Rich Handley Author and Editor

Star Trek Comics Weekly #23

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

23: DC Comics, 1990–1991

Michael Jan Friedman’s scripting for DC Comics’ Star Trek: The Next Generation comic series had a lot going for it: clever in-character dialogue, skillful artwork that nailed the actors’ likenesses, and a never-ending supply of intelligently conceived storylines. What’s interesting is that although Friedman clearly knew Star Trek well and had proven his pedigree, not only at DC but as a novelist for Pocket Books, the first couple of years of his comics tenure contained surprisingly few sequels to televised lore.

DC Comics’ Star Trek: The Next Generation #13–24

Friedman’s stories in issues #13–24 continued this trend—though, certainly, no one would call them disconnected from the television series. The author adeptly maintained the show’s ensemble approach to storytelling by making sure every character had something meaningful to do, even those frequently shortchanged on TV, such as Deanna Troi, Geordi La Forge, and Beverly Crusher. Arguably, the writing for all three was more interesting on the printed page than it tended to be onscreen.

Artists Peter Krause and Pablo Marcos did an admirable job of bringing Friedman’s tales to life with their pencils and inks, and DC’s then-new printing process made the colors crisply pop on every page. There’s a good reason DC’s monthly titles and supplementary one-shots and miniseries remain highly regarded among Trek fans: they were consistently well-written and beautifully drawn, both inside and on the covers, and it was obvious the creative teams assigned to them were fans.

Doctor Selar returns, now sporting a decidedly different hairdo

Although Friedman’s early work contained fewer direct sequels than DC’s line based on James Kirk’s crew, he did bring back several guest characters, including Doctor Selar (from “The Schizoid Man”) in issues #14–16 and 20–24; Romulan Commander Tomalak (“The Enemy” and “The Defector”) in #17; Jeremy Aster (“The Bonding”) in #19; and Kyle Riker (“The Icarus Factor”) in #21, along with Lwaxana Troi and Katherine Pulaski. As a result, the comic was strongly tied in with what was airing on TV each week, even without a preponderance of sequels.

The annoying but nonetheless wonderful Lwaxana Troi

This span of tales showcased multiple references to onscreen Trek. Issue #14 sees the Enterprise stopping for shore leave at Grindelwald, a trillium-rich tourist planet. This provides a sly tie-in with The Original Series, for while trapped on Organia in the episode “Errand of Mercy,” Spock had posed as a trillium trader to keep the Klingons from discovering his identity. Plus, the Ferengi in this story are the spastic, whip-flinging, and fur-adorned variety that debuted in “The Last Outpost,” as opposed to the amended—and less ridiculous—portrayal from later episodes.

Oh, god… season-one Ferengi….

In #16, Starbase 173 records a series of mysterious force tides, which the Enterprise is assigned to investigate. This same base had been the site of a trial in “The Measure of a Man” to determine Data’s rights as a sentient being. What’s more, a couple of Gorns (“Arena”), long cut off from their homeworld, show up in issue #23.

Something’s Gorn wrong

Dave Stern and Mike O’Brien guest-penned issue #18, with artwork by Mike Manley and Rob Campanella, and the team turned in a fun time-travel yarn utilizing elements of “Contagion”—namely, the Iconians. Wesley Crusher invents a hyperport drive intended to facilitate long-range transport through space (a concept later explored in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek films). Wes takes a page from David Marcus’s playbook, however, and incorporates Iconian components into his invention, despite the recklessness of tampering with untried technology. This turns the hyperport into a time machine—and the issue into a riff on The Terminator, with an older Wesley sending a man into the past to find his younger self and prevent a civilization’s destruction.

Romulan Commander G’Karmalak

Friedman returned to the fold with issue #19, and Jeremy Aster’s unexpected cameo in that story adds a charming touch, building upon the bond the boy and Worf had forged on TV, which had culminated in the Klingon officer adopting his fellow orphan as a brother. Bringing back minor characters like Jeremy can be cost-prohibitive on television, but in the comics arena, it’s a lot easier to pull off. Here, Worf watches a subspace message recorded by Jeremy, who seeks advice on whether to tour Starfleet Academy with his aunt or hang out with his crush, a girl named Emily. Worf’s oh-so-Klingon advice? “Stay… and fight.”

Jeremy Aster, the orphaned foster-brother Worf never checked on again (at least not on television)

Another callback to the past occurs in issues #20–21. When a shuttlecraft containing Wesley Crusher ends up missing, Picard breaks the bad news to Beverly and finds himself uncomfortably reminded of when he had to inform her of her husband Jack’s death a decade prior, as established in “Encounter at Farpoint.” Picard calls up a hologram of Wes, along with recreations of Worf and Riker (also missing), and is poignantly reminded of Natasha Yar’s funeral in “Skin of Evil,” in which Tasha’s hologram had offered goodbye messages for her Enterprise family.

“Hello, my friends…”

Family relationships are typically at the core of Friedman’s stories, and this lot of issues is no exception. Kyle Riker is devastated by the news of Will’s presumed death when Picard contacts him at the Starfleet Diplomatic Corps, as the elder Riker had only recently resumed contact with his estranged son in “The Icarus Factor,” and Lwaxana is relieved to learn that Deanna is not among the missing. Meanwhile, Worf bolsters a crewmember’s confidence by quoting Samuel “Mark Twain” Clemens, whose works his parents, Helena and Sergey Rozhenko (from “Family”) enjoy—and whom the Enterprise crew would encounter in the two-part episode “Time’s Arrow.” Friedman even introduced Selar’s parents.

When Riker is presumed dead, his estranged father emerges from the dark shadows (deep cut for those who know)

Friedman is among a reliable breed of authors who can always be counted on to turn in compelling stories worthy of the Trek banner—stories that do justice to each character, and to the franchise as a whole. It’s no wonder DC kept him around for the entirety of its Next Generation run, and that it consistently paired Friedman up with talented artists whose styles complemented his. The beautiful cover artwork of Jerome K. Moore was merely the delicious mint frosting on an already delectable cellular peptide cake.

Tune in next week as we explore The Modala Imperative, DC’s crossover miniseries between the Kirk and Picard eras, from the unstoppable duo of Mike Friedman and Peter David. When two generations meet, it’s a sure bet tie-ins will be the result.

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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