To Boldly Go: Checker's "Star Trek" collections coming this May

While the Star Trek franchise may not be quite the formidable force that it once was, that doesn't mean it's dead, not by a long shot. There's still the UPN television program "Enterprise," the newly retooled "Star Trek Experience" in Las Vegas, Nevada, loads of merchandise and licensed property and shortly, Star Trek fans will get a chance to revisit something from fandom's past.

This May, Checker Book Publishing Group will release the first of a series of collections of classic "Star Trek" comics published during the '60s and '70s. Originally published by Western Publishing's Gold Key imprint beginning in 1967, these stories feature the original Enterprise crew of Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy and the rest. In all, 60 full-color issues were published. Long out of print and much sought after in the back-issue market, Checker has obtained the rights to reprint these comics. With no currently published Star Trek comics, these collections will be the only "new" material available to Star Trek fans. CBR News caught up with Checker's Mark Thompson to learn more about these collections.

To start with, how did Checker acquire the license to reprint these classic comics? "Checker sent out letters to Paramount making inquiries concerning these books, never dreaming that we would be lucky enough to get the property," Mark Thomspon told CBR News. "Everyone on the planet knows Star Trek. Maybe only Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck are more universally loved. We did not hear back from them on our initial inquiry."

So time went by with no response from Paramount, so Checker sent another letter. This time they received an immediate response, directing them to the Director of Licensing in Paramount's Publishing Division. A meeting was set for the New York Licensing show.

Paramount was impressed by Checker's work, notably their "Hellraiser" and "Alien Legion: Piecemaker" collections, but they seemed hesitant at first in moving forward, according to Thompson. Apparently, Paramount had not kept very good records on the comics and even had very few back issues. Thompson made them feel at ease by simply saying, "That is why Checker is in business," explaining that what Checker does is publish out-of-print and under-published comics. They'd take care of the research and the preparation of the books. Paramount then asked for a written proposal to be sent to them, but Thompson was one step-ahead, pulling a pre-typed proposal right out of his pocket during the meeting. After that, it was relatively smooth sailing, with a flurry of legal documents and approval letters, which eventually landed Checker the license.

"I think the fact that there are currently no Star Trek comics being produced draws attention to the problems within the industry and the need for someone like Checker," said Thompson. "We publish what the fans want. It is our hope that the frequently echoed comment - 'Geez, somebody needs to put that back into print' will all but disappear from comics shops around the country."

Thompson also detailed the shipping schedule and collection of each trade paperback.

"The first edition will contain issues 1-8 of the Gold Key run. The second edition, due in August, will contain issues 9-16. I am doing the introduction for the first edition, but we are in discussions to have 'special guests' do the intros in the future."

Checker's goal is to faithfully republish these classic stories so that they look exactly like they did when people bought them off the newsstand.

"The original comics had quite a few warts. We intend to keep them intact. I had the discussion with a handful of people who have been helping us all along, retailers I know, Trek fans, our editorial people and the mistakes seem to be part of the intangible appeal."

For those who remember those early Star Trek comics, you may remember that credits weren't included on a number of them. In fact, writing credits aren't even known for the first eight issues.

"One of the things that we have found in reprinting editions originally published by other companies is that the confusion/dispute over creator credits is a universal thing among comic book publishers from company to company, as ugly a revelation as it sounds. The case of the early issues of the Gold Key run is the perfect example where few credits are given. We have done quite a bit of research on these editions and the entire publishing run of those early Star Trek's and have tracked down most of the credits. Unfortunately the writing credits in these first issues are only listed as 'Golden staff.' We have not been able to find anyone who has a better knowledge of the exact writing credits on these issues. The second edition credits begin to get clearer and had more accurate creator notes."

"Star Trek: The Key Collection" #1 will be available this May.

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