In February of 1984, DC Comics began publishing an ongoing Star Trek series set directly after the events in The Wrath of Khan. In this continuity, Kirk is given command of the Enterprise and the mission begins anew in much the same manner as the original series. This initial ongoing Trek DC series was unique insofar as it was continuously published as more Trek films came along.
The writers of the comic book series dealt with the death of Spock, the destruction of the Enterprise, and the crew turning into outlaws by taking some big chances; even larger than the ones occurring on film. Here are some of the strange new worlds you probably missed.
A Klingon in Starfleet Years Before Worf
Right from issue #1, the ongoing DC Star Trek series was in a tough spot. Spock had died in the most recent movie, splitting the holy trinity of Kirk/Spock/McCoy. Saavik was brought onboard to replace him as the resident Vulcan, but that could not restore the dynamic that the three principal characters, and the series itself, was known for.
In general, the comic didn’t seem quite sure what to do with everyone, and it quickly became apparent in the series that writer Mike W. Barr was not intending on working with the character dynamics that were already present. Towards this end, he introduced new side characters, all of which would prove to be long-running and essential members of the crew.
The most interesting of these was a Klingon named Konom who, after defecting to the Federation, became an honorary member of Starfleet. Keep in mind that at this point the only “new” Klingons we’d seen on creen were from The Motion Picture, meaning Konom was not only sporting a movie-era Starfleet uniform, but also rocking the “lobster” forehead.
When Peter David started writing for the comic in 1988, Konom was given an adopted Klingon son named Bernie. (There is some speculation that a Klingon in the Peter David penned TNG era novel Strike Zone, is an adult version of Bernie.) Konom also had a romance with a human Starfleet officer named Nancy Bryce, who he eventually married. (Konam’s bachelor party pictured right.)
Did Gene Roddenberry read the Star Trek comics prior to The Next Generation? Konom was far from a guest star, so it certainly seems possible that the character of Worf was at least partially inspired by Konam. Interestingly, Kirk is still buddies with Konom after the incidents in Star Trek III, making Kirk seem a little less like a bigot than he comes across in the films. In fact, on the whole, the Kirk of these comic books is a more enlightened, calmer, peace-seeking guy than he is in any other incarnation.
In addition to Nancy and Konom, there was also a crew member named Bearclaw, who despite having a kickass name, was kind of an asshole. All of these characters would hang out with Kirk; even following him to the Enterprise-A. Sadly, the comics underwent a retcon in 1989, which means we never got to see what role Konom might have played on the outskirts of the events of Star Trek VI. How would Gorkon and Chang reacted to the presence of a pacifistic Klingon Starfleet officer?
Kirk as the Captain of the Excelsior
Spock coming back from the dead and the Enterprise blowing up were just minor setbacks to the DC Star Trek comic series. The comic writers worked around the movie continuity as a rule, even as more movies came along.
In Star Trek IV, Sulu makes a joke about the crew getting assigned to the Excelsior, but in the comic book, it actually happened. Kirk, Bones, Saavik, Sulu, Chekov, Konom, and even M’Ress and Arex from the Animated Series, all transferred to the Excelsior. The writers looked on the bright side of all the tragic events of the films. Spock’s dead, you say? Who cares! We’ll get Saavik; she’s younger and a girl! The Enterprise got blown up? That’s fine, there’s this new ship that is way bigger and slicker anyway.
Starfleet didn’t exactly hand Kirk the keys after blowing up the Enterprise, however. Instead, Kirk and friends are forced to start flying the Excelsior around to help thwart an invasion from the Mirror Universe.
There’s a bit of a fake-out moment here, where it seems like the recently destroyed Enterprise is just going to get replaced by the Mirror Universe Enterprise, but it doesn’t end up happening. Instead, while in command of the Excelsior, Kirk has to shoot up the bizarro Enterprise in order to save the day. Between the Reliant fighting the Enterprise, the Enterprise running away from the Excelsior, and then this throw down, it seems like Starfleet on Starfleet action was the standard of Trekmovie-era space battles.
Remember how Spock’s brain was all messed up at the end of Star Trek III? Turns out mind-melding with the mirror-Spock made him all better, so much so that he was given command of a science vessel called the Surak. Meanwhile, Kirk tricks Starfleet into not court martialing everyone for their law-breaking ways by exploiting his celebrity status to 23rd century media. He tells a reporter that the crew saved the galaxy from the mirror universe, so everyone should just love him. Starfleet gets nervous about the popularity of Kirk and his crew, so they give him the Excelsior. In a way, this is exactly the same reason why Kirk wasn’t punished in Star Trek IV: he saved the planet.
When Star Trek IV came out, the comic book took the Excelsior away from Kirk and the crew, stuck them back on the Bird of Prey, and had Spock go crazy again because of an exposure to some kooky virus. The cover of the issue in which a lot of these events unfold, declares “Back to Vulcan!” in big letters.
After the release of Star Trek V, all of this continuity ceased to exist in Star Trek comics, as DC rebooted the series and set it back to issue #1. From that day forward, there was no Konom and no references to hanging out on the Excelsior, essentially rendering already non-canonical comics even more non-canonical. (Non-non-canonical? Humpbacked? People?) It’s a shame, too, because a lot of the character stuff from these comics was exactly in keeping with the kinds of small stories Star Trek could occasionally tell. Sure, it probably wasn’t realistic that Starfleet would let Kirk get away with all the crap he was doing, and it’s hard to believe they’d also be okay with Konom, but there’s something charming about these comics.
Although DC continued to publish solid Star Trek stories after 1989, the first run of these comics was an era of experimentation and fun. If you’re a Trekkie, you probably would have caught yourself smiling during every issue.
Ryan Britt is the staff writer for Tor.com. As a kid, he was so confused as to why Bearclaw was a person and not a delicious breakfast snack.