Rich Handley Author and Editor

A Dime a Space-Dozen: Hunting Down Gold Key’s Star Trek #1

(Or… Star Trek Comics: A Love Story)

I had a conversation today on Twitter with fellow Star Trek comics enthusiast Ben Guilfoy, and it inspired me to detail the story of how I’d managed to find the very first Star Trek comic book some three decades ago. Before finding that issue, I’d already spent almost a decade collecting Trek comics. The first issue I’d purchased had been issue #9 of DC’s first stellar run, which took place directly after Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. That issue, from writer Mike W. Barr and artists Tom Sutton and Ricardo Villagran, had a cover date of December 1984, but I saw it on a bookstore comic rack in early 1985. I’d been reading the novels as new ones were released (only a few per year back then, so it wasn’t expensive), but I’d never bothered with the comics because that medium hadn’t appealed to teen me, who’d dismissed comics as trivial kids’ stuff. (A shoutout to teen me: “You were an idiot.”)

DC Star Trek 9
DC’s Star Trek #9

Still, despite my foolish then-disdain for comics, that cover to Star Trek #9 spoke to me. New stories spanning new frontiers, set directly after the events of Star Trek III? Something to tide me over during the maddening two years it would be before I would find out what happened to Jim Kirk, Spock, and the renegade crew of the USS Enterprise… er, I mean, the HMS Bounty? Color me fascinated.

So I bought it. I figured “Hey, if I don’t like it because it’s a comic, I only wasted 75 cents.” To my great surprise, I liked it. And by that, I mean I loved it. This wasn’t kid’s stuff. This wasn’t trivial. It was great storytelling on the level of a theatrical film, and it logically picked up where the movie had left off. Amazed to find something so well written in the pages of a comic book, I was hooked like a nerdy, well-read mackerel. And that launched what would become a lifelong passion for Star Trek comics that would eventually blossom into a love of the comics medium in general, not to mention my wife Jill having to deal with living in a house containing thousands of comic books. She’s a saint, that one.

I was only 17 years old and my funds were limited, as I was working many hours to put myself through college the following year. But despite that, I vowed to find the issues that had come before what I’d just read. Naïvely, I’d assumed (since I’d bought issue #9) that only meant issues #1-8. Easy-peasy. But no, my local comic shop had even more issues, and they had logos other than DC’s! There were some from Marvel Comics that seemed based on The Motion Picture, as well as others from a company called Gold Key. Good god… how many issues were there before the one I’d bought?

Gold Key Star Trek #1
Gold Key’s Star Trek #1

The answer: 61 issues of Gold Key, 18 issues of Marvel, and the aforementioned eight DC tales. Yikes. Without meaning to, I had inadvertently stumbled into a new hobby that would require my tracking down 87 previous issues…. on a 17-year-old high school student’s budget… a 17-year-old whose bank account was fed entirely by a job flipping burgers at Burger King. OK… deep breath… I could do this. I would do this. Somehow.

Of course, I hadn’t yet learned about the six Power Records comics, the daily newspaper strip that had run for four years, or the whopping 265 comics published only in Britain. I’ve since found them all, but if I’d known about them back then, I might have packed it in right there, then run screaming through a series of walls like the orange hairy monster from the old Bugs Bunny cartoons. But, as Peter David might say, I digress.

Long story short: I found the previous DC issues and the Marvel tales in relatively short order. None of them were old or rare at that point, so I probably found all 26 issues for under $40. That was the easy part. The hard part was what faced me next: the Gold Key stories. The shops in my area (keep in mind that I was a student in the ’80s, pre-Internet by almost a decade) had very few Gold Key issues, and those weren’t cheap. I purchased a couple, then read them and laughed at the absurdity. While I definitely wanted to complete the set, they were silly (though fun), so I could afford to take my time in finding the rest. The hunt began, and throughout my five years of college, followed by my then-girlfriend and I becoming engaged, getting an apartment together, and getting married, it continued at a leisurely pace whenever I found new shops to haunt. I was patient, and Jill supportively would point out shops and other venues for buying comics if she noticed them. She didn’t love comics, but she did love me so she was happy whenever I found something to enjoy.

Malibu’s Planet of the Apes #1

That brings me back to my conversation with Ben Guilfoy. Ben and I were sharing stories of great comics-hunting finds, and I told him about how, while vacationing in Toronto with my wife in the early 1990s, I’d found all 51 issues of the Malibu Comics run of Planet of the Apes at a small comic shop in that city. The comics were bundled up in a plastic bag for $10 for the entire lot, which was an amazing find. I snagged the set, then read them throughout the week and on the drive home back to New York at the end of our vacation. Ben was impressed, so I related the following:

Of course, nothing holds a candle to 1992 when, having found 60 of the 61 Gold Key Star Trek issues—before the Internet, when GK Trek was going for hundreds of dollars apiece—I had pretty much given up on finding issue #1. But then I went to on old lady’s yard sale that contained a single, half-filled box of comics. One of them was GK Star Trek #1… for 10 cents. I nearly had a stroke. Back then, before eBay and the Internet revealed just how non-rare the Gold Key series was, issue #1 was commonly fetching $900! I got it for a dime. Holy hell. Also, I didn’t pay hundreds for the other 60 issues, despite that being common back then. I was patient and it paid off—it took me a decade to find all 60 relatively cheaply, as I refused to spend absurd amounts of money. But #1 had eluded me. So that yard sale left me floored. My wife was with me, and she saw my eyes go wide. She’d pointed out the box to me, and I’d rolled my eyes and had said something like “This is an old lady’s yard sale. I can’t imagine her having anything I’d want.” But I shrugged and looked anyway. Then my wife looked over, saw me holding the comic, and asked “Did you find something worth buying?” I stared at her and said something very intelligent, like “B-b-ga-to-fa-mu-po-bleh-fee!” and then I bought it and walked away in a daze. Once in the car, I told my wife “I just paid 10 cents for a $900 comic. Also, I love you.”

Sometimes, great things are worth waiting for. Or, in Gold Key’s case, not-so-great things.

2 thoughts on “A Dime a Space-Dozen: Hunting Down Gold Key’s Star Trek #1

  1. “[My wife] didn’t love comics, but she did love me so she was happy whenever I found something to enjoy.”

    I was lucky enough to have a similar experience, with my mom when I was a kid and later with my girlfriend and now wife. My mom would drive me to comic and used-book stores whenever we were in a new city, and my wife has gone to conventions with me and accepts that I fill a large room in our house with Star Trek memorabilia. Neither cares about Star Trek; both support me.

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