When looking at the incredibly unique and memorable Star Trek: The Next Generation 30th anniversary poster by Dusty Abell, one of DeForest Kelley’s lines from an earlier Star Trek adventure comes to mind: “Have you ever seen the like?”
Luckily for us, we have! If you made it to last year’s San Diego Comic-Con, then you were able to see Abell’s incredible 50th anniversary Star Trek poster that featured every Original Series character that one could imagine; from the recognizable to the most obscure – helpfully for those fans less versed in their one-time guest characters, the TOS posters also included an identification guide to assist in putting names to faces.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of The Next Generation, so of course, the annual Las Vegas Star Trek convention is rife with both TNG stars and fans alike – and also features Abell’s newest work, a two-poster take on his character showcase artwork centered around The Next Generation heroes and villains!
I sat down with Dusty Abell ahead of the Vegas convention, to discuss his latest artistic creation.
It was after my interaction with the guys at Roddenberry at 2016’s Las Vegas convention that this really started to take off. It was really fun!
I’d never been to a “Star Trek” convention and the first question I got (about the 50th Original Series poster) was: are you going to do a Next Generation one?
This was a venture that was destined to succeed from the very beginning. Abell has been an artist with Warner Brothers Animation, and has worked on some of their most memorable and iconic characters. A comic lover and devoted Star Trek fan, it’s very cool to see his love of Trek transferred over to a body of art that not only drips homage to the comic artform, but also real respect and reverence for the characters from both series.
These days, however, it’s Abell’s Next Generation piece that is captivating Trek fans! Now, with the support of both CBS and Roddenberry Entertainment, this new work of art is sure to capture the hearts and imaginations of Star Trek fans everywhere – and is here just in time for both TNG’s 30th anniversary and 2017’s big convention out in Las Vegas.
Looking at the poster pair, Abell has dedicated the first to TNG’s heroic and ‘good’ characters, with the second featuring a medley of less-then-heroic enemies of the Enterprise-D. Focus on either one, and I guarantee you’ll be staring at it for at least half an hour trying to place each character and their episodes.
There are so many characters in this show that I had to break it up into the two posters. I mean, there are 178 episodes and it would be wrong to cram it all into one!
It’s the sheer variety and amount of characters that almost overpowers the viewer upon first glance. Then, it becomes a challenge to identify every one of them. Finally, after checking with the included answer key to verify your identification, you then have the opportunity to smugly declare yourself a true TNG fan.
In the end, you are left with a tremendous experience and a scintillating work of art that would do any Star Trek fan proud to have hanging on a wall.
In my conversation with Abell, I asked him to elaborate on how he settled on the concept design for this year’s posers.
For the first one, I envisioned it as being on the bridge of the Enterprise. I was going to put everybody, there, but I didn’t think it did justice to the ship design. So, the first one was placed planet-side so it could showcase all the great ships as well.
There are a lot of fans of the ships as well. The tough part about the Next Gen piece was that there weren’t as many iconic structures or landmarks as there are in the Original Series.
The Miramanee Obelisk stands out in the first one. But that was a challenge for the Next Gen piece. So that was why I thought the holodeck arch would be perfect for all the characters to gather around and for the ships around them. That’s they there are grid patterns in front as well.
That kept me guessing!
The careful observers will also notice that the Next Generation piece is completely rich in detail. While the characters are present – in various incarnations and forms – Abell spared no effort in exhausting both his memory and available external references to fill the two works.
There is something from every episode of The Next Generation in these prints. That’s the fun part for fans. Then it becomes sort of a ‘Where’s Waldo?’ contest and they really need to be seen up close to be fully appreciated.
It’s filled with small images and really needs a careful eye.
One of the fun things for me to do in San Diego and Las Vegas last year was to see people off to the side with their friends and family, going through the TOS piece – and there was a lot of finger pointing and cries of ‘Oh, that’s that guy!’ and discuss who they were – that was the best part for me.
They’re such interactive works of art that for me, that’s so gratifying to see people enjoy my work so much.
The real measure of art appreciation is how much time people are willing to invest in looking at it. For me, looking at Abell’s earlier work in an art gallery at San Diego Comic-Con last year was a fully interactive process. I remember looking at my watch and realizing that fifteen minutes had passed by while I was looking at the 50th anniversary TOS piece.
I had a similar experience looking at the Next Generation posters this week, and it was one shared by my family. This time however, this was not a silent appreciation period, it was one of constant questioning and explaining as I went through every character in the prints — and had to provide a mini-summary of the episodes the characters were in.
It became a fun family experience, and I’m sure it can be one for other families as well – and in my mind, it’s that meaningfulness in any shape or form that makes art successful.
Abell has a great love of comics and he cites this background as instrumental in his work.
I’ve been really fortunate to have the background I do. I’ve worked with some great people and that’s given me the inspiration to do what I love. I
’m a big comics guy and you get to run in all those circles and meet your childhood heroes and become close with a lot of them. It was quite a thrill and a real privilege.
Abell was very modest in his description of his background, but when he casually dropped names like Jerry Ordway, Mike Carlin, or even Star Trek fan and comic book creator, John Byrne, then it became apparent that his comic circles were fairly rich in their pedigree.
It was a real thrill. John Byrne was a real influence in my work growing up.
The TNG piece is currently featured on the Roddenberry Entertainment website. I asked Dusty to talk a little about what it was like to work with the folks over there, the original source of Star Trek.
It was nothing but a real pleasure. I had a real sense of independence in putting the piece together after we got back from Las Vegas last year. They were very accommodating and I made sure that I hit all my deadlines and they had everything printed!
I can’t say enough good things about them. Rod [Roddenberry] was really cool and he really enjoyed the Original Series one. Like I said, they’ve been a real pleasure to work with.
Dusty also made use of the visual archives and other references that TrekCore has available to complete his work. We talked a little about how he took advantage of our massive library of TOS and TNG resources as he used them for his designs.
It was beyond helpful! I don’t think I could have done it without the resources I found on TrekCore. I mean, the screengrabs…
I’m a real stickler for little details: ornamentation, jewelry, weapons – the technology you find on the characters. Fabrics – particularly for the first series. Gary Seven’s tie has the same pattern as you’ll find in the show. The ships, the crazy hair, the likenesses…
TrekCore has some really finely categorized images.
Dusty Abell’s work is vividly entertaining. One of his past projects includes a homage to 70’s and 80’s sci-fi shows and he hopes to continue with future projects in the same style. However, don’t take my word for it – take a look at his official site and when you see the Enterprise-D storm out of your monitor, you’ll get a sense of what I’m talking about.
To fully appreciate the work, you really need to check it in person. While you can order the prints online at Abell’s website, if you are one of the fortunate fans to be at Creation Entertainment’s Las Vegas Star Trek convention, you can also stop by the Roddenberry booth to pick up these pairs – and Abell will be signing through Friday afternoon.
Or perhaps you’ll just get a glance of him off to the side, watching you enjoy his art.