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.