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Writer's Log #3: Mike Johnson Takes You Behind the Panels of IDW's Khan Comics

Writer's Log #3: Mike Johnson Takes You Behind the Panels of IDW's Khan Comics

Welcome to Writer’s Log, a behind-the-panels look at the creation of the five-issue STAR TREK: KHAN mini-series from IDW Publishing. I’m series writer Mike Johnson, and in this log entry we’ll be discussing key panels from KHAN #3, now available in stores and online. Look out! Spoilers off the starboard bow!


As we saw in KHAN #2, the Augments have taken control of Earth and divided the planet into eight regions, each under the rule of a different Augment leader. The boy once known as Noonien Singh has grown into the man now known by just one word: Khan. His empire stretches across what was once Western Russia, down through the Middle East, and throughout his homeland of India.

In this scene Khan addresses his people from the balcony of what was once the seat of the Indian government in New Delhi. The ruthless warrior has matured into a benevolent dictator whose lust for power is now tempered by the realities of governing. The Eugenics Wars have begun around the world as Augments battle each other for control of territory, but Khan maintains a neutral stance, preferring to tend to the needs of people first and thus ensure the stability of his empire.


Our primary source for what we know about Khan remains The Original Series episode “Space Seed,” in which Khan is remembered as the “best of tyrants.” We see a glimpse of that here, in the faces of a hopeful mother and child celebrating with him. Spock notes that there were no massacres under Khan’s rule, and he started no wars until he was attacked first. Khan, unlike most of the other Augment rulers, realized that simply conquering territory was not the prize. To rule was the ultimate goal, and to rule wisely…


…a sentiment not shared by the Augment ruler Ericssen, seen here plotting the expansion of his empire from his base in Europe. Ericssen shares a friendly rivalry with Khan, but he cannot understand why Khan does not seek to expand his own rule into East Asia and confront a growing rebellion in China. Ericssen represents the purest example of the Augment drive to conquer. Providing for the conquered peoples is a secondary consideration. Expansion is all.

Ericssen’s name, and those of other Augment rulers and their territories, comes from the excellent new book Federation: The First 150 Years by David A. Goodman, a must for all STAR TREK fans.


One of the challenges in filling in the gaps in Khan’s history was to reconcile his story as it was originally developed in the 1960’s with what we know of the 1990’s as we lived them. In “Space Seed” we learn that Khan and his followers departed from Earth on the sleeper ship Botany Bay, an idea that understandably assumes that space travel would be a more widespread and accessible phenomenon thirty years after the original episode appeared. That did not turn out to be the case, unfortunately, so in this series we had to address how Khan could eventually leave the planet. The seed is planted here, as he uses his superior intelligence to develop much more advanced spacecraft than we ultimately had in the “real” 1990’s. The Augment ruler Maltuvis aids Khan in this endeavor, but their peaceful collaboration doesn’t last long…

PAGE 9, PANELS 3 & 4 Maltuvis betrays Khan and launches an attack on the Indian subcontinent. Like Ericssen, Maltuvis intends to expand the borders of his Empire as far as he can. Unlike Ericssen, he does not hesitate to confront Khan directly, believing that a philosophy of benevolent rule has made Khan soft. The attack marks the most important turn in the Eugenics Wars, as the conflict finally arrives on Khan’s doorstep.

PAGE 11, PANEL 4 & 5

Maltuvis’ mistake was in thinking that Khan’s power resides in troop counts and firepower. Khan is not the “best” simply because he is the wisest ruler of the people. He’s the best because he is tactically more brilliant than any other Augment and, despite his regal demeanor, the most ruthless. Rather than engage Maltuvis’ troops en masse, Khan infiltrates Maltuvis’ camp to put an end to the source of the threat personally. Confronting Maltuvis face to face is an indication of Khan’s fearlessness and skill, but also his pride. As we see in “Space Seed” (and in Star Trek Into Darkness, much to Admiral Marcus’ dismay) Khan is nothing if not a proud man, convinced of his own superiority. In attacking his lands, Maltuvis has attacked Khan himself, and Khan responds in kind…


…and in brutal fashion. For all of Khan’s considerable intelligence and charm, he remains a ruthless combatant who will not hesitate to kill. The climactic scene in “Space Seed” is his fight with Captain Kirk, which ends with Kirk triumphant and Khan in custody. If the outcome was different, Khan would show Kirk no such mercy and the history of 23rd century would be very different. It’s part of what makes Khan such a compelling character: he walks the fine line between civilization and barbarity without apology.


The final chapter of the Eugenics Wars begins, as the un-augmented human resistance develops the only weapon that can harm their otherwise invincible Augment rulers: a virus keyed to the Augment’s unique physiology. Here we see Ericssen falling victim to it, and warning Khan that unless he can find a cure in time he will suffer the same fate. Falling victim to a biological weapon is poetic justice, as the same genetics that led to the Augments’ rise are the key to their demise. The Augments’ hubris prevented them from ever imagining that normal humans could find a weakness to use against them, and by the time they realized what had happened it was too late.


China leads the rebellion against Augment rule, the country’s massive population and territorial expanse proving too much for the Augments to control. While the Western Hemisphere was laid waste by Augment in-fighting and nuclear war, China persisted in its unwavering resistance, waiting for the right moment to strike back. By the time it did, the only Augment standing in their way was Khan, who was forced to retreat out of Central Asia, out of his homeland of India, down into the region once ruled by Maltuvis…


…all the way to the shores of Botany Bay in Sydney. It was here in 1770 that Captain James Cook first arrived in Australia aboard the HMS Endeavour, and in 1788 another fleet arrived carrying, in part, several hundred convicts from Britain. The penal colony was eventually established on the shores of nearby Port Jackson (more commonly known as Sydney Harbour, where the famous Opera House sits), but the name Botany Bay became synonymous with the convicts’ story. Khan christens the ship that will carry them to safety the Botany Bay as an ironic nod to the Augments’ new status as war criminals in the eyes of the human resistance.

Botany Bay was also a logical place to stage Khan’s escape given that in our “real” world it is the site of Sydney Airport. In our story, in the years after the Augment takeover, it evolved into the world’s first spaceport. if you ever fly into Sydney, take a look out the window and see where Khan spent his final minutes on Earth before…


…his escape to the stars. Khan would rather gamble on the unknown than succumb to the oncoming forces of the human resistance. This is where we leave him, and where we leave the history of the 20th century. Zefram Cochrane will be born in roughly thirty-four years, and decades later will invent the first warp drive, leading to first contact with the Vulcans and the founding of the Federation. But Khan and the other seventy-two Augments will be far, far away by then...

Join us next time for STAR TREK: KHAN #4, the penultimate chapter of the mini-series, as we jump ahead almost three hundred years and meet a most uncommon man with a most uncommon past: John Harrison.

As always, live long and prosper!

For additional details or to purchase Khan #3, contact your local comic book retailer or visit to find a store near you. And keep an eye for further news about IDW's upcoming Star Trek comic books.