Here’s a comic from my brothers’ collection, the type of comic kids read back in the 1960s and 70s. We didn’t care about condition or collectibility, we just read the comics, tossed them in a cupboard somewhere, and maybe re-read them when we were bored. That pile never got in the way, never got too big for our mother to throw out, and so I have a box of dog-eared comics, mostly Archie, Harvey, and Gold Key issues.
Why feature this particular comic? Because, based on a licensed property, it’s one of the worst comics I’ve ever read. Oh, the story is enjoyable, the artwork utilitarian, but there are just so many things wrong with it that I can’t help but tear into this like a pack of hyenas on a rack of baby-back ribs!
Now, I know that Gold Key’s staff churned out comics at a fantastic rate, and most likely had little assistance from Desilu Studios regarding plot, canon, and possibly even reference. So, I’ll let the staff remain anonymous, and I’ll avoid nitpicking little details, like the Stardate. If you’d like to read the story for yourselves, Checker has collected these comics into nice trade paperbacks, and Amazon offers a DVD archive of every Star Trek comic!
So, I hereby feature, “The Voodoo Planet”!
The Enterprise, exploring the nearby space of the Milky Way galaxy, discovers a duplicate of Earth! (Probably Earth Mark Two… those plural zones can be tricky.) Even the plate tectonics are similar, which is extremely remarkable, given the hypothesized origin of the Moon.
Here we see the Enterprise, as it approaches the planet on Page Two. Note the exhaust from the nacelles. This error is repeated later on the same page, and again two pages later, as the ship travels over Paris on Page Four. (Perspective is badly drawn. Either the Enterprise is smaller than the Eiffel Tower, or the Enterprise is far in the distance, and the colorist could not use the limited palette to create a sfumato effect.)
Panels on later pages show the exhaust from the nacelles without color (unlikely to be contrails, as the ship would have no exhaust to create them). Only one panel shows the Enterprise without exhaust. Every other panel uses the exhaust, with speed lines, even though the speed lines would have been sufficient to denote movement.
So, Kirk and Spock beam down to what they think is Paris, only to find it deserted. There, they find a copy of the Eiffel Tower, several feet shorter, and constructed COMPLETELY out of papier-mâché. (Shouldn’t they have used plaster of Paris?) Before Spock can theorize how a large 100+ foot tall Eiffel Tower constructed out of glue and paper could support its own weight without collapsing, a mysterious “laser beam-ray” strikes the tower, causing it to collapse. Kirk and Spock flee, barely escaping as the Tower crashes into the papier-mâché buildings which surround the Tower. (Although Google Maps shows that there are few buildings near the Tower, I will ignore this error, as this is a Voodoo Planet, and verisimilitude is not required to achieve the desired effect.)
Soon, news arrives from Earth via “relayed galaxy radio photograph”. Not video, PHOTOGRAPH. In the 23rd Century. Relayed across light years of distance almost instantaneously. The news? The Eiffel Tower has collapsed in Paris, at “exactly 12:40 P.M.”!
Spock glances at his wristwatch chronograph (I guess classic design never changes), and deduces “That was precisely the outer-galaxy time here that the papier-mâché tower toppled on us!” Doctor McCoy conjectures, “Could it be some sort of weird, deep space voodoo I wonder?”
As the Enterprise flies over “Rome”, the laser beam appears again, demolishing the Colosseum of Rome! The Enterprise triangulates the source of the laser beam, and rockets (literally, there’s exhaust from the nacelles) to a nearby planet. The ship hides in a debris field of space trash(well, that’s accurate, although I’m sure the Federation has cleaned up the space junk around Earth by this time) and Kirk, Spock, and McCoy beam down for reconnaissance. (No redshirted security guards.) There they find a primitive voodoo tribe (although the natives are only throwing spears at human targets, not actual effigies). The natives are subdued with hand to hand combat (the sound of the phasers would have been too noisy, but fisticuffs aren’t?), and the control room of the laser fortress is entered. Before our heroes can subdue the villain, a small button is pressed and… the Sphinx is destroyed!
Hey… who built all this? Paris, Rome, Giza… Even if it’s a replica, there’s still a lot of work involved, much of it rather detailed. Consider what was required when Epcot’s World Showcase replicated various national landmarks. How were a bunch of natives trained and coerced into building all this? Given that this is a voodoo planet, wouldn’t it just be easier to nuke the San Andreas Fault or trigger the Yellowstone supervolcano?
Kirk and Spock are subdued by voodoo dolls (action figures!) manipulated by the natives, the pain too excruciating to allow Spock or Kirk using their phasers on the natives! The villain? The nefarious Count Dressler! Leader of a small kingdom on Earth, Dressler was “the only fanatic in power who sought to produce hydrogen bombs when all Earth was negotiating to ban them!” (Kirk) (Wait… they still had H-bombs on Earth? After a nuclear holocaust? And independent countries? What was the United Federation of Planets doing all this time?)
Escaping in a ROCKET ship, Dressler lands on a planet “hostile to Earth’s ways”. (No, not Qo’noS.) Dressler mastered the natives, stole their secrets, and became their leader. (Wait… why didn’t the natives just make a voodoo doll of Dressler?) Dressler, in typical supervillain fashion, then demonstrates his voodoo technique in front of Kirk and Spock. Instantly, the Tower of Pisa is toppled! While Dressler gloats, McCoy rescues Kirk and Spock, fisticuffs subdue the natives, and, without firing phasers, our heroes retreat back to the Enterprise.
There, they once again experience extreme voodoo pain (but not death) but with McCoy’s pain killers, they can concentrate enough to research a solution. (My solution? Use the ship’s phaser and level the laser fortress, killing the villain and a few natives, while preventing thousands of deaths on Earth.) Spock then discovers that a similar technique was used by a Vulcan clan known as “pain casters”. Spock synthesizes the Vulcan herbs, and Kirk and Spock undergo the voodoo rite.
Free of the pain of the action figures, Kirk and Spock (again, no red-shirted security) subdue Dressler, and transport him back to the Enterprise. Kirk then decides, without any sort of trial or rule of law, with no regard to the destruction of priceless landmarks and human suffering, to exile Dressler to an unpopulated planet. (Hey… you don’t suppose George W. Bush read this comic, do you?)
So… Spock discovers an incredible weapon which can be used across vast distances… and it is never heard of again. (Although, perhaps the Tantalus Field used a similar technology.)
Twenty-six pages of story for fifteen cents. Even the ads are kinda cool, marketed towards kids and teens of that period. Posters, patches, toys, a few text pages from Gold Key… it actually is a “satisfying chunk” of comic, especially if you’re a kid. I don’t know if I could read an entire collection of these comics (even the modern Trek comics are a bit much), but I wouldn’t consider the twenty minutes spent, wasted. It’s just that reading this story, my suspension of disbelief collapses faster than a papier-mâché submarine!
So, dear readers, got any favorite good “bad comics” you’d like to share?
I’ve been writing for The Beat since July of 2010.
I’ve been reading comics since 1974, collecting since 1984, and spreading the graphic novel gospel since 1994.
I’m a bookseller, a librarian, an amateur scholar, a cool uncle, and a comics evangelist.
Ask me anything!