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Star Trek (Gold Key) #61 – Operation Con Game (Review)

The first Star Trek pilot, The Cage, was produced in 1964. To celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, this December we are reviewing the second season of the original Star Trek show. You can check out our first season reviews here. Check back daily for the latest review.

The Gold Key comics came a long way, in the end.

The early issues were full of errors and contradictions – feeling like Star Trek as described across a crowded bar, the broad strokes present but the details never synching up. Those early comics – much like James Blish’s novelisations – suggest a missing link between Star Trek and fifties science-fiction. The earliest issues offered a glimpse of Star Trek through a prism. However, the comics grew more professional (and more familiar with their source material) as they went along.

Beam me down, Scotty...

Beam me down, Scotty…

Indeed, the series attracted a number of notable writers and artists, including Len Wein. Wein would go on to write for the franchise when DC procured the license in the mid-eighties. More than that, it was clear that the writers and artists had begun to watch the show. There were none of the early mistakes that come from working with publicity materials and without context. Although the earliest issue of the comics achieved infamy among Star Trek fans, the book ran for over a decade – stumbling a bit close to traditional Star Trek values as it went along, even if it never quite abandoned its more absurd tendencies.

Operation Con Game is the last issue of Star Trek published by Gold Key, and serves as an example of how far the comics have come.

Disrupting that thought...

Disrupting that thought…

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Star Trek (Gold Key) #1 – The Planet of No Return! (Review)

The first Star Trek pilot, The Cage, was produced in 1964. To celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, this December we are reviewing the second season of the original Star Trek show. You can check out our first season reviews here. Check back daily for the latest review.

The Star Trek comics published by Gold Key are somewhat infamous additions to the Star Trek canon. The company began publishing comic book tie-ins in July 1967, in the gap between the first and second seasons of the original Star Trek show. They continued to publish those tie-ins until 1978, when the license passed to Marvel. These early comics have become the source of much derision over the years, with fans dismissing them as hollow cash-ins produced by people with little understanding of the franchise itself.

However, recent years have seen something of a reappraisal of these early comic books. Once IDW Publishing secured the rights to produce tie-in Star Trek comic books, they devoted considerable effort to archiving and releasing classic and little-seen material from the franchise’s history. They released the Star Trek newspaper strips in a two-volume set, before turning their attention to the classic Gold Key comic books. It is a very worthwhile attempt to provide fans with a glimpse of oft-overlooked chapters in the franchise’s history.

Plant life...

Plant life…

The Gold Key Star Trek comics are messy. A lot of the criticisms hold true. There are all manner of continuity errors in the production of the comic. Artist Alberto Giolitti takes quite some time to figure out what Scotty looks like, and the colourists take a bit of time to figure out what uniforms various cast members should be wearing. The writing is similarly clunky, with characters sounding a little out of sort as the basic plot details seem to stand at odds with still-relatively-small Star Trek canon had been established by the closing credit of Operation — Annihilate!

And yet, despite all these considerable flaws, these comics do make for an interesting time capsule. They don’t feel quite like Star Trek so much as an impression of what Star Trek would look described to somebody who has never seen it, filtered through the lense of fifties and sixties science-fiction comics. The early issues feel like three blind men describing an elephant, and it is glorious.

Branching out...

Branching out…

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