Rich Handley Author and Editor

Star Trek Comics Weekly #33

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

33: Malibu Comics, 1993–1994

When Star Trek: Deep Space Nine debuted on television, DC Comics was the natural expectation to gain the license since it was already producing extraordinary work based on The Original Series and The Next Generation. However, independent publisher Malibu Comics, founded by Dave Olbrich, Tom Mason, Scott Rosenberg, and Chris Ulm, beat them to the punch and secured the rights instead.

Malibu, which created the Ultraverse franchise and published Lowell Cunningham’s original Men in Black series, offered a monthly Deep Space Nine comic, along with various one-shots and miniseries. The line launched with a pair of smaller-sized ashcan editions, and it lasted for 51 issues in total. Due to DC having the other licenses, Malibu was primarily granted access to the characters, worlds, and situations created specifically for Deep Space Nine. Still, the two companies collaborated at times, which helped to keep the Star Trek comic book arena a single shared universe.

As hinted at in the first ashcan, Malibu’s plans for Star Trek were far-reaching, with the goal of adding Voyager to its lineup, along with original character Thaddeus Marx, and of hopefully securing the rights to The Original Series and The Next Generation as well. But while Malibu was adapting Voyager‘s pilot, “Caretaker,” Paramount halted its contracts with both publishers so it could produce Trek tales for its own imprint, Paramount Comics, in cooperation with Marvel. That same year, Marvel purchased Malibu and ended up producing its final Deep Space Nine issues under Malibu’s banner, while Paramount Comics proved to be a short-lived venture.

If you’ve never heard of Thaddeus Marx, that’s hardly surprising, for his only mention appears in the first ashcan. I reached out to Mason, who explained the history behind Marx. “Bob Jacob was Malibu’s co-president,” he recalled, “and he was friends with the publisher of Electronic Gaming Monthly, whose company was creating a Wizard competitor called Hero Illustrated.” Mason was tasked with putting together a Star Trek promotional ashcan for Hero Illustrated #1, but says the deadline was too tight.

“It was the first thing we were trying to run through Paramount’s approval process,” Mason told me. “They were nice, but they were all, ‘What is this ashcan thing?’, which was new technology for the time. And I couldn’t use my regular artist from the series because he was already busy working on the actual book, so I couldn’t make the schedule. I came up with the idea of, ‘Well, if one ashcan was a good idea, let’s do two!'” Thus, the first ashcan offered a preview of the comic line overall, while the second presented a standalone mini-story.

According to Mason, Rosenberg wanted to impress Paramount by “doing stuff that previous publishers hadn’t done with the Star Trek license,” and he suggested that creating an original character would be “a big win.” DC had created numerous original recurring characters, of course, including Nancy Bryce, Konom, William Bearclaw, Elizabeth Sherwood, R.J. Blaise, M’yra, Fouton, Kathy Li, James McRobb, and the regrettable Michael and Patricia Bickley, but these characters appeared only in the main Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation titles, not in their own spinoffs.

“First, we’d have a new character who would be canon,” Mason recalled. “Then, we could, in theory, spin him off into his own book, which could give us two DS9 books each month, which would make the license more profitable.” A Thaddeus Marx solo title, he said, would have been easier to do, since “It would have less to do with the continuity of the actual TV show, and we could tell stories on the outer edges of continuity.” Alas, this never came to pass. “Paramount shut all that down immediately and said to stick to the cast of the [TV] series.”

So who was Thaddeus Marx? Mason described him as “a sort of adventurer-type—the sort of ‘space freelancer’ that’s common in sci-fi. So he’d drop in periodically at the station (to tie him back to the license and bring in the series’ regular characters), then go off on some adventure, smuggling, kidnapping, assassination, courier, whatever. I don’t think there was any deep development of him beyond the superficial.”

That first ashcan features no comic stories, instead offering interviews, behind-the-scenes information, and promo artwork, with the Marx sketch drawn by Jerry Bingham. The second edition, packaged with Hero Illustrated #2, contains a short comic written by Mike W. Barr, who’d cut his teeth on Marvel’s Star Trek before becoming a highly respected Trek scribe for his stellar work on DC’s inaugural saga.

The story’s a simple one: the Klingon vessel Khitomer’s Revenge ferries a prisoner, Mard, to Qo’noS to face justice, but Mard takes Julian Bashir hostage until the doctor and Odo subdue him. It connects to two episodes: The Animated Series‘ “Yesteryear” (by including a sehlat resembling Spock’s pet I-Chaya) and The Next Generation‘s “Heart of Glory” (by naming the Khitomer’s Revenge in honor of that world’s slaughtered colonists). It’s entertaining enough, but its stardate must be ignored since it would place the tale three years before Deep Space Nine‘s pilot, whereas the comic is clearly set after that episode.

Malibu’s first ten issues were written by Barr, Mark A. Altman, John Vornholt, and others, with artwork by Gordon Purcell, Terry Pallot, Rob Davis, Scott Reed, Larry Welch, and Leonard Kirk. This span of issues was edited by Mason and Mark Paniccia, with gorgeous cover art by Purcell, Pallot, Kirk, Jerome K. Moore, Rick Sternbach, Tim Eldred, Dan and David Day, and Aaron Sowd. As a whole, the series was highly enjoyable; though DC tends to receive the lion’s share of praise for this era of Trek comics, Malibu provided solid competition with Deep Space Nine.

Barr’s DC stories had offered multiple episode sequels, but such tie-ins are few and far between here. The series opens with a silly two-parter in which Jake Sisko and Nog accidentally cause a mold outbreak while horsing around in Jadzia Dax’s lab. The USS Armstrong brings Gamma Quadrant artifacts to the station, which Ben Sisko incorrectly assumes to be the cause. Gul Dukat offers to nullify the mold in the interest of mutual cooperation, but Sisko refuses out of distrust. And the Armstrong‘s commander, Captain Johnson, bears the likeness of journalist John Tesh, who’d portrayed a Klingon in “The Icarus Factor.”

Issue #3 introduces Gul Trelar, an elderly Cardassian said to have commanded Terok Nor years prior. Now dying, Trelar visits the station to see his birthplace one last time, which Kira and Odo protest. Trelar is found murdered in bed, with no evidence of anyone entering or exiting to commit the crime, and it’s determined that his own son killed him with a holodeck recreation of his mother. An amusing nod to “A Man Alone” occurs when Sisko asks Odo where he was at the time. Indignant over the implication, Odo is reminded of the Ibudan case, when the Bajoran killer attempted to frame the Changeling for his own murder.

A two-parter in issues #4–5 sees Dax and Bashir rendering aid to a Chiaran vessel filled with Gamma Quadrant slaves. As Sisko deliberates whether to grant asylum or honor the Prime Directive, the masters arrive, demanding the return of their “property” (shades of the Alien Nation TV series, which Malibu also adapted in comic form). Some slaves choose to resume their servitude rather than starve to death, but others steal a runabout to destroy the wormhole and prevent being taken home. The story, though engaging and skillfully drawn, contains no direct tie-ins to any particular episodes.

The sixth issue offers a trio of short tales. The first two, about Keiko O’Brien’s class taking a field trip to the Gamma Quadrant and a pickpocket causing havoc, have no direct connections to onscreen Trek, but the third, penned by Colin Clayton and Chris Dows, ties in with “The Emissary,” as well as The Next Generation‘s “The Best of Both Worlds.” Using a holodeck, Sisko recreates the Battle of Wolf 359 and tries to come up with a scenario in which the Saratoga and his wife Jennifer might have survived. After spending days conceiving multiple battle configurations, he comes to accept that there was nothing anyone could have done to defeat the Borg. The story is impressively effective, given its short length.

No onscreen connections appear in issue #7, in which Kira incites a slave revolt on a resort world. But Altman’s two-part “Requiem” in #8–9 picks up a thread from “The Wounded”: namely, O’Brien’s long-held anti-Cardassian bigotry. When a reactor explodes, Terok Nor’s former chief engineer, Dulath, assists him in making repairs. Despite O’Brien’s past dealings with Cardassians, the two evolve from bickering to friendship, which is quite charming. Dulath references the Irishman’s service under Benjamin Maxwell, though he inaccurately claims Miles served aboard the Phoenix, whereas he’d actually served aboard Maxwell’s prior vessel, the Rutledge.

The story gives Kira Nerys a meaty subplot, beginning when the two engineers find a crawl space containing a generator and a person’s belongings. Kira reads the diary of Malor Ti, a young Bajoran from the time of the Occupation, and learns of the child’s mistreatment by Cardassian soldiers. She sets out to find out if Ti is still alive, only for O’Brien to discover the child’s corpse in an access tube, dead from radiation. The ending is heartbreaking and unexpected, befitting Deep Space Nine‘s darker themes. Contrasting that is a humorous scene at the beginning in which a holodeck mishap changes Jake’s baseball bat into what appears to be a Ferengi sex whip (my next band name).

When Sisko issues a distress call, among those to respond is Captain McCoy of the USS Gorbachev—presumably a relative of Leonard McCoy, though that’s never stated. The issue also features a backup tale serving as a prelude to the miniseries Hearts and Minds (to be discussed in a future column). The prelude contains more connections to onscreen Trek than any of the above, with references to Antedians (“Manhunt”), Caldonia (“The Price”), and Fek’lhr (“Devil’s Due”). Issue #10, meanwhile, has ties to both The Original Series‘ “The Paradise Syndrome” and The Next Generation‘s “The Chase,” thanks to a neat piece of inter-series continuity.

Two humanoids exit the wormhole sans spaceship or spacesuits. The Bajorans assume them to be Prophets, but Odo exposes their nature as dragon-like creatures who plan to use the station to incubate their young. The crew beams them into space, then forces them back through the wormhole. Intriguingly, Bashir postulates that the bald aliens might be the The Original Series‘ Preservers, after which Dax provides a fun bit of fan service by confirming that the ancient humanoids from “The Chase” were, in fact, Preservers—which makes sense, as both species are said to have seeded humanoid life. No such connection was made onscreen, though producer Ronald D. Moore has acknowledged this might be the case.

When the aliens claim to sense a dark presence aboard the station, Kira recalls Bajoran legends of how the Prophets had fought a great war against powerful foes who’d represented evil, death, and destruction—”devils to their angels,” as Sisko puts it. Intriguingly, this issue was published two years before the Pah-wraiths, who would certainly fit that description, were introduced in “The Assignment.” The similarity is purely accidental, of course, but continuity is strengthened by the notion that Kira just might be referring to the Pah-wraiths in this early comic lore.

In the coming weeks, we’ll examine more DC tales featuring James T. Kirk, Jean-Luc Picard, and their enterprising crews. But don’t worry—we’ll continue to chart Malibu’s dreamhouse of adventures along the way as well.

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

Rich Handley has written or contributed to dozens of books about pop culture. He edited 70 volumes of Eaglemoss’s Star Trek Graphic Novel Collection, contributed to IDW’s Star Trek 400th Issue, and currently writes for Titan’s Star Trek Explorer magazine. Rich helped to produce IDW’s five Star Trek comic strip reprint hardcovers, and he penned an essay about those strips for Sequart’s New Life and New Civilizations: Exploring Star Trek Comics. In addition, he was a columnist for Star Trek Communicator magazine and a consultant on GIT Corp.’s Star Trek: The Complete Comic Book Collection, and he contributed to Modiphius’s Star Trek Adventures: Shackleton Expanse Campaign Guide.

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