Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Discuss: Gold Key Star Trek Comics

Karen: Even though I am a huge Trek fan, I've only encountered a handful of the Gold Key Star Trek comics. My uncle, who had a number of comics dating mainly from the 50s and 60s, had a couple of issues, and I recall being fairly puzzled by them. They didn't look much like the shows I saw on TV. The uniforms weren't the same and some of the characters looked completely different. I learned many years later that the artists who worked on the title were mainly based in Italy, and had never seen the show!

Karen: What I never realized until now was how long the title ran: there were 61 issues produced by Gold Key, from 1967 through 1979. I had thought they stopped turning out the title in the early 70s. The cover art was often quite fanciful -and sometimes if the words "Star Trek" hadn't been there, you wouldn't have known it had anything to do with the show. The earliest issues, by the way, had photo covers, not uncommon with Gold Key and Dell comics that were spin-offs of TV shows or movies.

Karen: I can't tell you much about the stories in these comics. From what I gather though, they were similar to the art, in that they didn't follow all that closely to the source material. A brief perusal of some plot summaries reveals mummies, space pirates, and the crew becoming giants, among other unique ideas.  I found two websites that provided a wealth of information on these comics: Curt Danhauser's Guide to Gold Key Star Trek Comics, and Star Trek Comics Checklist. You can find plot synopses and cover art as well as much deeper dives on these books on these two great sites. Based on what I read here, it appears that the series improved around the mid -1970s, with both art and story becoming much more faithful to the show.

Karen: Although I don't have any real connection to these books, I find them oddly fascinating. They're like a strange translation of Trek. But I could see if you grew up reading them, they would hold a special place in your heart. Has anybody collected these comics, or do you have any fond memories of them?

(Note how these two later issues - 49 and 56 - connect to the episodes "City on the Edge of Forever" and "Metamorphosis")


Martinex1 said...

Unfortunately I've never read any of these, but I do really enjoy looking at the style and detail of the Gold Key covers. I know nothing about the artists involved but the covers always seemed so elaborate and exotic. I don't recall seeing Gold Key on spinner racks in my neighborhood alongside the big two, Archie, Charlton, etc.

Unknown said...

I’m a fan of the original Gold Key Star Trek comics, and overall I like these quaint, original stories, although I’ve heard of them sometimes described as “Buck Rogers in outer space with a pointy-eared alien.” I happen have a dozen issues myself, specifically: #20, #21, #23, #29, #34, #37, #38, #42, #43, #51, #52, and #54.

A few interesting points I’d like to mention:

-The Star Trek Gold Key comics were reprinted in eight softcover editions published by Checker Book Publishing: “Star Trek: The Key Collection” (I don’t know if there is a ninth volume).

-Yeoman Janice Rand only appears in one issue of the comics--issue #1.

-During issues #6-12, Engineer Scott is drawn as a tall man with blond hair.

-Writer Len Wein wrote issues #9-16.

-In the early issues, uniforms are all colored lime-green except for Spock’s blue uniform; as of issue #17 the uniforms are colored correctly.

-Nurse Chapel first appears in issue #26; in issue #31, she is drawn with red hair.

-McCoy’s redhead daughter, Barbara, first appears in issue #40; her second appearance is in issue #43.

-Star Trek #49, “A Warp in Space,” is a sequel to the Original Series TV episode, “Metamorphosis" (featuring Zefram Cochrane and the Companion).

-Star Trek #56, “No Time Like the Past,” is a sequel to the Original Series TV episode, “The City On the Edge of Forever.”

-Star Trek #61, “Operation Con Game,” is a sequel to the Original Series TV episode, “I, Mudd.”

Doug said...

My issue with Gold Key as a kid (aside from the fact that they weren't in my Big Two zombie consumer zone) was that the interiors never equaled the exteriors. The covers of many of those books were beautiful. Often the interiors, in my opinion, were not up to the standards of the Big Two's stable of creators.

That's probably an uninformed opinion on my part, buried in the sands of time. I'm sure with my refined middle age tastes it bears another look.


Anonymous said...

Curt Danhauser's Guide To Gold Key Star Trek Comics includes a link to "British Annuals" - hooray. That's how I know about these comics - they were printed in the UK as annuals, which were (and still are) hardback books which came out around September/October and were traditionally given as Christmas presents. I particularly remember reading one of the annuals which featured a character called Isis - some previous research revealed that the story was called "Death Of A Star" and had first appeared in Gold Key's Star Trek #30 but today I've discovered that I read the story in the 1976 Star Trek annual - so thanks for those links, Karen !!

Unknown said...

I also just thought I'd mention that the issue numbers do not appear on the front cover of the Star Trek Gold Key comics--one must look at the bottom of the first page to determine what issue # it is. Kind of a nuisance if you have many issues bagged up and you want to read a specific issue, but don't remember which is which.

david_b said...

Thomas F, thanks for the interesting points about this series, very impressive.

Much like Karen, I always noticed marked differences with the early issues from the series.., but gaaaawd, prices on the nicer-rated early photo-cover issues are pretty high on eBay.

Glad to know they've been reprinted in bound format, which I should look at picking up soon. Other Gold Key mags like 'Land of the Giants' always seemed far more faithful to situations and characters shown in that series that this Trek title, but nevertheless this had it's own charm, such as showing the landing parties wearing white backpacks, etc.

I'm curious as to when in the mid-70s that, as mentioned, the stories started becoming more faithful on the series, assuming some editorial change invoked a change-up of writers and artists. Was it perhaps after the grassroots cons started drawing major crowds, the release of Star Wars.., the toy/model success of Mego's and later AMT models, the Animated Series..? Just curious.

All in all a great column today, Karen. Thanks for the informative links.

Edo Bosnar said...

Yeah, Karen, thanks for the links - there's some great stuff there (and I know I'll end up spending way too much time perusing it all).
As to the comics, I never had any of these; I remember seeing them on the spinner racks occasionally and even flipping through them, but my attitude was kind of like Doug's, in that the covers seemed way more spectacular than the interiors (which, as he noted, was the case for many Gold Key - and Dell - comic books). Also, for me Star Trek is something I've always preferred watching on a screen rather than experiencing in any other way, so to date I've only read a single Trek prose book and the several Trek mini-series done by John Byrne for IDW.

dbutler16 said...

I have a few of these, and I think they're awesome. I find the artwork pretty good, overall. Not as dynamic as a Kirby, but the characters drawn look like the actors. Also, I felt that the tone of the stories matched the tone of the original series, for the most part. Maybe not City on the Edge of Forever, but more like a middling Star Trek episode, and there's certainly no shame in that.

david_b said...

And also, climbing on Doug's and Edo's comments.., no sign of the obligatory romantic 'Kirk-Female Alien' scenes, so I'd be like "Whaaaat-the-H, People....??"


Redartz said...

Very nice write-up, Karen! I used to have a few issues with the photo covers, mainly because I collected tv-based photo covers for awhile. It seemed like those issues ( like many Gold Key books I read) were entertaining; not great but worth a read.

Thomas- good information you provide, and I agree about Gold Key's numbering. It could be puzzling...

Anonymous said...

I didn't get into Trek until later, so these weren't even on my radar. Gold Key always had great covers, but from what I've heard, the stories themselves had little resemblance (in art or characters) to actual Star Trek.

Mike Wilson

googum said...

The covers were very often the best part, but every once in a while there was an issue that maybe might've made a decent episode...after maybe another draft or two. ("The Choice" and "A Bomb in Time" I read recently, and might've!)

Humble Bundle has had a few Trek bundles, with Gold Key collections and John Byrne's photo-comics. Worth getting, so keep an eye out!

pfgavigan said...


As I understand it, and I'm not certain this is the truth, Gold Key got the rights to the comic and were given a certain amount of material relating to the show, photos, character synopses and the like and that was about it.

I don't have his name at hand, but I believe the main writer was the gentleman who handled books like the Lone Ranger and, possibly, Tarzan.

The really unusual aspect was, for me at least, is that the early issues were drawn by an Italian living in Italy doing the artwork from the photos supplied. This would be the same individual who drew the Gold Key adaptation of the classic King Kong, also without having seen the film.

Can anybody collaborate this? Or at least provide some more details?

Thanks muchly



pfgavigan said...


Realized how confused my previous post was, it was meant to confirm the article's story regarding the artist, not repeat it.

The gag is that the early art was provided by TWO Italian artists, Nevio Zeccara followed by Alberto Giolitti, neither of which had ever seen the show.

Two Italian Comic Book Artists walk into a bar . . .



Anonymous said...

Great blog! I'm a mild Star Trek: The Original series fan, but as a kid back in the late '70's I do remember getting one of the Star Trek Gold Key Trade Paperbacks reprinting some of these original comics. I did enjoy the art - both the painted covers & the interiors. The art on the painted covers is excellent, and in some cases it deserves to be framed - it's that good.

This GK comic series definitely reminded me a lot of the original TV series, but much trippier & more imaginative in some ways; i.e., with the comic stories there were no limitations on the special effects, stories etc.

I recently bought several of the IDW Star Trek: Gold Key Archives HC's. These are reprinting the GK ST comics in chronological order - they've done 5 volumes so far, and volume #6 should be coming out this summer. These are excellent reprints, with great reproduction, recoloring, etc. Highly recommended to anyone that's a fan of this series. Hopefully all 61 issues of this original GK series will be reprinted.

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