Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Why I Hate Gold Key Star Trek Comics

Star Trek Week flows on like Big Daddy Kane as we take a look at my decades-old hatred of Gold Key comics, and Gold Key Star Trek comics in particular.

First, I must clarify: when I use the term "week" I don't mean an actual Earth week, I am using a lesser-known definition of "week." It's such a lesser-known definition that only I use it, actually. My "week" lasts from 8 to 12.5 days. I use the term "week" because Star Trek Nigh Fortnight just doesn't sound right to me.

OK, let's talk about Gold Key comics. I only read Gold Key comics on those long summer road trips from California to Saskatchewan, when my dad would buy my sister and me comic books from gas stations in order to keep us quiet. Usually I was rockin' the Batman or the Legion of Super Heroes in the back of the station wagon, but on occasion we'd be stuck in some wasteland far from civilization where the spinner racks were loaded with nothing but Gold Key comic books. As I mentioned previously, I would grudgingly accept the Gold Key comics because I feared the Mark V Backhand* - but I didn't like them.

Gold Key's Star Trek comics seemed like they were produced by bored hacks who had very little interest in the actual source material. They were sort of generic science fiction stories that just happened to be called Star Trek. Sometimes you wondered if the guys writing and drawing these things had actually seen the show, or if they were just working off a couple of dog-eared publicity photos for reference. Even Young Dave could tell these comics bore only a passing resemblance to the Star Trek TV show.

The Gold Key books often featured stories, aliens, and technology that was wildly inappropriate for Star Trek. Here's a taste; check out the giant space genie grabbing the Enterprise:

The artist mistakenly thinks the ship's nacelles are big rockets or something. Don't they know the Enterprise's nacelles house the warp coils??? Stupid Gold Key, ha ha!

OK, here's Baggy Pants Pistol Packin' Karate Spock busting a move:

Is that bearded guy slapping Spock's ass while he dances like a Russian? What the hell?

And the covers! I swear, often the only thing recognizably Star Trekky about the covers was the little photo inserts of Kirk and Spock. It's as if the folks at Gold Key knew that they were producing generic sci-fi and they desperately had to insert some visual branding to distinguish the comics.

Looking back at those painted Gold Key covers, I have to admit - they are pretty awesome. Gold Key's covers were like the last gasp of the old pulp sci-fi magazines. At the time I hated the painted look, vastly preferring the vibrant, lurid covers of Marvel and DC comics, but now I can appreciate them for their hacktacular radness. They weren't Star Trek, but they were something special.

You know, the more I think about it the more I realize that I don't actually hate the Gold Key Star Trek books. They were old-fashioned throwbacks to a less sophisticated age of print science fiction, when pulp tales of alien worlds and swashbuckling spacemen were churned out en masse by tired old men in horn-rimmed glasses. I just loathed them as a child, but Adult Dave can appreciate them for the harmless schlock that they are.

Plus - green haired Kirk. You have to love green haired Kirk.

OK, I've pretty much done a complete 180 and now no longer hate Gold Key Star Trek comics. I'm glad I could work out my feelings from them here with you today. I think I've learned a lot.

My thanks to Kevin Church for the Gold Key panel scans. I paid a heavy price for those images, but I suppose it was worth it.

And now, Spock freaking out on acid:

*Kidding! My father is a wonderful person.


Anonymous said...

Isn't that Dan Dare's Anastasia on the second cover?

My word verification is "xsflg", which sounds like someone's RPG store is going out of business...

Michael Rawdon said...

My understanding is that the Gold Key Star Trek comics were - at least at first - produced by European writers and artists who did not have access to the TV series, and so were working entirely off of the series' writer's bible (if that much) and some still publicity photos. So they really had no idea how the series was supposed to look or work.

I think at some point during the run they started to have more elements from the TV series, but it's hard to tell whether anyone really cared.

Dylan Todd said...

Now I must own these. Also, come see my band, Star Trek Fortnight play at the Grande' this weekend. We're totally gonna shred!

Anonymous said...

I don't know which is scarier, Dave dancing, or Kevin asking it as a price for the scans....

Kevin Church said...

Dave: What happened in Bosnia is now off the table in our future negotiations.

Anonymous said...

Is the Father of Our Country propositioning green-haired Kirk there?

Anonymous said...

I think that's Ras Al Ghul smacking Spock's ass.

IIRC there WAS an episode of Star Trek TOS with a giant genie (or something) grabbing the Enterprise. Curiosly some unknown redshirted security officer was killed before the first break. Strange.

Anonymous said...


throw me a bone here, I'm a product of the American Public School System.

Hypersmash Studios said...

Wait -- you actually receive something in return when you dance like a little girl for Kevin? I've been going home empty-handed! I need a new agent...

Anonymous said...

I think Leonard Nimoy achieved that expression by imagining that a rabid ferret--or possibly a marmot--was savaging his genitals.

Anonymous said...

Gold Key comics only existed for misguided fathers to buy for kids who received them with a sinking heart. That was their actual mission statement*.

* Subject to verification.

Anonymous said...

If you use the Safari 3 browser from Apple [also for PCs] you will have the magic of spellcheck in browser, hopefully eliminating the embarrassment that normally happens in blog commentary. You're on your own as far as homonyms, though!

Anonymous said...

Y'know. Looking at the selection of panels suggests that the Italian artists who did the STGK comix suffered from the same syndrome John "Bjorn Heyn" Byrne did in regards to avoidance of backgrounds on his otherwise groovy FF run. I'll never forget as Byrnes run entrenched itself how few actual backgrounds he was giving up by mid-run. Thank goodness for inkers, right Mr. Sim?

Dar EL said...

I never knew anyone who actually bought or collected Gold Key. And yet they would mysteriously wind up in hospital waiting rooms, at yard sales (marked way down), and in 10-cent bins at the local comic book shop. Charlton and Atlas got more love, but just barely.

Anonymous said...

He's dead, Jim

uuhhhh, I mean thanks for the browser tip, I'll check into safari 3

Swinebread said...

I did a review of one of the Gold Key Collections
a few years back


Phersv said...

I never noticed that screaming Spock was the father of Bat Boy.

Andres Salazar said...

great post Dave. I'm going to have to look up some of those Gold key comics. for the covers alone.

nightfly said...

It wasn't a genie... it was a giant hand, however. I believe it turned out to be the hand of Apollo in "Who Mourns for Adonis?" (Which is weird, because Adonis never shows up.) [/nerdlopedia]

John Chidley-Hill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Baggy Pants Pistol Packin' Karate Spock should have been an action figure--especially if it had a Nerve Pinch Grip. (The sound effect for that, naturally, is "Pinch!") He could fight Purple Buccaneer Ra's Al-Ghul (with Ass-Slapping Action) in the Lazarus Pit Playset.

Anonymous said...

Is Spock on Acid or is he busting a gut laughing at the "surprise" ending of Star Trek: The Motion Picture?

Brewmiester said...

Gold Key wasn't just for dads. I still remember the Christmas my mother told me she got me some comics. Imagine my disappointment when I opened the Gold Key Star Trek collection.

Chris Arndt said...

Compared to the Christmas where I got some variants of Team Titans #1 and some RL Stine Goosebumps novels...

I would love some Gold Key Star Treks for Christmas.

Also: Dave, you gotta flip through Comics 101 for the article on Gold Key Star Trek comics. He's read and owns more than you and apparently the later issues kinda rocked. I actually have read some non-sucky on-model Star Trek comics. One included a voodoo earth, a death ray, and paper mache buildings. And when I mean voodoo earth, it's awesome.

Chris Arndt said...

From Scott Tipton:

"The thing was, apparently, the artists on this book, some very talented folks living in Italy, had never actually seen the show, at least when the comics book series started. Not only that, it seems like the writers had never seen the show, either, as when the book began its run in July 1967, some very un-STAR TREK-like things are going on. Now don't get me wrong: as the series went on, both the writing and the art improved drastically, to such a degree that within a few years, Gold Key was producing some of the best Star Trek comics ever published, stories that very much retained the flavor of the original series without relying on endless sequels to existing episodes. However, some of the stuff in this first issue is just so egregious that I can't resist having some fun with it here. But bear in mind, things do get much better, as we'll see down the road... Clearly something must be done about this planet full of sentient life that was just sitting there minding its own business. What's the solution? Why, naturally, carpet bombing... The funny thing is, this isn't a bad story at all. It's just not a Star Trek story. It actually kinda feels like the folks at Gold Key had this sci-fi script lying around for use in one of their science-fiction anthology books, and hurriedly adapted it to their new license to get some product on the racks double-quick."Nation of Vegetation- Star Trek Gold Key part I

Chris Arndt said...

"in which the crew of the Enterprise discover what appears to be an exact replica of Earth, though completely empty. And not so exact, as it turns out. When Kirk and Spock investigate (once more wearing their Federation-issue backpacks, I don't know what the deal was with these Italian artists, but they always wanted to put backpacks on Kirk and Spock. Maybe it's a European thing. Go figure), they discover not only are the cities much smaller than the originals, they're also constructed of papier-mache, a fact they learn when the Eiffel Tower comes crashing down... Is all this awfully silly? Sure, but to be honest, no more so than some of the original Trek episodes. Compared to the gangster planet or the invasion of the Enterprise by hippies, this one seems almost a little sedate. Besides, the art is good and has vastly improved from the debut, and the characterization is pretty faithful. Like I said, I really think these comics get a bit of a bad rap." Gold Key Stark Trek Part II

Gold Key Star Trek part III has Klingons

Anonymous said...

Chris Arndt said...
And when I mean voodoo earth, it's awesome.

Not as awesome as it would have been if it also had Brother Voodoo. Or even Sister Voodoo and Voodoo Chile, from "Hembeck's Page".

Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator said...

Why you no call it Star Trek Nigh Fortnight, Dave Campbell?

Star Trek Nigh Fortnight rocks the proverbial Casbah!

Teddy said...

Mr. Long Box~

Congrats on all the great reads this year! Here's to seeing you up and running on the alphabet network this January (which is when we're launching you).

Happy Holidays!


Anonymous said...

Maybe Star Trek Week is the length of a week on Ceti Alpha 5. Especially with, you know, that longer orbit and all.

I always wondered about the actual physics of that--Ceti Alpha 6 explodes (does the Death Star have an alibi for that weekend?), and Ceti Alpha 5 just magically slides into its orbit like a Christmas shopper snagging a parking space. I'm sure some Trekkie's done a doctoral dissertation on the physics of it, but it seems kind of unlikely. Awesome movie, though.

Anonymous said...

To go with the Klingon Komedy, here's Klingon Kat. Or it could just be a Klingon as drawn by those Gold Key guys, I don't know.

Oh, and Ted Bramble? "Mr. Long Box" was actually Dave's porno name, back when he used to rock that Tony Stark mustache.

Anonymous said...

One strength of the Gold Key Trek comics was the unfailing grasp of hard science.

My favorite example was when the crew was trying to destroy some robots that had taken over society, but they were impervious to every weapon on the Enterprise. Then Spock figured out he could dissolve the metal with a "simple amino acid."

Anonymous said...

Incidentally, if you want to see some of these Gold Key Star Trek books for free, check out this site called WOWIO:


Shamus said...

I was surprised to find out that Len Wein wrote a lot of these.

Matt Butcher said...

I love this blog idea--I have to do this, although rereading them would take years!

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