TMP@30: The Adaptations of Star Trek: The Motion Picture – The Comic Book

sttmp110Star Trek The Motion Picture Anniversary week continues today with a look at the adaptations of the film. First TrekMovie’s Comics co-editor (and creator of Star Trek Comics Checklist) Mark Martinez gives us a special “TrekInk” historical overview and review of Marvels comic book adaptation (and coming up later we will take a look at the novel).


The Comic Adaptation of Star Trek: The Motion Picture

by Mark Martinez

After ten years of watching television reruns, the screening of the first Star Trek feature film, thirty years ago, was a watershed moment for most Trekkies. Star Trek: The Motion Picture gave us a new adventure for the crew of the Enterprise and also ushered in a new publisher for Star Trek comics. The Marvel Comics adaptation of ST:TMP was published in December 1979, the same month the movie appeared in theaters.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Marvel Comics Super Special #15, December 1979
Written and edited by Marv Wolfman, penciled by Dave Cockrum, inked by Klaus Janson, lettering by John Costanza, coloring by Marie Severin, and cover art by Bob Larkin. Based on a story by Alan Dean Foster and Gene Roddenberry, and the screenplay by Harold Livingston.

Star Trek: The motion picture

When Marvel Comics acquired the license for Star Trek comics in 1979, they turned to veteran creators for the comic book adaptation of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Marv Wolfman, creator of Blade, was tasked with the job of writing the script and editing the comic. Wolfman’s script contains dialogue and scenes that don’t appear in the film because the comic was produced while the film was in production. Nevertheless, Wolfman capably captures the spirit of the film. ST:TMP relied heavily on special effects which weren’t available to the artists hired to adapt the movie. I think Dave Cockrum was a fine choice for illustrating a Star Trek comic. Cockrum’s square-jawed Kirk is clearly in command and the rest of the Enterprise crew are in fine form, in spite of the Starfleet jammies they have to wear throughout the story. Together with Klaus Janson’s inks and Marie Severin’s psychedelic colors taking the place of movie special effects, the comic version of ST:TMP is among the best of the Star Trek movie adaptations.

Bob Larkin’s sensational painted cover features the principal characters from the film, and also pays homage to artist James Bama‘s original artwork for the first NBC Star Trek promo clip, which was published as a poster, and eventually used for the cover of the first collection of short stories based on Star Trek episode by James Blish. Larkin also painted an outstanding cover for another paperback collection of Marvel Star Trek comics.


Marvel’s magazine format comic also contains photos from the film, an article on Star Trek: The phenomenon by Tom Rogers, an interview with Jesco von Puttkamer, science advisor for the film, and a glossary of Star Trek terms, names and places. Curiously, there may be a variant edition of Marvel Comics Super Special #15 with a $2.00 cover price instead of the much more common $1.50 cover price. The story goes that the $1.50 cover price was a printing error which was corrected in a late print run. I’ve never seen a copy with the $2.00 cover price. Have you? ST:TMP was also reprinted in several languages around the world. Here are a couple of examples from France and Italy. Doesn’t Destinazione Cosmo sound more exciting than The Motion Picture?


Marvel’s movie adaptation was reformatted and reprinted for a mass-market sized Pocket Books paperback, published March 1980.


And apparently Marvel just couldn’t let go of ST:TMP. Splitting the original adaptation into three parts, the story was published again as the first three issues of the first Marvel Star Trek monthly series, beginning April 1980. Cover art for these issues was provided by Steve Leialoha (#1), Dave Cockrum and Klaus Jansen (#2), and Bob Wiacek (#3).



More recently, GIT Corporation released Star Trek: The Motion Picture in digital format on Star Trek: The Complete Comic Book Collection (DVD-ROM) and Star Trek: Movie Comic Book Collection (CD-ROM). The packaging for both digital sets swipe cover art from Marvel’s monthly Star Trek comics.

comic collection dvd-rom
movie comic cd-rom

If you can’t find a copy of Marvel Comics Super Special #15, or the Pocket Books paperback, or the Marvel monthly series, or if you get migraines trying to read comics on a desktop monitor, laptop, or smartphone, don’t fret. Coming soon to your local comic shop is the Star Trek Movie Omnibus from IDW Publishing, collecting all of the Star Trek movie adaptations in print again.


Clearly, when it comes to reprinting Marvel Star Trek comics, ‘Nuff said! doesn’t apply and that’s good news for fans of the first Star Trek movie.

Up Next: The Novel
Look for Robert Lyon’s retro review of the novelization of Star Trek The Motion Picture.

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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Wow, I loved these.

Great overview here, Mark!!!

Hey, I just ordered that Marvel Super Special not 2 months ago, in anticipation of TMP’s 30th anniversary! For a 30 year old comic magazine, it’s gorgeous. LOVE that cover! Had childhood memories of the comic book versions, but never owned the Super Special. Pretty neat to finally own it after all these decades!

I have very fond memories of spending a snow day home from school with this Marvel Super Special.

Still have all of em……good stuff!

Does anyone know where to get a poster of the James Bama Star Trek art? I’d love to have one.

I second #6’s request

I third 6’s request.

Bob Larkin’s cover seems like it’d be better suited to Star Trek XII: So Very, Very Tired. They all look ancient! Look at Kirk’s leathery, leathery skin!

ahhh…gotta love the obvious errors of classic comics…such as PHASERS COMING FROM THE ENTERPRISE’S TORPEDO TUBES!!!!

I was doing some google Star Trek searches including Star Trek The Motion Picture and just found out that Persis Khambatta, Lt. Ilia, passed away at the age of 47 from a heart attack in 1998. How sad, I can’t believe I didn’t hear about that until now.

Interesting stuff in the comic adap is that it was done based on the discarded first spacewalk sequence.

Hey! I liked those ‘jammie’ uniforms. In fact, the TMP uniforms are my favorites of all the TREK uniforms!

I have and still despise the ST:II – VI uniforms! They remind me of the Gestapo for some reason.

#8: leathery skin???

Now, that was just plain mean-spirited.

On a side note, just about this time in 1979 (autumn of ’79, actually), I submitted six story concepts to Gold Key comics, who then had the license to publish ‘Star Trek.’

Gold Key’s editors told me they were interested, but they had just lost the rights to Marvel.

Best rejection letter I ever got. –sigh–

It always gets me that some of these adaptations had the Enterprise clad in chrome.

the CD-ROM is worth it. And I’m pretty sure the pages can be printed out if your monitor really stinks.

Funny. Just a few days ago I purchased the comic adaption from eBay. I had the comicbook as a child and I remember being very fascinated by it. But somewhere along the way my copy got lost or destroyed or something.

Nice article. I’m enjoying reading these TMP series of articles for the 30th anniversary.

If I recall correctly the Marvel adaptation of TMP includes the incomplete Memory Wall sequence. As well as some interesting art of the V’ger cloud that the original film could not show as well. I believe the Director’s Cut finally showed some of the V’ger spacecraft as originally intended by the script and also similar to what the comic book showed.

Side note – Where is the new copy of Star Trek The Magazine featuring the 30th anniversary TMP cover and articles? It was due to street in December I believe, but is not out yet???

Pretty sure I have this, boxed up in the basement. Not sure now if it is the singe issue or 3-parter. Also have an assortment of Marvel, DC, and Gold Key omnibus. Gotta go through these again one of these days.

Re: the Bama/Larkin cover “homage.” I cannot believe I never made that connection. It’s so obvious! Larkin, a talented painter, bows to the master.

I bought Marvel’s TMP adaptation off the magazine rack at the Pantry Pride grocery store in Albany, GA back in the day. Anyone remember when grocery stores sold comic books? Those were the days.

I remember not caring for the art much. I’ve since learned that Cockrum was a huge Trek fan, and I think Janson is a wonderful inker, though I don’t think his style suited Trek too well. Even if you don’t like comics, this is well worth tracking down and owning, esp. if you’re a fan of TMP.

Scott B. out.

I thought I had lost my STTMP comic during a previous move a few years ago. When we moved to the UK this past May, I was unpacking and found it in a box with some of my old X-Men/New Mutants comics from the 1980’s and 1990’s. I was so thrilled. My husband had never seen the STTMP comic and loved it. STTMP is his favourite Star Trek movie. He went to a comic shop and purchased special bags and boxes so we could preserve these old comics.

Up until Katrina I had all the Marvel TREK comics, as well as a ton of the Gold Key ones.

I’m in the minority but TMP is still one of my favorite TREK movies. Though I loved TWOK, TMP was where I wanted TREK to roam for a while.

The late, great Dave Cockrum was born to draw Star Trek. A damn shame he only did a small run of issues for the Marvel TOS series.

My old grade school library had a copy of this comic book. I used to check it out all the time. Reading the comic book version of TMP, prior to seeing the movie, left me disappointed after seeing the movie. It’s too bad the movie was nowhere near as good as the comic book version.

Never knew that TMP cover was an homage to the 60s TOS art, but it’s awesome now that I do.

I have a Star Trek Vol. 1, No. 3, June, 1980 issue. Also I have several of the MAD magazines: No.184, July ’76, No.192, July ’77, MAD SUPER SPECIAL FALL 1981, number thirty six, and MAD SPRING 1980 SUPER SPECIAL No.30. Also, I have 5 of the CRACKED Magazines.

My question is the same as “PSB2009.”
Does anyone know where to get a copy of the James Bama Star Trek cover art??