Last fall, I started watching movie serials and writing about them for The Stop Button. Each chapter, then a post about the serial as a whole. There are a dozen movie serials I’ve always wanted to see–Flash Gordon, Captain Marvel–not to mention stuff like Judex and The Vampires. I tried doing posts about The Vampires a few years ago and it didn’t work out (meaning I didn’t stay with it). Because it’s hard to make a determination based on a single serial chapter, even with my short subject rating system of "Not" through "Highly" recommended.
Plus I’d since gone back and rewritten my Superman Sum Up post, based on all the constraints and outlining systems I developed for the John Carpenter Sum Up posts. I expanded the Superman post to include Mole-Men, Man of Steel, and Dawn of Justice. Really neat thing about the Sum Up system? Very easy to make additions. Thank goodness for generalized conclusion paragraphs.
So I figured I’d eventually add the two Superman serials to the Sum Up post, but wanted to actually be familiar with movie serials before getting to them.
I also sort of decided, as I got to my penultimate pre-fortieth birthday, I needed to stop putting off things I wanted to watch. I’d been meaning to watch Flash Gordon since 2000, Captain Marvel since 2003.
The serials watching has been uneven to be sure. Most are not, shock of shocks, particularly good. To be fair, it’s not like most modern action movies are particularly good either. With the serials there are some positive outliers and some surprise disappointments (Superman, for instance).
Deciding to finally get around to watching serials led to finally getting around to reading Love and Rockets this year. I’d read the Locas and Palomar collections, but I started Love and Rockets with the original collections, the ones with the full issues. Not just the Locas and Palomar material; I wanted to read the series in that format. Or as close as possible. Issues easier than original collections.
This decision to stop putting off comic reading led me to finally get around to the eighties Star Trek comics. As a kid, I had the Star Trek III movie adaptation, but nothing else. I was always sort of aware of the DC comic, I just never read it.
So I finally read it. All fifty-six issues. Plus the three annuals. I didn’t read the two movie adaptations though. Before reading the DC series, I read the Marvel series (skipping the first three issues, The Motion Picture adaptation). I was thinking about doing Comics Fondle Sum Ups, since there’s something unsatisfying about the issue-by-issue posts on really good comics. I thought the Star Trek comics would help me figure out the outline and constraint system for it, so I didn’t do individual posts. I just read through.
And decided there really isn’t any point to even a cursory analysis of eighties Star Trek comics. I’ve formed some solid opinions, like Martin Pasko write the "best" Marvel comics, but only when edited by Louise Simonson. And Dave Cockrum and Klaus Janson were the best artists on the book. Janson’s inks make anything better. Insert Frank Miller joke here.
But they weren’t good comics. They weren’t good "Star Trek." Sometimes they were very bad "Star Trek," actually.
The DC series had three main writers–Mike W. Barr, Len Wein, Peter David. Of the three, David is the best writer, technically speaking. He’s a little too dry, however. Barr had some enthusiasm. Wein was really bad. Tom Sutton and Ricardo Villagran did the art on almost all of the issues. While competent–certainly far more competent than some of the artists on the Marvel series–they often got lazy.
It’s also a licensed comic, there’s only so much one should expect. David’s dry, considered writing, for instance, is too much. Even if he did want to hook Sulu up with the cat girl from the "Animated Series." Barr heavily leveraged original series episode content. The DC series was also edited–I think–by someone involved with the Pocket Books series.
But Star Trek: The Eighties Comics don’t need a lot of examination, not as comics or as "Star Trek" licensed product. Unless you want to look at Barr’s casual sexism; he does not write Uhura well in particular. And you could also compare how the Marvel book, despite only being allowed to use material from The Motion Picture, still managed to do character issues on more franchise-created female characters. Barr only did it with the original DC creations.
There are a lot better comics to look at for eighties sexism. Lois Lane, for instance. She’s had a long history of better and worse characterization (usually worse) by her male writers. With the "Star Trek" stuff, the conversation is limited. Character development in licensed comics is–by definite–dreadful. It is cool to see Cockrum and Janson make the original crew look like their original series selves only a little older in The Motion Picture adaptation though. The pajama costumes look a lot better illustrated as well.
And the Star Trek comics, particularly the DC ones, did have older protagonist than most comic books. Kirk wasn’t the perpetual twenty-nine. Though everyone did pretend Chekhov was really young. I think even Peter David. But by the time of the DC series, Chekhov would’ve been in his forties.
Last thing about Star Trek–I really didn’t start Summing Up again just to talk about not good comics I don’t want to write about on Comics Fondle, I swear–but the Marvel series has a "23rd century odyssey today" tagline. The DC series has it at least once.
It reminded me how Nicholas Meyer had to say "in the 23rd century" at the beginning of Khan to give his dad some kind of reference point. It got me thinking how "Trek"’s mainstream acceptance and recognition was still super-low in the eighties. It took cable (and some home video).
So maybe licensed comics are an interesting relic if you’re looking at how a property has developed over the years. But only if it’s okay the licensed matter doesn’t affect the property’s development in any way.