Trek Artifacts : Gold Key Star Trek Comics

TREKCORE > SPECIALS > Trek Artifacts > Gold Key Star Trek Comics

PUBLISHED: Sept 16, 2006
Greg Jones

Star Trek Artifact #2: The Gold Key Star Trek Comics

Comic book series based on the various Star Trek TV series and movies have been in almost continuous publication since The Original Series initial TV run. Between 1967 and 2002 there have been only two years in which no Star Trek comics were published (2/82-2/84); some 500+ comic book issues, graphic novels, and bookshelf “trade paperback” collections have been produced, a number equaled or surpassed only by a handful of other licensed properties in comics such as Star Wars, Conan The Barbarian, and the various cartoon characters of Walt Disney and Warner Brothers. Although there are currently no Trek comics in publication–the last were issued by DC under the Wildstorm imprint in 2002–there exists a huge wealth of “four-color” Star Trek adventures for fans to peruse.

Lookabaugh scan of issue #1. The photo of Spock is a publicity shot.

From the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, a scan of the "Pacific Coast" collection copy of issue #1.

Western Publishing, under the Gold Key imprint, was the first company to publish comics based on Star Trek. Their series began in 1967 and ran 12 years, ending in 1979. Marvel Comics then acquired the license just in time for the release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, adapting the film in an oversized special and releasing a series based on the TMP continuity which ran until 1982. Two years after the last Marvel issue (to the exact cover date) DC comics published their first Star Trek series, based on the continuity established in the first three feature films, as well as an adaptation of Star Trek III: The Search For Spock. This series ran until 1989 at which point it was replaced by a new series featuring higher quality paper and overall production values. DC also published the initial Star Trek: The Next Generation 6-issue “mini-series” in 1988 which was then followed by a monthly ongoing series in 1989. DC also published adaptations of the feature films ST:IV, ST:V, ST:VI, and Generations as well as several mini-series and a host of specials and one-shot issues between 1989 and 1996. In a rare case of a licensed property being handled by two different publishers simultaneously, Malibu Comics acquired the rights to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and published an ongoing series, as well as numerous mini-series and specials, from 1993-96. All ST licenses were then acquired by Marvel Comics in 1996 who published a variety of series under the “Paramount Comics” imprint including the first series based on Star Trek: Voyager, as well as Star Trek: Early Voyages a series based on the characters and concepts from the first ST pilot “The Cage”, chronicling the voyages of Captain Pike’s Enterprise. In 2000 the ST license went back to DC who published a variety of mini-series, one-shots, and graphic novels under the Wildstorm imprint until 2002. The license has remained dormant for the last four years, but the upcoming feature film may result in a new wave of Star Trek comics.

Back cover Kirk publicity photo from the rare variant of #1.

#1 variant inside back cover photo.

Inside front cover of the rare #1 variant features a promo still of Kirk and episode shot.

Back issues of the various series can be found at comic shops all over North America, Europe, Australia, and other parts of the world. Many of the ST comics have been reprinted as collected editions in “trade paperback” format which can be found at comic shops as well as many mainstream booksellers, especially the big chains like Barnes & Noble, Waldenbooks, etc. For more detailed information and back issue pricing, consult the current edition of Robert M. Overstreet’s The Official Comic Book Price Guide (commonly referred to as the “Overstreet Guide”). I’ll also provide more detailed articles on the individual series in upcoming installments of Trek Artifacts. See you in the funny papers.

Lookabaugh scan of #2. The shot of Kirk is a publicity photo from the second pilot. The Spock shot is from "The Galileo Seven".

Issue #3

Issue #4

During the 1960's and ‘70's Gold Key–the comics imprint of Western Publishing–was one of the chief publishers of movie and TV related comics. Their Star Trek series began with issue #1, cover dated June, 1967. A year later #2 was released followed by #3, dated 12/68, & #4 dated 6/69. The series then assumed a quarterly publishing schedule, then a bi-monthly and, eventually, a monthly schedule. While some believe this was due to Star Trek’s luke-warm popularity during the show’s initial TV run, this kind of “testing the waters” approach was common practice in those days since sales data for a specific issue would not be available until months after the magazine’s release. The series ran for 61 regular issues, plus four oversized “Enterprise Logs” specials, which reprinted earlier issues, and ended in 1979.

Issue #5

Issue #6

Issue #7

Gold Key’s series was similar to the 1967 Leaf trading cards in the sense that the stories were often written and drawn by people with a limited knowledge of the TV series itself, often resulting in juvenile plots featuring plenty of monsters and weird aliens (which was appropriate considering Gold Key’s main audience were younger readers). Much of the art for the series was done by foreign artists–usually Italian–who had never seen the TV show and worked off of publicity photos of the characters, planets, and spaceships. Characters were often drawn with backpacks when on landing parties, armed with different looking phasers worn in holsters like cowboys. Green often replaced gold when coloring the uniforms and characters would often be seen in the wrong color uniform. The Enterprise interiors were also largely improvised by the artists and the Enterprise itself was often drawn with rocket-like discharges coming from the warp nacelles and even from the shuttle bay! The planets and aliens were equally as creative and colorful although they often looked more like something from a 1950's sci-fi movie rather than from Star Trek.

Issue #8

Issue #9

Volume 1 of the Checker Star Trek Key collection of trade paperbacks collecting the GK ST series (Spanish language edition cover). The all-new cover designs maintain the old GK style.

Still, the series remains the most collectible of all the Star Trek comics series primarily due to the great covers, the first nine of which featured photos from the TV series with issues #10-44, 46-59 sporting classic painted covers (#45, 60, 61 have line-drawn covers). During the sixties and seventies comics collectors were mainly concerned with material published by Marvel and DC and since much of Gold Key’s output was seen as “kid’s stuff”, it wasn’t as seriously collected as the big super-hero comics like Spider-Man and Batman. This dynamic has made the GK issues scarcer than other comics published during the same period. Coupled with the explosion of demand for TOS-related material (as well as for ST collectibles in general) in the 1980's and ‘90's prices for these issues soared. High-grade (near-mint to mint) copies of the early issues are very hard to come by and will usually cost more than their list price in the Overstreet Guide. Rare variants exist of #1, 2, 3 that feature photos on the back covers as well as on the interior of the covers. Beginning in the late ‘70's Western Publishing began using the Whitman logo instead of the Gold Key logo on some of their comics (a “W” with a little smiley face overlaid). While some of these are reprints that were sold in plastic-bagged “multi-packs” through non-newsstand outlets, issues with the Whitman logo are considered to be somewhat scarcer than the Gold Key logo versions of the same issues; some collectors will pay a premium for the Whitman logo covers while others want to have one of each variation.

Recently, Checker has released trade paperback reprint volumes of the issues in chronological order and these can be found at comic shops as well as some mainstream book dealers. We’ll be featuring all of the covers to the Gold Key run here in Trek Artifacts plus some interior pages, original art, and a few other surprises.

Spanish language edition of Checker's ST Key Collection vol. 3.

Checker's GK ST Key Collection vol. 5.

Next Artifact: Star Trek Magazine Covers, though we will be looking at more Leaf cards and Gold Key comics before this.