Inspiration hit last spring when another Axanar super-fan, Trey McElwain from Texas, announced that he would be releasing a three-page (plus cover) original Axanar comic book story. I interviewed Trey back in June (read it here) and was really excited to see the finished product…which would debut in July. But I also thought about how much fun it would be to write an Axanar comic book myself.
The first thing I needed to decide is what the story would be about. Space battles with Starfleet fighting the Klingons seemed obvious…perhaps too obvious. After all, Prelude to Axanar had already given us quite a bit of starship combat, and so had Trey’s Axanar comic book. I didn’t want to simply do more of the same.
To me, the most interesting aspects of the Axanar tapestry were the characters themselves and also the world of the Federation a short 20 years before Captain Kirk’s five-year mission. At the time, I hadn’t seen the script for the full Axanar feature or the two 15-minutes “mockumentary-style” fan films being planned. So I didn’t really know what I could and couldn’t do with the characters…even if I set the story during the events of Prelude.
So that left the world of 2245 and where the United Federation of Planets was at that point in its history. Yes, there was a four-year-long war with the Klingons going on. But for me, there was something even more significant, and it all came from a single line from Prelude…
“At the time, Starfleet crews preferred to fight among their own kind.”
Now, obviously, there was still a little of this segregation going on 23 years later when we discover in “The Immunity Syndrome” that the ill-fated USS Intrepid is a starship manned entirely by Vulcans. But we also know that the USS Enterprise (and presumedly other starships) are far more integrated. And certainly by the time of Star Trek: The Motion Picture and the other Trek films, we’ve got a lot of different aliens on board many different vessels.
So in many ways, the time of the Four Years Wars is a period of “self-imposed” segregation within the Federation…much like there were specific black units in World War II (such as the Tuskegee Airmen, 761st Tank Battalion, and 452nd Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion). And much like America itself was also segregated at the time, and you would find few blacks and whites socializing with each other even in the more “liberal-minded” urban areas…maybe the Federation was the same way in 2245.
Now, I didn’t think there were lynchings of Vulcans or taunting of Andorians with names like “blue-skin” and “stick head” or making Tellarites sit at the back of the shuttlecraft. That kind of racism and “Earth first!” xenophobia was actually dealt with pretty solidly in the 2-part Star Trek: Enterprise episodes “Demons” and “Terra Prime.” But just as the United States didn’t fully get past its own prejudicial tendencies overnight (and, it seems, we still have a long way to go), perhaps the planet Earth—and the other member worlds of the Federation—didn’t immediately start holding hands and singing “Kumbaya” for another few decades (or more!) either.
And so I had my idea for what my story would be about: exploring lingering prejudices—perhaps some hiding just below the surface—in the early-mid 23rd century. And the setting? Not a starship. This story would all take place in a bar…because I am a firm believer in the famous latin proverb in vino veritas (“in wine, truth”). And fortunately, Star Trek offered me the perfect bar to have my story take place in: the 602 Club, seen/discussed in a few episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise.
Now, if you’re wondering why there’s drawing of a starship exploding at the top of this blog article when the whole story takes place in a bar, well…you’ll just have to come back next week to find out!
Although I set out to make a comic book, the story quickly grew legs of its own and wandered elsewhere. What I wound up with was more akin to a short stage play, with lots of dialog mainly between four junior officers. (Is one of them a young Garth or Sonya or Travis? You’ll find out next week, heh, heh.) And to be honest, there was way too much dialog to make it into a comic book style presentation. It’d just be panel after panel of people talking with little else visually interesting going on. What the characters actually say is quite dramatic and intense, but it’s not a BAM-POW! action-fest…if you know what I mean.
After finishing the story, fine-tuning it, and running it past ALEC PETERS to make sure everything was kosher with the characters and events, I thought about publishing it as just text in a blog entry. But deep down in my heart, I still wanted illustrations to go along with this story.
My hunt for an artist lasted several months. It’s easy to find a willing artist if you have lots of money to spend. When you don’t, well…the search usually takes longer. But my patience paid off when providence brought me MARK McCRARY. You might remember Mark as the artist who illustrated the amazing Save What From Heaven… which showed an imagined final voyage of James T. Kirk (written prior to Star Trek Generations). Mark lives in Louisville, Kentucky and worked with writer MARK LARGENT on that 62-page fan comic. I had collaborated with Mark Largent on the parody Stalled Trek: Prelude to Ax’d-We-Are, Mark L. put me in touch with Mark M. and the rest, as they say, is history.
A longtime trekker and fan of Axanar, Mark McCrary was eager to take a crack at my short story….so eager, in fact, that he created a sample image of a younger Garth of Izar to show what he could do. This was actually really exciting to me as a writer, since my illustration skills are very limited. I see anyone who can draw like this as having a superpower!
That said, I also spent over a dozen years as an art director and creative director, and the first thing I needed to do was to tell Mark (gently) that, after working so hard creating a drawing of a Starfleet officer in a Pike-era tunic, the story was actually set ten years earlier during Prelude, and those uniforms would look different. In fact, I had visual reference—thanks to Alec—of what the uniforms from that era would look like (including a photo of Axanar’s “Goddess of Fulfillment” DIANA KINGSBURY wearing an actual tunic)…
Mark was fine with making the adjustment. In fact, he was fine with pretty much anything I asked for. We agreed that he would do six drawings total, including coloring them, and we discussed what parts of the story each of those six images should be. It didn’t take us long to figure out what would work best.
The only request Mark made of me was to remove any swear words from the prose. Mark is a very devout Christian and did not want to have his name associated with a project that used profanity. For the most part, this didn’t affect my story at all, as I also believe that profanity has no place in Star Trek. But Mark wasn’t referring only to the major league swear words but also to the minor leaguers like “damn” and “bastard.” Those I did have get rid of (along with a few assorted others). But it wasn’t too difficult to switch these to “blasted” and “coward” instead.
As we worked together, I quickly gave Mark the nickname of “The Miracle Worker.” Perhaps, like Mr. Scott, Mark simply took his time estimates and multiplied them by a factor of four. Whatever it was, he initially told me when we began working together back in December that he’d probably have something for me to look at by March or April. That seemed fine; I wasn’t in any sort of rush.
On January 5, I received all six drawings from Mark and…WOW! Apparently, “The Miracle Worker” had some extra time over the Christmas holiday. And not only “WOW” for the speed; these drawings looked incredible…and they weren’t even finished yet! Mark sent me black and white line drawings to get my feedback and art direction. Here’s a sample of one…
Mark colored in the Andorian’s skin because he wanted to discuss the tunic color. Initially, I’d imagined Thalek as being in sciences and having a blue shirt. But when I tried it out in Photoshop (yeah, folks, I know how to color—I just can’t draw), Thalek looked WAY too monochromatic…By the way, notice Thalek’s eyebrow. I thought the initial drawing had him looking too angry (Thalek’s actually a fun loving Andorian with a wry sense of humor). So I used Photoshop to adjust one of the eyebrows slightly to show Mark what I wanted.
Then, because I was curious, I decided to see how Thalek would look in red…
Mark and I spent several weeks on the other five images, as well. Each time he told me the requested adjustments might take a couple of weeks, they were ready to look at only a few days later! (Thank you, Mr. Scott.) Some illustrations were nearly perfect from the outset while others needed more noodling.
In some cases, Mark and I tried to figure out what adjustments we could make to the faces of certain characters, as these officers will likely be familiar to most fans. Unfortunately, it’s challenging to make someone’s face in a drawing look exactly like the actor who plays the role. I think we (meaning Mark) got close in most of the drawings, but it’s not perfect by any stretch. Hopefully, readers will at least give us an “A” for effort…if not total accuracy.
All in all, Mark and I are extremely pleased with the result, and we’re excited to hear what Axanar fans and others think of our efforts. It won’t be long now…only one short week to go!