Friday, October 24, 2008

I Am Curious (Starfleet)

Passage to MoauvHey, speakin' of Star Trek, let's take a gander at one of the weirdest Star Trek comic books of all. No, not the issue where the Trek universe crossed over with the world of Rien Poortvliet's Gnomes, but "Passage to Moauv," the first entry in the mid-seventies Peter Pan comic and record series for kids, which present new adventures of Kirk and Krew in short dramatized radio plays on 7-inch records, accompanied by read-along comic books. On first encounter these things might seem kinda goofy, but consider: it's 1975. The Motion Picture is four years away, and the only first-hand Star Trek entertainment you can get in these days is reruns of the original and the animated series. You can pick up the novelizations of those episodes in book form at your local bookstore (James Blish adapted the live-action episodes at a brisk pace or six shows per volume, and Alan Dean Foster wrote the entertaining expansions of the animated shows), and alongside those novelizations you'll find the so-exciting- the-title-has-an- exclamation-point Spock Must Die! by Blish, the first...and only...original Trek novel, at least until Bantam starts their publishing program in the following year with the goofy but eagerly anticipated Spock, Messiah! Yes, that exclamation point was part of that title, too. As for comic books...well, the less said about the weird and off-model Gold Key comic, the better.

But the Peter Pan comics, altho' for the kiddies, don't look half-bad. They certainly have a decent handle on what the main characters and the starship Enterprise looks like:

Passage to Moauv

The story's a bit fluffy...intentionally so, because it features the crew transporting an alien creature that escapes and wrecks havoc on the Enterprise. I'm sure the uncredited writer and artist didn't have any tribble at all thinking up that plot. But the artwork's bright, dynamic, and colorful: Kirk looks like Shatner, Spock looks like Nimoy, the bridge looks like the bridge...nicely done.

Passage to Moauv

Say, who's that vivacious blonde sitting behind Kirk at the communication station, obviously listening to Daft Punk on her twenty-third century iPod? Sharp-eyed and canon-steeped Star Trek fans will now raise their hands in the Vulcan salute to tell me that's Lieutenant Palmer, Uhura's occasional replacement at communications. Palmer appeared in "The Doomsday Machine" and was instrumental in looking frightened while staring at a small bluescreened model of a Thanksgiving cornucopia.

Lt. Palmer

But that Lt. Palmer? Or could it be...

Passage to Moauv

Lieutenant Uhura?!? What the Sam Scratch happened to you? Sure, Beyoncé may be blonde once in a while, but for Uhura black is beautiful, baby! What have they done to you, Penda or Nyota (take your pick of Uhura's non-canonical first names)?

Oh well. It happens to the best comic colorists. Sometimes characters just get colored wrong and you wind up with a silver and grey Iron Man, or a gold and red Spider-Man, or a red Hulk. Mistakes, every man jack of 'em. But it's only one small mistake, turning the 23rd century's soul sister into Whitey McBlondie, and I'm sure the colorist will be more careful from now on...

Passage to Moauv

Sulu! Sulu's a black man! This is one whole wacky episode. Maybe, like the culturally-aware and politically-significant original series, the comic book creators are trying to make a Roddenburyesque fable about color and prejudice and how we in the 1960s can learn a lot, no, no, it's just another dumb coloring mistake.

The weird thing is, the art is pretty darn accurate in most other cases. The ship, the sets, and the three leads of the show are well-represented in their artwork. Heck, even those summer-of-love era glittery spacesuits that showed up in The Tholian Web make a quick one-panel appearance, and they're absolutely drawn just like the original show:

Passage to Moauv

It looks more and more obvious that the colorist of the Peter Pan comics was working from black and white stills or had a black and white television set, or, as Joel and the bots might say, "he just didn't care." One of the somewhat-clever plot points of the story is in fact diluted by a miscoloring error. How's that, you ask? Well, animated series fans will remember the Caitian Enterprise crewman Lieutenant M'Ress, Star Trek's reminder that in the future, all races and beings will be welcomed into Starfleet...even furries:

Lt. M'Ress

When the feline mind of the escaped alien takes over the crew's minds and begins turning their thoughts into those of feral cats (and you haven't seen nothing if you've never see Spock meow), it's M'Ress who saves the day. It takes a cat to trap a cat, as the old saying goes. But is she a cat in the comic book?

She is not.

Passage to Moauv

A. She's blue. B. She's not a cat. C. That's a whole lotta cleavage for a Starfleet uniform (at least until Deanna Troi enlists).

So there ya go. "Passage to Moauv." Not that bad a Trek comic, if you're color blind. And consider this: the exact same coloring errors...Uhura as blonde Caucasian, Sulu as black man, were carried over into the next Peter Pan comic/record, "The Crier in Emptiness." Thankfully, by the time the third one came out, Star Trek: The Motion Picture was being used as a template for the comics, and everybody was their original color and ethnicity, which is a bit of a relief, as it probably saved us the sight of Scotty as a small fluffy black dog. But if these few panels intrigue you, don't let a few minor coloring errors put you off: "Passage to Moauv" is available readily on the used book market, and you can pick up a copy by clicking on that link to your right.

Isn't that right, Lieutenant McBlondie?
Passage to Moauv


Phillip said...

The only Trek comic I have! I always thought it was pretty messed up, but it's more on-model than some I guess.

BerserkRL said...

White Uhura and black Sulu weren't coloring mistakes. The publisher had licensing rights to actor likenesses for Shatner, Nimoy, and Kelley, but not for Nichols or Takei.

Bully said...

Interesting, BerserkRL! I never knew that.