We're celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Star Trek by taking a look at Star Trek comics through the ages. In Part 1 we looked at the first 30 years of Trek comics, and at the end of 1995 Paramount did not renew the licenses of DC and Malibu, leaving the fate of Star Trek comic adventures up in the air. Now, read on:
After 30 yers of licensing Star Trek to various comics companies, Paramount decided to produce their own series of Trek comics. Or, rather to hire Marvel to do it for them. In late 1996 Paramount Comics debuted as an imprint at Marvel, with not one or two but several comics devoted to Trek. Star Trek Unlimited was a doubled-sized bi-monthly that featured two stories in each issue: one Classic Trek and one Next Generaion.
There were also ongoing monthly series based on the two Trek properties that were airing at the time, Deep Space Nine and Voyager. Both were decent reads, but hardly essential.
The best of the lot of this new batch of Trek comics were two series that were not directly based on an existing Trek show. Star Trek: Early Voyages showed the adventures of of the Enterprise crew before Captain Kirk. Captain Pike was in command, with a young Mr. Spock and the enigmatic Number One in tow.
The most surprising of the new series was Star Trek: Starfleet Academy, which followed Nog from Deep Space Nine to Starfleet Academy an introduced a group of new cadets. By tying into the backstory of the Dominion War storyline from DS9, Starfleet Academy managed to be entertaining and worthwhile reading.
The most infamous comic of the Paramount/Marvel collaboration was Star Trek/X-Men, a one-shot that featured the meeting of Kirk's classic Trek crew and Marvel's most popular franchise. If it sounds like a bad idea, well, it was. If readers ever needed proof that super-heroes and classic science fiction didn't mesh well, here it was in four color glory. Despite the train wreck, it must have sold well enough because a year and a half later there was a sequel, Star Trek: The Next Generation/X-Men.
In early 1998 another ongoing series joined the line-up: Star Trek: Untold Voyages told of the post-Star Trek: The Motion Picture Enterprise crew, with Kirk et al. on a second five year mission in their pajamas. But it was to be short-lived; it turns out that 1997-1998 was a horrible time to enter into the comics business, what with the collapse of the speculator bubble a couple of years previous and the near suicide distribution move by Marvel that thrust them into bankruptcy and almost brought down the entire direct market with them. In mid-1998, just a year and a half after its debut, Paramount Comics folded, taking Trek comics with them.
The Trek franchise would lie fallow for two years, until in 2000 it was licensed out again, this time to WildStorm (now an imprint of DC). WildStorm produced a series of one-shots and mini-series related to the Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager franchises.
WildStorm even brought Peter David back to Trek comics with Double Time, a one-shot based on David's highly successful New Frontier novel series.
But by this time interest in Trek was declining, and despite bringing in big name Sci-Fi author Kevin J. Anderson to write The Gorn Crisis, a hardcover OGN, WildStorm could not drum up enough interest to make the Trek license worthwhile and let it quitely lapse, with little attention paid by fans. Thus Trek entered into its longest ever abscense from the comic shelves, with the new television series, Star Trek: Enterprise, coming and going without a comic book companion.
But in 2006, coinciding with Trek's 40th anniversary, Star Trek comics would return from an unlikely source: TokyoPop. Star Trek: The Manga was an OEL manga anthology of stories based on the original series, done in a manga style. Reactions were mixed, as many traditionalists weren't quite sure how to take this new spin on a venerable franchise.
There's no news yet as to whether TokyoPop will continue to produce Trek manga, leaving the fate of Star Trek in comics up in the air. But after a forty year legacy, surely this is not the last we'll see of Trek comics, leaving fans to wonder just if/when a Star Trek Webcomic will make an appearance...
(images courtesy of the GCD and other places)