Tag Archive: Gold Key


My Epic Trek Comic Book Read #3

Invasion_of_the_City_Builders_ComicGold Key issue 3 (December 1968), “Invasion of the City Builders,” serves up a passable automation-gone-too-far story, but once again it’s wrapped in a tortilla with a large side of WTF sauce.

The Enterprise, continuing the galaxy-hopping trend of the two previous issues, is now “at the edge of a distant galaxy.” Impossible travel times aside, the writer clearly didn’t watch “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” which established the energy barrier surrounding our galaxy and the negative side effects of crossing it. After a quick stop to repair “rocket engine #4”—including an exterior shot of space-suited crew with the Enterprise from such a weird perspective nothing about the ship makes sense—Kirk and his gang continue to “Planet Questionmark.” They should get there in “two lunar hours one galaxy minute.” I wonder how long that is in asteroid days and comet seconds? On the way there, Spock gets Kirk up to speed by showing him old “radio-photo films” of the planet. The Gold Key comics consistently use sci-fi lingo that sounds like it was written in 1945. I should note that I’m typing all of this with a smile on my face, not an angry nerd frown. These comics are a hoot.

The Enterprise reaches the planet and swoops down into the atmosphere, flying at news-chopper height over the city. And what a city! It stretches across most of the planet, yet there are no people in the endless streets. We eventually learn from the few survivors that increasing automation led down a slippery slope from robot lawn mowers to giant city-building machines that simply won’t stop building cities. Meanwhile, the machines that produce food have broken down, and the people no longer know how to do anything for themselves.

Amusing side note: Kirk introduces himself “in the interplanetary language Esperanta.” Esperanto was created in the nineteenth century to serve as a common international language. It didn’t take over the world, but it is the most widely spoken constructed language according to Wikipedia, so it must be true (because that’s where my research stopped, I’m assuming its only competition is Klingon and Elvish). It arguably reached its peak when William Shatner starred in the all-Esperanto horror movie Incubus (1966), which filmed shortly before shooting began on the second Star Trek pilot, the aforementioned “Where No Man Has Gone Before.”

Now back to the story. The city builders are about to citify one of the last open spaces on the planet, and the native population is powerless to stop them. The landing party decides to help and calls upon the Enterprise to fire all weapons on the robot machines. Oops, no, that was what would have made sense. Instead, they use a laser rifle to make a big ditch for the machines to fall into. The machines simply build their way out of the ditch. When Spock does call upon the Enterprise for help, it’s to have a chemistry kit beamed down so he can find a weakness in the city builders’ metal. And the weakness turns out to be “a simple solution of NH2.” The metal “could probably withstand an atomic blast…yet a mild amino acid disintegrates it!” I’d try to research that chemistry if it didn’t take research.

Armed with Super Soakers, and with tanks full of amino acid on their backs, the crew and the natives take care of business. The city builders are destroyed and the natives are on the road to recovering their world and society. This is the first truly happy ending in the comic books!

Favorite exclamation: Kirk’s “Great novas!”

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My Epic Trek Comic Book Read #2

Comic2_BigGold Key issue 2 (March 1968), “The Devil’s Isle of Space,” finds a landing party including Captain Kirk trapped on a prison asteroid where the condemned are about to be executed en masse when the planet-sized unstable rock explodes.

It’s not a bad concept for a story, and it raises Prime Directive issues even though the term isn’t used. But it includes some classic WTF gems of the Gold Key series. First off, the asteroid is found “on the outer fringe of the Galaxy Nabu.” So that’s the second galaxy the Enterprise has visited in as many issues. Next, the ship enters orbit at “altitude five thousand feet” . . . if I’m doing my maths correctly, that’s less than a mile above the surface. Then when they encounter turbulence—which is not a surprise at that altitude—Kirk orders “up the infra-red periscope”!

The turbulence was caused by the Enterprise being caught in a force field surrounding the asteroid, which is why Kirk leads a landing party, to find a way to shut down the field. On the surface they get the runaround from the inmates, who are hoping to escape by lying to Kirk about their circumstances. The landing party maintains contact with the ship via Kirk’s “radio”—which is clearly a tricorder. Didn’t any of the writers or artists ever watch the show?

The situation soon goes from bad to worse when Spock discovers the asteroid has “an internal volcano that will blow the planet into a super nova within twenty-four hours.” Uh . . . the planet will go super nova? Although Spock has used “counter energy”—shades of reversing the polarity—to break free of the force field, he can’t use the transporter for fear of also beaming up the violent inmates. He has Scotty create a diversion with a decoy ship made to look like a prison transport which they land on the asteroid. In all the hullabaloo, the crew are saved shortly before the prisoners meet their fate.

Kirk acknowledges feeling bad about leaving all the prisoners to die, but Spock notes that it’s “the way of their society” and they “had no other choice,” a classic Prime Directive dilemma, and certainly a step up from the genocide he committed in issue 1.

Favorite exclamation: Spock’s  “Shades of Pluto!”

 

Star-Trek-Gold-Key-1-200x300I’ve decided I should dive into a comprehensive read of the Star Trek comic books. I’ve read a lot of them over the years, but far from all of them, not like the books, which, except for a handful of more recent titles, I’m all caught up on. There’s no better place to start such an endeavor than at the beginning, with the Gold Key comics.

I should note up front that these early comic books are a bit off the wall. The writers and illustrators didn’t have much familiarity with the source material, and apparently were provided little in the way of references textual or visual. Obviously they didn’t have the handy-dandy internet for easy research, but you still would expect that the studio could have provided something for them to work with. But beyond the Enterprise itself and some likenesses of the actors, they appear to have been left largely to their own devices. That is both their charm and their curse; their divergences from the show’s established universe and philosophy induce reactions that swing from WTF to painful cringing for the modern audience. And they have a tendency to have the crew utter various family-friendly curses or exclamations that are downright bizarre.

So here we are with issue 1 (July 1967), “The Planet of No Return.” The basic plot is that the crew of the Enterprise discovers a planet dominated by plant-based sentient life forms. On the one hand, this takes great advantage of the limitless effects budget of comic books, allowing the crew to truly find some wild “new life forms and new civilizations.” On the other hand . . . well, we’ll get to that.

First, I’m willing to let go that they set stardates with a colon like times, e.g., “18:09.2,” but when they open up with the Enterprise exploring “Galaxy Alpha” with “no indication of life anywhere,” I’ve got to wonder if the author understands, as Douglas Adams explained, that “space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space.”

Anyhoo, things get weird when they finally detect a planet with life. It looks interesting on the “TV scanner.” (For some reason, the writer has no idea of the terminology the show uses, and fills in the gaps with 1950s style nomenclature, causing unintentional hilarity.) On their way to the planet they pass through a “space fog,” and some spores from the fog get aboard, transforming some guinea pigs into giant, hostile carnivorous plants.

Luckily, both Spock and McCoy are saved, and the landing party eventually makes its way down to the planet, and in cool jumpsuits and backpacks to boot. One of the party gets spored while the rest are set upon by a giant hostile plant. The spored guy is transformed into a tree-like plant and saves the remaining landing party by attacking the  other plant, and both he and the indigenous plant die.

Strangely, throughout the story the plants are referred to as “cannibals” instead of simply “carnivorous.” It’s indicative of the aggressive (dare I say imperial?) stance the crew immediately adopts to the native life. As the intelligence level of the plants becomes increasingly apparent, there’s no effort made to communicate with them. Instead we get lines of dialogue from Kirk like, “Start triggering . . . we’ve got to blast our way out of this fix.”

Various high jinks ensue as Yeoman Rand—at one point called “honey” by Kirk—gets captured and herded into a pen along with some dinosaur-like animals that the plants keep for food. As Kirk and company try to break her out, they call upon Spock back on the Enterprise to risk using the ship’s “laser beam destruct ray” to destroy a part of the fence so that they can rescue Rand and beam back to the ship. Of course, there’s no reason why they couldn’t just beam her up from where she is without risking incineration her while they shoot the fence.

But Spock fires the weapon, Rand is rescued, and they beam back to the Enterprise. There’s only one thing left to do: genocide. Since they now know that the spores that affected the guinea pigs came from the planet and can travel through space, Spock essentially says that they have to nuke the entire site from orbit, because it’s the only way to be sure that the spores don’t reach other planets. So the last panels show the Enterprise using its “laser beams” to wipe the entire planet clean of life. Yikes.

To end on a happier note, my favorite exclamation from this story was Kirk’s “Suffering solar showers!”