it’s there.

Your spotlighting a couple of DS9 comics forces me to ask: Will IDW ever put out any DS9 books? There’s a lot of possibilites: Stories set in same period as/tied into the “DS9 Relaunch” novels, filling in gaps from the time of the TV series, stories that are more Bajor or Cardassia-centric, Section 31, etc. DS9 fans are out there, and we’re a pretty passionate bunch. Please consider!

I’ll be honest that I was deeply disappointed with the first IDW/Trek offering — the TNG miniseries “The Space Between”. In my opinion it was dull, confusing in parts, inconsistent art (at least one drawing of Riker looked more like McCoy!), and (like all of the IDW/Trek comics I’ve sampled, unfortunately), extremely light on dialogue and character depth. It probably didn’t help that you published a letter from a fan bashing DS9 in the first or second issue, but I was turned off quickly.

I did buy the Klingon miniseries and that was an improvement. Seeing famous events from the Klingon perspective was an interesting twist. It was fun, but the dialogue was still extremely light. At $3 a book these days, I want something that takes more than five minutes to read. That’s what plagued the first issue of ST:Year Four as well. There just wasn’t any “meat” there, Andrew… I dropped any IDW/Trek after that. Just wasn’t worth it.

But Andrew, the thing I really want to get across here is that IDW’s comics are really lacking when compared to those wonderful Trek comics DC was doing in the late 80’s/early-mid 90’s. Would it possible to get people like PAD (is he exclusive to Marvel now?) back into the fold?

Sorry if I sound pretty harsh, or long-winded, but I figure a good editor who cares about his product will listen to fan feedback. Thanks!

34. Shaun - March 7, 2008

#31 – The Debt of Honor graphic novel was great! I still have it in hardcover. IIRC, there was one error in the book where a couple of word balloons got swtiched to the wrong characters (perhaps it was fixed for the softcover), but the story and art were excellent. I think even Dr. Gillian Taylor made an appearance? Yeah, I need to unpack that one and read it again this weekend.

That was a great period for Trek comics… Good, fun stories with strong dialogue and character depth. It’s a shame DC stopped doing Trek. I can’t remember if they chose to stop, or if Paramount took the license back. I think it was the latter, since they gave DS9 to another company (the now defunct Malibu) and then started their own short-lived line of comics (via Marvel). DC did the best Trek comics, and they’ve never been topped.

35. Shaun - March 7, 2008

#19 – OM, what’s with the Wheaton bashing? He’s gotten quite a following as a blogger/writer the past few years. I haven’t read his blog in quite a while, but he’s been doing a lot of interesting stuff and cool projects the past few years. I gained a lot of respect for him.

#28 – Dan, that’s a good point about using the likenesses of familiar characters. But DC got around that back in their time. They used characters like Harry Mudd and Bela Oxmyx, but simply didn’t draw them exactly as they looked. Similar, but not exactly.

36. Shaun - March 10, 2008

Going back to my comments in #33: I just read on Newsarama.com (GREAT comic book site, for those who might be interested) that Peter David (PAD) is indeed going to be writing new Trek comics for IDW, but for his own New Frontier series.

Apparently PAD does have an exclusive contract to write comics for Marvel right now, but Marvel’s being flexible and allowing him to write for Trek/IDW. Although I’ve never read any New Frontier books, it makes sense since that series and those characters are his “baby,” so to speak. I might at least give the first issue a read at my local comic shop, just to see what I think. I’m guessing it’ll have more, and better, dialogue than most of the IDW books I’ve seen thus far.

So, Andrew, I’ll ask again in the hopes that you might read this… Are there any other old DC/Trek writers (or people who wrote for Trek on TV, perhaps?) that you might be coax into doing some TOS, TNG or (pretty please?) DS9 books for IDW?

37. Wil Wheaton - March 11, 2008

#35 Shaun: You’d be astonished at the number of people who haven’t grown past 1990. Their numbers have decreased substantially over the years, but there are still a few hold outs.

If you think OM was bad (I don’t, for the record, just ignorant) you should take a look at the TrekBBS. Man, those people are vicious . . . maybe because they’re trapped in 1990, and feel a little lonely.

38. Shaun - March 12, 2008

#37: Is this really Wil Wheaton? Hey man, if it is you then it’s great to hear from you. I traded emails with you a couple of times back in the days of WWDN (and I offered to make you some CDs you asked about, but you never wrote back… But that’s cool).

Hope you’re doing well! Perhaps I’ll find the time to check your new blog one of these days (when I’m not watching LOST, my current geek obsession)

39. Wil Wheaton From Exile « Andrew Steven Harris - September 12, 2008

[...] penning several books, writing Star Trek TOS manga for Tokyopop (which I gave high marks to in a guest column over at TrekMovie.com) and running Wil Wheaton In Exile, one of the best, longest-running blogs in [...]

TrekMovie.com is represented by Gorilla Nation. Please contact Gorilla Nation for ad rates, packages and general advertising information.