America still has a problem with accepting comics as anything other than kid stuff. There may be millions of “regular” people hiding their comic book lifestyle. This cannot stand and has to stop.
As you’re reading ComicMix, most likely this will not apply to you. Pass this on to a friend who you suspect may need it. If you’re trying to stay in the closet, yes this will help you avoid getting caught but consider the damage you may be doing to yourself.
For god’s sake – stop living a lie!
Don’t see any comic books around his or her place? Somehow they manage to have seen or “has a friend” who has viewed that “stupid” superhero movie? If you’re dating anyone who spends considerable time and or money on things you just can’t understand, chances are you’re in love with a comic book person.
Here’s a few simple tests and topics to find out if someone is hiding a comic book past.
Ask them to name a Captain. Any Captain. If they describe Captain Action, Captain America, Captain Kirk or Captain Nemo, chances are they’re comic book people.
If Captain Morgan is the first name out of the box and they slur, droll and or lick their lips while doing Captain Morgan pose you’re dating a comic fan… and an alcoholic.
Most fans of comic books are fans of movies, bookstores, and bacon. They either like Star Wars or Star Trek a few of us like both but if pressed will pick a side.
A comic book fan will respect both the Beatles and Jay-Z, both Public Enemy and Paul Simon. Yes, different music but all icons. Symbols are important to comic book people. Even if we don’t love what they do, we have an appreciation for what they represent.
Ask if they know anything about Dark Horse Comics, Kevin Eastman or an Apple product besides an iPhone. See if Norman Rockwell or the Wu-Tang Clan sparks a gleam in their eye. If you know anything about those subjects, try and act they like you don’t. We do so love to hear how smart we are or at least how cool we sound.
If the above questions or secondary inquiries don’t work for you, then hit them with one of the following:
Tell them (name of someone with basement or attic) was about to throw out a box of old comics from the 30s they found. You had no idea Batman had real pointy ears and carried a gun back then.
Ask if anyone they know wants an ancient Superman comic with him lifting a car over his head while running.
Say “Some crazy guy named Stan has a flat tire in front of our house. Seemed OK until he said he created Spider-Man…”
If none of the above gets a reaction, they are in deep denial or don’t read comics. If there is a response, stand clear of the door because you’re about to be run over.
Being a closeted comic fan takes work. That fan is often placed in the “never get a mate” or “mentally challenged” category, so he or she hides their obsession.
As an example, I have a mint in the box Japanese G.I. Joe. An ex-girlfriend of mine brought her little brother to see my toy collection.
This 10-year-old little snot opened my display case and was a second away from tearing open the box and 2 seconds away from ever reaching 11.
I yelled no! so loud the Hell Spawn dropped the box and started crying.
My ex, she who must not be named, girlfriend could not understand why I had reacted that way. In what I thought was a well said and reasonable explanation of my behavior I explained to her just what little Satan was about to deface.
All she heard was blah blah, I don’t want anyone else playing with my doll, blah blah. She asked me what I would save first in a fire, her or my “doll.” I said, “Not the doll…the action figure.”
She said she didn’t think that was funny.
Hell, neither did I but I’m smart enough to know I was talking myself into a cold shower. I said I’d save her and would if there was sufficient time to do so after I got Captain Action to safety.
Rarely are folks like us understood by those who don’t share our love for comics and related stuff. Trying to explain why we do something to those who don’t is like yelling at someone who does not speak English.
No matter how loud you get, they still won’t understand you.
Comics needs all the support we can get, and you in the closet will come out once that respect is granted you won’t have to hide.
Nonetheless, we need your voices too, but no one can hear you with the door closed.
Fans, creators, actors, historians, licensees, NASA and even the United States Post Office celebrated Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary last week at Manhattan’s Javits Center during Star Trek: Mission New York. This convention was a triumph of Geek Culture and how one man’s vision inspired so many others to create one of the most successful and enduring entertainment franchises.
Star Trek fandom has always been passionate and vocal. They’ve banded together to keep the Enterprise flying and have been holding conventions since the 70s. This convention, created by Reed Elsevier’s ReedPop division, was held in the same location as their New York Comic Con. That’s become such a behemoth that, by comparison, Star Trek: Mission New York seemed to embrace a more intimate vibe.
There are benefits to a smaller convention. This was so much easier to navigate than New York Comic Con. There were shorter lines and no crushing crowds. Fans were in a better mood. But try as I might, my observations of this show are undoubtedly influenced by other trade shows and fan-focused shows. And there were a lot of shows this past weekend. Convention expert Rob Salkowitz analyzed the “so many nerds, so little time” phenomenon for Forbes.
Panels: Where the Fans Are
The heart and soul of the convention seemed to be in the panel rooms, even more so than at a conventional trade show or comic con. These panels allowed fans the opportunity to explore the many niches of Star Trek in intense and personal ways, despite sitting in a room with 400 other people.
When I left for college, my dad suggested that it would be wise to join a group or team as a way to break down the overwhelming scope of the university. He was right – and the advice would have been appropriate for Star Trek fans that weekend.
A few of the most fascinating panels included:
The Women of Star Trek Reflect on 50 Years – Star Trek actresses candidly discussing the difficult choices they were, and are, often forced to make
The Lost Years: Treks that Never Were A panel that explored the strange but unproduced worlds of scripts, movie concepts and series that never made it onto the screen
Writing for Star Trek, where David Gerrold, you may know him as the writer of the classic episode, The Trouble with Tribbles (now back in print through ComicMix), passionately encouraged would-be Star Trek writers to create their own books, with their own characters and their own universes
Leonard Nimoy: A Tribute provided great history, including photos of Nimoy with Adam West and in costume as the Grand Marshall of a local parade
Star Trek: The Roddenberry Vault panel, teasing unseen footage. More on this in a bit
A stage reading of Star Trek IV, which I enjoyed more than the actual movie… and I like the movie
Creative and clever cosplay clearly was a theme at this show. Pattern manufacturer Simplicity’s booth spotlighted their licensed Star Trek patterns, but the real creativity was with the fans. Some highlights:
A medical student designed and sewed an elegant starship dress
One clever fan appeared as an animated Nurse Christine Chapel, who’s arm was miscolored for just a few frames in the Star Trek Animated Series episode The Lorelei Signal
A fan dressed as Lt. Uhuru in the toga-esque outfit worn for TV’s first interracial kiss
The cosplay contest on Saturday night also included brilliant pop culture mashups like Khan-ye West, Kim Cardassian, and Ensign Trump, complete with his “Make the Federation Great Again” political sign.
The Show Floor
The exhibition floor offered an eclectic group of booths and activities. On one end, NASA’s huge booth helped fans understand upcoming space exploration, (like the Tess satellite) while on the other end, the U.S. Post Office sold the new Star Trek stamps.
In between there was a mix:
Comic publisher IDW was there with creatives who were signing comics. The legendary John Byrne made a rare convention appearance to sign copies of his recent photoplay Star Trek
Eaglemoss was selling individual Starships and Starship Dedication Plaques from their Star Trek Starships collection. Many sold out quickly. The steady crowd of fans at the booth kept me from speaking to my friends at Eaglemoss crew too much.
Likewise, rabid fans kept the Titan booth busy, as they also sold out of many of their products. Their new coffee table book Star Trek: 50 Artists 50 Years, was gorgeous. I had loved the exhibit that the book is based upon when I saw it in downtown San Diego during July’s Comic-Con.
The Smithsonian touted their Star Trek documentary, but somehow that seemed like an assignment a teacher would give you, rather than something fun you’d find on your own. But I’m clearly not giving it a chance and I haven’t seen the documentary yet (it debuted September 4th).
Microsoft’s Star Trek: Bridge Crew offers an amazing virtual reality experience for fans. The reality of the long line, however, discouraged me from taking part of it.
Star Trek Timelines is an immersive game that spans the many Trek franchises and, for the vast majority of users, is free. A very patient but energized (I mean that in the non-Trek sense of the word) staff helped fans play the game on the mounted iPhones and tablets – and gave away a lot of prizes.
The Son of….
Rod Roddenberry is the son of Star Trek Creator Rod Roddenberry. Rod carries on the business side of the work that was established years ago as his father, with prescient insight, kept many of the licensing rights.
Rod’s an affable guy. He’s warm, humble and friendly. And he announced an astounding project. It turns out that his father maintained a warehouse full of dailies and outtakes from the original series. Gene Roddenberry had gathered up everything that was on the metaphorical cutting room floor and preserved it. Working with Roger Lay, Jr., Rod and the new team have assembled these treasures in the Star Trek: The Roddenberry Vault, on sale later this year.
A Few Stumbles
For every Wrath of Khan or ST:TNG, there’s a Nemesis or a Star Trek: Enterprise. There were some shortcomings with this convention too.
After 50 years of merchandise, collectibles, comics and books, I was disappointed that there weren’t any dealers selling those treasures in any meaningful way. I had gone into the show on the lookout for vintage Trek comics and books but left empty handed. I wanted to see things like Topps cards, Ben Cooper Halloween outfits and 70s Star Trek guns that fired little plastic disks. I hadn’t planned on buying any of those things… but you never know.
My frustration was compounded when I asked the woman in the information booth if there were any dealers or back issue sellers. She informed me that she “had no idea” but that I “was welcome to wander around the exhibition floor” to try and find what I needed. I was, quite frankly, stung by the impoliteness and uselessness of that suggestion. That’s not the Reed Expo Customer Service that I remember.
The whole exhibition floor was a bit underwhelming, but on the other hand, it seems that companies with product designed for fans sold a lot this weekend. There wasn’t a crushing competition for consumer dollars.
Years ago, I had enjoyed a Star Trek novel now and again, so I was really surprised how unwelcoming the Simon and Schuster booth was to new or in my case, lapsed, readers. I went to that booth planning to purchase a book, but after a sour experience, I decided against it. My to-read pile is tall enough, anyways.
And there’s so much more going on in the “world” of Star Trek fandom that I wish was front and center at this convention. I wanted to learn more about the many Trek podcasts, the high quality fan-films and the boom in impressive fan artwork.
Box Office? What Box Office?
Last week, The New York Times had a front-page article on changing movie going habits and this summer’s box office sequels that didn’t become hits. I was surprised to see Star Trek: Beyond on that list. I had thought it made its money back and I had enjoyed the picture. But maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised – the faithful superfans at Star Trek: Mission New York had all but ignored that movie.
The Next Frontier: 50 More Years
What’s the real magic of Star Trek? Is it the hope for an optimistic future? Is it the smart science fiction? Is it the ripping yarns? Is it really just the story of a guy and his buddies? Who knows? I’ll leave it to deeper thinkers to sort that all out. All I know is that Star Trek fan culture is thriving. It’s a robust intersection of fandom, commerce & entrepreneurialism. And that a good time was had by most at Star Trek: Mission New York.
This past weekend I attended Star Trek Mission in New York City. Despite my Trekkie status, this was actually my very first Star Trek convention. It was a great experience to finally have and it was nice to see a whole group of people that share my love and passion for Star Trek. I got stopped on my way to and from there, with other attendees sharing the Vulcan hand symbol or asking questions. It was a great community convention, with a community all our own.
A big theme of the convention was diversity. It was echoed and praised at every panel I was in. Fans referred to it as a major point of the show in their Q&A. The writers for Star Trek Discovery made a point of mentioning it in their very vague show plans. (Seriously, they gave up nothing!) Every panelist made a point to speak about how important that legacy of diversity is to Star Trek. Even the technology panels I attended made a point to speak about it.
That is why this exchange during the Deep Space Nine cast panel on the first day was so impactful. The cast was asked about different ways that Star Trek has been described by fans. Armin Shimerman, a.k.a. Quark, explained a recurring experience he has with fans. He explained that in America, he often gets asked “Do the Ferengi represent the Jews?” But in England he gets asked, “Do the Ferengi represent the Irish?” and in Australia he gets asked “Do the Ferengi represent Chinese?” Hearing these questions helped him see the hate in Star Trek. Shimerman says he believes that the Ferengi represent the outcast culture, the people around you who you don’t really understand or know.
After hearing that, it made every single diversity statement during the convention that much more important but at the same time, I could not forget what he said. It made me wonder if Star Trek had impacted as much as we think that it had. If fans could ask these questions, did they really understand the show? But by the end of the weekend, I was reminded why I love this show so much.
I do truly believe that Star Trek held forth diversity when people kept minorities from any recognition. When Roddenberry put a Russian on the bridge during the Cold War, he signaled that one day we would make peace. When he put an African American woman on the bridge, he signaled that one day we would have equality. And when the producers put a woman in the captain’s chair, they showed that one day we could actually move past gender preconceptions.
As we remember everything that Star Trek has given us over the past fifty years, the best truth is that Roddenberry’s vision has only showed us the way. Entertainment can open up all of these possibilities but only in reality can changes be made. We need to take these lessons to heart if we want to evolve past hate, greed, and violence.
Tomorrow, September 8th, is the 50th anniversary of the Star Trek premiere. Take a moment to see how far we have come, and how much farther we can go if we embrace the ideals of the future.
As my fellow opiners Ed Catto and John Ostrander have, uh, well, opined on these pages, this year marks the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. You would think that there would be alot more hoopla about it, but even though CBS has announced the premiere of a new ST show and even though, as Ed reminds us, the United States Post Office is issuing a special commemorative stamp – which I am absolutely positively buying – it’s been amazingly quiet on the P.R. front, especially when you consider that the franchise is legendary not only here, but around this world.
Consider, if you will, the build-up to the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who in 2013. Not only was there a reminder of the looming date on BBCAmerica seemingly every single commercial break, but any little bit of news – rumors – was all over the Internet, on television, on radio, and in the newspapers. The BBC commissioned a TV movie, “An Adventure in Time and Space,” about the creation of the series and its effect on William Hartnell, the original Doctor. Peter Davison, Sylvester McCoy, Colin Baker and Paul McGann appeared in the comedic homage “The Five (ish) Doctors Reboot” – which was written and directed by Davison – along with David Tennant, Jenna Coleman, John Barrowman, Russell T. Davies, Steven Moffat, and many other actors and behind-the-scenes people long associated with the show. There was a world tour. And of course there was the 50th anniversary special, “The Day of the Doctor.”
Okay, I just did a quick search on the web. There are a lot of things happening, including the Star Trek: 50 Years, 50 Artists exhibition that debuted at the San Diego Comic Con this year, and which will continue to travel around the country and the world. There’s also: Star Trek: Mission New York, which is occurring as I write this over Labor Day weekend at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in the city. (Didn’t hear a word about it on any of the New York local news shows, or read anything in any of the metropolitan area newspapers.) There is also a traveling concert show of ST’s music, and the one that sound the most fun, Star Trek: The Academy Experience, which is happening now through October 31 here in New York on the U.S.S. Intrepid museum – now that’s something I could seriously get into…hey, Alix and Jeff, my birthday is in October. (Hint! Hint!)
But I still say it’s been amazingly quiet.
• • • • •
I ordered a copy of The British Invasion: Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, and the Invention of the Modern Comic Book Writer (by Greg Carpenter) mostly because I wanted to read the interview with my friend and once-editor Karen Berger; when I received the book I immediately read it, and though it will be an interesting perusal for those not around the halls of DC in the 1980s, there wasn’t anything there that I didn’t already know. I’ve just started the main bulk of the book, so I can’t really “officially” comment yet, but it already seems to be a rather, uh, “fannish” account of the introduction of the British artist community into this side of the pond’s comics business.
And there were other amazing talents from the mother country in DC’s pages, then – Alan Grant and John Wagner being just two. One thing I will say – and I know I’m possibly inviting trouble here, and I’m also saying this in a spirit of jealous discontent that still lingers from those days, as immature as that might be – but im-not-so-ho, the guys with the passports were given much more free rein to “create as they will” by DC’s PTB than those whose birth certificates registered them as Stateside natives. Just sayin’, that’s all.
• • • • •
I saw a picture of Donald Trump in a Jewish prayer shawl (a “tallis” or “tallit”) at the church in Detroit where he went to “court” African-American voters. Huh? Are you fucking kidding me? Trump’s the poster boy for the “alt-right” – don’t you just love the “new, cool, millennial” aphorism to describe his neo-Nazi, white supremacist acolytes?
We’re coming up on the 50th Anniversary of the cultural phenomenon known as Star Trek. I go back that far (and somewhat farther); I saw The Original Series when it was Originally Run. I can say I was a fan from the beginning; I hated when it was cancelled, I was happy when I learned they were going to make a movie, I was horribly disappointed when I saw that movie, and I had my faith renewed when The Wrath of Khan came out and so on and so on.
However, I can’t say I was ever a Trekkie. (Yes, I know that for many, the correct term is “Trekker”; I’m sympathetic but the general public is more familiar with the designation “Trekkie” so that’s what I’m using.) I was and am a fan, especially of some of the movies, but not with the intensity that many feel. William Shatner (the original Captain Kirk) could get pretty hammy. Leonard Nimoy, however, as Spock was always “fascinating”.
I admired the show perhaps more than loved it although some episodes still stick in my mind. In particular, I remember “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”. IMDB summarizes the plot as follows: “The Enterprise encounters two duo-chromatic and mutually belligerent aliens who put the ship in the middle of their old conflict.” The visual was simple and stunning – one alien was black on the left side of their body and white on the other half while the other alien was a mirror image – white on the left, black on the right. Their hatred and desire to destroy one another was a stunning metaphor for racial hatred that remains true today.
I learned from Star Trek how you could work social commentary into pop culture. That’s something I’ve tried to emulate in my own work.
I think I’ve seen every Star Trek film that has come out at least once, my favorites being The Wrath of Khan and The Voyage Home. I’ve also watched all the films since the re-boot with the new cast and, while I’ve enjoyed them a lot, I do have a bone or two to pick.
Spoiler Alert: plot details follow from the last two ST movies.
The conceit of the reboot is that this is a new timeline and events will be changed but various incidents get repeated in some form. In Into Darkness, we get a new version of Khan, the quintessential Kirk foe from The Wrath of Khan and there is a version of the emotional climax where one of the principal characters dies to save the ship and his crewmates. In the original, it’s Spock and in the new version it’s Kirk. (Kirk gets better fast.)
In The Search for Spock, they blow up the Enterprise. In the newest ST film, Beyond, they destroy the Enterprise. The original crew gets a new Enterprise at the end of The Voyage Home in what is a terrific emotional pay-off. The current crew gets a new Enterprise at the end of the current movie just because. We all saw that coming, right?
Here’s my problem – the new movies didn’t earn their emotional payoffs. The filmmakers are trading on the associations we have from the original versions. In The Wrath of Khan, we had no idea if Spock was ever going to return. In Into Darkness, it’s pretty much a given that Kirk will be fine by the final credits.
In The Search for Spock, it was a big thing when they destroyed the Enterprise. We had formed an attachment with it from the TV episodes and the two previous films. I was actually more upset at the death of the Enterprise than I was with the death of Spock. In Beyond, we don’t have that same attachment. They haven’t given us time to form it. They’re counting on the emotional resonance that we have for the Enterprise from all the other shows and films we’ve seen.
The films aren’t the only ones guilty of this. I think the Enterprise on Star Trek: The Next Generation was destroyed two or three times. Guys, you can only go to that well so many times before it becomes a cheap manipulative trick. I think you’ve gotten there. One of the things I liked about the reboot was that we had the “original” Enterprise back. Now that’s all shot to hell and what for?
Hmm. I’m sounding a bit of Trekkie/Trekker, aren’t I?
I will say that I’ve watched episodes from every Star Trek show that’s been aired and will probably see the new one now being filmed. Thing is – I haven’t watched all the episodes of any of prior Star Trek series. To be honest, I preferred Babylon 5 to Deep Space Nine. As much as I liked The Next Generation, I infinitely prefer Firefly. In general, I like Star Wars better than Star Trek. Really, in the end I am at heart a Doctor Who fan (although lately I feel the show runner, Steven Moffat, has been testing that).
However, I don’t say that one show is “better” than the other. These are all just my own personal preferences. They have nothing to do with the innate qualities of Star Trek.
Well, except maybe “Spock’s Brain”.
So I salute Star Trek as it rolls into its 50th Anniversary. May it, and it’s fans, live long and. . .
Turning 50 doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. In fact, those typical black-and-white “50 years old” party decorations, suggesting that the celebrant is “so old,” seem out of place to me. Fifty can be fun. Fifty can be optimistic. Isn’t Hollywood’s most famous re-invented party boy, Robert Downey, Jr. over 50? Isn’t the always-engaging Marisa Tomei over 50?
This year Star Trek turns 50 and the phenomenon never looked better. There’s a new movie, a new fascinating Star Trek podcasts out there. And now, more than ever, there’s top TV show and even new stamps from the U.S. Post Office. There’s a bunch of -notch merchandise from innovative companies like Titan and Eaglemoss.
But it wasn’t always so. Back when Star Trek was turning 20 the future wasn’t so certain. It was a struggle. Fans were ridiculed. The world at large did not associate any ‘cool factor’ to Star Trek fandom.
And during those days, DC Comics was creating top-notch Star Trek comics. Looking back (at the future) through the lens of 2016, these adventures covered a perplexing time for the franchise. Spock was dead, Lt. Saavik had crashed the party, the main characters were all dealing with aging and career issues and interesting original characters were added to the mix.
I think it might be my favorite period of the Star Trek mythology. So instead of celebrating Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary like everyone else at the Star Trek: Mission New York convention later this week, let’s instead celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Star Trek’s 20th Anniversary…and specifically DC Comics’ Star Trek.
Marv Wolfman was essential to DC’s acquisition of the Star Trek license. Working on the Marvel Comics version helped him develop a unique perspective for successfully adapting the property into comics. Marv offered these great insights:
“I was a huge Star Trek fan. Still am, actually. I had written the first few issues of Marvel’s Trek but in analyzing it later felt everyone who handled Trek comics was doing it wrong. We were all trying to mimic a TV show’s four act structure and tone. We were all telling too many stories on the Bridge when we had an unlimited SFX budget. If they had the means they would have done other types of stories, but they were restricted by budget. Also, TV shows have tons of talking scenes, because that’s cheap to produce. Talking scenes in comics is visually boring, so I wanted more action and wonder.
“But Trek was pretty much dead at this point in comics and the first Trek movie (I wrote the adaptation for Marvel) didn’t offer much hope. But then I got the chance to see an early advance of the second movie and went back to DC saying we needed to get the license. I remember Jenette Kahn (DC’s President) didn’t think there was any hope for Trek back then (and most would have said she was right) but I was a fan and said this one was really good and I had a way of fixing it. Jenette may have disagreed but she trusted me and approved us getting the license.
“I brought in Mike W. Barr to write it, as I knew Mike loved Trek as deeply as I did. My thought was to handle the book like it was a comic, not a TV show. Have continued stories. Don’t structure it like a TV show. Have emotional characters and bring in new characters with whom we could tell stories we couldn’t necessarily do with the regular cast, which we couldn’t change. I wanted the cast off the bridge and on planets, and I wanted the problems to be big and not easily solvable. One of comics’ strength is building up a universe and there was no reason to keep it small because the TV show did.
“And all of that had to be done while 100% honoring everything else that made Trek great. Great characters and thoughtful SF stories. I thought we did it and the book sold amazingly well.
“I believe later on the approach was altered to go back to more of TV’s four-act structure, ignoring what made comics work, but as sales dropped that approach was changed back to what I had pitched and what Mike Barr wrote. I think whatever you do you need to remember to use the strength of comics.”
Next I turned to ComicMix‘s own Robert Greenberger, who has long been engaged in Star Trek fandom (be sure to read his Notes from a Final Frontiersman column). Robert was an editor for the DC Comics Star Trek series. I had a lot of questions for him:
Ed Catto: Rereading the first fun DC Star Trek comics, it still seems fresh and exciting to me. At that time, Spock was “dead,” the main characters were dealing with both middle age and career issues and the series introduced several new characters. What was it like to develop the series at that time?
Robert Greenberger: Marv Wolfman lobbied DC for the rights, feeling he didn’t have a real good chance to work with the characters when Marvel had the license. He and Mike W. Barr both worked under the far more restrictive Marvel license and so they wanted to see what they could do unfettered. The absence of Spock was seen as more of a creative challenge than anything else, since removing such a key figure changed the group dynamic. It also let Mike explore Saavik as a character.
EC: Can you tell me about the challenges you faced?
RG: When I arrived in 1984, the book was about six issues along and Marv and Mike were in a nice groove, developing their original-to-the-series characters, to round out the ensemble and have people they could actually do things to. A third film was being planned but we knew nothing about it at the time so continued to try and fill the gap after Star Trek II with interesting stories. Some of it felt like vamping and required some inventive thinking which is where, I believe, Mike hit on the idea for a Mirror Universe saga.
EC: At that point you were celebrating Star Trek’s 20th Anniversary. Just how different was that from the 50th Anniversary we’re celebrating now?
RG: Paramount Pictures chose not to do too much special for the 20th. There was some licensed merchandise but it wasn’t as big a deal to them. Len Wein was writing the comic for me at the time and we agreed we’d do a special story for that September. I got to use extra pages and he came up with “Vicious Circle!” a fun sequel to “Tomorrow is Yesterday,” allowing the TOS-era crew to meet their film series counterparts.
Paramount finally made a big deal on the 25th and now, the 50th. I’d love to have been involved with this year’s celebration since some transmedia storytelling could have been fun.
EC: I really liked the artwork on the DC series. What can you tell about working with talented guys like Ricardo Villagran, Tom Sutton, Gray Morrow, Curt Swan and even Eduardo Barreto?
RG: Ricardo was living in the NYC area in the early 1980s landed some work at DC, which led to Marv offering him Trek. He relocated to his native Argentina and we used DHL to make the monthly schedule. He needed the reference but smoothed out Tom’s pencils. Tom was a tremendous storyteller and I loved working with him, but the likenesses were never his strong suit. Eduardo Barreto stepped in for one story and if I could have, I would have shackled him to the Engine Room – I adored his Saavik spotlight, but he was in such demand I couldn’t keep him.
When I could, I spelled him with people like Gray Morrow and Curt Swan who handled the work really well. Then I lucked out with Gordon Purcell on Trek and Peter Krause on TNG, young guys who gave it their all and it worked.
EC: You’ve been involved with both Star Trek fandom and comic book fandom for many years, Robert. Can you compare and contrast the two fandoms?
RG: Comic book fandom was a direct outgrowth of science fiction fandom whereas Star Trek fandom splintered from SF fandom since they were looked down on for preferring filmed SF to prose. It was far more broad-based and in many ways welcoming so it grew faster than anyone could have imagined. The passions and infighting remains exactly the same, though.
EC: How does Star Trek fandom react to Star Trek comics?
RG: When there was nothing else regularly published, it was most welcome. Many didn’t like the inaccuracies in the Gold Key books but it was all they had between the infrequent Bantam novels throughout the 1970s. The Marvel series was much better received but suffered from inconsistent creative teams, an editor who didn’t know the property well, and a license restricting them to whatever was established in The Motion Picture. When DC arrived, they had a much broader contract and an editor, Marv, and a writer, Mike, who knew and loved the material. They got to be consistent, which the fans responded to. When I took over, I had a smooth-running operation and the fans continued to support us. Today, IDW feels the same love thanks to Mike Johnson’s stories.
EC: There’s a plethora of Star Trek podcasts now. Do you listen to any of them and what are your favorites?
RG: I honestly listen to exactly one podcast (totally unrelated to comics or Trek) despite having been interviewed for several. I respect Michael Clark, over at Visionary Trek, whose The Captain’s Table podcast has been good to me.
EC:Star Trek has had such a long history in comics. What are some of your favorite Star Trek comics over the last 50 years, and what do you think is the secret ingredient to adapting Star Trek to comics?
RG: I was honored to find six stories I was involved with make it to Comic Book Resources’ recent Top 10 Star Trek Comics of All Time list. My personal favorites are things like Star Trek Annual #3, by Peter David and Curt Swan, Debt of Honor with Chris Claremont and Adam Hughes, and The Modala Imperative miniseries by Peter, Michael Jan Friedman, and Pablo Marcos since it crossed TOS and TNG using Spock as the lynchpin. I enjoyed Glenn Greenberg’s Starfleet Academy run at Marvel and various stories from the other publishers.
Comics is not television and the action and special effects translate differently. To me, the secret sauce in the comics is keeping the focus on characters, working with the ensemble and serializing subplots so you can really explore issues in ways a 60-minute episode of two hour film cannot come close to working with. This way, we offer readers a different experience and shine the spotlight on different facets of the crew or races that make the universe so incredibly fascinating.
EC: Thanks, Robert and Marv. I wonder if Star Trek is one of those 50 year olds that wish to be 20 again?
Last week, I wrote about how I can turn brunch into me championing female comics creators to new comic readers. Ok, there was a bit more to it than that but just go ahead and read it if you really want the details. After that went out, our Ye Olde Editor Mike decided to play Devils’ Advocate and ask me why we need women creators in comics.
I admit, I was stumped about how to approach it this time. I feel like so many writers, including myself, have tackled this subject. And frankly, I don’t understand who would argue against women in comics at this point. (I doubt Bill Willingham from Fables will read this.) But then I remembered that no matter what I need to explain, I can always use Star Trek. More on that soon.
Right now, according to Pew Research Center, 56% of men think sexism doesn’t exist anymore. You might be one of them. After all, it is 2016. But where (for the most part) we’ve lost the ass grabbing and the “just keep looking pretty” side of sexism, the more subtle signs of sexism still exist. Women are still paid less than men, and are often seen as less capable or knowledgeable. Right now, we are seeing the subtle signs of sexism played out on the national stage but many people fail to see it.
When women enter the planning process, so does a completely new point of view. We are more likely to be better multi-taskers, empathetic, and respond much differently to the world’s pressures because of gender. That change in perception and reactions adds a new story element.
In entertainment, we have seen women’s stories change and develop as time has passed. In a lot of cases, entertainment has led the way for social changes. (Now is where I bring Star Trek back in). Star Trek showed Nichelle Nichols as an officer on a starship. Not a maid, not a cook but someone who can take control. Uhura inspired a generation that they too could be more than what society at the time decided was okay. Plus, without her we would have no Whoopi Goldberg, and that would be a real shame.
Now we have the current Ms. Marvel, created because Marvel editor Sana Amanat randomly was sharing childhood stories one day. Another editor thought she could use her past to create a new hero and Kamala Kahn was born. In today’s world of scary hate, Kamala shows that Muslim culture includes everyday people who deserve their voice.
Women bring new stories to comics, and with those stories, new truths and changes that will echo into society. The truth is that human crave knowledge, intrigue, entertainment, and change. As anything in our lives become stale, we look for something new. When civilizations fail to grow, change, or spark new ideas, then they collapse. New ideas can come from anywhere or anyone.
We’ve only had the voices of a select group for so long that we’ve forgotten how many other stories that are out there. Ignoring this entire gender means the stagnation of comics. Actually, scratch that. Ignoring any minority group means the stagnation of comics. Only through continuing evolution and change can the comics industry continue to thrive.
“Come with me and you’ll be in a world of Pure imagination. Take a look and you’ll see into your imagination. We’ll begin with a spin, traveling in the world of my creation.
“What we’ll see will defy explanation. If you want to view paradise simply look around and view it. Anything you want to, do it.
“Wanta change the world? There’s nothing to it. There is no life I know to compare with pure imagination.
“Living there, you’ll be free if you truly wish to be.”
“Pure Imagination”• Written by Leslie Bricuse and Anthony Newley • Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, sung by Gene Wilder
But I ramble, to turn a phrase…
It’s a tough thing, dealing with depression. It’s a selfish disease, one whose main symptom is that it makes the whole world all about you.
Turn on the television, boot up the web, pick up a newspaper, link into the world – there’s a lot of things going on out there beyond your own life that are terrible beyond anything that Dante ever imagined. I don’t have to name them; you know what they are.
In my line of work I’ve seen a lot of terrible things, things I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, things that make me think, and sometimes say out loud, “just because we can, doesn’t mean we should,” things that make me wonder why this culture, this American society, fears death so much that we keep people alive even when in our brains, in our hearts, in our souls we know we shouldn’t, even when we know that we are not abiding by the first rule of healing, “primun non nocere – first, do no harm”
To be completely honest, I’m not even sure what my overall theme is this week, what my aim is – maybe it’s just to get these thoughts out of my head and into the world, because the one thing the darkness cannot abide is the light, even it is only flickering. That’s always been my weapon against the disease – what some in my life have called a big mouth – or what my father used to call “not knowing when to keep quiet.”
I am writing this to shut it up… I think.
Aloneness is the ally of the disease, or the belief of aloneness; but I don’t walk Depression Street alone. I have my family. I have my friends. I have a job that keeps me actively engaged in the world. I have this forum on ComicMix. I am lucky and I am blessed, and I know that, even when I am in the deepest shadow. That knowledge is another component of the light that scatters the darkness.
Sometimes, even though it is a complete oxymoron, I am glad that I have had this disease. It has made me a better person in so many ways – less quick to judge, more open to empathy. (See, I told you that my depression has been an oxymoronic entity in my life, go back and read that second paragraph.) It has made me a better professional, too – as a nurse, as a writer.
Anger, it is said, is depression turned inward. Well, I have plenty of anger, and sometimes it is displaced, but I have learned, or am constantly attempting to learn, not to turn it inward. Mostly it is anger that the depression went on so long, that it was so long undiagnosed, that it robbed me of what economists call the financially “productive” years, so that here I am at 62 and 10 months and I get scared when I think of the future… will I end up as one of those senior citizens living at the poverty line?
That’s not how it was supposed to be. But whose life is the way it was supposed to be? So very, very, few of us.
To borrow from Nicholas Cage in Moonstruck, “the fairy tales are bullshit!”
But the fairy tales – comics, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Star Trek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, all the wonderfully heroic tales, the myths and the epics from Gilgamesh to The Ugly Duckling – are all parts of the wonderfully nerdiness and geekiness of our imaginations, are also part of the wonderfully beauteous light.
Sorry, Nicholas, but fairy tales can also be not bullshit.
“Come with me, and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination.”
It’s this that keeps me going when the dark is beckoning…keeps you going, too, I hope, when your own abyss is yawning before you. The ability to accept life as it is, but also, and more importantly, to keep imagining.
“If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it…”
I can clearly remember the moment that guaranteed that I would never be a Star Trek in the same way I am a fan of so many other science fiction properties. I got a very bad cold in summer camp when I was nine years-old and was put in the infirmary, the only place in the camp that had television. I don’t remember if I choose the programming or if someone else did but I watched an entire evening of Deep Space Nine a feverish miserable mess (so feverish that it could have only been one episode as far as I know) and I’ve never quite gotten over that association enough to enjoy the show as an adult. Unlike Star Wars, DC, Marvel, Firefly, Buffy, et al I have no connection to the Star Trek franchise past enjoying a few of their cinematic efforts and enjoying others less. Star Trek Beyond is in the latter camp, a fine sci-fi action movie I guess but one with thinner characters than I’d prefer and action sequences that, while pleasing, seem a bit like nonsense.
Good science fiction either needs to get the audience very invested in the world, the science, and the process or invested in the characters to the point where none of that really matters. Star Trek Beyond fails to do either of those things, I’m not sure where my affection for these characters is supposed to come from besides the fact that they have very famous names and are on Team Earth and the universe feels vry shallow for a decades old property and the science is basically magic. We get scenes where characters I’m not super invested in are confronted with gigantic problems and then solve them by saying a bunch of big words I don’t understand and then they hit some buttons and poof the problem is over. This feels like it describes 90% of the conflict in the film. I’m being unfair to characters like Kirk and Spock who had a lot of time in the previous two films to get some earned affection but there’s a fair amount of Scottie action in here and none of that feels earned at all.
If a reboot is supposed to be a fresh start, to begin again without all the encumbrances of the original series, how far can you get in to the new thing before it’s just as difficult for outsiders as the original? We’re a mere seven years and three films in to the new Star Trek canon but with Star Trek Beyond we might be getting there. There’s very little here for people new even to this small corner of the franchise and some of it even seems to be relying on familiarity with the orginal series. Bones McCoy has been a criminally underused character in the first two entries in this franchise and while I’m glad to see him thrust in to a larger role this time around I can’t imagine his prickly friendship with Spock feeling even the least bit earned if you’ve only seen the 2009 Star Trek and Into Darkness. This no longer feels like a fresh, interesting, new take on Star Trek but more an acknowledgment that the original cast is far too old to do the action movies they want to make with these characters. Unless you never thought this was a fresh interesting take in which case I don’t know what this movie has to offer you at all.
The heartbreaking thing about this movie coming just a bit short is that it tarnishes the stellar reputation of Justin Lin who, prior to this film, was on run of genre-defining action movies with the Fast & Furious films before failing to impress here. I can see him trying to put his style on the film in moments especially in the scenes that prominently feature 20th and 21st century music but it isn’t enough. The moments that feel like him feel out of place amidst the rest of the film and the more traditional stuff often feel hollow and lacking in follow-through, where his frenetic pace may have saved him before here all of Lin’s missteps have a seemingly unlimited amount of time to breathe.
I don’t want do go in to other people’s fandoms and tell them how their beloved things ought to be. While I was a big fan of the J.J. Abrams Star Trek reboot and thought Into Darkness totally acceptable action movie that I enjoyed watching once and have never been tempted to watch again. Star Trek Beyond I found considerably less enjoyable, it feels like uninspired technobabbly science fiction far too often and at rare moments seems to be playing directly to clichés lampooned in Galaxy Quest ones that probably needed to be permanently retired after being exposed so expertly. Maybe this is the Star Trek movie that will please the die-hard fans but I just couldn’t get in to it.
The third installment of the rebooted Star Trek franchise, Beyond, is set to hit theaters July 22nd. It’s been announced that in this film that Hikaru Sulu, portrayed by actor John Cho, will be revealed as gay. John Cho apparently discussed this with George Takei last year, in which Mr. Takei expressed his displeasure with the idea and lobbied film director Justin Lin to reconsider the decision to make Sulu gay. The movie was written by Simon Pegg, who plays Scottie, and Doug Jung. The Star Trek Beyond team went ahead with their original idea anyway.
George Takei, who played Sulu in the original series and seven Star Trek movies, was delighted that they would be adding a gay character to the franchise but was disappointed that they chose to make that character Sulu and should have made a new character instead. This led to Simon Pegg responding rather harshly that he disagreed with George Takei and creating a new character would be tokenism. Then openly gay Spock actor Zachary Quinto said he was disappointed that George Takei was disappointed. All of that can be read here.
Now there is a lot to unpack here. Why would an openly gay man and LGBTQ activist like George Takei be opposed to Hikaru Sulu being portrayed as gay in the new movie? Part of the reason is in this quote from George Takei himself, “Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of [‘Star Trek’ creator Gene Roddenberry’s] creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate.” He goes on to stress that this is the 50th anniversary year of Star Trek and how that adds to the unfortunate nature of it all. Simon Pegg goes on to counter that stating the decision to make Sulu gay is in line with Gene Roddenberry’s vision.
Roddenberry himself did want to have LGBTQ representation, but at the time he was helming Star Trek that was impossible. George Takei’s point is not that Gene Roddenberry would be opposed to a gay character in his vision, but rather that Gene thought out all of his characters so fully that if they want to include a gay character that character should be a new one.
At this point I can’t help but think to myself just who in the hell does Simon Pegg think he is? George Takei worked closely with Gene Roddenberry for years. They talked about the character of Hikaru Sulu many times together. Simon Pegg has never worked professionally with Gene Roddenberry. It was incredibly poor form for Simon Pegg to try and counter George Takei’s claim that this goes against Gene’s vision. Honestly, I found it insulting on Simon Pegg’s part. He’s a professional and he should know better.
Going back to George Takei as an LGBTQ activist and how that and his sexual orientation inform his worldview, I think it’s very important to consider that before responding in the way that Simon Pegg, as well as Zachary Quinto did. Not only is George Takei a member of the LGBTQ community, he is also a member of the Asian community in the United States, another minority, and he and his family were subjected to life in an internment camp from 1942 through the end of World War II. Later, he would have to navigate being a closeted gay man in Hollywood. He is a man who has gone through a lot, experienced a great deal, and deserves more thought and consideration towards his ideas than was given to him by the team on Star Trek Beyond.
Simon Pegg is not a member of the LGBTQ community. He is an ally at best. His statements echo those of many other well-meaning allies who have not necessarily contributed positively to the community. I’ve written previously about Iceman being outed in Marvel Comics and was strongly opposed to the idea then. What they have done with the character since has not been positive in any measurable way to me and I stand by my thoughts on Marvel’s decision. The situation with Sulu in the new franchise is very similar.
When it came to Marvel outing Iceman, it came off like cheating at the diversity olympics. Same goes for what Simon Pegg is doing with Sulu. Taking an already established character with a fan base and adding something to that character to make them more diverse comes off as a way to try to add diversity without the risk, and we see right through that. Rather than make an investment with a new character, they’re trying to play it safe and it comes off as lazy more than anything else. I will say it’s nice that Star Trek is at least creating a non-white LGBTQ character through this, but this is still not ideal.
What both Marvel with Iceman and Simon Pegg do not seem to understand is that retconning old characters as gay to expand diversity isn’t as helpful as they think it is. I understand that they all think that in a way it’s both good for the LGBTQ community and good for profits, but it’s not what the LGBTQ community as a whole needs.
We need new characters, our own characters, histories and stories, not press releases with straight cis white allies patting themselves on the back congratulating themselves on how progressive they are. Especially when one considers how forward thinking Star Trek was in 1966, and how 50 years later we haven’t even had a single gay character of any importance, let alone bi or trans. The Star Trek franchise went from being something of a gold standard in diversity to falling behind compared to contemporary science fiction. They shouldn’t be patting themselves on the back for how progressive they all are, but rather they should be apologizing to us for having taken so long to even attempt to catch up and that all they can offer us is a lazy Sulu reveal.
Something equally important is LGBTQ representation in the background. It’s not enough just to have just one character in the movie represent an entire group of people. It all needs to be sprinkled into the background. How about two women flirting in the break room? Maybe someone has an image of their same sex partner at their workstation. What about a background character just bringing up their same sex partner casually in conversation as someone they’re looking forward to seeing again soon when they get back?
We need to be a part of the greater world. If queerness is not a part of the background, it is not a part of the world. It’s just a token character. The kind of character Simon Pegg claims to be against. His actions suggest otherwise. Especially since Simon Pegg also states that while Sulu is out as gay in this movie that it isn’t important to the story. Straight allies often seem to go back and forth between saying how important it is to queer people like me that they created or retconned a gay character followed immediately by saying the character’s queerness isn’t all that important anyway. It’s insulting and honestly I’m really sick of hearing that.
If this was something important to the people involved in the reboot, they should have made characters LGBTQ from the start back in 2009. By waiting until the third installment, it becomes very difficult to believe this is for anything more than a press hit. Granted, Simon Pegg was not involved in the screenwriting for the previous installments. That said, it’s all the more reason to just create a new character to develop and grow. I find it offensive that Simon Pegg suggests that creating a new character that is gay would mean that the character is just there to be gay. He’s a screenwriter. He should know better. He should know you can create new characters and clever writing can avoid tokenism.
Everything stated by John Cho, Simon Pegg, and Zachary Quinto suggests to me that some people on the film thought that George Takei had gotten big enough on social media that they could lazily write up one scene in a movie showing Sulu with a same sex partner, and assumed that of course George Takei would love the idea because he’s gay and it would be great press. When they found out that the LGBTQ community is a little more complicated than that, rather than listen to George Takei they went ahead anyways in the hopes that he would come around or that Sulu being gay would be a good free press. George Takei did not come around to the idea.
I’m disappointed with Justin Lin, Simon Pegg, and Zachary Quinto. I’m a queer nerd who is a casual fan of the Star Trek franchise. I’m sick of being targeted for marketing that’s not so much for me, but for people outside of the queer community to feel better about themselves. I saw both of the previous Star Trek films in theaters, but after this debacle I’ll be saving my money. I’ll wait to see what Bryan Fuller’s new Star Trek television series premiering next January has to offer.