Star Trek: Five Decades of Comics -- a panel held on Friday at Comic-Con -- brought together a Who's Who of comic book figures that included writers Mike Johnson, Len Wein, Scott Tipton and Donny Cates, artist JK Woodward, IDW Publishing's Sarah Gaydos (who moderated) and Chris Ryall, as well as John Van Citters from CBS Consumer Products. The group took the fans in attendance through a detailed and engaging celebration of all the 4-color Star Trek worlds, featuring a look at every past iteration, via a timeline, and previews of things to come.
Gaydos started by noting that Star Trek comics have been their nearly from the beginning of Trek, "even before, in some cases, a particular country got to see the shows or movies. That's kind of awesome, in a way."
Wein recounted that he was working for Gold Key when he asked his bosses, "Do you mind if I took it (the Trek line) over?" As he noted, he was "the one who really knew about Star Trek." He corrected mistakes, including fire spewing for the Enterprise's nacelles. Gaydos, talking over visuals on a screen, showed how the Trek line of comics evolved as it moved from company to company, including:
And then, of course, there were Trek-centric newspaper comic strips, also collected in book form for recent IDW releases, as well as the utterly unforgettable Give-a-Show Projector sagas.
IDW Publishing has issued Star Trek comics since 2007 and the group talked animatedly about the behind-the-scenes machinations that resulted in Harlan Ellison bringing to life his City on the Edge of Forever long-form story, which also involved Mike Johnson and JK Woodward.
Wein illustrated the challenge when he quipped that "Harlan likes to burn bridges... while he's on them." Woodward called it "the most nerve-wracking job I ever worked on... at first." When they met, Ellison complimented Woodward's art but insulted his choice of clothes. "It was oddly calming," Woodward said, "after he insulted me."
After talking about the first nearly 50 years of Trek comics, Gaydos reached the "forever" part of the conversation. The current Star Trek ongoing series will conclude with issues 59 and 60, in which, quite inventively, the classic TOS crew will crossover with the current Enterprise crew.
Gaydos showed images of panels featuring Leonard Nimoy's Spock interacting with Chris Pine's Kirk. Problems presented to the Enterprise crews, Gaydos promised, will be solved old-school Trek style, "with teamwork and science."
Gaydos also previewed other upcoming Trek series, including the just-announced Boldly Go, set following the events of Beyond. Issue #1 be out in October.
And then there's Waypoint, out in September, an anthology that will celebrate every iteration of Trek. The Woodward covers for it are a remarkable, franchise-spanning triptych. Cates is writing it, having been approached initially by Gaydos via text. She'd asked if he's a Trek nerd. "I'm 30 and I work in comics," he recalled replying to her. "Of course, I am." And Gaydos also offered an exclusive reveal of Issue #2, which will feature a Gold Key-style cover.
And the hour ended with Van Citters and IDW honoring Johnson as "The most-prolific writer of Star Trek comics... Ever." Johnson smiled broadly as the audience applauded and he accepted a gorgeous art piece, created by Woodward, which depicted Johnson in the captain's chair of the Enterprise.