Dynamite Magazine and Star Trek
“Do you know what a Klingon is? What about a Mugato, a Horta, or a Salt Vampire? If you know that these are all creatures from outer space, then you’re a Trekkie. Trekkies come in all ages, shapes, and sizes, but the one thing they all have in common is that they love Star Trek.”
– Dynamite Magazine
There are few students who attended schools in the U.S. during the 1970s and 1980s who do not have memories – often fond memories – of Dynamite Magazine, published by Scholastic, Inc. The premiere issue arrived in March 1974, about the same time Star Trek was becoming a mainstream phenomenon five years after its cancellation, with ratings-smashing reruns, record-breaking conventions and ubiquitous media interest. Dynamite had elements similar to those found in MAD, People, Highlights and Reader’s Digest, albeit with content that was middle school-age appropriate. Popular features included celebrity interviews or Hollywood behind-the-scenes articles, Count Morbida’s activity pages, and Bummers, which started a mid-1970s craze of students writing-in with their gripes, each beginning with the phrase “Don’t you hate it when…,” accompanied by a corresponding cartoon. Wildly popular, the magazine was solicited directly in schools and via subscriptions. There was nothing quite as fun as showing up at school one day each month to find your Dynamite, and it was quite a challenge to wait until lunch to read it, which is why many teachers knew enough to save the revelation until the end of the day that a Scholastic shipment had arrived.
To be spotlighted in Dynamite meant that a celebrity, TV show, movie or trend had to be, you know, absolutely “dynamite!” It is no surprise then that Star Trek was featured several times during those years, a testament to Trek’s cultural influence. Re-reading these articles now, 40 years later, there are some great historical gems to discover.
Star Trek was featured in 1976 issue, Dynamite’s 20th, with Cher on the cover. The article, entitled “Star Trek: The Show that Wouldn’t Die,” had two themes. First, it introduced Trek to any kid who had somehow missed the mid-1970s resurgence or who’d been too young perhaps to remember the show itself during the 1960s. The main characters are described, and it is interesting that Kirk is defined as “everyone’s idea of a superhero,” a reference that is a reflection of the 1970s superhero fad that included everything from the Spider-man and Wonder Woman TV shows to MEGO superhero action figures. While it may seem strange now because Klingons have been depicted since The Next Generation as an honorable culture, Dynamite described the Klingons as “the worst villains you could imagine anywhere in the galaxy. They lie, steal, cheat, and have bad breath.” That’s pure 70s Trek-zeitgeist. One error from the article states that Trek ran on NBC from 1967 to 1969, missing the few months it ran during 1966, starting September 8.
Theme two centered on Trek fans and the show’s present and future. The article describes a Trek convention, and how for $5-10, a fan could enjoy four days of fun at a con with trivia contests, celebrity appearances, and costuming. Most of the focus is on costuming and the “Star Trek Chicago” con, which ran August 22-24, 1975. That event was notable for reuniting the entire original main crew for the first time since the show’s cancellation at a convention. To the future, it was revealed that Paramount announced planning had begun for a feature film during 1975 (that would be the Planet of the Titans script that got quite far in the planning stages, including the hiring of a director, before being abandoned in favor of the Phase II TV show that never materialized). The article also revealed that Trek was currently showing on 142 local channels and 117 channels outside the United States.
The article’s conclusion is steeped in 1970s Trek history. First is contact information for the Star Trek Welcommittee, which before the Internet and social media was a volunteer network whereby, through letters, fans communicated with each other and got their Trek questions answered. Founded by fan-fiction pioneer Jacqueline Lichtenberg with Gene Roddenberry’s blessings, the welcome group was a non-profit endeavor that was eventually shepherded for two decades-plus by moderator Shirley Maiewski, affectionately known by fans as Grandma Trek. Second is the picture from New York’s Federation Trading Post, whose workers included future Trek behind-the-scene artistic genius and NX-01 designer, Doug Drexler. The FTP was, like its Berkeley counterpart, a store/museum/fan gathering place that sold Trek merchandise and even had celebrity appearances.
Two of our favorite lines in the article are “Keep on Trekkin,’” which many 1970s fans may remember as a common rallying cry during that decade of no new Trek, and the warning that “It only takes a few episodes to turn a viewer into a Trekkie.” Absolutely!
The second article appeared in the October 1979 65th issue… with a Gary Coleman cover. Author Margaret Ronan took readers behind the scenes of Star Trek: The Motion Picture two months before its premiere, revealing that TMP “is going to boldly go where 2001 wouldn’t dare to venture.” The article has fascinating trivia, such as the fact that Robert Wise’s wife and daughter, who were fans, helped convince the director of the importance of Spock appearing in the film. “No Spock, no movie” was their advice. The film had originally been developed without the Spock character because of the question of Leonard Nimoy’s participation. Also of note is that DeForest Kelley reveals in the article that he was originally considered for the role of Spock, but had asked instead to play a “kindly” human good guy. It was nostalgic fun to read the quote by William Shatner, “I haven’t played Kirk for 10 years, but he’s been in my mind every day.”
The article promised that the film would include 14 alien races, as contrasted to the single creature from Alien. While images of these new and returning aliens could not be shown due to secrecy, the article includes a list of species names, which was enough to inspire the imagination of any reader during the months before TMP: “Vulcans, Deltans, Klingons, Rigellians, Andorians, Arcturians, Betelgeusians, Megarites, Kazarites, Saurians, K’normians, Rhaandarites, Zaranites, and Aaamazzarites.” TMP would get the cover of Bananas, Dynamite’s companion magazine. For fans in the pre-Internet era, these kinds of revelations from Dynamite were, if you forgive the pun, a goldmine.
Dynamite ended its nearly two-decade run in 1992 with an issue that featured Julia Roberts and Arnold Schwarzenegger on the cover. Looking at the covers – from Jimmie Walker to Julia Roberts, from Welcome Back, Kotter to Head of the Class – the magazine is a time capsule of popular culture changes from the 1970s to the 1990s. Soon after Dynamite’s last issue, the Internet became the major source of gossip, trivia and behind-the-scenes information about Trek and popular culture. But during the 1970s, many kids got their entertainment news from the pages of Dynamite. In that spirit, it is appropriate to conclude this nostalgic writing with a Bummer of our own: Don’t you hate it when an article about Star Trek history ends?
Maria Jose and John Tenuto are both sociology professors at the College of Lake County in Grayslake, Illinois, specializing in popular culture and subculture studies. The Tenutos have conducted extensive research on Star Trek’s history, and have presented at venues such as Creation Conventions and the St. Louis Science Center. They’ve written for the official Star Trek Magazine and their extensive collection of Trek items has been featured in SFX Magazine. Their theory about the “20-Year Nostalgia Cycle” and research on Trek fans has been featured on WGN News, BBC Radio, and in the documentary The Force Among Us. Contact the Tenutos at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.