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TrekInk Exclusive: ‘New Life and New Civilizations – Exploring Star Trek Comics’ Preview + Author Interview

Nearly 47 years have passed since the first Star Trek comic was published in 1967. Hundreds of comics creators have kept Trekkies entertained with four-color tales published in more than one thousand Star Trek comics. What is it about these comics that keeps us engaged? This August, Sequart Organization will try to answer that question with the release of a collection of essays edited by Joseph F. Berenato that explore Star Trek comics. TrekMovie interviews Joe to learn what motivated him to take on this project and we’ll give you a heads up about what you’ll find in the book.

New Life and New Civilizations: Exploring Star Trek Comics
Edited by Joseph F. Berenato; foreword by David Gerrold; essays by Jim Beard, Joseph F. Berenato, Julian Darius, Ian Dawe, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Kevin Dilmore, Robert Greenberger, Rich Handley, Mark Martinez, Tom Mason, David A. McIntee, Martín A. Pérez, Alan J. Porter, Colin Smith, Scott Tipton, Cody Walker, and Dayton Ward; cover art by Patricio Carbajal.
Published by Sequart Organization, August 2014
Trade paperback, $16.99, ISBN 9781940589053


Cover art by Patricio Carbajal

Interview with Joe Berenato

TrekMovie: Is this an accurate statement: Blueberry farmer by day; graduate student, writer, pop culture enthusiast and analyst by night?

Joe Berenato: Yep! And somewhere in there I also have to find time to be a newlywed (if I want to stay one). :)

TM: Why do you think it’s important to examine pop culture critically rather than just experience it?

JB: Pop culture is no less important than any of the “higher” pursuits: literature, drama, fine art, etc. Comic books, science fiction television, fantasy films – the best ones all deal with timeless human themes (loyalty, hardship, tragedy) and the ability of the characters to survive and prevail. Examining and analyzing pop culture ensures that it gets the due attention it deserves.

TM: In the book you write about your family and growing up with Star Trek. What other media and pop culture influences have had a significant impact on you?

JB: Oh, many. Batman for one, particularly the 1966 series. Ghostbusters. Universal Monsters movies. The Monkees. The Godfather trilogy. They’ve all, in some way, shaped my perceptions of the world around me (and I’m relatively certain that 90% of what comes out of my mouth is a direct quote from one of them).

TM: What is it about comics that engages your interest as a fan and as a writer?

JB: For the longest time, comics were the perfect escapist medium. Whatever problems I was having in my humdrum workaday life paled in comparison to whatever new threat arose in Gotham, or whatever peril faced the Enterprise. To a degree that still holds true. Now, though, I’m a sucker for a good story, and there are few things as satisfying as a perfect marriage of storytelling and artwork. Comics engage the reader in a very specific way, providing visual cues (not unlike motion pictures) but requiring readers to fill in gaps – be they in between panels, or off-screen reveals, what have you (not all that much unlike prose). So that’s why I’m a fan. As a writer? It’s all about legitimacy. One of the things I admire about Sequart Organization is their mission to further the study of comics as legitimate art and literature. If my writing can hep with that in even the smallest way possible, then I’ve achieved something special.

TM: Are there any writer or artist names on the cover of a Star Trek comic that will make you dash to your local comic shop without regard for personal safety?

JB: Absolutely. Scott and David Tipton, and John Byrne. These guys know Star Trek inside and out, and capture the voices and characters in a way that hasn’t been done in years.

TM: Which Star Trek comics would you recommend to a first-time reader?

JB: Oh, man. All of them?

Okay. Spock: Reflections. DC’s The Mirror Universe Saga. Who Killed Captain Kirk? Really, anything by Peter David or the Tiptons.

TM: You’re currently working on your Master of Arts in Writing. What do your professors think when they catch you reading Star Trek comics instead of working on your own writing?

JB: Well, I often bring a laptop to class, and they can’t really see what’s on the screen… but I’ve managed to maintain a 4.0, so I don’t really think they care what I’m reading. :)

TM: There is a Mother Horta in the room. All the contributors to the book are male. Do you think comics creators and publishers can do more to engage women as readers?

JB: The contributors ARE male, yes, but it wasn’t for lack of trying on my part. Unfortunately – and this probably relates to your question – each female I approached was flattered to be asked, but none felt comfortable enough with the material to write a cogent essay. Is that because the creators and publishers failed to engage women? Maybe. There are certainly some fantastic female creators – Louise Simonson, Gail Simone, and on the Star Trek end the late, great Ann Crispin – but there could be more. It very well could be the nature of the beast. Most of the protagonists are male, and the female ones are often drawn in an overly sexualized fashion. Tack on to that the preexisting fact that the industry is largely written for males by males, and it does seem to be rather exclusionary.

TM: What projects are you working on now?

JB: Several, actually. For Hasslein Books, I’m working on It’s Alive: The Unauthorized Universal Monsters Encyclopedia, with Jim and Becky Beard, coming in 2015; and a solo project, Something Strange: The Complete Unauthorized Ghostbusters Encyclopedia, coming (hopefully) in 2016. For Sequart, New Life contributor Rich Handley and I are co-editing The Sacred Scrolls: Comics on the Planet of the Apes, coming in 2015. (And you can bet the bank that we’re including the just-announced Star Trek/Planet of the Apes “The Primate Directive”!)

TM: I don’t know if there is an obligatory question to ask about Star Trek comics, in the same vein as “Kirk or Picard?” or “TOS or TNG?”, so I’ll keep it simple, “Alberto Giolitti or David Messina?”

JB: That’s a tough one, but I’m going to have to go with Messina. I like my nacelles without flames, thank you very much.

TM: Thank you, Joe.

Joe will be a guest at Shore Leave 36, August 1-3, 2014. In addition to introducing New Life and New Civilizations: Exploring Star Trek Comics, he will moderate a panel on Star Trek comics, with contributors Robert Greenberger, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Dayton Ward, Kevin Dilmore and others. The book should be available soon for pre-order from Amazon and other booksellers.

What’s in the book?

The essays featured in New Life and New Civilizations: Exploring Star Trek Comics are written by a mix of scholars, seasoned Trek fiction and non-fiction writers, editors, fans, and at least one obsessive-compulsive collector. (Time for a disclaimer: I wrote the essay on Tokyopop’s Star Trek manga for this book! I have no idea what Joe was thinking when he agreed to let me do this. It’s too late for him to back out now.)

Topics covered include all eras of Star Trek comics, from Western Publishing’s Gold Key comics to the current line of comics from IDW Publishing. Along the way, we learn about the British comics, the newspaper strip, comics from Peter Pan Records, McDonalds, and nearly every incarnation of Star Trek, from the orginal series to Voyager, the films, and Peter David’s New Frontiers. You’ll also read about Star Trek coloring books, Star Trek crossovers, unpublished Star Trek comics, the treatment of women in Star Trek comics, and more. There aren’t any articles on Enterprise comics, because, no Enterprise comics.

To answer the question posed earlier, there are 300 pages of thoughtful opinions and entertaining commentary on nearly fifty years of Star Trek comics. Take a look at the table of contents and decide for yourself.

Table of Contents

  • Star Trekkin’: A Foreword by David Gerrold
  • Wand’ring in Star Flight: An Introduction by Joseph F. Berenato
  • Gold Key: The First Frontier for Star Trek Comics by Scott Tipton
  • From Casual Galactic Genocide to Self-Referential Canon: Gold Key’s Star Trek and the Evolution of a Franchise by Julian Darius
  • Flaming Nacelles and Giant Snails: The Unique Culture of the British Star Trek Comics, 1969-1973 by Alan J. Porter
  • “The Action ‘Comes Alive’ as You Read!!”: On Peter Pan Records’ Star Trek Stories by Julian Darius
  • Inside the Lines and Outside the Box: Star Trek Storytelling for Young Minds (and Tummies) by Kevin Dilmore
  • Faith of the Art: Stripping Down the Star Trek Daily Newspaper Serials by Rich Handley
  • Restricted Areas: Marvel’s First Star Trek by Jim Beard
  • Star Trek the Right Way: On the Mirror Universe Saga by Colin Smith
  • Star Trek, Feminism, and the First Three Years at DC Comics by Ian Dawe
  • Capturing Lightning in a Four-Color Bottle: Bringing Comic Life to The Next Generation by Robert Greenberger
  • How to Make a Star Trek Comic Book: Deep Space Nine at Malibu by Tom Mason
  • New Opportunities, New Missions: Star Trek’s Return to Marvel Comics by Dayton Ward
  • Embracing the Entire Universe: The WildStorm Era by Keith R.A. DeCandido
  • These are the Manga Voyages of the Starship Enterprise by Mark Martinez
  • Excalibur is Drawn: A Journey into Peter David’s New Frontier by Martín A. Pérez
  • The Necessity of Star Trek: Countdown and Other Movie Tie-Ins by Cody Walker
  • Same New Worlds: Reimagining Classic Star Trek Adventures for a New Generation by Joseph F. Berenato
  • To Boldly Cross Over: Transporting the Enterprise to Other Comic Universes by David A. McIntee
  • Appendix: The Unpublished and Rejected Star Trek Comics by Rich Handley

Links

Joe Berenato’s website
Facebook page for New Life and New Civilizations
Sequart’s page for New Life and New Civilizations
Sequart’s Star Trek-related articles

Coming next week, more John Byrne Trek

IDW Publishing will release John Byrne’s latest photo comic, Star Trek: New Visions #2: Time’s Echo next week. Stay tuned for TrekMovie’s review.

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.

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“Which Star Trek comics would you recommend to a first-time reader?”

I’d add to those DC – The Trial of Kirk, Annual #2 Starfleet Academy, Ashes of Eden, Marvel – Early Voyages – Future Tense issues, Manga Borg, IDW – The Last Generation, Countdown, Khan Ruling in Hell, Khan (STID)

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