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. Click here to view an archive of this article series.
96: IDW Publishing, 2011
Throughout the decades, the Star Trek franchise has crossed over with other universes numerous times. Trek has been teamed up with everything from X-Men, Legion of Super-Heroes, and Green Lantern to Planet of the Apes, Transformers, and even Star-Spangled War Stories, as well as the TV shows Doctor Who and Here Come the Brides—andit came close to crossing over with Aliens, too. It’s probably just a matter of time before Jim Kirk and Spock face off against Archie Andrews and the Punisher.
Perhaps the biggest Star Trek crossover event occurred in 2011, when IDW paired up Star Trek with Ghostbusters, G.I. Joe, and Transformers, along with the publisher’s own Zombies Vs. Robots and CVO: Covert Vampiric Operations, plus Bolt Creative’s Pocket God game. The crossover’s premise: a zombie invasion spans all of these universes, whose characters must then fight to survive an outbreak of the living dead.
Well… it’s sort of a crossover. The Star Trek cast doesn’t actually interact with those other franchises other than CVO’s Britt, as each universe faces its own undead incursion arising from a common catalyst in the vampiric field agent’s reality. The crossover event, titled Infestation, involves a framing narrative that separately affects each set of characters. To market the massive crossover, the publisher released numerous variant covers, a sketchbook of zombie art—including corpse-like versions of Kirk, Spock, Leonard McCoy, and Nyota Uhura—and retailer incentive sew-on patches.
The two-part Infestation bookends were penned by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, with art by David Messina, Claudia Balboni and Gaetano Carlucci, and were set in the Zombies vs. Robots and CVO universes. Star Trek characters had only cameos in those framing issues, in the form of a security guard succumbing to a virus unleashed by the zombies’ controlling entity, the Undermind, as well as Spock and Kirk facing a zombie horde.
The cast then took center-stage in the two-part Star Trek: Infestation mini from Scott and David Tipton, illustrated by Gary Erskine and Casey Maloney, while zombified sketches of Trek characters were among those in the Infestation Sketchbook, courtesy of artists Messina, James Kenneth Woodward, Gordon Purcell, and Casey Maloney. Purcell also hand-drew cover sketches of Kirk, McCoy, and Spock as zombies, and these sketch variants are particularly rare in the current market.
In addition to the Star Trek issues, the saga also spanned Transformers: Infestation #1–2, G.I. Joe: Infestation #1–2, Ghostbusters: Infestation #1–2, and the digital-only Infestation: Pocket God. It all kicked off with an ashcan edition titled Classified Secrets of Infestation, which provided excerpts of each miniseries, along with a page of new text explaining the crossover’s concept. Previews magazine got in on the game as well, with Infestation gracing the cover of its issue #266.
The Star Trek portion of the saga takes place between Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, during the period cited in several licensed stories as the Enterprise’s second five-year mission under Kirk. As such, the officers sport The Motion Picture’s “space pajamas” uniforms, as well as their tan field jackets from the movie’s Voyager 6 scenes, while McCoy still grouses about having been involuntarily returned to duty during the V’Ger incident. Since he could have resigned after that emergency passed yet didn’t, though, one can assume he doesn’t really mean it.
The Infestation bookends and the ashcan are set in CVO’s reality, where the Covert Vampiric Operations agency tries to contain an undead outbreak at a New Mexico base. Team member Britt contracts the virus, becoming a vampiric zombie enslaved to the Undermind. The vampiress then opens portals to four uncharted dimensions (Star Trek, G.I. Joe, Transformers, and Ghostbusters), where several Britt avatars attempt to spread the infestation to those realms.
CVO picks up transmissions from the other universes, and from there the minis kick in, detailing how each individual cast deals with the walking dead. For the Star Trek portion, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy visit Calibus VII, where Bones is soon to be honored for curing a viral plague. McCoy, per his typical crankiness, spends the shuttle voyage complaining about having to visit this beautiful world, recalling how he’d tried to enjoy the scenery in “Shore Leave,” but had ended up with a medieval lance in his chest.
Upon arrival, however, the three officers discover the colony has been overrun by zombies. Evading the flesh-crazed horde, they search for clues to the outbreak’s origin, assisted by a friendly, box-like android called Thirty-Seven, who hilariously looks like a distant cousin to Star Wars’ GNK droid and Red Dwarf’s SNACKY, or maybe just a giant, happy Lego figure.
The android’s creator, Robert Durant Williams, had sought to infuse robotics and human DNA to create the perfect fusion of organic and artificial life, and had longed to make his automata more human-like so they would better fit into society—in essence, he’s a predecessor to Data’s creator, Noonian Soong. A Britt avatar had pretended to help the scientist achieve his goal, but had instead triggered the infestation, and the manipulated inventor joined the ranks of the walking dead.
Using Williams’ data, McCoy reverse-engineers the disease and discovers how to defeat it, because synthesizing cures in less time than it takes a well-fed tribble to reproduce is the doctor’s speciality. (Seriously, if you add up all the times McCoy has cured plagues and pandemics in the episodes, novels, and comics, it’s a staggering number. He’s a one-man Centers for Disease Control.) Kirk, meanwhile, takes on the sexy Britt, whom he dispatches with a classic flip maneuver straight out of “Charlie X.” Knowing the admiral, it’s a wonder he didn’t try to sweet-talk her first.
Infestation was an ambitious project, and IDW compiled the entire storyline in a hardcover simply titled Infestation. It then published a four-issue follow-up, Infestation: Outbreak, which added IDW’s Groom Lake to the mix. This was succeeded by another four-parter, Zombies vs. Robots: UnderCity. Neither series featured Trek connections, though, as each involved only CVO and Zombies vs. Robots.
In 2012, the company produced yet another sequel, Infestation 2, which again offered no Star Trek content, instead crossing over Transformers, Dungeons & Dragons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, G.I. Joe, 30 Days of Night, and Groom Lake. Oddly enough, Infestation 2 also incorporated the popular Bat Boy character from supermarket tabloid Weekly World News—who, coincidentally, was created by Dick Kulpa, the final artist to illustrate the L.A. Times Star Trek newspaper strips.
For the past two years, this column has focused on how comics have offered prequels, sequels, and tie-ins to onscreen Star Trek. In next week’s article, which will begin chronicling IDW’s monthly title based on the Kelvin timeline, we’ll add a new type of connection to the ongoing discussion: re-imaginings.
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.