“Wait,” I can hear someone saying. “It hasn’t even been a month since the last time Dayton did this. You don’t think he’s trying to make this ‘irregularly recurring’ thing of his more regular, do you?”
Sometimes, I like to change things up and actually do things like this on a more frequent basis than “Oh, holy hell. It’s been eleventy billion months since the last time I did something like this.”
And so, here we are.
For those just joining in our reindeer games, “Tuesday Trekkin’” is basically an excuse for me to wax nostalgic about some facet of old-school Star Trek fandom, be it a fondly remembered bit of funky merchandise, anniversaries or other celebratory observances and “milestones” of important dates in franchise history, convention memories, or whatever else tickles my fancy on any given day. The “Tuesday Trekkin’” moniker is something of a tip of the hat to a pair of friends, Dan Davidson and Bill Smith aka “The Hosts of the TrekGeeks Podcast.” Over on Facebook, they have a fan group, Camp Khitomer, devoted to all things Trek where all are welcome to join in their positive vibes and community. They also like to push a #TrekTuesday hashtag over there where they invite members to share updates, links, and/or pictures celebrating their fandom, so this feature is definitely offered in that same spirit.
What are we yammering about today? Old-school art that graced various Star Trek books way back in the Before Time. This is one of those topics which can go off the rails pretty quickly, so for today’s look back we’re sticking with those books published by Bantam Books during the 1960s, 70s, and early 80s. That means we’re starting our conversation with the covers that graced the set of original series episode adaptations written by James Blish.
Welcome to this irregularly appearing latest installment of my irregular recurring blog feature, “Tuesday Trekkin’.” Basically, it’s a place for me to wax even more nostalgic than usual about some older, perhaps little known or even wholly unknown aspect of Star Trek, Trek fandom, Trek collecting, and whatever other Trek-related thought tickles my fancy. For this latest excursion down Memory Lane, we’re going back – waaaaaaaaaaaay back – all the way back to 1967, but first? A bit of set up.
When I was a kid in the 1970s and early 80s, I collected all sorts of trading cards. Baseball and football cards, for sure, but also a ton of “non-sports” cards. Star Wars had major representation in my house, of course, due in no small part to the three…four…six bazillion sets Topps produced just for the first film, followed by multiple sets for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Then there were all manner of sets for a variety of films and TV shows of my childhood: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Space: 1999, Planet of the Apes, Alien, The Six Million Dollar Man (actually a set of card-sized stickers) to name just a few, along with…naturally, Star Trek.
I don’t have much in the way of card sets, anymore. However, Topps in recent years has seen fit to release special books revisiting some of the more popular non-sports sets. The 1976 Star Trek set along with Star Wars and Planet of the Apes, for example. These have proven to be an inexpensive means of revisiting these fondly remembered cards from yesteryear, as finding original sets can be challenging…and pricey.
One set I never expected to see in the flesh is the very first collection of Star Trek trading cards. Produced by Leaf in 1967, they were apparently distributed in limited quantities and were of course long gone from store shelves by the I time was wandering around with loose change in my pockets. I’d seen a few individual cards, sold by dealers at cons over the years, and suffered sticker shock when I saw how much a complete 72-card set might cost me.
Like so much other Star Trek merchandise from the late 1960s and early 70s, this card set is fun and more than a little hokey. The card images are black and white, which by itself is rather retro and cool. Publicity photos — including a few which had to be taken before the show’s premiere — are mixed in with what look to be stills taken during filming of various episodes. Most if not all of the images are naturally from Star Trek‘s first season, including a good number from the pilot episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before.”
What kills me about this set are the captions on many of the cards. They only rarely have any connection to the image or the episode from which said image was taken, and a few have no link to any episode at all. For example:
I know, right?
Flash forward to the 2017 Star Trek convention in Las Vegas. I’m wandering the exhibitor hall and come across a dealer selling stacks of card sets. Sitting on the table was a set of the Leaf cards for a rock-bottom price. I was informed this was a reprint set, and that was good enough for me, as I just had to have it.
I’ve since learned Rittenhouse created a different reprint set back in 2006 for Star Trek‘s 40th anniversary, and even included a special subset of “new” cards to go with the originals. One of these days, I’ll have to see about hunting those down.
If you’re a Star Trek or card collector and don’t have these, I’d recommend tracking down a set. They’re like a wacky little time capsule from a period when the original series was still in production, and therefore hold a charm forever lost to card sets that came years later.
In the meantime, call me “Big Joker.” I have no idea why.
Okay, so at least this time it’s been less than a month since the previous installment of this “irregularly recurring” blog feature. Not too bad, when considering all the other things on my various plates. I originally thought “monthly” might be a good schedule for this sort of thing, but if I’m feeling froggy and I’m unexpectedly inundated with free time*, who knows?
(* = Yeah, that’s not really a thing, is it?)
For those joining the program already in progress, “Tuesday Trekkin'” is pretty much just an excuse for me to wax nostalgic about some facet of old-school Star Trek fandom, be it a fondly remembered bit of funky merchandise, “milestones” or convention memories or whatever else tickles my fancy on any given day. For this latest entry, I’m digging into my archives and pulling out some truly 1970s pop culture goodness: the Star Trek “Giant Poster Books.”
To the surprise of perhaps no one, my most recent attempt at an “irregularly recurring” blog feature has unfolded pretty much in keeping with my master plan. It’s been four months since the last installment of “Tuesday Trekkin’,” which at the time I was thinking could be a monthly thing. Sounds like government, amirite?
So, what’s the point of “Tuesday Trekkin’?” It’s basically an excuse for me to wax nostalgic about some facet of old-school Star Trek fandom, merchandise, fond memories of various “milestones” or convention memories or whatever else tickles my fancy on any given day. For this latest entry, I’m reaching up to the top shelf of older books and focusing on twelve little jewels; ambassadors for Star Trek from a truly bygone era.
Published in 1977 and 1978, each of these “Fotonovels” takes an episode of the original Star Trek series and retells it in a neat little hybrid of paperback book, comic book, and film strips (anybody remember film strips from school?). Each installment boasted “300 Full Color Action Scenes” from the selected episode, with dialogue and exposition presented in “comic book style,” with word and thought balloons and so on.
The selection of episodes to adapt into Fotonovel form – as well as the order in which each book was released – appears to have been largely random. The 12 installments include six episodes from Star Trek‘s first season, four from its second year, and two from the final season. While most of these rank among my favorite episodes from across the series, prominent installments such as “Arena,” “The Doomsday Machine,” “Mirror, Mirror,” and “The Tholian Web” among others are conspicous in their absence. I mean…an “Arena” Fotonovel? Shut up and take my money.
Perhaps the selected episodes represented favorites of writer Thomas Warkentin, who was tasked with crafting scripts adapting the episodes for the books’ format. Fans of Star Trek comics may recognize Warkentin as one of the writers who later worked on the Star Trek comic strip which appeared in newspapers via the Los Angeles Times Syndicate between 1979 and 1983. For his work on the Fotonovels, he chose the images from each episode and also added captions, thought balloons, and other bits which weren’t present in the episodes themselves or even their original scripts.
The first one of these I remember buying was #4, “A Taste of Armageddon,” sometime in 1978 or 79, when I happened across it in a local department store’s book section. I don’t remember, but I’m sure at least one or two of the Bantam Star Trek novels were also occupying space somewhere on those shelves, along with other popular science fiction and fantasy novels of the day. So, for $1.95 I was able to revisit this particular episode over and over, and of course the hunt began to find the other books in the series…a quest which would not be completed for several years, as I recall. Over the years, the Fotonovel copies I had as a kid deteriorated to the point that a few of them were coming apart, but being an adult generally means having more disposable income, so as circumstances presented themselves I eventually replaced all twelve books with pristine copies lovingly sealed in mylar bags.
“Photo novels,” from what I’ve learned over the years, were fairly popular in other countries as far back as the 1950s (including editions of American TV shows and films), but it seems as though no one attempted the concept in the U.S. until the 1970s. So far as Star Trek is concerned, the Fotonovel was indeed a neat concept, particularly for me as a kid, in the days before home video let alone on-demand streaming.
Other shows and films got the Fotonovel treatment during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Among the “cooler” ones I own are Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, the first telemovie for The Incredible Hulk, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, as well as large trade paperback versions for the original Alien film and the movie Outland. However, as VCRs became more common in the 1980s and the costs of printing entire books of slick, glossy, full-color pictures became increasingly ginormous, the concept faded into near-obsolescence.
With the release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979, Pocket Books revisited the concept with a “Photostory” book, adapting the film in much the same manner as the original Fotonovels. A similar tome was released in conjunction with the second movie, 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, but this time black and white photos on regular paper replaced the glorious full-color glossy pages of Fotonovels past, and the comic-style dialogue and thought balloons were swapped out for captions beneath each photo. As one might imagine, this edition wasn’t quite as well received as its predecessors, but it remains a collector’s item to this day. Both “Photostory” editions were written by Richard J. Anobile, who also was behind several of the other film and TV Fotonovel/”Video Novels” of the time.
I know of a few attempts to resurrect the format in recent years (the Charlie’s Angels film, The Blair Witch Project, and the first Fantastic Four movie), but they didn’t catch on. Why bother with something like this, when the movie’s available for home viewing a few months after it leaves theaters. That’s even more true now, as we’ve moved into the realm of simultaneous releases of films to theaters as well as on-demand streaming.
That said, Star Trek wasn’t quite done with the idea.
In late 2013, IDW Publishing – who currently holds the license to create Star Trek comics – tried an experiment. Legendary comics writer and artist John Byrne, a self-professed fan of the original series, employed photo manipulation and other techniques as he selected images from various episodes of the show to create “Strange New Worlds,” an all-new Star Trek story using these edited and enhanced photos instead of comics. Images from the show, so familiar to so many fans, were inserted into all-new backgrounds and environments generated by Mr. Byrne’s imagination and computer. The story, a sequel to the series’ second pilot episode, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” (and which was – coincedentally – adapted as one of the original Fotonovels), was popular enough and sold enough copies that it spawned its own series of follow-ups.
Published under the umbrella title Star Trek: New Visions, 22 all-new stories were presented by Mr. Byrne in this format between May 2014 and June 2018, along with a special issue adapting the original pilot, “The Cage” released in 2016 as part of celebrating Star Trek‘s 50th anniversary. While several of the issues were sequels to episodes from the series, there also were wholly original tales, each one lovingly constructed using what had to be an intense process of image selection and manipulation to achieve the desired effect. As this usually meant selecting a character with a pose appropriate for the new scene and inserting them into a new panel of Byrne’s creation, part of the fun for readers was trying to guess from which episode a particular character or pose was drawn.
(Okay, maybe it was only fun for me.)
EDIT: Friend and comics guru Rich Handley reminded me that in addition to the 24 “Photonovel” comics, Mr. Byrne also created three special shorter stories. One of these, “Eye of the Beholder,” was included as bonus content to the second Star Trek: New Visions trade paperback collection. The second story, “More of the Serpent Than the Dove,” supported a special online sale of Star Trek digital comics a few years ago. It was later included in the fifth New Visions trade paperback collection. The final short, “Dream A Little Dream,” was included as a bonus in the eighth collection.
There’s no denying the “Fotonovel” is well and truly a relic of Yesteryear, likely appealing only to the older or hardcore collector, but those 12 little gems carry with them many fond memories from my childhood.
That said, if anyone wants to make that “Arena” one…..I’m still here and I’ve still got cash, all right?
Welp. As promised, my latest attempt at an “irregularly recurring” blog feature has gone about as well as one might reasonably expect. The first installment of “Tuesday Trekkin'” was back on Tuesday, October 20th, so if we’re being kind then I guess we’re tapping “monthly” on the shoulder, but let’s reserve judgment until the next entry.
Meanwhile, here we are. What should we talk about? For this latest trip down Memory Lane, we’re going to set the clocks way back. I was in the 7th grade and one of a small group of students selected to head off from our school for half a day each week to attend a nifty program where we got to do deeper dives into the areas of science, reading, art, and so on. Most of the classes and sessions were fun, but I remember two things pretty vividly from my time attending the program.
First, it was here that I first found a copy of Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend, beginning a lifelong love of Matheson in general and this book in particular. Second, it was here that I got my first exposure to computing technology, at least as it existed in 1979. It looked something like what you see to the right.
Yeah, buddy. A teleprinter, or teletype. No screen, no hard drive, no internet. Just this beast and a phone line to a data center somewhere downtown.
“Wait a second, Dayton,” I can hear someone asking. “Tuesday Trekkin’? That sure sounds like the name for yet another irregularly recurring feature on your cute little blog.”
To be fair, this is actually something of a spin-off from another irregularly recurring feature which I tend to lump into the category “Feelin’ Nostalgic.” I decided I wanted a silo just for Star Trek-related posts of this sort. As for the “Tuesday Trekkin'” moniker? For that I have to give credit to a pair of friends, Dan Davidson and Bill Smith aka “The Hosts of the TrekGeeks Podcast.” Over on Facebook, they have a fan group devoted to all things Trek and they like to push a #TrekTuesday hashtag over there where they invite members to share updates, links, and/or pictures celebrating their fandom.
So, with all that said, what am I gonna do over here? Well, I’m gonna ramble a bit about Trek things in the spirit of the #TrekTuesday tag. Might not be every Tuesday. Might not be but one Tuesday a month, depending on my schedule, my mood, and what I feel like yammering about. For this first installment, we’re revisiting a neat little bit of Star Trek merchandise from the days of yesteryear: “Collector’s Art” animation cells.
Where do these things come from? To answer that, we have to travel back in time a bit. Most fans know there was an animated Star Trek series that ran on Saturday mornings on NBC during 1973-1974. Twenty-two half-hour episodes “continued” the five-year mission of Captain Kirk and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, with (most of) the original TV series cast returning to lend their voices to their animated doppelgängers. The show’s stories were overseen by Dorothy Fontana, who’d served as a story editor on the original show as well as writing several of its more memorable episodes.
While there was a time when The Powers That Be seemed to distance themselves from the production, hardcore fans have always acknowledged it. For me, it was one of my first entry points to Star Trek fandom, as I remember watching at least some of the episodes during their original broadcast. These along with reruns of the original series and the various toys, models, games, books, comics, and so on were my gateway drug. I mean, look at what ended up happening.
In the mid 1970s, after the animated series had finished its run on NBC, Filmation began offering “sericels.” These are very similar to the actual cels created for animated feature films and television…you know, when everything was done by hand, frame by literal frame, before computer came along and dialed up the animation process to 11. Actual animation cels from these productions are popular with collectors, be they film/TV enthusiasts in general, comic and animation art aficionados, and so on. Among the offerings from Filmation’s range of “limited edition, collector’s art” sericels where pieces from several of their popular Saturday morning cartoons: The New Adventures of Batman, Tarzan – Lord of the Jungle, and Star Trek.
In most cases, the art didn’t necessarily reflect a scene from any of the actual episodes but instead resembled promotional art. An actual cel tends to be just one portion of a total scene painted on an otherwise transparent piece of acetate. Typically, this meant a person, animal, creature, or vehicle intended to move within a scene. A fully painted background would be created, over which you’d lay a series of animation cels featuring your character completing a range of motions, each of which would be filmed for a few frames. Example:
When cels of this type pop up in places like eBay, they tend to fetch a pretty decent asking price. Meanwhile, the sericels are still attractive collectibles.
I first learned of these sericels from the pages of a paperback book. Specifically, it was my copy of Planet of Judgment, a novel written by Joe Haldeman and first published in August 1977. This was actually one of the first original Star Trek novels I read, after getting my grubby little paws on a few editions of the original series episode adaptations written by James Blish. Anyway, smack in the middle of this thing was a fold-out add for “limited edition” Star Trek “collector’s art” that immediately caught my 10-year old eyes. That’s right; a few years before I would learn that other publications offered all kinds of different and very interesting things on fold-out pages, here were little slices of Awesome with cool art from one of my favorite TV shows:
Unfortunately, the $21.50 price tag ($20 plus $1.50 postage and handling) was a bit too steep for my limited means at the time, and neither could I convince my parents how even one of these jewels might end up one day being of enormous collector value. At the time, my folks didn’t understand what I saw in “that silly space show,” and as you can plainly see I completely heeded their advice so far as forgetting such things and finding something more consequential to do with my life.
:: ahem ::
So, while I never did latch on to any of those original sericels, the 1990s brought a new wave of such art offering new “scenes” inspired by the animated Star Trek series. To me, these didn’t really grab my attention the way the original 70s version did, but they were affordable. The notable exceptions from this group were the onces that replicated concept art and “model sheets” for the show’s ships and characters, including “notes” from the artists about various details to keep in mind when drawing these for different scenes. Over the years I managed to acquire the Kirk and Enterprise cels, and I suspect like so much else that takes up space in my home office, they’ll accompany me into my casket when my wife cleans house following my death.
Well, there you go. If you’re looking for something to buy for me this holiday season, now you’ve got an idea or ten. Meanwhile, I suppose this doesn’t make for too bad a start to the “Tuesday Trekkin'” feature. Stay tuned for more of this inanity, coming soon to a web browser near you.