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.
106: IDW Publishing, 2013–2015
Photo comics (sometimes called fumetti) have been published in English since at least the 1920s. The art form reached its peak in the United States in the 1960s and ‘70s, and in the United Kingdom in the 1980s, and similar comics have been popular in Latin America, Italy, and other areas as well. In the Star Trek realm, though, they’ve been relatively sparse. During the first 45 years of Trek licensing, in fact, the only photo comics produced were the Star Trek Fotonovels line from Mandala Productions, Bantam Books, and Pocket Books, as well as the episode and film adaptations in Germany’s Gong Magazine.
That changed in 2013, when IDW launched the first issue of what would come to be known as Star Trek: New Visions, featuring scripts, photo manipulations, and cover art by John Byrne. New Visions ran for 22 regular issues, plus additional tales comprising an annual, two one-shots, and a pair of bonus stories exclusive to IDW’s trade paperback collections. Several issues contained more than a single tale, so the 27 publications spanned 41 stories in total. This week, we’ll examine issues #1–5, as well as the annual and the first trade-exclusive mini.
The annual was produced before New Visions existed. Originally titled Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, it was rereleased as New Visions Annual 2013, making it retroactively that series’ debut issue. Byrne captured tons of screenshots from The Original Series to create New Visions, but unlike the Fotonovels and the Gong strips, he didn’t use them merely to adapt episodes. Rather, he recombined them to create all-new stories featuring James T. Kirk and his crew. This required the rendering of new backgrounds and technologies, the creation of new costumes, and the use of his friends’ likenesses for some characters.
For others, he reused the heads of actors who’d already portrayed characters on The Original Series, as though they’d appeared in multiple episodes (which numerous actors did). Byrne even made himself a Star Trek character—several, actually. To demonstrate how photo comics are produced, he pasted an image of his own head onto the bodies of various characters, including the Salt Vampire posing as Nancy Crater (“The Man Trap”), Hikaru Sulu brandishing his fencing foil (“The Naked Time”), and the mirror universe’s Enterprise crew (“Mirror, Mirror”). This fourth-wall-breaking mini-story not only introduced the annual, but also opened IDW’s eight New Visions collections.
The annual’s main story is a sequel to “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” with a five-page episode adaptation told from Leonard McCoy’s perspective, based on what he’d read about Gary Mitchell’s short-lived godhood in Mark Piper’s log. Kirk returns to Delta Vega and finds Mitchell a disembodied and vengeful spirit. He, McCoy, and Spock are forced to relive Gary’s painful memories of Kirk’s command: a critical injury from a Klingon attack, a poisonous dart during a mission to Dimorus (an incident mentioned but not shown on TV), and his death at his friend’s hands. Finally, a guilt-ridden Jim helps him let go of old resentments and evolve into a new life form.
The first numbered issue offers a sequel to “Mirror, Mirror.” In the wake of the episode’s events, mirror Spock conspires to replace Kirk as captain, as part of a plan to bring about reforms. José Mendez (“The Menagerie”), an admiral in that universe, orders Kirk’s arrest, but the tyrant escapes to the prime timeline and allies with Commander Kor (“Errand of Mercy”) to destroy their mutual enemies: prime Kirk, the Enterprise, and Starfleet. The other Spock follows, then partners with the prime Enterprise gang to bring the renegade to justice.
The evil Kirk provides Kor (a recurring character in New Visions) with designs for the Romulan cloaking device stolen in “The Enterprise Incident,” thereby explaining how the Klingons obtained cloaking technology between The Original Series and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. This, however, contradicts an explanation already provided in Byrne’s own Romulan comic saga, and it has since been negated by Star Trek: Discovery’s “The Vulcan Hello” and “Battle at the Binary Stars,” which showed the Empire to have had cloaking tech a decade earlier.
Kirk’s counterpart overpowers Charlene Masters in Auxiliary Control, providing a rare tie-in to the much-maligned episode “The Alternative Factor.” Disturbingly, mirror-Kirk implies he would sexually violate her if there were time; thankfully, that does not happen since this is Star Trek, not Karl Urban’s other franchise, The Boys. The doppelgänger escapes once more, this time to an alternate universe containing a female-led Starfleet, where Nyota Uhura commands a starship of male slaves—and she has already skinned her Kirk alive. Enslaved versions of Lieutenant Hansen (“Court Martial”) and Ensign Rizzo (“Obsession”) are among Uhura’s crew, and both fear her like cowering Morgs kneeling before a disapproving Eymorg.
Issue #2 is reminiscent of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s “Children of Time” and Star Trek: Enterprise’s “E2.” A space station picks up a 1,200-year-old signal that somehow contains Kirk’s voice, which emanates from the galactic core (with nary a sign of either Megas-Tu or Sha Ka Ree). The Enterprise crew finds the wreckage of their starship and a civilization of their own descendants, the result of the ship being caught in a time warp. As one might expect, Kirk circumvents the crash, wiping thousands of citizens from existence. For folks supposedly opposed to murder, Starfleet officers are remarkably blasé about killing their own clones or eliminating generations of their own progeny.
This story brings back Lieutenant Shea (“By Any Other Name”), who now serves at Deep Space Monitor Station 18. Based on McCoy’s recommendation that Shea receive less strenuous duty after being turned into a 14-sided cuboctahedron by the Kelvans, Starfleet has transferred him to communications. The former security guard considers this a great career move… though he still wears a red shirt, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he were turned into, say, a 34-sided triacontakaitetragon down the line.
A backup story in issue #2 offers an account of why Janice Rand left the Enterprise after “The Conscience of the King.” It seems her ex-fiancé, Andrew Calloway, had been critically injured, and so she chose to take care of him, knowing Kirk would never acknowledge their mutual feelings. Byrne takes the opportunity to revisit more one-off Enterprise crewmembers, including Tonia Barrows (“Shore Leave”) and Marla McGivers (“Space Seed”), who are depicted as being among Rand’s close friends.
“The Doomsday Machine” gets a sequel in issue #3. You might notice a recurring theme of episode sequels and returning characters. Given what Byrne had to work with (episode stills), this was a logical storytelling approach, and it’s fortuitous for the purpose of this sequel-centric column. The story follows from the episode’s final moments, with an alien craft destroying a vessel studying the artifact. Piloted by a lone giant—the last surviving member of the Planet Killer’s creators—the ship had been dispatched a staggering three million years ago to eradicate the weapon, which had devastated not only its intended target (his people’s enemies), but also his own world and thousands of others.
The issue’s backup tale offers a glimpse into transporter chief Kyle’s love life. When the starship gives passage to his scientist ex-girlfriend Ursula Becker and her sentient robot, ALX-1, Kyle declines her offer to rekindle their affair. Enraged, she nearly kills him with a blunt object to the skull, though the robot is blamed because Kirk’s crew have battled Richard Daystrom’s M-5 Computer (“The Ultimate Computer”) and now have a rather bigoted bias against artificial life. Byrne based Becker’s likeness on that of actress Jan Shutan (Mira Romaine) from “The Lights of Zetar,” and her distinctive features are immediately recognizable.
The fourth issue simultaneously follows up “I, Mudd,” “The Trouble with Tribbles,” and “The Omega Glory,” by bringing together Harcourt Fenton Mudd, Captain Koloth, and former Starfleet officer Ronald Tracey for an amusingly silly yarn. Looking to punish Kirk and Starfleet for his court martial, Tracey abducts Mudd from the android planet, forces him into an alien device, and alters his DNA to make him an exact match for Kirk! He then orders the conman to steal Starfleet information so the Klingons can invade Federation territory. But rather than comply, Mudd alerts Starfleet about Tracey’s plan.
In essence, Harry becomes the story’s hero, though entirely without meaning to—his primary motive is to seek help in getting his own body back. The ending is remarkably uncharacteristic of a Trek comic, for McCoy, the doctor who can fix any problem, is unable to restore Harry’s original form. As a small consolation, he fast-grows the rogue some facial hair, but the image of William Shatner sporting Harry’s signature handlebar mustache and buccaneer outfit is simply hilarious.
Once again, Byrne engages in “re-casting.” He uses the likeness of actress Barbara Babcock (Mea 3 in “A Taste of Armageddon” and Philana in “Plato’s Stepchildren”) to create new character Varn Hamilton, and as with Shutan’s “performance” as Becker, it’s entertaining to spot the actor’s face. Also chuckle-inducing is a backup tale about Koloth traveling to the tribble homeworld to exterminate the entire species—mainly because it ends with a century’s time-jump to Deep Space Nine, where Quark’s bar is overrun with the little furballs, proving Koloth’s effort a failure.
Issue #5 revisits “The Cage” by having Number One (Una Chin-Riley, per the modern-era shows) return to the Enterprise, now a commodore. The story is a prequel to Byrne’s Romulans: Schism and Leonard McCoy, Frontier Doctor, with Una sporting the same silver hair streak she’d had in those miniseries, and she’s about to take command of the USS Yorktown, her posting in both tales. The MacGuffin here is an alien vessel that accidentally abducts the Yorktown’s crew (they’re fine), but what is more memorable is seeing Majel Barrett’s photograph as Number One, aged to match Byrne’s drawings.
The backup tale is a touching tribute to the late Arlene Martel (T’Pring from “Amok Time”), tied into Spock’s kolinahr studies in Star Trek: The Motion Picture—which is fitting, as other comics have shown her following that discipline. T’Pring died sometime prior to the film, and her spirit now reaches out to Spock’s mind. (Alas, this contradicts DC’s Star Trek #65–68 and Star Trek Special #1, as well as IDW’s Spock: Reflections, all of which have her alive later in the timeline.) Despite her choice of Stonn, it seems her bonding to Spock made her passion for her lover quickly fade. The two thus separated in this telling, and upon her passing she’d become trapped on the mortal plane. Spock frees her katra, allowing T’Pring (and Ms. Martel) to continue on her journey.
Finally, a whimsical bonus story was published exclusively in New Visions, Volume 2. This six-pager pays homage to Gold Key’s Star Trek line and The Animated Series, with Kirk hallucinating an alternate reality in which the Enterprise is rocket-powered and has different interiors, like in Gold Key’s tales. Scotty is entirely unrecognizable, everyone speaks with exclamation points and silly “space” slang, and Janice Rand wears a red cap, again like in the 1960s comics, which is so funny to see. Plus, much to Kirk’s horror, standard fleet procedure is to destroy planets posing even a minor threat (a joking jab at Gold Key’s Star Trek #1).
Kirk awakens from this nightmare, only to find himself on a cartoon starship, with Arex seated at navigation. It’s short, it’s absurd, and it’s glorious. There’s more New Visions to come, and we’ll get to that in the weeks ahead. But first, it’s time to head back to the Kelvin timeline to explore how another batch of monthly issues served as prequels, sequels, and tie-ins to onscreen Star Trek. Great galaxies and thunderin’ spacejets!
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.