An ongoing discussion of how Star Trek comics provide prequels, sequels, and tie-ins to the episodes and films…
7: Gold Key, 1976-1979
Gold Key Comics’ Star Trek run was a surreal trip into an alternate universe in which Starfleet, the Klingons, and the Romulans were warped-mirror versions of their onscreen counterparts. Still, despite its tendency to miss the mark on accuracy, the series offered some notable sequels and tie-ins to various episodes. This week, let’s revisit Gold Key’s final batch (issues #54–61), including what may be the company’s best sequel.
Star Trek #54 sees the Enterprise crew using a Tholian tractor web to repair a hole in a planet’s atmosphere. Writer George Kashdan had demonstrated, in prior issues, that he possessed greater knowledge of the TV show than Arnold Drake and other writers, so his incorporation of technology from “The Tholian Web” comes as no surprise. Neither do the episode sequels Kashdan penned for Star Trek #56 and #61.
“The City on the Edge of Forever” is often cited as Star Trek‘s best episode, so it’s fitting that Gold Key’s best sequel would be based on that story. In issue #56, deposed dictator Trengur escapes through the Guardian of Forever and kills Hannibal Barca, an ancient Carthage general hailed as one of history’s greatest commanders, thereby preventing his invasion of Italy. As a result, the Nazis invade North America, culminating in Earth never joining the Federation. To set history aright, James Kirk, Spock, and Leonard McCoy venture back in time to stop him. (If this sounds familiar, it’s no wonder—this is basically the premise of the TV story, but with Hannibal substituted for Edith Keeler… and, no, Kirk doesn’t fall in love with Hannibal.)
Gold Key’s Star Trek swan song brought back one of the franchise’s most beloved guest characters: Harcourt Fenton Mudd, from “Mudd’s Women,” “I, Mudd,” and “Mudd’s Passion” (and, in recent years, Star Trek: Discovery and Short Treks). In issue #61, the Enterprise crew uncovers a dilithium mining scam perpetrated by Harry, in the guise of the Grand Qaal of Eulus. It’s a fun yarn and a typical Mudd adventure, but as one of Gold Key’s few bona fide sequels, it doesn’t cover much new ground.
Gold Key’s run ended as of its 61st issue, but that wasn’t the final story written. A script was completed for #62, titled “Trial By Fire” and written by John Warner. The script, along with 19 lettered and penciled pages from artist Frank Bolle, can be found online. [UPDATED: It was finally published in volume #124 of Eaglemoss’s Star Trek Graphic Novel Collection.] Its only real connection to the show involves the USS Exeter, from “Court Martial” and “The Omega Glory,” which assists in retrieving a stranded Enterprise landing party.
From 1976 to 1977, Gold Key repackaged Star Trek #1–38 in a quartet of books known as The Enterprise Logs. These are worth tracking down even if you have the individual issues, as they contain four short comic stories not published in the monthly comic. Three of these (“Captain James T. Kirk: Psycho-File,” “Lt. Commdr. Spock: Psycho-File,” and “From Sputnik to Warp Drive”) are heavily connected to the 1960s show and the later cartoon. Gold Key also repackaged a few tales as two “Dynabrite” specials and in a pair of mini-comic editions, but these contained no original stories.
The “Psycho-Files” looked back at the careers of Kirk and Spock, mining details from numerous episodes. Kirk’s file references his medals, the Axanar Peace Mission, and his serial number from “Court Martial,” as well as his relationship with Janet Wallace from “The Deadly Years.” It also claims he’s the son of Colonel Benjamin Kirk, a hero of the Klingon War which the 2009 film negated by canonizing the novel-created name of George Kirk. Spock’s file mentions T’Pring, T’Pau, and pon farr from “Amok Time”; his mother Amanda from “Journey to Babel” (though it erroneously gives her maiden name as Druce); and the kahs-wan ordeal and ShiKahr from “Yesteryear.”
“From Sputnik to Warp Drive” ups the ante, referencing the United Earth Space Probe Agency (“Charlie X” and “Tomorrow Is Yesterday”), the Fundamental Declarations of the Martian Colonies (“Court Martial”), DY-100-class sleeper-ships (“Space Seed”), the Rigel Colony (“The Doomsday Machine”), Zefram Cochrane (“Metamorphosis”), the S.S. Bonaventure (“The Time Trap”), and the Kzinti (“The Slaver Weapon”). Clearly, whoever wrote these materials (no author is credited) was quite familiar with the shows.
The other tale, “A Page From Scotty’s Diary,” is a humorous piece in which Scotty runs into ex-girlfriend Blanda Lane (which is such a comic-book name) but ignores her romantic advances in favor of ogling her sports vehicle’s engine. It doesn’t reference the show, but it is amusing to read in the modern day, considering Scotty’s description of the Enterprise in the 2009 film as “one well-endowed lady.”
All told, Star Trek‘s first comic-book line was eminently enjoyable, even when it didn’t quite fit the mold. It produced only a handful of sequels to TV episodes, but it made an array of smaller connections to televised Trek—more so than the publisher is usually credited for, in fact. Next week, we’ll look back at a Star Trek comic series so odd, Gold Key shines by comparison. That’s right: it’s time to delve into the British strips.
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Looking for more information about Star Trek comics? Check out these resources:
- The Complete Star Trek Comics Index, by yours truly
- The Star Trek Comics Checklist, by Mark Martinez
- The Wixiban Star Trek Collectables Portal, by Colin Merry
- New Life and New Civilizations: Exploring Star Trek Comics, by Joseph F. Berenato
- Star Trek: A Comics History, by Alan J. Porter
Rich Handley has written books about Planet of the Apes, Back to the Future, and Watchmen, as well as licensed Star Wars and Planet of the Apes fiction, and he edited 70 volumes of Eaglemoss’s Star Trek Graphic Novel Collection. Rich co-edited Titan’s Scribe Award-nominated Planet of the Apes: Tales from the Forbidden Zone; nine Sequart anthologies discussing Planet of the Apes, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Hellblazer, Stargate, and classic monsters; and four Crazy 8 Press anthologies about Batman and (now) the Joker. He has contributed essays to DC’s Hellblazer: 30th Anniversary Celebration; IDW’s Star Trek and Star Wars comic-strip reprint books; BOOM! Studios’ Planet of the Apes Archive hardcovers; Sequart anthologies about Star Trek and Blade Runner; ATB Publishing’s Outside In line exploring Star Trek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, The X-Files, Twin Peaks, and Babylon 5; and a Becky Books anthology covering Dark Shadows.