Star Trek fans urged to back campaign to collect British Star Trek comics

Joe 90: Top Secret Issue 28
Joe 90: Top Secret Issue 28, published in 1969

Star Trek comic fans are being urged to support a campaign to get all the rare British Star Trek comics – with all their wonderful idiosyncracies, such as Captain Kirk teaching gorilla men how to play football – collected.

Star Trek: The Newspaper Strips Volume OneIn recent years, IDW‘s Library of American Comics imprint reprinted the hard-to-find L.A. Times “Star Trek” newspaper strips as a pair of beautifully made hardcover books, making the strips available to readers for the first time since the early 1980s. At the time, there were plans to give the same treatment to the even-harder-to-find British strips published in Joe 90: Top Secret, TV21, Valiant and Mighty TV Comic, but so far, nothing has materialized – to the dismay of author and publisher Rich Handley, who played a major role in the LOAC collections.

“I’ve been told that the plans were dropped, despite LOAC’s enthusiasm for the project, possibly due to IDW’s perception that there would not be a great deal of fan interest in them,” says Rich, who has launched a call to arms to get the strips back into print. “Since I frequently have people asking me if those books are ever coming out, I know that’s not the case.

Frank Bellamy's one page Star Trek comic strip illustration for Radio Times.
Frank Bellamy’s one page Star Trek comic strip illustration for Radio Times, published in 1970.

“I was involved in creating the first two volumes reprinting the US strips,” Rich, who runs Hasslein Books, told downthetubes, “in that I helped the Library of American Comics procure a complete set of the strips, proofread the book prior to publication, wrote the introduction to the first volume and penned a lexicon for the second volume.

“I was all set to do the same for the UK strips, too – LOAC was waiting for IDW approval to arrange for my complete set of the British magazines to be sent to their office for scanning – but the books never came to pass.

“However, as I note in my blog post, that’s not why I’m so determined to see these additional volumes made. I simply want fans to have access to the strips – and I want to see the books on my own shelves as well. I am, first and foremost, a fan.”

While a lot of Star Trek publishing has been reprints of US comics – including Gold Key as well as Marvel and DC Comics’ many stories – there have been a number of originated stories down the years published in the UK, including a special one page item drawn for Radio Times by Frank Bellamy in the early 1970s to promote the show’s return to BBC1.

Star Trek began as a weekly colour strip in Joe 90: Top Secret comic from the start of 1969, several months in advance of the series first appearing on British television on BBC 1 that summer, replacing Doctor Who on Saturday evenings,” notes British Star Trek archivist Shaqui le Vesconte in posts to the Star Trek Comics: Across Generations Facebook group. “The BBC had originally intended the series to start in late 1968 [and] publishers World Distributors [were] preparing an annual (the first of many featuring Gold Key reprints) for release at the same time.

“While World were able to delay their annual a year, it was presumably too late for City Magazines to replace what would have been a key strip in their new title, being the colour centrespread. Another strip appeared in the Joe 90 Top Secret annual, published later in the year, with art by Ron Turner, a well-established artist with a highly stylised approach. Presumably never having seen the as-yet unaired series (the annual would have been prepared in the early months of the year) and working just from stills, Turner’s art seems unusual.

What makes this outing even stranger is the story is a reworking of an early Doctor Who strip ‘The Therovian Quest’ from early 1965!”

(Details of that Doctor Who strip can be found here on Altered Vistas – for comparison with a synopsis of the “Star Trek” Joe 90 annual story here)

An episode of Star Trek from Joe 90 Top Secret
An episode of Star Trek from Joe 90 Top Secret Issue 2. Art by Harry Lindfield.

The early Star Trek strips were drawn by Harry Lindfield, but it was Mike Noble who was to put his stamp on this first British incarnation, his reign continuing after Joe 90 Top Secret merged with TV21 to become TV21 and Joe 90.

“Star Trek was now being shown on BBC 1,” Shaqui notes, “and quickly became a hit so the strip was one of those to carry on in the new title. In the autumn of 1970, the TV21 Annual 1971 was published, and Star Trek’s popularity can be indicated by the fact the series featured on the cover, the opening spread and with two strips and a text story.”

A dramatic "Star Trek" story features on the cover of this issue of a later edition of TV21.
A dramatic “Star Trek” story features on the cover of this issue of a later edition of TV21.

Such was the success of the Star Trek strip that even when TV21 merged with Valiant, it continued into that comic, drawn by a variety of artists, including John Stokes, Jim Baikie, Carlos Pino and Vicente Alacazar.

The Star Trek pages from the first Mighty TV Comic Holiday Special, published in 1977.
The Star Trek pages from the first Mighty TV Comic Holiday Special, published in 1977.

 

Often forgotten as the weekly instalments were uncoloured serialised reprints of the Gold Key comics, later issues of TV Comic had specials and annuals that featured new material. The first Mighty TV Comic Holiday Special from 1977 featured a Star Trek game (utilising a game layout which had been popular in the Countdown/TV Action annuals earlier in the 1970s) with black and white photos dropped in.

The first page of the Star Trek strip drawn by John Canning for the 1979 Mighty TV Comic Annual.
The first page of the Star Trek strip drawn by John Canning for the 1979 Mighty TV Comic Annual.

The final, originated British Star Trek comic to date appeared in the The Mighty TV Comic Annual 1979 (published in late 1978), which featured a new colour five page Star Trek strip, drawn by John Canning, the long-running contributor to the comic best known for his work on Doctor Who.

“The [originated British] strips may be loopy as hell, but they’re equally fun,” Rich Handley enthuses, “and they’re unavailable to the vast majority of Trek comic collectors. I own the entire set of British strips in their original format, which stand ready for LOAC to reprint if IDW gives the go-ahead (which I know that LOAC wants to do). Any help in spreading the word and getting the ball rolling on this would be greatly appreciated.”
• Anyone interested in seeing the British strips reprinted by IDW and Library of American Comics should let those companies know—by e-mail, by Facebook message, by postal letter, whatever. Contacting LOAC might be a good idea as well
• The Sequart Organization recently released New Life and New Civilizations: Exploring Star Trek Comics, edited by Joseph F. Berenato, which includes coverage of the Star Trek comics originated in the UK. Read our news story

• Our thanks to Rich Handley for letting us feature his campaign on downthetubes. You can read his original “Call to Arms” here on the Hasslein Books blog or check out his exhaustive guide to Star Trek comics (PDF format) here

Rich has written or co-written five books (Timeline of the Planet of the Apes, Lexicon of the Planet of the Apes, The Back to the Future Lexicon, The Back to the Future Chronology and the novel Conspiracy of the Planet of the Apes), helped to update the reference book Planet of the Apes Revisited, and penned articles for Planet of the Apes magazine Simian Scrolls. He’s also written fiction and other works for Lucasfilm’s licensed Star Wars franchise, and has contributed essays to IDW’s Star Trek newspaper strip reprint books, Fantom Press’s upcoming Tales from the Forbidden Zone: The Unseen Scripts of Doug Moench, Sequart’s New Life and New Civilizations: Exploring Star Trek Comics, and ATB Publishing’s impending Star Trek anthology, Outside In: TOS 109. In addition, he has written for or edited numerous other publications, including Star Trek Communicator, Star Trek Magazine, Cinefantastique, Dungeon/Polyhedron, RFID Journal (for which he currently serves as managing editor), and Realm Press’s Battlestar Galactica comic book line.

Hasslein Books (hassleinbooks.com) is a New York-based publisher of reference guides by geeks, for geeks. The company’s lineup of unauthorised genre-based reference books includes Timeline of the Planet of the Apes: The Definitive Chronology, Lexicon of the Planet of the Apes: The Comprehensive Encyclopedia and Lost in Time and Space: An Unofficial Guide to the Uncharted Journeys of Doctor Who, with future volumes slated to feature Red Dwarf, James Bond and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Follow Hasslein Books on Facebook (facebook.com/hassleinbooks) and Twitter (twitter.com/hassleinbooks), and at the Hasslein Blog (hassleinbooks.blogspot.com), to stay informed regarding upcoming projects.

• UPDATE: IDW will be publishing collections of these strips in 2016. Read our news story

Published by

John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

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