llp/gentlyfalling’s CBR III Review 2: Star Trek Key Collection, Volume 1

This collection of the earliest Star Trek comics is published by the Checker Book Publishing Group, which specializes in printing out of print newspaper strips, including Dick Tracy and Beetle Bailey, but also early previously uncollected work by artists such as Alan Moore. This particular series collects Star Trek comics, which were first published in 1967, the year after the television series debuted.

The brief introduction to the first volume notes that there are errors in the book when compared to the canon, and describes the comics as “comics kitsch,” which really is an apt description. It also notes that the production values and the colouring was off, but they are reprinted in all their original glory. Not being familiar with comics from this era, I am not sure if the production values of these are especially low, or if that was just the standard at the time.

There are no writing credits for these first issues, but the first two issues were illustrated by  Nevio Zaccara, and the final six by Alberto Giolitti. Wikipedia tells me both these artists were living in Italy, and Giolitti at least had never seen the series. I suspect that Zaccara had seen the series or at least some photographs, because his depictions of Kirk and Spock are actually quite good, while Giolitti’s characters are largely unrecognizable, except that the tips of Spock’s ears nearly reach the top of his head. The action largely focuses on Kirk and Spock, although Scotty, McCoy and Rand are included a few times. Given the quality of the writing, obviously Spock’s character is the least like the television/movie version of the character, with the comic version touching other crew members and using expletives.

The story and dialogue in the comics does not very closely match that of the series either, from what I can recall of the television program. It is so off base that it is rather enjoyable. The transporter isn’t referred to as such until the fifth issue, instead being called  a teleportation chamber; characters, including Mr. Spock, use phrases such as “phases of Pluto!” and refer to other crew members as idiots; and in the book the ship is powered by rockets with flames coming out behind, and are able to enter the atmosphere of planets. The Prime Directive is non-existent, with the crew trying to destroy entire planets and populations for the good of the galaxies they travel through. Virtually all of the dialogue ends in exclamation marks, and many panels have an explanation of the action. Every time I read the explanations, it was like the narrator from the Superfriends cartoon was reading it in my mind, complete with sound effects, which was really kind of excellent.

One of the best parts of the comic was what the writers thought future space explorers would have at their disposal for tools.In the book, the crew did not have universal translators, but instead used the universal language of Esperanta, which really dates these books; how long has it been since somebody thought Esperanta would be the language of the future? The comic version of the Enterprise was equipped with a laser beam destruct ray, the crew could look at events on the planet below with their TV scanner, communicated with TV-radio, record information on film with their telescopic viewing and photographing, and use an infra-red space periscope. It is like a satire of science fiction, with the writers just using the word “space” before units of time and distance so that it all seems so futuristic.

All the criticism aside, the collection is fun to read, although would probably be infuriating to people who are really passionate about canon. I am most definitely not, so this nerdiest of graphic novels was a good random selection from my library’s tiny graphic novel shelf.

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