Rich Handley Author and Editor

Star Trek Comics Weekly #20

An ongoing discussion of how Star Trek comics provide prequels, sequels, and tie-ins to the episodes and films…

20: DC Comics, 1989–1990
The abrupt cancelation of DC Comics’ first Star Trek comic book series in 1988 left readers heartbroken. Compared to prior efforts by Gold Key, Power Records, and Marvel, not to mention the British comic strips, DC’s contributions had been pure gold. So to see the series vanish without notice came as a shock.

It wasn’t long, however, before DC’s efforts were rebooted, starting with an adaptation of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and continuing with two ongoing titles—one featuring James T. Kirk’s crew, the other Jean-Luc Picard and the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. This week’s column examines the first twelve issues of DC’s second classic Star Trek comic line, written by Peter David and illustrated by James W. Fry, Arne Starr, and (for one issue) Gordon Purcell, as well as the first annual, co-written by Peter David and George “Sulu” Takei, with art by Gray Morrow.

Several things changed with this new run. Due to an unpopular corporate edict, Arex and M’Ress (from The Animated Series) were removed from the lineup, along with DC’s original characters Konom, Nancy Bryce, William Bearclaw, Elizabeth Sherwood, and  Moron/Bernie. New characters were introduced in their stead, including Ensign Fouton, an over-eager Enterprise security officer, as well as protocol officer Raspberry Jam “R.J.” Blaise, who was tasked with censoring Kirk’s decisions whenever politically necessary. R.J. soon became the captain’s love interest, which was a surprise to exactly no one.

Hikaru Sulu, meanwhile, found himself in a love triangle with two new cast members: the ram-horned M’yra (who was supposed to be M’Ress until DC was forced to hastily give her a different head) and Kathy Li. Considering Sulu’s prior dalliances with M’Ress and Maria Morelli, DC’s writers sure seemed set on depicting him as a ladies’ man. In the end, it didn’t matter much since history repeated itself and DC had to axe its original characters yet again. One thing that thankfully didn’t change? The publisher’s penchant for offering prequels, sequels, and tie-ins to onscreen Star Trek.

From M’yra to M’Ress, Sulu’s interspecies relationships never work out in the end.

David’s second tenure (he’d penned issues #48–55 of the first series) lasted for only fifteen issues, and it centered around the Klingon ambassador’s line in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home that there would be no peace as long as Kirk lived. The first twelve chapters form an ongoing narrative, with Kirk making controversial judgment calls that border on violating the Prime Directive. Kirk angers several alien governments in the process, including the Klingons and the Nasgul, who demand that he be held accountable for crimes against their empires. To appease all involved, Starfleet reluctantly agrees to try Kirk in the Federation Council chambers, allowing the aggrieved to make their case—and the author to revisit several episodes and movies.

Klaa and Vixis, the most over-the-top Klingons this side of Kor and Gowron.

Captain Klaa and his sidekick Vixis return, fresh off their debut in Star Trek V. Disgraced following his onscreen failures, Klaa vows to regain the Emperor’s favor by bringing him Kirk’s head—which, predictably, he fails to do. The Federation President (from Star Trek IV) reminds the Klingons that Kirk saved General Korrd’s life at Nimbus III, but since Korrd is also disgraced, this has little effect. Meanwhile, Uhura and Scotty discuss her professed attraction to him while under Sybok’s influence, and the two agree to remain platonic. All of this ties in with the controversial fifth film, so remember that the next time someone erroneously claims licensed writers were forbidden from referencing The Final Frontier. It’s simply untrue.

When Troyian ambassadors show up, it’s a good bet they’ll end up injured.

Peter David is well-versed in Trek trivia. The first four issues feature a Federation ambassador who, despite having the human name Palmer, appears to be a Troyian (“Elaan of Troyius”), as do several background Enterprise personnel. Issue #4 mentions that Robert Fox (from “A Taste of Armageddon”) has been promoted to the Federation’s Protocol Office. Humiliated at being assigned a protocol officer, Kirk glumly recalls when Robert Wesley dubbed him “Captain Dunsel” in “The Ultimate Computer.” The Federation President, in issue #5, cites Kirk’s role in saving Earth in The Voyage Home as a reason not to pursue charges. And in #6, Leonard McCoy, determined to cure a plague, admits he’s driven by the death of his father, whom—as revealed in Star Trek V—Bones chose to euthanize in order to spare him from suffering, only for a cure to be found soon thereafter.

McCoy, Leonard H…. son of David.

Admiral Nogura, a character mentioned but not seen in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, makes his comic book debut in issue #9, then returns in #12. And in #10, Montgomery Scott travels to Glasglow, Scotland, to pay respects to his late nephew Peter Preston, who’d died during the battle with Khan Noonien Singh in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. It’s a poignant moment, as many of Scotty’s best comic book moments tend to be—and it’s made doubly sad once one notices a nearby gravestone labeled “Glynnis Campbell,” the name of Scotty’s ex-wife from DC’s heart-wrenching third annual (the only reference to the prior series in this second iteration, which otherwise ignores those events).

“I doubt it was that easy with Nogura.”

It’s issues #10–12 that are the true delight for those seeking episode tie-ins. While on shore leave with Blaise, Uhura recalls a boyfriend from her youth, saying she’d met a man just like him who’d turned out to be a “salt-sucking alien.” Although “The Man Trap” never specified the man’s identity, this comic reveals that he was Uhura’s lover. Blaise asks if Uhura and Kirk were ever intimate, and Nyota admits they once kissed, adding, “Not that I wanted to. Some telekinetic aliens in togas made us.” This, of course, is an allusion to the history-making Kirk-Uhura smooch in “Plato’s Stepchildren.”

Midshipman Peter Preston, plus a sneaky cameo by Scotty’s true love.

The author provides sly foreshadowing of The Next Generation‘s “Sarek” and “Unification,” with Spock’s father Sarek worrying about the century or so he will likely outlive his human wife, Amanda Grayson, and doubtful he’ll never find as compatible a mate. Around the time that this comic hit stands, “Sarek” revealed that the ambassador re-married following Amanda’s death, with another human woman named Perrin.

Sarek: a man who simultaneously looks down on human women… and repeatedly marries them.

Peter David’s trademark use of humor adorns each issue, and one particularly funny exchange recalls McCoy’s gift to Kirk, in The Wrath of Khan, of a pair of antique eyeglasses. Bones notices that Kirk no longer wears them, and Kirk admits he sold them in 1986 (in The Voyage Home). Chekov—representing Star Trek fans’ tendency to nitpick details—points out a paradox inherent in the glasses being pawned in the past: since they came into existence in the past only when Kirk brought them back from the future, no one could have actually built them in the first place!

Sam and Areel Cogley… who apparently cannot spell their last name.

During Kirk’s trial, Samuel T. Cogley and Areel Shaw (from “Court Martial”) defend him, and readers learn that the two have wed and combined their legal practice (though the comic misspells their surname as “Cogsley”). Among the charges levied is the murder of Commander Kruge in Star Trek III, despite Kruge having been the aggressor. Maltz, the sole survivor of Kruge’s crew, is called to testify against the captain. Since Kirk had promised to kill him but instead had him imprisoned, Maltz now lives in dishonor. And speaking of dishonor, Korrd is slated to testify on Kirk’s behalf, but the Emperor arranges for the general to be “indisposed,” implying execution or imprisonment.

Maltz: He… does not deserve to live!

The trial provides a tragic coda to “A Taste of Armageddon,” as Kirk, it seems, is indirectly guilty of genocide!Anan 7 testifies against him, recalling the captain’s actions in stopping his people’s virtual war with a neighboring world. Kirk’s actions were effective, Anan notes, until actual warfare broke out, resulting in the obliteration of Vendikar and the irradiation of Eminiar VII. Amusingly, upon hearing the name Anan 7, Kathy Li confuses him with Gary Seven (“Assignment: Earth”), commenting “Maybe they’re related.”

Yet another of Kirk’s solutions fails to go as planned…

One of the trial’s more entertaining scenes involves Bela Okmyx (“A Piece of the Action”) showing up with several mobsters to deliver the captain’s profit “cut” going back two decades, to when Kirk posed as a gangster and united the bosses as a single gang. Though well-meaning in his desire to defend Kirk’s reputation, Okmyx (whose surname is misspelled as “Oxmyx”) damages Kirk’s case by reminding the court of his tendency to bend the Prime Directive to the point of breaking. At least he returns McCoy’s lost communicator… which doesn’t help Kirk’s case either, since he does so in full view of the court.

Bela Okmyx… a man who, like the Cogleys, is confused about his own last name.

On the other hand, Leonard James Akaar, the son of the late Teer Akaar of Capella IV (“Friday’s Child”), testifies on Kirk’s behalf—and it’s one of the trial’s most powerful moments. Now a grown man, Akaar thanks Kirk for saving him when he was a newborn, then astounds the assembled by pledging undying loyalty to the captain.

Leonard James Akaar, all grown up

Ultimately, Kirk is exonerated in a moment strongly reminiscent of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, which wouldn’t hit theaters for another year. Kirk realizes the Nasgul leader intends to assassinate the Klingon Emperor, so he springs into action, seemingly attacking the ruler but actually saving his life. This changes the Klingons’ opinion of him, resulting in Kirk’s freedom and a restored peace between the Empire and the Federation, after which Kirk, Spock, and McCoy ponder the future. A remarkably similar sequence of events would play out in The Undiscovered Country, with Kirk saving Chancellor Azetbur from an assassin and thereby setting the stage for an alliance.

I’m not implying someone read this comic before writing Star Trek VI… or am I?

In the George Takei annual, Sulu is reunited with Corazon Kohwangko, a former lover (when it came to lady loves, Kirk had nothing on Sulu in the DC days). This standalone tale, about a world where chemicals released by strip mining have caused the population to suffer spontaneous combustion upon physical contact, holds few connections to onscreen lore. Still, it’s one of Peter David’s more compelling and topical stories—and, like the annual involving Scotty’s late wife, it centers around the death of a former lover, a rather frequent Star Trek trope.

In two weeks, we’ll continue our examination of DC Comics’ second Star Trek series. But first, be here next week as Michael Jan Friedman launches an ongoing title featuring Jean-Luc Picard and company. We’ll delve into how that series admirably approached the medium of comic books as prequels, sequels, and tie-ins. Engage!

Looking for more information about Star Trek comics? Check out these resources:

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.

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