Trek Artifacts : Marvel Star Trek Comics

TREKCORE > SPECIALS > Trek Artifacts > Marvel Star Trek Comics

PUBLISHED: April 19, 2007
Greg Jones

Star Trek Artifact: Marvel Star Trek Comics

The arrival of Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979 ushered in a new era for what we now call the “Star Trek Franchise”. One of the most expensive and highly anticipated movies of the decade, TMP brought with it a merchandising blitz (inspired by the success of the Star Wars merchandising empire) of galactic proportions: toys, trading cards, games, t-shirts, bed sheets, lunch boxes, and, of course, comic books, based on ST’s new incarnation flooded retailers of all kinds. The Gold Key series had ended it’s run with issue #61, dated March 1979, which cleared the way for new comics based on the look and style of TMP.

Monsters Of The Movies,#9/Annual #1, 1975: Monsters of the Movies was Marvel's version of 'Famous Monsters of Filmland' back when these monster mags were still all the rage. Featuring an interview with Leonard Nimoy, this issue also sports a painted cover by Gray Morrow that qualifies as the first Marvel Star Trek cover.

Marvel Comics Super Special #15, 12/79: The first Marvel Star Trek comic was the adaptation of ST:TMP in Marvel Comics Super Special #15 (which was reprinted in #1-3 of the regular comic series). A magazine size series with glossy paper, the issue also featured text pieces and color photos from the film as well as a painted cover by Bob Larkin

Star Trek Book & Record Set Front Cover - 1979

Star Trek Book & Record Set Back Cover - 1979

Star Trek Book & Record Set : Yep, it's the 7" 45-rpm record.
Ads for Star Trek The Motion Picture from the back cover of many comics released in the summer and fall of 1979.

It’s unclear exactly why the license moved from Gold Key to Marvel; in the late 1970's Marvel had established itself as the number one comics publisher with a successful track record of licensed-property based series such as Conan The Barbarian, The Micronauts, and Star Wars. Paramount may have felt Marvel the best company for a ST series however it’s more likely that Marvel was simply willing to pay more for the license than other publishers. Whatever the reasons, Marvel began their first Star Trek era (the company regained the license in the mid-1990's) with an adaptation of Star Trek: The Motion Picture in Marvel Comics Super Special #15 (December, 1979), a magazine-size series specializing in movie adaptations. The regular comic book series soon followed (#1 is cover dated 4/80, but because of the way comics were dated and distributed at the time, was available in January, 1980) with issues #1-3 reprinting the film adaptation and new stories beginning in #4. The series ran for 18 issues, the last of which carries a 2/82 cover date. There were also two “pocket paperback” book volumes release, one reprinting the movie adaptation, the other reprinting various original stories from different issues.

Issue #1 - April 1980

Issue #2 - May 1980

Issue #3 - June 1980 Front Cover

Little is known about the “behind-the-scenes” activity of the first Marvel run as it is perhaps the least discussed of all ST comics by fans. Except for the Star Trek: Untold Voyages mini-series published by Marvel in the 1990's, it’s the only comics series that takes place within the TMP continuity. The characters are depicted as they are seen in the film with the soft-color “pajama” uniforms, wrist-band communicators, gold landing party outfits, etc. This alone may have been a reason why the series only lasted 18 issues; many people forget–or never knew–that the fan reaction to TMP was mixed at the time of it’s release. There were many who felt the film had “sold out” the characters in favor of larger-than-life special effects that would attract the broad “family audience” demographic (keep in mind that TMP was one of the most expensive films ever made to that point with a total budget of around $46 million, roughly equivalent to 3-1/2 times that figure today). Although profitable, TMP was often reviled by serious Trek fans who continued to hold TOS as the one, true Star Trek. Given that Marvel’s series was a monthly reminder of the “new” Trek, it was no doubt avoided by fans who felt betrayed by TMP.

And then there was the quality of the series. Although the Marvel series generally featured better writing and art than the Gold Key series, it still tended to fall back on TOS-style conventions: one issue featured a story dealing with a haunted house in space while another featured an ancient Egypt-like planet on which Kirk becomes possessed by the spirit of a dead pharaoh. The third-to-last issue featured a planet of gnomes, the lovable little fantasy creatures that had become trendy in the early 1980's. The writers were better attuned to the character nuances that made TOS popular such as the comically adversarial relationship between Spock and McCoy and also gave supporting characters such as Uhura and Sulu larger roles. But for whatever reason the series could never break away from the formulaic–not to mention ridiculous–and establish a modern vision of Star Trek.

Issue #4 - July 1980

Issue #5 - August 1980
Cover art by Frank Miller (the creator of "Sin City" and "300") and Klaus Janson.

Issue #6 - September 1980

As far as collectors and would-be collectors are concerned: due to large print runs of earlier issues and collector hoarding, the first Marvel series remained nearly worthless for years, often lining the 25 cent discount boxes at comic shows. But with the increase in demand for ST collectibles in the 1990's collectors began to fill in their runs of these books. Today the last two issues are considered to be scarcer (due to the lower print runs that final issues of a soon-to-be-cancelled series receive) and sell at higher prices than the earlier issues. Still most of these books can be had for under $5 and have never been reprinted in trade paperback form. Marvel Comics Super Special #15 also saw heavy circulation and can be had for under $10; there exists a scarcer $2 cover price version (as opposed to $1.50 on most copies) as the price was bumped up near the end of the print run which sells in the $10-20 range. Although not listed in the Overstreet Comics Price Guide, the Pocket Paperback editions are uncommon and would probably sell for $15 and up in top condition. The “Power Records” book-and-record sets (which carry a “Peter Pan Records” logo on the cover) sell for $20-50 in top condition (with the record of course). Finding newspaper pages of the comic strip would be quite difficult, if not impossible, especially given the fast-degrading nature of newsprint. Still there are probably a few people out there who still have them in a scrap book somewhere and might be willing to part with them for the right price, so keep looking! (*consult the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide for more detailed pricing information*)

Issue #7 - October 1980

Issue #8 - November 1980

Issue #9 - December 1980

In the coming weeks you will see all the covers from the Marvel Series, Marvel Comics Super Special #15, the pocket paperback books, Power/ Peter Pan Records’ “The Robot Masters”, some of the newspaper strips and a few extras. Many thanks to Mark Martinez and his terrific website, The Star Trek Comics Checklist (check it out) from whence came the newspaper strip scans. See you in the funny papers.

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