Star Trek: 5 Ways DC’s TOS Comics Were Better (& 5 Their TNG Ones Were)

AbraxasJanuary 11, 2022

Star Trek fans aren’t famous for their level-headedness and Vulcan-like tranquility. As recent controversies have shown, the more vocal and vitriolic Trekkies tend to be pretty toxic when it comes to things they feel don’t remain true to “Gene’s Vision.” (“Gene’s Vision” being code for whatever they like, e.g. the Trek that was already out by the time they got old enough to be mad). What that subsect of the fandom forgets is that Trek has always been controversial, and in retrospect, those divisive moments tend to be seen more favorably with time.

RELATED: Star Trek: 10 Controversial Moments That Angered Fans

Prior to debates of Roddenberry Trek vs. Kurtzman Trek, some rabid fans were convinced that the adventures of The Next Generation were just as blasphemous as people claim the voyages of the Discovery are today. Harkening back to those halcyon days, similar debates occurred and still occur over who had the better run of comics at DC. Was it the continuing mission of Kirk and crew or the brave new worlds of Picard and company?

10 The Original Series Comics Took Place During The Films

Star Trek The Original Series DC Comics

DC first acquired the license to publish Trek comics from Paramount in 1984. They continued to publish comics regularly until 1996. At the same time, Paramount released Star Trek III: The Search for Spock a few months after the first issue’s release and continued to produce Treks IVV, VI, Generations, and First Contact during the run from DC. This meant that the comics were closely tied into the films, often taking place between entries, and had to ensure a “reset button” was hit prior to the release of a new film to avoid continuity errors.

RELATED: Star Trek: All Movies, Ranked According To IMDb

This means that for many fans, The Original Series books got to take place during their favorite era of the crew. With the lovely red naval uniforms and gorgeous Andrew Probert-style ships with their iconic “Aztec Pattern,” these stories got to use the TOS era at its aesthetically best.

9 The Next Generation Comics Took Place During The Series

Star Trek The Next Generation DC Comics

Meanwhile, The Next Generation series was written parallel with the release of the television series and the first two TNG films. This put the team in a similar boat when it came to maintaining continuity with the films and disallowing major deviations from where the characters were last seen.

RELATED: Star Trek: The 10 Best Seasons, Ranked According To IMDb

Despite this hurdle, the books also got to work in a fresh environment where what made Next GenNext Gen,” hadn’t quite been set in stone. This allowed the writers greater freedom with the stories they could tell, both because so few stories were out to begin with and because the teams weren’t hindered by nostalgia-driven intimidation by iconic characters they had grown up with.

8 The Original Series Comics Incorporated Obscure And Original Characters

Star Trek Bearclaw M'Ress Arex

Trek has had a habit of bringing back familiar faces quite regularly, whether it be recurring actors playing new roles or old characters placed in a new context. The comics were no exception. More stalwart Trekkies saw the return of the three-armed Edosian Arex and the cat-like Caitian M’Ress from Star Trek: The Animated Series. Not to be overly reliant on past ideas, the writers also introduced the xenophobic and Native American Ensign William Bearclaw over ten years before Star Trek: Voyager would add the Maquis freedom fighter, Chakotay to continue the legacy of infinite diversity in infinite combinations.

7 The Next Generation Comics Focused On The Main Cast

Star Trek The Next Generation DC Comics (2)

While the comics of Kirk and the crew’s successors focused only on the main crew may sound like the safe option, it was quite the opposite. This series premiered barely a year out from the show’s infamously shaky first season where, outside of broad archetypes, the main cast was largely undefined. Where the TOS writers had decades of stories to base their takes of the main cast on, the TNG team was left with little to no direction outside of “Riker is hot; Data is cute; Picard is grumpy; Troi is useless; Beverly is a queen; Wesley is annoying; Worf sucks, and Geordi is… there.” This was a far cry from the classic and multilayered people audiences came to love over 7 years of TV and multiple films.

6 The Original Series Comics Got Several Years Free Of New Canon

Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country

By the time Star Trek: Generations infamously ended Kirk’s career via bridge-based homicide, the comics had been going for several years. However, the majority of the cast had retired back in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. So, for roughly 5 years, the comics had little issue abiding and adapting to new stories coming down the pipeline. This meant that the team was able to stretch their legs a bit more and not worry about something they had done immediately being contradicted by a possible 7th outing for the Enterprise-A and her crew.

5 The Next Generation Comics Released While The Show And Movies Were Releasing

Star Trek First Contact Handshake

While the TNG team had to start from a shaky foundation, they also enjoyed the benefit of a slew of new and inventive ideas coming from the writer’s room of the television series. While the TOS cast had been well established and, to many fans, etched in stone as to what they would and would not do in any given situation, the TNG cast was constantly changing and evolving with the rising quality of the series. Classic concepts and characters like Lore, the Borg, and many more were all brand new and filled to the brim with potential.

4 The Original Series Comics Lasted For Dozens Of Issues Longer

Star Trek The Original Series DC Comics (2)

Because DC held the license 3 years before the premiere of Star Trek: The Next Generation in September of 1987, the TOS line had a several dozen issue head start. This meant their combined total (counting both volumes) outweighed TNG by roughly 50 books. While a series being longer doesn’t inherently equate to higher quality, it does provide more opportunities for different writers and artists to put their own take on the classic science fiction franchise. The classic “Trial of James T. Kirk” and all of the fantastic annual issues added depth to each of the cast while remaining fresh at the same time.

3 The Next Generation Comics Had Mini-Series and Crossovers

Star Trek The Next Generation DC Comics (3)

While TOS got to have more issues, TNG got to have many more crossovers, mini-series, and general subseries. While the crew of TOS got to infamously cross paths with the hated and feared mutants of the X-Men during Trek’s short tenure at Marvel, the crew of the Enterprise-D got to do that and more.

“Second Contact” portrayed their bizarre team-up with Xavier‘s students, but they also got to have team-ups with the crew of Deep Space Nine, whose rights were licensed over at Malibu Comics prior to their acquisition by Marvel Comics. They also got to have multiple mini-series such as “Ill Wind” and “Shadowheart,” and even shared a mini-series with TOS in “The Modala Imperative”.

2 The Original Series Comics Had All-Star Talent Behind Them

It’s frankly ridiculous how much legendary talent worked on The Original Series comics. Fan-favorite writers like Peter David of Hulk fame and future Spidey writer and creator of Babylon 5, J. Michael Straczynski penned issues as well as Chekov himself, Walter Koening, and Swamp Thing creator, Len Wein. On the artistic side, there were multiple classic covers by George Pérez and work on the inside by the likes of Tom Sutton, Gordon Purcell, and even legacy pencilers like Carmine Infantino and Curt Swan. A truly stacked pack of creators!

1 The Next Generation Comics Got To Exist At The Height Of Trek Popularity

deep space nine trials and tribble-ations

While the J.J. Abrams reboot of the franchise raked in more money than any previous endeavor, it’s hard to argue that Trek has ever been more popular than it was in the early to mid-1990s. With The Next Generation providing Emmy award-winning writing and Deep Space Nine quickly becoming some of the best Trek ever put to screen, as well as the forthcoming Star Trek: Voyager and the continuing saga of the film series, the franchise was at its peak in terms of saturation. All this took place in the TNG era of stories, which made that aesthetic the pop-cultural image of Trek as a franchise.

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