Nick setchfield browses his old Star Trek comics once more.
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”.