L: Daredevil #183 (June 1982), art by Frank Miller
M and R: The Punisher v.8 (?) #5 (July 2009), variant covers, art by Mike McKone. (Far right version brought to my attention by the ever-amazing Sleestak!)
(Click picture to 5.56 mm-size)
Howdy, kids and kidettes! Once again for no apparent media-related reason, let's turn on the short range sensors and check out some gorgeous but pretty wacky painted Star Trek comic book covers from England's late-1960s kids' weekly comics series TV21 and Joe 90, both created to showcase the adventure puppet shows of Gerry Anderson (read more about it in your friendly neighborhood Wikipedia). While the cover illustrations are frequently more faithful to the original look and sensibilities of the TV show (see more covers here, here, and over there) than much of the interior art and stories of the American Gold Key comics series run, there's still the occasional art misstep or far-out, over-the-top high concept that wouldn't quite play on screen, even with rapidly expanding Shatner. But they're really lovely work, and seldom seen here in the US. Let's peek at some of 'em!:
All these weird and wonderful covers left me wondering what the interior art and stories of the UK Trek comics looked like. Use your Google-fu and you'll find a wealth of blogentries and wiki articles on the comics that show it to be a fast-moving series of serialized stories with some pretty decent art by great Brit artists of the time like John Stokes and Jim Baikieslight but fun, and who gives a figgy pudding if they're "not in canon"? Hey, why not reprint these in trade paperbacks in the US and give us Trek completists a chance to read 'em, IDW or Checker? If you could reprint a story in which Spartacus and Starsky & Hutch team up to bedevil our enterprising crew, surely you could reprint the TV21 strips, in which nothing that silly ever takes place...
Well, whaddaya want? It's Star Trek, for Pete's sake. There's gonna be something silly in every story. And you know what? We love it all the more for it.
Rick Jones. He's the Kevin Bacon of the Marvel Universe, serving as sidekick or associate to dozens of Marvel heroes. He's the Hope to Hulk's Crosby, the Lewis to Captain America's Dino, the Pink Lady to Captain Mar-Vell's Jeff. Also, he was on General Hospital and sang the smash hit "Jesse's Girl." Oh wait...that was Rick Springfield. I've made another one of my silly mistakes.
Still, don't forget that Rick Jones palled around not only with Rom (Spaceknigget), and now has his own successful business in the midwest! But if you don't count skulking around in mechanized caves in the southwest with a scientist's grumpy alter-ego, Rick actually started his career of superhero groupiedom with the Avengers! In fact, Rick was running around Avengers Mansion from Day 1, getting under Jarvis's feet and trying to get Cap's shield off the roof following a particular intense game of Frisbee with Hawkeye. And, in a twist ending that is not at all a Mary Sue moment for writer Roy Thomas, Rick saves the universe with his extensive knowledge of Golden Age comic books. So is it any surprise that he wants more than just to hang around with the Avengers...he actually wants to join the World's Mightiest? (Answer to rhetorical question: No. No, it is not a surprise.)
Panels from Avengers #10 (November 1964), script by Stan Lee, pencils by Don Heck, inks by Dick Ayers, letters by Sam Rosen
Now, you or me, if we wanted to be in the Avengers, we'd get ourselves bitten by a radioactive spider, or get a transfusion of blood from our viridian cousin, or wear a snappy suit and a bowler hat and carry an umbrella. Rick hasn't got the time for the pain of those methods, though, so he's going to become a hero the way everybody used to in those days: by answering an ad in a comic book!:
Of course, whenever you answer an ad in a comic book, you wind up being captured by Immortus the Conqueror, who has undertaken the precise task of capturing Rick Jones by placing an ad in a comic book that had to be brought to his attention by a friend. Now that's an excellent use of Immortus's public relations department! Much like Ernst Starvos Blofeld minus the fluffy feline, Immortus sits back and lets his henchmen do the dirty work, but no mere hired goon wearing a black sweatshirt labeled "Timey" is good enough for Mister I: his muscle is Attila the Hun, who uses air quotes and grabs Rick the moment he arrives in answer to the ad. In many ways, therefore, comic book ads are just like Craigslist.
Just like the best ABC Afterschool Special, however, Rick learns to be cool and stay in schoolonly losers do drugs that the hero was inside him all the time. No, no, he hadn't accidentally swallowed Ant-Man at breakfast, but Cap's lessons had turned him into a fighting force to be reckoned with, capable of finding curtains to swing from in an otherwise featureless room and using them to get all Lucy Liu on Attila's butt.
And the moral to the story is, if you want to be a hero, just answer an ad in a comic book. No, not the one Rick was looking at...in fact, there's an ad in Avengers #10 itself that would have turned Rick into an instant hero:
No, no, not that one...there's an ad in Avengers #10 that gives you an easier and faster way to make yourself a hero. Just like the Wizard tells the Cowardly Lion, you don't need muscles or bravery or da noive to be a hero...all you need is reproduction war hero medals:
Later, these medals deflected bullets fired in several different assassination attempts during Rick Jones's 1986 "Rock Me Hulkadeus" tour, so that was $7.75 mooched off of Steve Rogers well spent, don't you think?
Hey there! For no apparent current media reason, let's talk about Star Trek, OK? Gene Roddenberry's strange new world of science fiction adventure, deep social allegory, and female costumes held up with sticky tape also introduced us to futuristic games and sports of the sort never seen by our modern day money-obsessed, television-addicted, Eugenics War-remembering human race. There's dabo, and Pareses squares, brain-addictive video game eyewear which can only be stopped by Wesley Crusher and Ashley Judd...um, that thing that Neelix was better at than Tuvok...er...fizzbin...um, and Spockball...and...oh yeah! Tri-Dimensional Chess.
An elegant little prop and piece of set dressing on the original show, Tri-D Chess serves a dual purpose: to allow Kirk to show that sometimes instinct was more effective than logic, and to display that holy cow this is science fictiony! Although some fans have filled in the blanks on the regulations, there's no canonical rules to the thing, which explains why James T. was able to hornswoggle our pointy-eared friend more often than not. It can't be a hard game to play, though...how difficult can it be when every space-high-school Herbert was in the Tri-D Chess Club instead of duking it out on the intermural Kobayashi Maru team?
Still, as Spock (and Reed Richards) have both been heard to observe, things change. Imagine a reality where the adventures of James T. Kirk have been...bear with me on this one, unlikely as it is...have been rebooted, so they no longer need necessarily follow the entire history of before. Think of it as an Elseworlds, a What If, a chance to kill off a klepto ex-teen actress. All sorts of unlikely and impossible things could be changed in the timeline: exploding planets, inter-crew romances, the popularity of the Beastie Boys.
But imagine one more dramatic change in this new timeline where black is white, redshirt is blueshirt and Biff Tannen has totally taken over control of the gambling racket in Hill Valley, California...imagine what if Tri-Dimensional Chess was supplanted by an entirely new game all together?!?
Replace Star Trek's most famous science-fictiony game with Charles Darrow's easy-to-learn, difficult-to-master classic board game of Depression-era economics and slumlordery, and it puts a whole 'nother spin on the Trek universe. For one thing, the Ferengi would win the Galactic Monopoly Championship every single year. Klingon versions would feature head-ridges on Rich Uncle Pennybags (or, in the original Klingonese, je'tennuS lo'laHghach) and a "Just Visiting Rura Pente" space. The Romulan version would shimmer and disappear every few seconds for an hour or so, and the Tribble version would quickly fill and overflow a room with small plastic houses and silver dog tokens.
But how, oh how would this change affect our favorite old crew of the United Starship Enterprise? (No bloody A, B, C, or D.) Do you wonder? Huh? Huh? Huh? Do you? Huh? Huh? Don't you wonder about that? Huh? Huh?
Well, if you do...I think it would go...something like this: