Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Diversity in Comics: TV Adaptations - Star Trek

One of the routes by which diversity was infused into comic books was via adaptations of TV shows which themselves had taken steps towards inclusion. One of the most famous of these shows was Star Trek, the first series of which began airing on September 8, 1966. Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry addressed many pertinent issues during those early series, and significantly can claim one of the first inter-racial kisses (it is certainly widely cited as the actual first) on television (Nichelle Nichols and William Shatner in "Plato's Stepchildren", an episode in the third season of Star Trek (the original series) first broadcast November 22, 1968). Star Trek was adapted for comics by Gold Key, the first issue having a publication date of July 1967. Lieutenant Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) was one of the first non-subservient black characters in television, and Ms Nichols was even personally encouraged by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to continue with the series, as he considered she was an important  role model for African American girls and women and a pioneer in breaking the race barrier. Regular black characters were uncommon in comics in 1967, so Gold Key's adaptation of Star Trek is something of a ground breaker in the medium. There are several other television series adaptations, mostly published by Dell, Gold Key, and Whitman, that feature black characters in non-demeaning portrayals, and it is hoped to feature some examples here on Out of This World in the coming weeks and months. For this post, here's a couple of pages from Whitman's Star Trek 26 (July 1974) that feature Uhura. The story is titled "The Perfect Dream", and touches on genetic engineering, cloning, euthanasia, aspects of social Darwinism, etc.:

(Above) on p.10 of "The Perfect Dream" Uhura and Kirk begin to wonder about the mechanisms underlying this apparently perfect world. On p.15 (below) Uhura speaks out against the abominable extermination policies that maintain the 'perfection' of the population on this planet.


  1. Some thoughtful postings (and a welcome return!) this month. I would, however, quibble with the claim that Lt. Uhura was "one of the first non-subservient black characters in television." Nearly 20 years before "Star Trek," television's "Amos and Andy" feature numerous non-servient black characters. Sadly, the controversial depictions of Amos Brown, George "Kingfish" Stevens (and his wife and mother-in-law), Lightnin', and Calhoun overshadowed the numerous black actors cast as policemen, detectives, businessmen, soldiers, children, and other characters. Granted, they were usually (though not always) merely background characters, but they would not be considered subservient (as were such popular characters as Beulah and "Rochester"). Anyway, I greatly enjoy your analyses and look forward to what you post in the future.

  2. Thanks for your feedback, Anonymous. I have never heard of Amos & Andy (shows my ignorance there) so that's something for me to research. It sounds interesting from a cultural historical point of view, and anyway appears to be something I should know about.