Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Check out the absolute madness that is Gold Key's Star Trek #1

There have been a number of Star Trek comics over the years, from a lot of different publishers. The first series dates back to 1967, just a few months after the show first aired on CBS, published by the now-defunct Gold Key Comics. This series was actually published under both Gold Key and Whitman banners, meaning that each issue was published at the same time and included the same content, under two different company names through different distributors. It's weird.

Anyway, Star Trek has a long and rich publishing history in the comics medium, and lucky for us, most books are easily accessible and relatively inexpensive to find. The one exception is the first series from Gold Key, which ran for 61 issues before the license moved to Marvel Comics in 1980. As you might expect, the first issue of the Gold Key series is probably the most highly sought-after Star Trek comic in general, so I was pretty happy to finally get a copy at a price that wasn't too bad.

The copy I found was a little beat up, but that just meant that I wasn't afraid to open it up and read it, and boy, it did not disappoint. I thought that we could take a look at this bizarre first issue of the Star Trek comic.

Television shows take quite a while to film under the best circumstances, and comics are the same - work on a comic begins months before the final product makes it to stores and readers. So while Star Trek #1 was published in 1967 and the show first aired in '66, I'd be surprised if anyone working on the book was able to actually see an episode of the show before they started working on the first issue. This is pretty apparent throughout the book, from the cover and its mis-colored uniforms, to the interiors with the wide range in character likenesses. I'm sure it was a case of creators doing the best they could with what little they had as far as reference information. Still, looking back over 50 years later, the things they got wrong are pretty glaring, and in many cases, hilarious.

Case in point: the uncredited artist (from what I can find, the script was by Dick Wood, and the art was by Nevio Zeccara) seems to have Leonard Nimoy as Spock nailed down, but William Shatner as Kirk isn't quite there. The first panel directly above seems to feature James Kirk as a mix between Shatner and DeForest Kelley.

The references to technology are pretty much all over the place, with the ship's view screen apparently called a TV Scanner. "Jim, change the channel on this radio device!"

Grace Lee Whitney played Janice Rand in early episodes of season one; both the actor and her character were treated poorly by some measures. But at least Captain Kirk never called her "honey" in an episode. Also of note, her beehive hairstyle was colored as if it were a hat in this panel.

What stands out most about this story is the general ruthlessness of the crew, from the captain on down. The story starts out as you might expect, with the Enterprise crew off seeking new life in an unexplored part of the galaxy. When they find it, however, their response is almost universally, "Kill it! Kill it now!" I mean, no one asked you to beam down to this planet, Jim.

The smaller character moments are off as well, as evidenced by Kirk's penchant for silly space-themed catchphrases, such as "Suffering star dust!"

And also "Great galloping galaxies!" Classic Captain Kirk, am I right?

That's not to say that they creators don't get some things right. As I mentioned, the artist really drew a lovely Spock.

...noted theist, James Kirk...

Here's a particularly well-drawn, Shatner-esque Kirk, who is nonetheless speaking into his tricorder. I would probably also be panicked if trees were trying to "germinate" me. This leads to too many uncomfortable questions.

At the end of the issue, the crew is rescued (except for an unfortunate redshirt, proving that some things are universal), but instead of learning their lesson and leaving orbit, Mr. Spock decided that the only solution to the planet's carnivorous plants is...TOTAL GLOBAL GENOCIDE! 

This was a totally unnecessary ending for several reasons, but especially since the holocaust happened at the very bottom of the last page, almost as an afterthought.

The final panel features images of these alien tree-beings flailing around in pain while they burn. It's a bit of an overreaction, if I can say so!

This is the back cover, a black-and-white photo of William Shatner holding what was probably a repurposed kitchen utensil or something.

This entire issue was an absolute mess, but that somehow increased my enjoyment of it. The creators didn't just mail it in when faced with a lack of information about this new sci-fi series - they made their own ridiculous leaps and doubled down on them. They provide us with an alternate history glimpse into early Star Trek, and the absurdity really helps to make this very weird issue what it is.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

I'm co-hosting a Gem City Comic Con panel on Saturday!


Sometimes I don't know what to write in the title section of these posts. I try to come up with something short, catchy, and optimized for search engines. But sometimes that doesn't work, so I just write full sentences, and thus we get titles to posts like this, "I'm co-hosting a Gem City Comic Con panel on Saturday!" I chose this because...I'm co-hosting a Gem City Comic Con panel on Saturday.

The Dayton, Ohio Gem City Comic Con is having a virtual convention this year (followed by - perhaps? - an in-person event in July) on Saturday and Sunday, March 20th and 21st. My good friend Jennie Wood asked me to help her host a panel that will focus on writing and character development. The event is open to everyone and can be streamed in two places:



We'll have some time during the panel to write and share, so if you're curious about writing for comics and you want to have a space to work on developing characters, I hope you'll stop by!

The panel is from 11:15-noon (Eastern time) on Saturday, 3/20!

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Planet Comics #2 is now on Kickstarter!


Last year, the first issue of Planet Comics met its goal on Kickstarter, and last month, I was able to print the issue and start sending it out. Here it is! It exists!

I've decided to press my luck and make a second issue, and now the campaign for this book is on Kickstarter! This one runs until the last week of March. Let's take a look at what we'll find for the second issue of the new Planet Comics!

Like the first issue, issue #2 comes with two cover, a regular cover by Adrián "Bago" Gonzalez...

...and a Kickstarter exclusive by Andrés Muños Setz! This one is a companion piece to the exclusive first issue cover by Matthew Dow Smith.

The Bulwark returns for a second chapter as the lead story of this issue.

Andrea Schiavone once again provides the art for this story! I'm excited to have a story that continues from one issue to the next! Most of my stories have been single-issue tales so far, so it's nice to write one that stretches out over a few issues.

I'm really excited to have the opportunity to publish an original Grumble story from Rafer Roberts and Mike Norton. Grumble just ended its run with Eric Powell's Albatross Funny Books and to have it continue here is a big deal.

Jeff McComsey's "The Old Man and The Sea of Love" continues in this issue as well!

Another new feature in this issue is "Badges O'Keefe, Canine Time Thief" with Dani Grew and your friend (and mine) Larry Franks! I love working with Dani on pretty much anything (Larry is okay), so I'm really excited about this story. There's also a reward where you can have your dog drawn into the book!


There are a bunch of rewards this time around, from other comics to shirts and pins to social media profile art.

I launched the project two days ago, and we're currently a little over 50% toward the goal. This gives me hope! If we reach the goal, I'll have stretch goals that I'll announce soon, but will most importantly include more content for the book.

I hope you can check out, support and/or share this project and help me make another issue of Planet Comics! Here's the link! Look at it! LOOK AT IT!!

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

The "Inspiration4" Super Bowl commercial is just a Fantastic Four teaser trailer, right?

I watched a little bit of the Super Bowl last night - the Steelers didn't win it, so who cares - and I caught one of the many weird commercials during the game, this one for "Inspiration4", promoting an all-civilian space flight for four individuals.

The actual commercial is fairly simple: there are plenty of dramatic pans around a futuristic-looking spacesuit, a reflection of the planet Earth seen in the helmet, and a backdrop of a moody rendition of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." But the circumstances surrounding the opportunity - four civilians, an experimental spacecraft, the number 4 in a circular logo - draws some obvious comparisons to...oh, what is that book called?

Oh, right. THAT ONE.

Space flights aren't for just anyone. They're for a brilliant scientist - his best friend - the woman he loves - and her fiery-tempered kid brother!

This HAS to be a promotion for the 2022-scheduled Fantastic Four movie, right? I know what everyone says - that it's a SpaceX flight and one seat is going to be raffled off to someone who donates to St. Jude's charity, but how could this be ANYTHING other than either a movie teaser or an opportunity to become a real-life FF by exposing yourself to seemingly deadly amounts of cosmic radiation? What about the SHIELDING, Reed?!

I guess we'll see how this Willy Wonka-style contest plays out. But a word of warning to whomever actually gets to travel in this spacecraft:

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Marvel Two-in-One 19 color guide, plus some cartoon artwork!

It's been a while since I picked up a new color guide, and this one is pretty special - here's a page of color work from 1976's Marvel Two-in-One #19

Color guides are photocopies of line work that a colorist would use to quickly decide on how the final product would look. These are very much production pieces and were used as a consultation piece for the printed page.

Marvel Two-in-One #19 was the title's attempt at a scary Halloween-type story, with the Thing traveling to a spooky hotel and running into a few things-that-go-bump-in-the-night. It also has this incredible Jack Kirby cover!

This is one of the middle pages in the issue, and Ben's cigar plays almost as big a role as he does as he attempts to check in.

Colors for this issue were from Petra Goldberg, over Sal Buscema pencils and Don Heck inks.

Lots of great Thing shots on this page. He's in every panel!

The story itself is a bit predictable - the main villain actually dies at the end of the story - but I've always liked Tigra because my first introduction to the Fantastic Four were issues where she and Thundra were hanging around the team for a bit. This is the first issue of Two-in-One I ever read, too, so it's a real treat to get a color guide from this very issue.

I also got some new FF animation artwork!

These new pieces all come from the 2006 Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes cartoon. Someone listed a bunch at once on eBay and I managed to grab a handful.

For whatever reason, Sue and Doom seem to be the toughest team members to get when it comes to animation art, and it worked out that way this time, too. I got some featuring Ben, Reed and Johnny. I hate how Johnny's hair is drawn in this show, though it looks okay in this one.

There's Reed, doing what he does...which is stretching.

Yep, still...uh...still stretching.

Okay, that's it!

Sunday, January 24, 2021

My Disenchantment pitch comic - "Baby Trail Fairy Tale" with Dani Grew

Following up on the previous Disenchantment post, I thought I'd offer up a look at a pitch comic that artist Dani Grew and I made for Comic-Con 2019. My intention was to use this as a pitch to Bongo Comics, which published Simpsons Comics, Futurama Comics, and was overseen (in a broad sense) by Matt Groening.

I knew some folks with the company and I felt pretty good about the quality of the story, but when I got to Comic-Con and made my way to the Bongo booth, I found out that the company in the process of closing up shop, at least for the time being. The lack of a Disenchantment comic is a big oversight in the licensed comic game, and I have to believe that several companies would leap to publish it if it were available. Maybe it'll happen one day!

This comic takes place during the first season, of course, but I think that I got the characters' voices right despite only having a few episodes to work from. I hope you enjoy this Disenchantment comic!

Executive producer Josh Weinstein posted this on Twitter a few days ago. The bottle of mermaid mead was apparently given to some of the folks who worked on the show. Maybe one will (quietly?) show up on eBay one day!

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

My Disenchantment fan kit for season three

We're all watching the newest season of Disenchantment on Netflix, right? I love this series and I think that the newly-released season three is really compelling, funny and exciting. For all of the obvious reasons, this show feels like an extension of Futurama, which is one of my all-time favorite programs.

For reasons unknown to me, a marketing company contacted me a few weeks back about sending me a press kit-like "watch party" box in anticipation of the new season. I, of course, hastily accepted, and just a few days ago, a package arrived with a box of Disenchantment-branded items. I thought I'd show them off, with many thanks to ChizComm Media and the folks at the show!

Any collector knows that the box is a big part of any presentation. This one was simple but I really love the logo sticker on the lid. This is why I will be keeping the box forever.

The stuff inside the box was also pretty exciting. Here's how it looked, packed with black and gold confetti.

First up! Here's a fleece throw featuring the demon Luci.

Next, here's a Funko Pop! figure of King Zøg, voiced by John DiMaggio, Futurama's Bender. Zøg goes through some really harrowing stuff this season, and DiMaggio does an absolutely incredible job with his voice, as he wrings every last drop of emotion from this character. He's also the voice of the talking horse!

Next up is a Luci plush figure. These were on sale at Comic-Con in 2019, and it's the only Disenchantment merchandise I didn't buy at the time. Since then, they've jumped quite a bit in value and have been hard to find in general, so getting one here, for free, was a huge treat. 

Next is also an item I saw - and bought - at Comic-Con 2019. It's the Disenchantment "Untold Tales" book. This oversized book is part comic, part activity magazine, and was the last thing put together by the old Bongo Comics team before they unfortunately shut down the imprint. Now I've got a second copy! I'll give it to one of my nephews when they're a little older.

Also in the box was a Disenchantment 2021 calendar!

Lastly, there's a cup - and this might be the only item that isn't available elsewhere. But look! There's something inside the cup:

It's a bag of carmel corn, with a Disenchantment sticker on the front. I'm kind of grateful that there was a small tear in the bag, because it means that I'll have to actually eat it, rather than agonizing about whether I should try and save a bag of popcorn for the rest of my life. I, uh, will keep the bag, but at least one decision was taken out of my hands.

I also...made a video of me taking these things out of the box, and I put it on Twitter! You can watch it here, if you'd like, I guess:
I'm not entirely sure why the folks at the show decided to send me this box, but I'm extremely grateful for it. I would no doubt be watching this show in any case, but I guess it gets me to try and spread the word a little more than I otherwise would have. If you're not watching this show - and especially if you like Futurama - then you absolutely need to! Check it out on Netflix!