Rich Handley Author and Editor

Star Trek Comics Weekly #38

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

38: Multiple Publishers, 1967–1995

We’ve been revisiting the long publishing history of Star Trek comic books, so this week let’s take a side trip and look at some comics that never saw the light of day. Since we’renearing the end of the DC and Malibu years, we’ll limit our focus to the franchise’s first three decades, starting with Gold Key. Then, down the line, we can pick up the thread with never-published stories from the 1990s to the present.

With more than twelve hundred Star Trek comics published since 1967, it’s no surprise that numerous projects have fallen through the cracks. Some were announced but never released; some were announced but released in a different format, or with different creative teams; others were pitched but never accepted; and still others are only rumored to have been proposed. Thankfully, a good deal of information has surfaced regarding what might have been.

“Trial By Fire” (Gold Key, 1979)
Writer: John Warner; artist: Frank Bolle

After scripting Gold Key’s 60th issue, John Warner penned a 22-page story for what would have been issue #62. In the script, the Enterprise visits a corporate energy research platform, where a fuel explosion threatens nearby Orgone. That planet’s simple populace perceives this as a test of faith, and spiritual leader Talon must neutralize the threat via mystical means. The issue would have featured the USS Exeter, from “Court Martial” and “The Omega Glory.” Artist Frank Bolle never received the script to draw, though nineteen lettered pages with faint pencil breakdowns were completed, which have since surfaced online, along with the script. In 2020, volume 124 of Eaglemoss’s Star Trek Graphic Novel Collection (STGNC) presented fans with an official publication of these lost materials, while artist Matt Shults created a beautiful adaptation of the comic, which is available to read at his website.

Star Trek Newspaper Strips (Mandala Productions, 1978 or 1979)
Writer and artist: Thomas Warkentin

Not long before Gold Key’s Star Trek line ceased publication, Mandala Productions obtained a license for a serialized daily newspaper strip chronicling the Enterprise‘s post-The Motion Picture adventures, which the company announced in the August 1978 issue of Starlog magazine (vol. 3, issue #15). The strips would have depicted a new five-year-mission after the film’s events, in a format similar to the twelve Star Trek Fotonovels the company had produced for Bantam Books.

For reasons never publicly revealed, Mandala’s president, Laszlo Papas, chose to abandon the project, leaving the distributor, the L.A. Times Syndicate, holding the reins. The Syndicate moved forward on its own and retained writer-artist Thomas Warkentin, whom Papas had hired after auditioning more than a hundred illustrators, including Neal Adams and Al Williamson.

“The Wristwatch Plantation” (L.A. Times Syndicate, 1982)
Writers: Larry Niven and Sharman DiVono; artist: Ron Harris

Nine years after co-writing comic strip storyline #12 with Sharman DiVono, novelist Larry Niven revealed, in his book Playgrounds of the Mind, that the duo had been unhappy with the Kzinti storyline’s rushed ending and had at considered presenting their original concept as a Star Trek novel. In that version, a transporter accident beamed every life form within a planetary square mile aboard the Enterprise, while a huge battle took place between multiple species inside the ship’s rec deck.

In truth, it’s probably a good thing the story was cut short. “The Wristwatch Plantation” was the longest Syndicate Trek tale—and frankly, it showed, thanks to an irrelevant drug-smuggling B-story. What could have been a fun sequel to the animated “The Slaver Weapon” instead dragged, with a Kzinti invasion reduced to an afterthought. This tale caused dissension in the ranks, as artist Ron Harris thought it excessively complex, while Niven blamed Harris’s decision to quit the strip for what he saw as a rushed ending.

Voyages of the Enterprise #4–5 and #8–? (Nostalgia World, 1983)
Writers: Thomas Warkentin and Sharman DiVono; artists: Warkentin and Ron Harris

During the L.A. Times strips’ final year, Nostalgia World magazine began reprinting the series as free newsprint inserts starting in issue #20, but the artwork for issues #23–26 was damaged in a printing office fire. Although #23–24 were reconstructed, the editors could not replace the art for the Trek supplements since the Syndicate had dropped the license in the interim. Thus, Voyages of the Enterprise #4–5 were skipped and the next volume released was #6. Volume #7 reprinted a portion of Sharman DiVono’s first story arc, “The Savage Within,” but Nostalgia World ceased publication as of issue #24, so no further Voyages supplements were produced.

Star Trek Spec Submission (Marvel, early 1980s)
Artist: Kenneth Penders; writer: N/A

Before providing artwork for DC’s Who’s Who in Star Trek miniseries and its Star Trek: The Next Generation monthly title, as well as Malibu’s Star Trek: Deep Space Nine comic, artist Ken Penders had sent a cover to Marvel as a spec submission, back during its post-Star Trek: The Motion Picture run. The cover was never used on an actual issue, though it has surfaced online.

Star Trek Series 1, Issues #57–? (DC, 1988 and beyond)
Writer: Peter David; artists: Tom Sutton, Ricardo Villagrán, and Gordon Purcell

As Peter David’s storyline in issues #48–55 unfolded, Paramount tightened its licensing restrictions. Though DC had introduced original characters to its lineup and had brought back The Animated Series‘ Arex and M’Ress, Paramount decreed the cartoons off-limits and told the publisher it could no longer utilize Konom, Nancy Bryce, William Bearclaw, or its other original creations. A filler tale from Martin Pasko ran in issue #56 while the companies hashed out this obstacle, but David’s plans beyond his eight issues were scrapped and that first series abruptly ended.

Star Trek Series 2, Issues #10–12 (DC, 1990)
Writer: Peter David; artists: James W. Fry, Arne Starr, and Gordon Purcell

DC’s Star Trek returned a year later, sans original and animated characters, with already-completed drawings of M’Ress altered to create a new (and similarly named) character, M’yra. Paramount’s Richard Arnold reportedly made nonsensical changes to David’s scripts, however, such as Kirk no longer romancing women or engaging in violence. In the original version of “The Trial of James T. Kirk,” set on Qo’noS, Kirk would have been found guilty, whereas in the printed version, he was exonerated—on Earth. When his command crew tried to rescue him, many crewmembers would have refused to violate Starfleet rules, resulting in a mutiny. The published version was decidedly tamer.

Star Trek Series 2, Issues #16–17 (DC, 1991)
Writer: Peter David; artist: Gordon Purcell

Arnold also rejected a two-part storyline slated for issues #16 (“First Contact”) and #17 (“The Long Good-Bye”) because he deemed it “too funny,” claiming it didn’t “treat the characters with the proper amount of respect.” The writer would later repurpose the tale for First Publishing’s Dreadstar #63. Tellingly, that issue features a Star Trek parody involving caricatures of the Enterprise crew, satirized as representing the United Franchise of Worlds.

Samples of Purcell’s Trek artwork were included in an interview with Peter David’s successor, Howard Weinstein, in David Anthony Kraft’s Comics Interview #110, published in 1992. The writer and artist graciously provided this column’s author with the script and art pages for inclusion in the STGNC, but that line of books sadly ended before the two-parter could be published. David discussed the story in Speakeasy magazine #112, explaining:

“Issue 16 and 17 is essentially a first-contact story, in which the Enterprise goes go a planet that is to all intents and purposes the way Earth is now. I don’t mean a parallel world or anything like that, I just mean a similar stage of development, a thinly disguised type of Earth. The story deals with how that world reacts to them, namely that they are absolutely lionized, people start generating all sorts of merchandise, they appear on talk shows, all the women start wearing their hair like Uhura, all the men start pointing their sideburns, all that kind of thing. Everything is going really great until Orion pirates show up—although we were informed by Gene Roddenberry’s office that Orion pirates don’t exist (laughs), so we’re going to have to call them something else!”

Star Trek Series 2, Issues #18–24 (DC, 1991)
Writer: Peter David; artist: Gordon Purcell

In addition, Peter David proposed a seven-part Pavel Chekov time-travel arc that would have provided sequels to “The City on the Edge of Forever” and “All Our Yesterdays.” Early working subtitles included “Hello I Must Be Going” (for issue #18) and “Divine Inspiration” (issue #19). When this proposal was nixed as well, David suspected Arnold had a personal beef with him and thus submitted a particularly violent script under a pen-name—Robert Bruce Banner, the alter-ego of Marvel Comics’ Hulk—which sailed through the approvals process. His suspicions confirmed, David subsequently resigned. As David revealed in Speakeasy #112:

“In #18–24, we’ll embark on a major time-travel storyline called ‘Time and a Half for Overtime’ that will send the Enterprise back 5,000 years, and will feature the Guardian of Forever, the planet Sarpeidon, which is where Zarabeth was, and ancient Vulcan, and Earth from 5,000 years ago. Mr. Chekov, in what I consider a punchline to the entire character, will end up in the part of Earth that will eventually become Russia, and will get the opportunity to invent everything, thereby establishing once and for all that Russians really did (laughs). If I’m allowed to do it, which is looking shaky at the moment, it would also be the finale for the R.J. Blaise character.”

Star Trek: The Lessons of Life (DC, 1993)
Writer: Mark Lenard; artist: Kenneth Penders

Star Trek actor Mark “Sarek” Lenard and Ken Penders pitched a Prestige-format graphic novel to editor Robert Greenberger that would have tied into Pocket Books’ hardcover release of A.C. Crispin’s novel Sarek, filling in the gaps of the Vulcan ambassador’s life. Paramount approved the project and Penders created a cover, but incoming editor Alan Gold shelved the comic after replacing Greenberger; his successor, Margaret Clark, showed no interest either. Penders later shopped the story to Malibu Comics, Marvel, Pocket, and WildStorm Comics, but nothing came of his efforts so he archived the proposal and sample sketches at his website. This outline was later published in STGNC vol. 133, along with a Kenders-only outline, Star Trek: The Devil Kirk.

Star Trek: The Next Generation (DC, title unknown, early 1990s)
Writer: Andy Mangels; artist: unknown

Novelist Andy Mangels’ website lists a Next Generation fill-in comic he was slated to write. Jeff Ayers’ book Star Trek: Voyages of Imagination provides details about the comic, which editor Kim Yale offered to Mangels during her brief tenure as editor. The story, a sequel to The Original Series‘ “Wolf in the Fold” and The Next Generation‘s “Elementary, Dear Data,” would have featured Redjac aboard the Enterprise-D in a holodeck scenario, with a focus on Data, Will Riker, Geordi La Forge, and the Moriarty hologram. As Mangels was scripting it, however, “Ship in a Bottle” aired on TV, negating his concept, and a subsequent change of editors left the comic in limbo. The story was titled Return of the Wolf, and it was finally published in STGNC vol. 138.

Star Trek: The Next Generation (DC, title unknown, early 1990s)
Writers: David DeVries and Glenn Lumsden; artist: unknown

David DeVries sold a Klingon-centric storyline to Kim Yale as well, but once she fell ill, the script was overlooked despite having been paid for. The script apparently contained a character named after Star Trek fan Ian McLean, as thanks for McLean’s research assistance. Little else is known about this comic.

Star Trek: Captain Sulu Adventures (DC, 1995)
Writer: Steven H. Wilson; artist: unknown

Throughout DC’s second run, rumors persisted of a miniseries involving Captain Hikaru Sulu and the USS Excelsior crew. DC did publish a six-part Excelsior story in issues #35–40, titled “The Tabukan Syndrome,” but the rumored miniseries never materialized. As it happens, Wilson says, Captain Sulu Adventures would actually have been an ongoing feature in DC’s quarterly Star Trek Specials, starting with issue #5, but the publisher lost the Trek license before this could happen. Among Wilson’s intended story titles were “Strange Bedfellows,” “Exploits,” and “Natural Enemies.”

The series would have starred Sulu, Saavik, Janice Rand, surgeon CeCelia Fletcher, and Lt. Commander TA McAllistair (Sulu’s former student), and would have built off Saavik’s decision to leave the Enterprise in Star Trek Special #2. Star Trek: Voyager had not yet revealed Tuvok’s presence in the crew, but he could have been added as well had the series lasted long enough, Wilson says. The writer pitched two other stories for issues beyond #5, but Margaret Clark rejected nearly all of his proposed characters, other than Fletcher. A fourth Star Trek Special was planned in the interim, but the title, writer, and artist for that issue are unknown.

Kang (“Day of the Dove”) would have featured prominently in “Strange Bedfellows,” which chronicled an uprising—led by Kang’s wife, Mara—by Klingons who rejected Gorkon’s and Azetbur’s reforms. In “Exploits,” set six months after Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and featuring the Orions, court-martialed Starfleet Commodore Philip Lord would have set himself up as a god on a primitive planet—a classic Prime Directive dilemma. And “Natural Enemies” would have detailed the Federation’s first encounter with the Cardassians. Only “Natural Enemies” was approved, but the outline and script for “Captain Sulu Adventures” were published in STGNC vol. 139.

Star Trek: Resolution (DC, mid-1990s)
Writer: Steven H. Wilson; artist: unknown

Wilson also proposed a story dealing with James T. Kirk growing older and experiencing age-related health issues. While on a mission, Kirk would have collapsed into a prolonged catatonic state, only to awaken under the delusion that he was Captain Jarod Carter of the 18th-century seagoing vessel HMS Resolution. The story would have revisited the planet Capella IV and brought back Leonard James Akaar (“Friday’s Child” and DC’s own “The Trial of James T. Kirk”). Greenberger (filling in following Gold’s departure) liked the concept, but Clark rejected it after succeeding Gold as the regular editor. As with “Captain Sulu Adventures,” the “Resolution” outline was included in STGNC vol. 139 as well.

Star Trek: Year One (DC, mid-1990s)
Writer: Steven H. Wilson; artist: unknown

Year One, another Wilson proposal, would have been a miniseries set between “Where No Man Has Gone Before” and “The Corbomite Maneuver.” The writer proposed this storyline to Clark, but it was never greenlighted due to DC losing the Star Trek license.

Star Trek “Elseworlds”-style Comic (DC, mid-1990s)
Writer: Steven H. Wilson; artist: unknown

This alternate-universe tale, also from Wilson (Steven was a very busy guy!), would have featured a version of the planet Vulcan on which Surak’s reformation never occurred, and on which Spock was a powerful warlord. Wilson no longer recalls whether Clark ever read his proposal—or if he even pitched it to her, for that matter.

Star Trek: Voyager—Caretaker (Malibu, 1995)
Writer: Mike W. Barr; artists: Rob Davis and Terry Pallot

When Malibu Comics obtained a license to publish Star Trek comics, it produced several titles based on Deep Space Nine. The company had also planned to publish Voyager tales, beginning with an adaptation of the pilot episode “Caretaker,” and artwork for that two-parter was fully completed. The project never came to pass, as Paramount halted its contracts with both Malibu and DC so it could produce Trek tales for its own imprint, Paramount Comics. Ultimately, it would fall to Marvel to publish Voyager‘s first comic book spinoff.

Thaddeus Marx (Malibu, mid-1990s)
Writer: Mike W. Barr; artists: possibly Jerry Bingham

In addition to Deep Space Nine and the aborted Voyager title, Malibu had hoped to create an original spinoff titled Thaddeus Marx, and even to snare from DC the rights to The Original Series and The Next Generation. However, Marx only ever appeared as a single sketch by Jerry Bingham in a promotional ashcan comic that Malibu produced prior to Deep Space Nine‘s launch.

As Malibu editor Tom Mason explained to me for a previous column (see Star Trek Comics Weekly #33), Thaddeus Marx would have originated in the monthly Deep Space Nine comic, then would have been spun off into his own solo series, thereby freeing up the writers to tell stories less restricted by onscreen continuity. Mason described him as “a sort of adventurer-type—the sort of ‘space freelancer’ that’s common in sci-fi,” adding that the character would “drop in periodically at the station… then go off on some adventure—smuggling, kidnapping, assassination, courier, whatever.” Paramount, however, nixed the idea from the get-go and Marx never showed up again.

It’s a good bet the above list isn’t all-inclusive, as there could be other proposed or rejected Trek comics of which fans are unaware—and it seems doubtful they’ll ever be published at this point. However, fan sites such as Mark Martinez’s Star Trek Comics Checklist, Curt Danhauser’s Guide to the Gold Key Star Trek Comics, Memory Alpha, Memory Beta, and my own Complete Star Trek Index have documented their existence for posterity. These lost Trek comics may be out of sight, but thanks to the efforts of determined archivists, they will never be out of mind.

That’s all for now, though a later column will chronicle more canceled and rejected comics from 1996 to the present. See you next week as we take another voyage to the Gamma Quadrant, courtesy of Malibu Comics.

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

Rich Handley has written, co-written, co-edited, or contributed to dozens of books, both fiction and non-fiction, about Planet of the Apes, Watchmen, Back to the Future, Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Hellblazer, Swamp Thing, Stargate, Dark Shadows, The X-Files, Twin Peaks, Red Dwarf, Blade Runner, Doctor Who, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Batman, the Joker, classic monsters, and more. He has also been a magazine writer and editor for nearly three decades. Rich edited Eaglemoss’s Star Trek Graphic Novel Collection, and he currently writes articles for Titan’s Star Trek Explorer magazine, as well as books for an as-yet-unannounced role-playing game. Learn more about Rich and his work at richhandley.com.

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