Tuesday , April 23 2024
An excellent collection of essays analyzing how the TV show was adapted into four-color panels and word balloons.

Book Review: ‘New Life and New Civilizations: Exploring Star Trek Comics’ edited by Joseph F. Berenato

I can’t imagine there are many people alive who don’t already know Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek is the gift that keeps on giving. In addition to the five television series, 12 films, games, toys, bluprints, fan zines, websites, tribbles, fazers, and countless novels and non-fiction books that keep coming and coming and coming year after year, there have also been approximately 700 English-language Star Trek stories in daily comic strips, weekly magazines, monthly and limited series comic books, and graphic novels. How can any self-respecting Trekkie or Trekker keep up with the flood?

Odds are, no one can. That doesn’t stop many from trying. For example, this year, Trekkers can dive into the origins of it all in volumes two and three of Mark Cushman’s extraordinary These are the Voyages books, which are full of more behind the scenes surprises than anyone would think possible. In addition, the Sequart Research & Literacy Organization offers New Life and New Civilizations: Exploring Star Trek Comics. Following the same format Sequart has established in their collections on Batman, Daredevil, and many other slices of the comic book multi-verse, New Life and New Civilizations: Exploring Star Trek Comics is an assembly of very informative essays by 18 writers on the history of Star Trek as it was shaped by a series of publishers over the decades.

Edited by Joseph F. Berenato, the essays naturally begin with looks into the first artistic renderings of Star Trek in the hands of Gold Key comics. Scott Tipton looks at how the company created its first stories with little to no understanding of the characters or mission of the original TV series. Julian Darius then analyzes how Gold Key evolved and mostly improved during its time with the franchise. Darius later discusses the comics designed to accompany the Peter Pan vinyl records with audio Star Trek adventures. Did you know these existed?

Most readers will probably find the more surprising revelations in essays about the less familiar turf such as Alan J. Porte’s overview of British Star Trek comics. I didn’t know MacDonald’s used to have Star Trek stories illustrated on “Happy Meal” boxes, but I learned all about them in Kevin Dilmore’s “Inside the Lines and Outside the Box: Star Trek Storytelling for Young Minds (and Tummies).”

Next, after Rich Handley details the story of Star Trek daily newspaper serials, Jim Beard and Colin Smith dive into how Marvel dealt with the tight restrictions placed on them by Paramount. To transition into the DC Comics era, Ian Dawe provided the obligatory politically correct feminist perspective. Not surprisingly, Star Trek comics are found wanting, even with good intentions.

For this reader, the next set of essays were the most interesting as they were written by insiders involved in the creation of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine comic adaptations. As Robert Greenberger and Tom Mason demonstrate, many lessons had been learned about what to do and what not by everyone involved, especially on how to draw up acceptable contracts.

Finally, we learn about Manga interpretations, movie tie-ins, cross-overs with The X-Men, and how, with the new alternate timeline established by the J.J. Abrams films, how Star Trek stories of the ’60s can be reworked in comic form for a new generation. In short, the essays go into where writers and artists have gone for nearly 50 years, and the saga makes for a fascinating study worthy of this level of appreciation and attention.

Simply said, New Life and New Civilizations: Exploring Star Trek Comics is a must for all Star Trek fans, whether or not you’re into comic books or graphic novels. Get out your credit card, debit card, or checkbook while you pet your tribble — make it so. Resistance is futile.

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