Captain’s Log: Stardate 7493.5 – On a survey mission through an uncharted sector of the galaxy, we have picked a radio transmission from an unexplored sun system. This is how the newspaper adventures of the Enterprise began, back in December 1979. Most Trekkies aren’t familiar with these comics, but that’s ok, because IDW’s Library of American Comics can help. More after the break.
Star Trek: The Newspaper Comics – Volume 1: 1979-1981
Stories and art by Thomas Warkentin, Ron Harris and Sharman DiVono. Edited and designed by Dean Mullaney, color restoration by Lorraine Turner, with an introduction by Rich Handley
A little background about this book. Rich Handley, who wrote the introduction for this oversize hardcover collection, began researching and collecting the Star Trek newspaper strip years ago. He made several unsuccessful attempts to interest publishers in reprinting the strips, until The Library of American Comics, a division of IDW Publishing, stepped up and set the project in motion. This volume, the first of two, was released December 2012 and features the first ten story arcs, from the strip’s debut on December 2, 1979 through October 25, 1981. Handley’s introduction details the interesting history of the Star Trek strip, distributed by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, and provides background information about the writers and artists who contributed. Reproductions of artist audition strips, promotional material, and the McDonald’s Happy Meal comic strips from 1979 are included in the book.
The Star Trek newspaper strip began its run a few days before Star Trek: The Motion Picture was released. Writer/artist Thomas Warkentin used the crew of the movie, including a couple of cameos by Lt. Ilia, to chronicle the continuing adventures of the starship Enterprise. He illustrated his stories with a sharp eye for detail and the result is a series of stories that remind me of the original series television episodes. Warkentin’s contributions show a healthy respect for the entire original series crew. The Marvel Star Trek comics published at the same time pale in comparison to Warkentin’s newspaper comics. However, the demanding publication schedule took its toll on him. Over time, he needed help from many other creators to keep up. Ron Harris and Sharman DiVono took over the strip in late April 1981. Taking there cue from Warkentin, they picked up where he left off, telling two more stories firmly in the same classic Trek mold. I found all ten of the stories in this volume entertaining. A few of the aliens illustrated in this volume (not the Klingons) are a bit cartoony, but it all works for me. I think you’ll enjoy them too.
It’s an unbelievable treat to finally have these comic strips in book format. The stories are classic Trek and the artwork by Thomas Warkentin is outstanding. The other writers and artists also do a fine job. I only have a few of the Star Trek newspaper strips. Anyone who has seen them in their local newspaper, or in the carefully trimmed collections kept by faithful readers, will know that editor Dean Mullaney and his team at The Library of American Comics have done a terrific job putting together this collection. This is a must have book for every Star Trek fan.
The nuts and bolts and panels of Star Trek: The Newspaper Comics
Star Trek: The Newspaper Comics, Volume 1 is a 9"x11¼", 272-page hardcover with dust jacket and a bound-in bookmark. There are four strips to a page. Each strip is 2¼"x7", which is larger than most strips currently published in newspapers today. To simplify reading the comics, the designers at LOAC decided to format the half page Sunday strips like the daily strips. This means that a single panel was trimmed from the half page format to permit rearranging the remaining panels like four daily strips. The same type of trimming occurred when newspapers published the Sunday strip in tabloid format. Since the story told in the Sunday strip is repeated in the daily strips, trimming a single panel has no effect on the story. Curiously, the extra panel in the half page Sunday strips, seems to have been dropped some time in Spring 1981. More than 150 Sunday Star Trek strips were published. I believe only about half of them have the extra panel. Here are examples of the half page and tabloid format Sunday strips with and without the extra panel.
Here are the panels trimmed from the first three Sunday strips for obsessive-compulsive Trekkies like myself. Anyone want to start a tumblr of these panels?
LOAC is looking for a few good Trekkies!
If you’re a fan of the Star Trek newspaper comics, the folks at LOAC are asking for your help with the second volume.
Attention: Star Trek fans!
IDW’s Library of American Comics (LOAC) needs your help. In December 2012, LOAC published Star Trek: The Newspaper Comics, Volume 1: 1979-1981, reprinting the first 10 L.A. Times Syndicate strips by Thomas Warkentin, Sharman DiVono and Ron Harris (http://www.libraryofamericancomics.com/catalog/series/2419/). In creating that first volume, we worked hard to find the highest-quality strips available. Now we’re preparing Volume 2, and we’re on the lookout once more. We’ve already located all of the strips from the second batch of 10 stories, but are reaching out to the fan community in the hope of finding higher-quality versions of some of them. If you have any of the actual dailies (the original strips, rather than photocopied versions) published between February 1982 and January 1983, and would be willing to lend them for scanning purposes (or provide high-resolution scans), please contact editor Dean Mullaney at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your assistance. With your help, we can continue presenting these lost gems in the best light possible.
Full disclosure disclaimer: I loaned Star Trek newspaper strip ephemera from my collection to LOAC, which they scanned and included in Volume 1, and I received a free copy of the book.
Mark Martinez is an obsessive-compulsive Star Trek comics reader and collector. You can visit his website, the Star Trek Comics Checklist for more than you ever needed to know about Star Trek comics.