Sunday Bonus Post: To Boldly Go…!

Her logo sends a really tangible message to most hostile aliens.

Her logo sends a really tangible message to most hostile aliens.

I love Star Trek. I’m comfortable enough saying that, with no shame. To be fair, I strongly prefer the Original Series, although The Next Generation was quite good for a while, and Deep Space Nine was often Watchable. Voyager had high points, but the bulk of it was…meh. The less said about Enterprise the better. I think the biggest problem that Star Trek had was getting away from what it started off being about, and instead getting into what the fandom demanded.

Star Trek, when it began, was a show where each episode, the Enterprise and her crew explored a new planet. Each of those new planets had a heavy handed parable about the world around us, using science fiction as a veil behind which society and politics could be commented on and criticized. Some of these episodes were pure genius, other episodes…not so much. Despite the “feeling” that there were recurring heavies, the Klingons appeared in only a handful of episodes, and the Romulans even less.

As the franchise wore on, it started to become a political exercise, with military science fiction leanings. Why? Firstly, because that is way easier to write. Secondly…because that’s what the fandom wanted. I’ll admit, action is important to a solid television show, but two of the best episodes of the Original Series have precious little action, and almost no effects. I am of course speaking to “City on the Edge of Forever” and “The Trouble with Tribbles.” These shows rely on strong plot and character development, and a firm grounding in those to drive them.

I wanted to draw something Trek related, if only to pay homage to this major influence. When i designed the more formal version of the current uniform our hero is wearing, I thought about having it be red…since whenever I think of Star Trek, I think of Yeoman Rand, Uhura, and the red shirts that are invariably killed, transformed into dodecahedrons, or otherwise removed from the plot as a show of alien power. I think red would clash with the protagonist’s orange skin tone, and green logo, so probably not.

Ice is a hassle to draw.

Ice is a hassle to draw.

A great deal of what I love about Star Trek can be found in the 1970’s era “Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes.” The new 52 functionally destroyed the Legion as a viable concept, because it lacked one of the central ideas that the Legion shares with Star Trek…a very positive world view, both of the characters, and the future. The Legion works for the United Planets, and is deputized by the Science Police…they are a club of super powered teen from different planets that explore the galaxy and generally do the right thing. A hard concept to sell these days.

Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes No. 254, which I pay homage to above, is about the power of friendship. The league of Super Assassins gets together to take out the Legion. Superboy gets wind of it, and races ahead of each of them, using his super brain and obscure knowledge of the Legion’s social calendar to fake their deaths, until he is apparently killed in front of Brainiac 5, another member. Brainy is in a mental hospital, though, so this is a problem.

Brainy, being the smartest guy in the 30th Century, discovers that the Legionnaires aren’t dead, but in suspended animation. He gets out of the mental hospital, and uses his epic brainpower to guide the Legion of Substitute Heroes to victory over the far more effective Assassins. He then revives his friends, and returns to the hospital, sicker than ever. Pretty much next issue, they step in to the hospital to help him regain his sanity.

Heck…it’s basically a book about friendship. You could do the whole thing with ponies.

I loved that book more than it is easy to put down in words. Heck, “Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes” is half the reason I can read, and I wrote that in my personal statement to the University of Southern California. The prose adaptations of Star Trek by James Blish, and early licensed novels, share a similar place in my intellectual growth and formative years. I still have all of those old comics and novels.

Without that foundation, I wouldn’t be drawing all this stuff…heck, I probably wouldn’t be a teacher.

That’s it for this bonus post about comics, and the medium that I love. Be here tomorrow for the coming of the new curriculum!

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