Following up on their publication of the Star Trek: The Newspaper Comics in not one but two terrific volumes back in 2012, collecting all of the daily comic strips that ran in various newspapers between 1979 and 1983, we’re delighted to report that IDW Publishing is to release three collections of the Star Trek comic strips published in the UK in Joe 90, TV21 and TV21 and Valiant in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Publication of Star Trek: The UK Classic Comics owes much to a campaign by Rich Handley which we highlighted back in 2014 to get these glorious strips – many drawn by the brilliant Mike Noble – into print.
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 – a number of originated stories were also published in the UK.
In 1969, six months before the original Star Trek TV series premiered in the UK on BBC1 (the BBC had originally intended to launch the series in late 1968), British comics readers were introduced to the characters in, initially, Joe 90: Top Secret.
The strip survived that title’s merger with TV21 in Autumn 1969 and became the most popular title in TV21 & Joe 90, even though the TV series itself was cancelled.
Star Trek continued even after TV21 merged with Valiant after 105 issues to become Valiant and TV21 in late 1971, becoming the centrespread strip, concluding its run after 118 issues, in December 1973.
In all, the British Star Trek ran for 257 weekly magazines spanning five years and 37 storylines and in addition to its weekly appearances, more original material drawn by Ron Turner, Jack Sutter, Jim Baikie and John Canning appeared in the 1969 Joe 90 Top Secret annual, the Valiant 1972 Summer Special, the 1971-1973 TV21 hardcover annuals and the 1978-1979 TV Comic annuals.
An original Frank Bellamy Star Trek strip also appeared in the June 27, 1970 issue of Radio Times to promote the show’s return to BBC1.
These strips have never been published in the United States and were not written with strict adherence to Star Trek‘s core concepts. The U.S.S. Enterprise frequently traveled outside our galaxy, and the crew committed many violations of the never-mentioned Prime Directive along the way. Spock shouted most of his lines and often urged Kirk (or “Kurt,” as his name was misspelled in early issues) to shoot first and ask questions later.
Written for Joe 90 Top Secret by Angus Allan and Tod Sullivan, artists on the early strips included Harry Lindfield, perhaps better known for his work on Countdown comic’s Doctor Who strips, followed by Mike Noble for TV21 & Joe 90. Other artists on the strip across its run were John Stokes, Jim Baikie, Carlos Pino and Vicente Alacazar.
(Rich Handley tells us all known artists and writers will be credited in the books. “For some strips, it’s unclear,” he says, “but we did our best to identify who did what.”)
Star Trek: The Classic UK Comics Volume 1 will be released in March 2016, in the same format as the Newspaper Comics collections and, speaking personally, I’m really looking forward to seeing the collection, even if the Star Trek you’ll see doesn’t quite marry up with what fans saw in the actual show.
(The cover line up on the first volume isn’t a mistake, however: series regular Chekov, who was played by Walter Koenig, isn’t on it because he doesn’t appear in the earlier strips. In his place is Dave Bailey from The Corbomite Maneuver).
Despite their “offness”, there’s simply a breathless, unquantifiable energy to most of the stories that should enchant even the most hardened of fans, making them so deserving of a proper reprinting. They’re unique in the annals of Star Trek and fans have gone without them for far too long, so kudos to Rich for pushing the project and a big thank you to IDW for following through with publication, which is already earning the praise of top Star Trek creators such as author Dayton Ward.
“Of course I’ve pre-ordered my copy,” he enthuses. “You’re insane even for asking. I can’t wait to make my already overloaded book shelves sag just a bit more by adding this baby to the line-up.”
It’s a sentiment I wholeheartedly support. Beam me up!
• Star Trek: The Classic UK Comics Volume 1 will be released on 17th March 2016
• If you’re interested in the whole history of Star Trek comics, New Life and New Civilizations: Exploring Star Trek Comics, published by Sequart, examines the long history of Star Trek in the four-colour realm, including these British strips, featuring insightful essays from popular Star Trek comic scribes and novelists, as well as other experts. There’s more information about the book here and a feature here on the Sequart web site