An ongoing discussion of how the comics provide prequels, sequels, and tie-ins to the Star Trek episodes and films, soon to be a book from BearManor Media.
47: Malibu Comics, 1995
Compared to Gold Key, DC Comics, and IDW, Malibu Publishing didn’t retain the Star Trek license for long. But what it lacked in longevity, it made up for in storytelling quality, as this week’s discussion of Malibu’s Ultimate Annual, Worf Special, and Celebrity Series one-shots illustrates well. The Celebrity Series comprised a pair of issues written by actors from the franchise. DC Comics held licenses at the time to The Original Series and The Next Generation, while Malibu had snagged only Deep Space Nine—but that didn’t limit Malibu to merely telling DS9-related tales. The galaxy is a huge place, and as Spock is fond of noting, there are always possibilities.
For the first Celebrity Series special, Malibu welcomed actor Mark Lenard as guest writer, with Leonard Kirk, Kenneth Penders, Terry Pallot, Scott Reed, and Larry Welch illustrating his script. Lenard’s most important Trek contribution was the character of Sarek, whom he played on The Original Series, The Animated Series, and The Next Generation, as well as in two feature films. But Sarek wasn’t his first Trek role, nor would it be his last, as he’d previously portrayed the first Romulan commander in “Balance of Terror” and would later become the first ridge-headed Klingon commander in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
For Malibu, Lenard penned Blood & Honor, a tale about his Romulan character’s son Jannek, and this enabled the publisher to get around its licensing restrictions. Based on the 1957 movie The Enemy Below, “Balance of Terror” introduced the Romulan Star Empire, a warrior offshoot of Vulcan civilization. Lenard’s Romulan (unnamed onscreen but dubbed “Keras”—”Sarek” in reverse—by the writers of the Star Trek Customizable Card Game) was a man of honor and integrity. Although he and James T. Kirk battled fiercely, the two military men discovered that under different circumstances, they might well have been friends.
Jannek visits the station to meet Ensign Jamie Samantha Kirk. The ambassador had once sought vengeance on the Kirk family line, until a vision from Ayelborne of Organia had inspired him to befriend Jamie and thereby give meaning to their ancestors’ battle. To that end, he invites her to be his liaison to the Federation as he attempts to forge a lasting peace between their governments. Jamie is said to be a descendant of James Kirk, though their exact relationship is unspecified. With Miramanee’s unborn child and David Marcus both dead, it’s doubtful she’s a direct descendant; given her middle name, it’s more likely she descends from one of Sam Kirk’s three sons.
The Organians had forced a peace treaty on the begrudging Federation and Klingon Empire in “Errand of Mercy,” which ultimately led to a more meaningful alliance. A flashback to that episode shows Kirk and Kor facing off—but with Kor sporting cranial ridges like on Deep Space Nine, rather than his smooth-headed appearance on The Original Series. Blood & Honor explored the potential for history to repeat itself, as Ayelborne covertly works to give his dying people a legacy: peace between the Romulans and the Federation.
Meanwhile, the Alliance for Global Unity (a terrorist group also called the Circle, from “The Homecoming,” “The Circle,” and “The Siege”) steals a Gamma Quadrant artifact as a means of reclaiming Bajor for Bajorans. On television, the extremists were led by Jaro Essa, wonderfully portrayed by noted Dracula actor Frank Langella. This one-shot marks one of the few times the Circle has been revisited in licensed Star Trek, though their involvement in the tale is secondary to the Jannek storyline.
The second Celebrity Series issue was Rules of Diplomacy, cowritten by actor Aron Eisenberg and Malibu editor Mark Paniccia. Eisenberg had helped to redeem the profit-seeking Ferengi after their cringeworthy introduction on The Next Generation, by making Nog a wonderfully endearing character. As Jake Sisko’s best friend and Starfleet’s first Ferengi officer, Nog humanized the species thanks to Eisenberg’s layered performance. Sadly, he passed away in 2019, while Lenard died in 1996, but both actors left enduring marks on Star Trek, ensuring their immortality.
Rules of Diplomacy was drawn by Leonard Kirk, Bob Almond, John Montgomery, and Scott Reed, with a cover by Moose Baumann. Sisko assigns Nog to escort a young Klingon diplomat, Gronn, to Ferenginar. Despite bad first impressions, the two bond in friendship as each learns about the other’s culture, including the intricacies of how to cheat at gambling establishments, and the result is just the right mixture of humor and heartwarming one might expect from a Nog-focused story.
Connections to televised Trek are sprinkled throughout. A Ferengi merchant tries to sell Nog and Gronn weapons, claiming they were forged on Capella IV (“Friday’s Child”). Summoned to Sisko’s office, Nog immediately denies having knocked over containers of quadrotriticale (“The Trouble With Tribbles”)—which, of course, means he was the culprit. A Klingon tells Nog that Quark, despite being “small-lobed,” brought honor to the Ferengi in “The House of Quark” (an eavesdropping Quark is insulted by this unflattering description—the Ferengi equivalent of having one’s manhood belittled). And a group of Ferengi burst out laughing at the idea of Nog joining Starfleet (a story arc that began in “Heart of Stone”), much to his humiliation.
Deep Space Nine Ultimate Annual #1 featured a trio of tales focused on different characters from the show, with a gorgeous cover by Mark Brill. In the first chapter, from writer Laurie S. Sutton and artists Kirk, Reed, and Saleem Crawford, an alien device buried on Bajor sends out waves of radiation causing temporal visions from multiple eras and realities—and providing tie-ins galore to televised Trek.
Miles O’Brien relives an incident aboard the USS Rutledge under his former captain, Benjamin Maxwell (“The Wounded”), when the starship took part in the Federation-Cardassian War. Featured in the Rutledge‘s crew is an alien named Kayden, presumably intended (despite his non-human nature) to be the Will Kayden mentioned on TV. Another reality’s Keiko O’Brien, meanwhile, is married to film-era Hikaru Sulu!
In this confluences of multiple timelines and universes, Kira Nerys sees herself as a Bajoran vedek, while Quark switches places with Rom to become a lowly servant of his more successful brother. Jadzia Dax witnesses former host Curzon dying, as in “Emissary,” but this time the symbiont perishes before she can become the next host. And Sisko experiences one reality in which he left Starfleet following the Battle of Wolf 359 (“The Best of Both Worlds” and “Emissary”) to cope with Jennifer’s death, as well as another in which he is present as Khan Noonien Singh (“Space Seed”) conquers the world.
The next tale offered an amusing riff on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” from novelist John Vornholt and artists Patrick Woodrow and Larry Welch. After Grand Nagus Zek’s robes are destroyed, Quark hires Garak to create new clothing for the elderly monarch. The tailor’s shop is bombed by saboteurs, however, forcing Zek to instead use a holographic projector to give the illusion of robes—which, of course fails, hilariously causing him to appear naked before the shocked masses.
Garak sells fabric in his shop made of Antosian silk, woven by larvae inside the stomach of Antosian oxen. This ties in with “Whom Gods Destroy,” though it’s easy to overlook the connection; presumably, neither the larvae nor the oxen are the Antos IV natives from whom Garth of Izar learned about cellular metamorphosis… though it is amusing to consider bovines teaching Garth to shapeshift.
In the third story—a cute, brief standalone tale from Mariano Nicieza, Anne Timmons, and Scott Reed—Worf helps Odo quell a quarrel on the Promenade. In the process, he inadvertently startles a small child’s pet into running away, then finds the missing animal for her. Worf also takes center-stage in Worf Special #0, featuring a pair of tales about everyone’s favorite grim Klingon security officer, with a cover by Moose Baumann.
In “Bonds of Honor,” by Dan Mishkin, Steve Erwin, John Montgomery, and Scott Reed, Worf is falsely accused of sabotaging a starbase, then goes on the run to prove his innocence by identifying the actual perpetrator: a fellow Klingon who’d framed Worf to get him to renounce the Federation and make amends with Gowron. The only direct onscreen connection, other than the references to Worf’s falling-out with the chancellor, relates to “Chain of Command,” since Admiral Alynna Nechayev, introduced in that episode, is nearly killed in the bombing. Otherwise, it’s entirely standalone.
The second story, the whimsical “Unhappy Trails,” was penned by Baumann and illustrated by Rob Davis and Aubrey Bradford—and it offered a sequel of sorts to the equally whimsical “A Fistful of Datas.” Worf revisits the Old West holoprogram Alexander had given him, and Dax and Kira join him for the adventure, which involves bringing to justice a gang of thieves who’d robbed a stagecoach in New Mexico. Upon hearing horses, Dax likens it to the noise made by the dragons on Berengaria VII, providing a fun tie-in to the classic episode “This Side of Paradise.”
The above stories are quite different in tone. What ties them together is the abundant appreciation, on the part of both the writers and the artists, for Deep Space Nine in particular and for the franchise as a whole. In three weeks, this column will usher in the return of Marvel, whose creative teams were equally adept at playing in the Star Trek sandbox. But first, we have one final discussion each for DC’s and Malibu’s remaining issues. See you next time.
Looking for more information about Star Trek comics? Check out these resources:
- My ongoing column for Titan Books’ Star Trek Explorer magazine
- The Complete Star Trek Comics Index, curated 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 (Sequart, 2014)
- Star Trek: A Comics History, by Alan J. Porter (Hermes Press, 2009)
- The Star Trek Comics Weekly page on Facebook
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.