Comfort Food Comics Potluck is a regular column where I ask some of my favorite people to write about their special Comfort Food Comics.
Today’s column comes to you from Brandon Masters, one of the most knowledgeable and friendly people you could ever find. We met on Twitter and he has constantly impressed me with his wide array of comic, manga, anime and video game information. He writes some amazing articles and I always value his opinions. I was thrilled when he agreed to share his Comfort Food Comic. Let’s let him take it from here:
My name is Brandon Masters. I’ve been reading comics for the vast majority of my life, and while I admit my major focus on them has been the main content from Big Two (Marvel and DC), I still have a fondness for licensed works and indie comics. While I work in the call center for a Washington State credit union, I spend what little free time I get doing all sorts of odds and ends. One of them happens to be writing comic articles and reviews for You Don’t Read Comics (https://www.youdontreadcomics.com/) under my real name. I can also be found on Twitter under @mastersthepen as some kind of lurking comic and video game nerd.
When Dave asked me to write an article about a comic that meant something to me personally, I had to really rack my brain. I have to admit, most of my comic experiences have been “love it and leave it,” with runs or series actually coming up rather than specific issues. However, I always have a set of comics runs on my tablet for access whenever I get a hankering to read them… mostly Star Trek, as I am a complete nerd.
But one of those covers struck a chord within me.
When I was 6, my mom, my brother, and myself moved away from all I knew. Again. The first time was a (mostly) amicable split between my parents when I was 5 that resulted in me moving from the suburbs of central California to a small town on the east side of Washington State. We lived with my grandparents while my mom worked to finish a college degree, and it was time to move from southern Washington to Pullman so my mom could go to finish her degree at Washington State University.
As a full-time student, mom was living off of child support and her modest financial support from whatever loans she could get. With myself being about 6, and my brother being 2, it wasn’t easy to keep us fed with the costs of daycare on top of it. We never suffered, never went hungry, and dad and other relatives helped out with visits when they could.
Not having many friends for a short time after this move, as we moved in the middle of the school year, I spent a lot of time in the world of fiction. Game boy games, library books, whatever I could get my hands on. I also adored Star Trek at the time, with new episodes steadily coming from The Next Generation incarnation. I would also want to devour every comic book I could get my hands on.
As it was 1992, and we were stuck in the middle of the dark age of comics, prices on books were beginning to soar and newsstands were slowly beginning to kick comics to the curb as sales would eventually sour over multiple gimmick covers and badly selling events. Not that I knew this at the time, I just knew about how cool Spider-Man and the X-Men were, and how awesome Batman was. Unfortunately, comics were now between 2 and 3 bucks an issue, a far cry from the prices my mom grew up with.
There was one lucky escape that pleased us both, though: Brused Books
They’ve moved since I was there as a kid, but it’s the same owners still.
I can’t begin to claim I know the store’s history, but Bruised Books was (and still is!) the local used book store for Pullman, WA. They would take in anything, and often sell it for a few bucks or less. I don’t remember selling any of my precious books there, but I remember always getting at least one book whenever we visited on a lazy weekend. It didn’t hurt that they were across the street from Pizza Pipeline, which sold pizza by the slice, making for a good excuse to ride our bikes over.
I also blame this place for giving me a love of the smell of old paper.
Still, one fateful summer day, there was a clearance rack just inside the store. It was actually a massive old bookshelf made of stained oak, and had a bunch of magazines scattered on it. And, what caught my eye specifically, some DC comics from the 80s. They were being sold for a fraction of the cover price, maybe a quarter per issue. Maybe I’d been good, maybe we’d been doing good on our budget, but mom gave me a dollar to select some comics and have them for my own.
Interior Shot. It hasn’t changed much over the years.
Despite there being some Superman and Batman, I was drawn to the 20 or so issues of Star Trek. DC Comics had been running their own series of comics based on the original series movies since 1984, so it featured the crew I knew from library rentals and the rare TV rerun. I didn’t care, it was Star Trek.
The cover above caught my eye first, followed by these three.
The latter two issues were also my introduction to Peter David, though I had no clue at the time. But that’s a tale for another day.
Excited as hell, I kept these comics close to my chest as we rode the bus home. I didn’t try to read them for fear of a bump in the road causing an unfortunate rip or worse. When I got to my bed, though, I was in for a world of wonder.
Issue 33, titled Vicious Circle, was released in December of 1986 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Star Trek. We had writer Len Wein on the book, along with Tom Sutton and Ricardo Villagran working on the art. Michelle Wolfman colored, while Agustin Mas lettered. Fun note: While the writers would swap out, the rest of the crew remained the same on the entire comic’s 56 issue run, making for some really consistent art.
With no real Star Trek franchise beyond the original series and the movies, Len Wein was in a bit of a bind. How can one celebrate 20 years of a franchise? Flashback issue? A story that takes 20 in-comic years? Naah. Just throw the two crews from the original series and the movies together!
I’m not even kidding, this thrilled kid me. I have always loved weird crossovers, and this might be the source of that. Seeing young Kirk and older Kirk work on a problem together was truly wonderful and weird. It also introduced me to the fine art of “making shit up as you go,” as this comic somehow took place during the literal zero time between Star Trek movies 3 and 4. You know, where Spock came back from the dead, and was later shown to still be recovering when they went back in time to steal whales from 1986.
Yeah, the writers of the DC Comic just gave Spock his own ship, and as I later found out, would wipe his brain back to factory settings to fit in with the fourth movie. God, I love the complicated hoops they would leap through for this comic.
Still, as the three crews would work together, they would solve the problem with time travel and the Guardian of Forever. The trip back in time for the TV crew would be successful, but no one would remember the events of the comic issue as some weird side-effect that wouldn’t break the timeline.
For reference, the other comics I picked up had a solid Uhura-centric tale where she single-handedly took out a Klingon military base back in the TV era, and parts 2 and 3 of an assassination attempt on Captain Kirk’s life respectively. Kind of a mood switchup, really.
If you want to get this issue these days, you’ll have to luck out at a used comic store like I did. Unlike Star Wars, there’s been no real effort by the future license holders to bring out older issues into collections. Still, maybe this is the best way to read the issue.
I was weird with my comics. I would pack them up in my backpack and take them everywhere, aside from school at least.
Family trips? I had a few packed, and often got a few more issues from my grandparents when we hit an antique shop. Some boring class I had to attend with my mom when my school was out but hers wasn’t? This issue was likely there by my side. Long trips across the state when my dad finally moved up to Washington? I know this issue made more than a few 300 mile journeys with me.
Star Trek 33 is my comfort food comic not just because of the whimsical story of multiple crews of the Enterprise meeting. It’s not just comfort food because it was well written or had some art that is perfect for the era. It’s my comfort food because it never fails to bring back memories of family outings, of used books, and of piling into the family van and spending a week driving across the country for the hell of it in the summer.
Hell, I’m surprised it’s still intact, frankly.