San Francisco Trekker and animator produces his own weekly original Star Trek comic strip.
Exploding as a merchandising phenomenon in 1977, most do not realize that Star Wars was not the first science fiction franchise to capitalize on its popularity among its fans. That distinction belongs to Star Trek, as comic books, comic strips and printed episode adaptations debuted by 1967 and continue today. Miami-born animator Mark Farinas continues that tradition with his original Star Trek comic strips on his website, trekcomic.com, every Tuesday and Friday.
Growing up in Miami, a melting pot of ethnicities and cultures, one could say Farinas was living aboard on his own private Enterprise. While Star Trek The Next Generation would not air until he was eight years old, Farinas was introduced to the franchise through The Original Series, which featured Hispanic members of Starfleet and allowed him to view this future world as normal.
“I’m a crazy Trekkie,” Farinas said. “I’m sure that it’s not much different than other people’s craziness. I eat it up and it’s always there in front of my brain.”
Professionally, Farinas makes a living as a freelance animator, working on independent films, ads for small businesses, non-profits and even the occasional political advertisement. The creator in him yearned for more and he began scripting in 2006, thinking about a possible Star Trek animated series in 2007. It would not be until 2014 when he would realize his own unique ideas into a comic strip set in the Star Trek universe.
“Most of the story outlines and some of the scripts were written 10 years ago for an anthology-based series I’d been toying around with for while,” Farinas explained. “I liked the anthology format because it let me explore parts of the Star Trek universe that weren’t aboard a starship. It also frees me to do whatever I want with my characters without worrying about bringing them back the next episode.
“In 2009, as a proof-of-concept for an animated series, I put out a short film called Klingon Propaganda that made the rounds on sites like iO9 and Blastr. Even though it did well, I didn’t really expect CBS to call me up asking for a proposal, but a guy can dream. A few years later, I realized those scripts and stories were just going to waste so I decided to put them out on my own in comic form”
Two comic strips have featured Star Trek, with the most well known to American audiences the syndicated strip that appeared in U.S. newspapers prior to the release of Star Trek The Motion Picture in 1979 (which lasted until 1983). However, recently a second comic strip was reprinted for fans that first appeared across the pond in England, debuting in 1969. Farinas’ strip is in the same vein, telling original stories set in the Star Trek universe. Whereas the two earlier strips featured the original cast, Farinas’ stories are occupied by new characters.
To date, Farinas has written and illustrated five separate stories featuring supporting characters and aliens like Harry Mudd, Tellarites and a former female first officer from the original pilot of Star Trek. Exciting and beautifully produced, Farinas’ strip captures the spirit, look and feel of The Original Series, especially in their visual presentation.
“I mostly use DC Comic’s 1970’s color palette,” Farinas said. “The colors are pretty bright and garish, but once they’re overlaid onto a newsprint texture, they take on that nice, vintage comic look. I’ve augmented DC’s palette to include more skin tones for colored folks since they didn’t care much about that back then. I believe heavily in casting specifically for representation. If a property is going to feature a variety of interesting aliens in it, it should be a given that it includes a variety of interesting people as well. I want readers of all types to be able to see themselves in the stories I write. I’m a Hispanic guy, so I like seeing Hispanics. I understand that need.”
Inspired by Roddenberry’s ability to incorporate a deeper meaning into those first episodes, which continued into Next Generation and subsequent shows, Farinas seeks to bring Star Trek and science fiction back to its storytelling roots, where a deeper message could be written while also entertaining audiences. Thus, he takes it upon himself to keep the Great Bird of the Galaxy’s dream alive.
“The Original Series could be really dark, but it was hopeful. And above all, even though it wasn’t necessarily made for kids it is ‘child friendly’, in that you can watch it with them as a family. There isn’t the kind of overwhelming ‘grimdark’ you see mixed into a lot of properties today.
“I’m also very interested in stories that have a relatable message that parallels what’s going on in the real world. The original concept for Basis of Proof was the crew of the U.S.S. Hood dealing with being stranded on a wrecked ship after being shot down in the previous story, Weapons of Mass Destruction. They, I thought, would be slowly captured by an alien zoo, which sounds cool, but it didn’t have a point. It was a by-the-numbers adventure where nothing happened and no one grew. I have friends who are very good writers themselves who helped me make it work. When thinking about what I could do they suggested the latest anti-vaccination battles in California. I had just done a poster on that subject with Kirk, Spock, and McCoy that lead us to come up with a story that was about a cold, unrelatable rationalist versus someone willing to believe anything.”
Education or entertainment aside, the results have been positive as Farinas has cultivated a loyal online following that continually supports each week’s efforts (in fact, it was one of these loyal followers that brought Trek Comic to this writer’s attention).
“If the web traffic is to be believed, I have a couple thousand of readers. I have a lot of good fans, who comment even if there is nothing particularly interesting happening in that day’s strip. I know them all pretty well by now and can guess who’s going to pick up on what reference and who’s going to try to catch me in a continuity error. The amazing thing about doing a webcomic, as opposed to any other media, is being able to see viewer reaction on a line-by-line basis. It’s incredibly fun to see people freak out in slow motion during particularly tense scenes that can last weeks.”
Check out new Trek Comic strips posted every Tuesday and Friday online.