Nick setch­field browses his old Star Trek comics once more.

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Contents - Nick Setch­field, Fea­tures Edi­tor

Ablond Scotty? An En­ter­prise with blaz­ing rocket ex­hausts? A bat-eared Spock bravely rock­ing a red shirt? Star Trek has of­ten warped into par­al­lel worlds: slip­stream re­al­i­ties that take our 23rd cen­tury he­roes and twist them into pe­cu­liar new shapes. But the freaki­est fi­nal fron­tier can be found within the pages of the show’s first comic book. Gold Key’s Star Trek is a relic from a long lost civil­i­sa­tion that didn’t believe in cor­po­rate brand­ing teams or fas­tid­i­ous guardians of canon. Its Rome-based artists had never even seen the se­ries, so built their own uni­verse from Euro­pean imag­i­na­tion and a fist­ful of Paramount pub­lic­ity stills. The writ­ers were Amer­i­can but had clearly spun the TV tun­ing dial to a ri­val chan­nel. How else to ex­plain Kirk cry­ing “Suf­fer­ing sun spots!” in times of peril? I’d still kill to hear Shat­ner de­claim that one.

As a kid these anom­alies barely reg­is­tered on my sen­sor scan. I was too busy be­ing thrilled – and chilled. Gold Key’s Star Trek pulsed with “weird, deep space voodoo”, as one breath­less cap­tion put it. Take “The Haunted As­ter­oid” in is­sue 19, where the En­ter­prise en­coun­ters “a jewel-en­crusted or­bit­ing mau­soleum,” carved by 20,000 robot labour­ers as a shrine to a dead space princess. It’s “a thing of su­per­nat­u­ral dread”, we’re told. On the cover a woman plucks a skull from a pyre of bones as Spock phasers a cos­mic harpy. These painted cov­ers were lush and lurid. On one a ge­nie snatches the En­ter­prise from the stars. On an­other a pi­rate galleon sails among the ne­bu­lae. Full of a heady pulp charm, spicy and macabre, they feel like the crew’s delir­ium dreams. For all their howlers these comics are, at heart, au­then­tic. They pre­serve some­thing that’s been lost on the screen since the ’60s: that shiver of the un­canny, the cos­mic spook­i­ness that made the orig­i­nal se­ries a swash­buck­ling sis­ter to The Twi­light Zone. To me that jagged logo re­mains the pri­mal essence of Star Trek. It took us to the strangest of strange new worlds.

Nick al­ways sets his watch to “outer-galaxy time”.

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