TrekInk: Revisiting the ‘First Mission’

This month, TrekInk revisits an old Star Trek comic book from the DC Comics days: the 1985 DC Annual fittingly titled "All Those Years Ago". The transfer of the Enterprise from Pike to Kirk, Number One’s career ending injury, and McCoy’s return to space. All this and more delivered to you by the capable hands of Mike W. Barr.


With the upcoming Star Trek film featuring both Captain Pike and Jim Kirk and showing the origins of The Original Series, it seems a perfect time to revisit the first annual in the original DC Comics Star Trek series. "All Those Years Ago" was written by Mike W. Barr, one of the main authors of the ongoing monthly series. The annual allowed him a step outside of the ongoing continuity to revisit the era between Pike and Kirk for the first time in the comics.

On the surface, Barr’s story is a connect-the-dots style of story linking the first two Star Trek pilots "The Cage" and "Where No Man Has Gone Before", taking the classic "origin story" and setting it amid an adventure, not unlike the recently released "Iron Man" film. this origin story is told in the form of a flashback with a bookend story set more or less during the continuity of the comics at that time (between Star Trek III and Star Trek IV), with Kirk commanding the USS Excelsior and Spock in command of the USS Surak, on stardate 8370.2. He has called the old crew back together, Spock, Scotty, Uhura, McCoy, and Sulu since they are the only active Starfleet personnel that encountered a race of aliens that are returning. Saavik, asks to hear the story of the previous encounter, and Kirk obliges, telling her about his last days in command of the USS Saladin on stardate 1278.40 and his first encounter with the USS Enterprise.

Kirk falls in love with the Enterprise for the first time, leaving all other relationships to be merely trysts (click to enlarge)

The story develops in the same style as the typical origin story, introducing the hero, then introducing his surrounding cast, and showing how they are all drawn together. Upon beaming over for the first time, we encounter Sulu, Scotty, Pike, Spock, and Number One in quick succession, and Kirk does not fail to make a poor first impression on most of them. After an unfortunate accident involving Number One and her saving the lives of Kirk and Pike, Kirk is forced to choose a new first officer for the ship. Instead of choosing Spock, he chooses Gary Mitchell, and they all head out into space with the first duty of transporting the new Fleet Captain, Pike, to his new posting.

David Ross and Bob Smith provide the art for this issue, doing pencils and inks respectively. This is David Ross’ only Star Trek comic book work, as he was a regular penciler on "Justice League of America" and "Avengers: West Coast". More recently, this Canadian artist’s work can be see in the "Parallels" arc in the "Star Wars: Dark Times" series. On the other hand, Bob Smith contributed to three other Trek comic book annuals, two Next Generation ones, and the following Original Series one, "The Final Mission".

Even after serving with a Vulcan, Pike still can’t spread his fingers properly (click to enlarge)

The pencil art by Ross features many classic poses from the television series, including Gary Mitchell lounging on a couch, Spock’s knit fingers, and Kirk’s actions in the captain’s chair. His faces are, for the most part, remarkably like the actual actors, both their movie era looks and their television era looks. Occasionally, the faces are notable only for their lack of definition. Overall, it is the simpler art style seen in many comics in the 1980s. Smith’s inking is not overly noticeable, but brings out the emphasis in the pencil art, with his judicious use of shading and highlighting. Combining with Carl "Gaff" Gafford’s colors, the characters on the pages are given life. These are not the strong and vibrant colors that we see from modern comics, such as those printed by IDW, or even the last Trek comics published, those by WildStorm. Much of this is due to the paper and inks used and the costs involved with such. Then again, when reading comics of this vintage, this is what is expected.

The last view of Earth for five years… or until "Assignment Earth" at least…
(click to enlarge)

Overall, this is not one of the best comics from the DC era, but is significant in that it is one of the first times in the comic realm that the Pike era is touched upon. Will this be anything like the upcoming movie? It’s doubtful, but at the same time, you never do know, and perhaps J.J. Abrams and/or some of his team have been reading these old issues for inspiration. Either way, these comics are worth reading for those interested in more views of Trek than the television shows give. Some of the themes and events from this era have made their way into the shows or novels, which always adds to the reading experience.

The 1985 Star Trek DC Annual #1 can be found at Ebay, Mile High Comics, and other comic stores that sell back issues. It also should be included in the upcoming DVD collection from GIT (see story).

Cover for Star Trek DC Annual 1, 1985


New Romulan series title
According to John Byrne on his forums, his new series will be shipping in September 2008 and is titled "Romulans: The Hollow Crown". Here’s a mockup of the logo:

2nd Alien Spotlight writers + artists
Andrew Steven Harris announced on TrekBBS that he will be writing the Ferengi issue in the second Alien Spotlight series. He also announced that J.K. Woodward (Peter David’s Fallen Angel series and the alternate cover for the second issue in the Turnaround series) is doing the painted artwork for KRAD’s Klingon story.

Mirror Cover 2
Finally, Joe Corroney released an updated cover for the second issue of the upcoming "Mirror Image" series on his blog.

Next week: New IDW comics coming… more news… lots of info!

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That’s the ‘first’ and last time that will ever happen; I do remember reading the Star Trek Annual went it first came out…the plot of the comic has come to mind ever since they began production of the new movie…

Ahh, the simpler times. Before 800 episodes of canon made everyone afraid to put out any new ideas.

Bring on the DVD Rom collection!

Truly- the best of times. I remember “All Those Years Ago” as one of the all time great Star Trek comics. Mike Barr rocked– and the DC Star Trek comics of the mid 80’s were in a class all their own. Anyone care to disagree?


Yes, the comics back then were the only source for new Trek. At the time they were a great way to get a fix before we had new stories and new crews.

If I remember, DC was severly limited in how they could portray the characters, when and if they could introduce new recurring characters etc. In some ways the restrictions of that time might have been worse than now where they is more free reign to investigate alternate timelines/realities, or the back story of the supporting cast.

This review reminded me of the Chris Claremont graphic novel “Debt of Honor.” In many ways much more like an episode of Lost as it has a framing story and severl flashbacks. In many ways, the best of what DC put out in the time they had Trek. It still suffers to the limitations of the medium, but does a good job none the less.

Excited for all the IDW releases. They are really knockin’ em out of the park. I”m waiting for Alien Spotlight to come out in trade paperback, though…..

If anyone reading is on the fence about checking out IDW’s collections, the Klingons: Blood Will Tell book is absolutely fantastic – perhaps the best Trek comic book out there.

You know, I remember this comic. What a blast from the past!

Pike’s “I speak it with an accent” line is inspired by a story NImoy tells of an early encounter with a fan who couldn’t master the hand sign and said that. I have that comic and wondered how many people caught that reference.

“Then again, when reading comics of this vintage, this is what is expected.”

GOOD GRIEF, it was only 1985! Was it really that long ago???

(God, that makes me feel old…)

#4 – I have to disagree…

…as a fan of STAR TREK, comic books and illustration in general, the “Tom Sutton/Ricardo Villagran” years were the all-time WORST era in TREK comics. The stories and writing were solid, mind you, but these two put out LOUSY artwork… stiff, muddy and undetailed. The Powers That Be at DC kept them on FAR too long, much too the detriment of the original DC series.

“Mile High Comics” ??
I’ll just be nice and assume they’re based in Denver.

It’s so nice to look back at 1985… when the Trek Universe still revolved on the original cast, even if that included a pre-cast cast. I don’t totally dislike anything that followed, but really… there is nothing like TOS.

Wow I remember picking up this DC STAR TREK annual issue. I loved that they did the Pike era stuff and I believe I still have this issue kicking around in my stuff. I do agree to a point about the uneven artwork quality of these early STAR TREK issues. Even as a kid it drove me nuts in that some issues would look okay and others not so good. Of course compared to the Gold Key STAR TREK series the DC one was so much better even with it’s weaknesses. I don’t think I have bought a STAR TREK comic in years, but it is fun to remember those days.

I’ve got that issue hidden away somewhere. I doubt I’ve taken it out of the plastic since ’88 or so.

Summer of ’85 … one of the all-time greats. I remember buying this in Atlantic City on a midday break from my radio internship doing news on the air at what was then WIIN/WFPG, and devouring this along with my lunch at a Roy Rogers. Good times! That special was the most fun I’d ever had reading a Trek comic to that point because , and the artwork was the best comic rendering of the original I’d seen. The cover was an enjoyable variant on the original NBC promotional artwork.

I really enjoyed that DC era and the novel ways in which they bridged the gaps between movies. However, that approach pretty much permanently fixes most of their storylines in an alternate universe.

All of the DC comics were much better than the Marvel series that came out after the STTMP.

At that same time there was a daily comic strip set in the STTMP time period that was MUCH better than the Marvel comics. I used to clip the strips out and stash them away.

Of course I can’t remember where I stashed them …

“Mile High Comics” *is* based in Denver and they’re a very reputable outfit.

“13. Captain Otter – May 12, 2008

I’ve got that issue hidden away somewhere. I doubt I’ve taken it out of the plastic since ‘88 or so.”

Same here,and like others have mention,this comic came to mind when ever I think about the days before the first mission.
Loved the art,it showed you didn’t have to use a ton of photo references. Like today.

@15 — Yes … and yes about that TMP tie-in strip, which ran in my area in the old Philadelphia Bulletin. You’ll recall the big Sunday color ones were nicely done. The artwork blew Marvel’s away for accuracy, plus it captured a “clean” Star Trek look. And it wasn’t comic sketches of publicity photos.

I particularly liked how the cover art echoed the artwork the first James Blish book, which holds a place in my heart as the first ST book I owned and loved.

Debt of Honor by Chris Claremont and Mike Barr’s All Those Years Ago would be my two all time favorite TOS comics. Both are well written and have exceptional art in a period where the monthly TOS comic was very poorly drawn and indifferently written – the above mentioned Sutton/Villagran years.

David Ross was a very promising penciller at the time but he just disappeared from the medium after a year or so. He also did “Last Days of the Justice Society” for DC. I wonder whatever happened to him.

And I agree with diabolk in #19, I love the way they captured the spirit of the Blish novels with that cover.

Well this has to be the worst example of the remastering project yet. I mean, c’mon! That one planet above is nothing but a red dot. The nacelles are completely wrong and the whole thing looks like a cartoon!

What’s that, you say? Comic books? Oh.

Freakishly enough,a rather fine copy of the ‘star trek annual 1977’ published in the UK by World Distibutors was gifted to me not 2 days ago!
Not trying to tout my wears but it is a thing of beauty in mint condition, Anthony, could I send some scans for all to enjoy?

To be honest,this should be passed around between a few respectful guardians and loved. A 30 year old hardback comic and its cute as a new born tribble.

I was born in 1979 so I am the kid in this relationship.

debt of honor was my favorite, very emotional story line.
Would have been a great film I think…

“Last Days of the Justice Society” was a great read. I never connected that it and the Trek annual were drawn by the same guy.

#22: Your post made me snarf my iced tea…. *chuckle*

And I just would like to state for the record how INCREDIBLY excited I am that JK Woodward is illustrating my Klingon story. He’s done four pages so far (well, two pages and a double-page spread), and they are amazing!

Just a little comment about the caption “Last view of Earth for five years…at least until ‘Assignment Earth’.” Remember that the Enterprise visited Earth long before that particular adventure, in “Tomorrow is Yesterday.”

#6: Thanks for the awesome compliments. And the Alien Spotlight TPB comes out this month… May 25, I believe.

#5: Yeah, the Claremont “Debt of Honor” graphic novels ranks up there easily as my favorite Trek comics story of all time.

Meanwhile, hmm… I wonder what the Mike W. Barr is up to…

I bought every comic that came out in the DC & Marvel eras, read each one time and bagged ’em and boxed ’em.
Someday, they’ll go up on EBay or be passed down to the grandkids [if my boys & their wives ever get cracking in that department…]
I have resisted breaking the seals to reread them. When I heard about the upcoming DVD, it became a must-buy, just to revisit those tales. I had almost forgotten part of the DC series dealt with adventures between the movies.

On an off-topic note, my wife has had her last chemo session and aside from the chemo ‘accelerating’ her diabetes, all is well.
Diabetes we can deal with. It gives us both good reason to eat sensibly.
Thank you for all your prayers and good wishes. It worked.

Just a correction to my #28–my fingers seemed to have slipped one digit over when typing the release date for the Alien Spotlight TPB. It’s May 14, not May 25–which, yeah, is tomorrow!

The first ST comics that were REALLY trek (the Gold Key never were to me) were the DC comics that came out starting with the TMP adaptation. I remember how I treasured those early tales after the movie when they did new stories using the movie as the starting point. It was exciting for awhile, but they went downhill within a year or so.

My favorite was the one about the inventor of the transporter, and the “ghosts” of the people lost in the beam during experiments, which were done under cover of secrecy. This was so long before the poor ENTERPRISE attempt to cover the same ground in “Icarus.” I had to think the comic influenced that story.

I might point out that the comic was using details about the event laid out in the Spaceflight Chronology, which was cool.

” … were the DC comics that came out starting with the TMP adaptation.”

That was Marvel. The DC series didn’t start til post-“Wrath of Khan”.

I used to have that comic.

Until Hurricane Floyd flooded my basement and ruined 80% of my Trek collection.

Never keep your Trek stuff in the basement, I had to learn that the hard way.

#32…. riiiight. I misspoke, but the sentiments are the same…

#15… yes, that’s right, they were excellent. I clipped out all I could get, which were only a few, but Istill have them, like you, stashed somewhere in among my collected stuff.

Too bad we never saw a collected book of the strips.

Andrew Steven Harris,

When may we see the Byrne Assignment: Earth book? I remember reading May. My local comics shop still hasn’t goten it.

15. lostrod – May 12, 2008 Wow Iostrod you brought back the memories of the ST strip which I also clipped and I think pasted onto paper.;) Fun stuff we do as a kid. I believe I have seen web sites in the past post all of this work and yes I thought the strip had some pretty damn good work. Although the only bum deal is with modern strips it was pretty small and not well printed. Sometime and somehow check out a comic strip from the 30s/40s I have seen them framed at comic cons, galleries, etc. It is mindblowing the size and printed quality they had!

In fact what the heck check out these links dealing with the STAR TREK comic strip…

If one searches there may be more out there…

…When this comic came out, there was a lot of discussion on both the FIDOnet and WWIVnet Trek groups about which was more acceptable – the comic, or Vonda McIntyre’s novel. Based on the postings and heavy debaate, the comic was preferred over the novel by at least a 40-to-1 ratio. In fact, there were only a couple of “power posters” on both BBS networks who staunchly supported the novel over the comic, and those were known “Vonda Apologists”.

…IIRC, Barr was asked about this story at a convention not long afterwards, and he’d admitted that a) he’d read Vonda’s novel, b) didn’t like it at all, and c) intended from the start to come up with a “Kirk takes command” story that was far more apropos for TOS and acceptable to the fans. He also deliberately avoided the “who was the XO – Spock or Mitchell?” debate as he was more interested in telling a better story, which he clearly did.

It makes me smile as much as it hurts to see these old Trek comics from DC. Smile because they were really done well, and DC made sure they weren’t crap. Hurt because it wouldn’t be too long after this that Richard “Melakon” Arnold got his gagh-stained claws into the Trek licensing, and fracked everything up so bad that even 15+ years after his ouster, things still aren’t up to the level of quality that existed when this Annual came out.

Which is why even today, with only one leg left, I would still try to find a way to kick Richard Arnold in the balls as hard as I could….:P

re: #36

I’m told that Assignment: Earth will be out last week of May.

So… two weeks from now (give or take).

A superb comic,One of my all-time faves.Nothing spectacular,just a honest way to tie the two Captains together in a typical Star Trek fashion.


Good. Danke.