Saturday, August 3, 2013

Gold Key Star Trek #1... when Yeoman Rand wore the Phrygian cap!

I bought a lot of the Gold Key Star Trek comics last night.  I've owned the Checker Book Publishing Group reprint books for a while, and in all this time one thing has troubled me-- why does Yeoman Rand wear a red Phrygian cap in the first issue?

This morning I finally realized it's not a Phrygian cap at all.  It's the crazy cone-head braided wig Grace Lee Whitney wore as Rand and the Gold Key colorist-- whoever he or she was-- simply mistook it for a Phrygian cap.  Understandable when you consider how ridiculous and un-hairlike that wig looks in the first place.  I'd almost prefer a Phrygian cap to the thought of Whitney laboring under twenty pounds of lacquered yak hair or gorilla fur or whatever they made it from.

Comixology doesn't have the most accurate credits for this book.  Checker must have just provided them with a list, so they added everyone.  No matter, I enjoy reading blogs by those who know more than I do.  According to Martin O'Hearn at Who Created the Comics, it was scripted by Dick Wood, a writer I know nothing about.  Wood isn't listed on Comixology at all, but maybe someone can contact them and provide details.  O'Hearn also informs us Nevio Zaccara drew the comic.  That I actually knew.

The story is called "The Planet of No Return," but the planet itself is called K-G.  That's K-G for, as the script tells us, "Kelly Green," not K-Y for you Trek fans out there who are also into body lubricants and turning everything into a sex joke.  The space explorers investigate because as the Enterprise flies through a "space cloud," tiny spores seep through the ship's hull-- I'm no NASA scientist, but even as a layperson it seems that's some pretty slipshod ship construction-- and start raising hell within by transforming common guinea pigs into tentacled plant monsters.  In the immediate aftermath of the struggle, Spock directly contradicts scripter Wood by declaring the reason for the transformation is they tested the guinea pigs outside the ship a few weeks before and that's when the animals picked up the spores.

Make up your mind, Star Trek #1!

Kirk and his away team put on really slick body-hugging gray jumpsuits and beam down (from inside a transporter imagined as a glass chamber) to find K-G a planet where ambulatory plants have achieved dominance over animals.  As you can imagine, a group of animals transporting themselves down to investigate such a situation would soon find themselves quite literally in a world of trouble, Phrygian caps or incorrectly-colored tunics notwithstanding.  Blaster guns, as they call them here instead of phasers, are little help.  It takes the redoubtable Mr. Spock and his mathematical genius to calibrate the Enterprise's lasers (again instead of phasers) to a pin-point accuracy so he can fire it at the planet and free the landing party without cooking them.

Along the way you might have noticed most of the crew wear green shirts rather than gold, blue or red, although one unnamed crewperson does wear a red one.  This leads me to conclude the colorist had very little in the way of color reference to go by.  The same might be said of the Zacarra, who seems to re-use the same publicity stills for a few panels here and there and then his fertile imagination freely to create Enterprise interiors more fanciful than the show's.  A reader might at this point get the idea Gold Key took a somewhat casual approach to their Trek verisimilitude.  Hey, in the second issue Captain Kirk carries a knife on his belt and talks into his tricorder at one point, too.  Well, you don't go to Gold Key for accuracy.  These books are more about having fun.

That's probably why Wood has Kirk and company stammer uncharacteristically and use exclamations like "S-suffering solar showers!" to complain about their predicament.  And the rather abrupt and violent solution Spock comes up with for the dilemma of proliferating plant spores threatening the galaxy.

Comixology has a pile of these joyful little Star Trek books for 99 cents each, which is one reason we're going to be talking about them a lot as soon as the wife and I return from our overseas trip.  The other reason is simply that I love them!


Richard Bensam said...

Dick Wood and his brother Dave Wood, also a comics writer, co-created the Challengers of the Unknown with Jack Kirby, and the three went on to create the syndicated comic strip Sky Masters of the Space Force. (But Wally Wood, who inked Sky Masters, was no relation.) If you poke around back issues of The Jack Kirby Collector you'll come across the names Dick and Dave Wood quite a few times in connection with Jack's work in the Fifties.

Joel Bryan said...

Thanks! Actually, I just bought a few more JKCs-- the new one has a fantastic article about Kirby's sound effects. Wish I'd thought about that first!