Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

John Byrne’s STAR TREK Shout-Outs!

Last week, I talked about Star Trek: New Visions, the photomontage comics series of Star Trek adventures that John Byrne is doing for IDW.

But before John Byrne got a regular gig telling Star Trek stories, he was just like the rest of us – A Star Trek fan who’d occasionally make reference to it in his everyday life. It just so happened that Byrne’s everyday life was as a popular writer/artist of comic books.

So I thought it’d be fun to see how many ST references I could pick out of Byrne’s classic comic book work. A few things before we dive in – Byrne’s said that he’s an Original Series fan first & foremost, so the references I’m listing here will be to the original 60s show. These examples all predate The Next Generation, anyway. I’m also largely drawing from when Byrne was writing and penciling his books himself – That way we can be more positive that the references originated with him. Oh, and a couple of these entries will contain SPOILERS for both Star Trek episodes and various John Byrne comic book stories. That’s unavoidable, I’m afraid. And lastly, I encourage folks reading this to follow the blue Amazon links to buy stuff there (even if you’re buying something else). That way the AJS gets a small piece of the sale, and we get to keep the lights on here. Plus, you’ll get to read some cool comic books! That’s a win/win.

Uncanny X-Men #135 (July 1980) – Shi’ar Trek

Our first example is one that’s a bit of a continuation of a gag that Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum started in X-Men #105 (June 1977). In this issue, we see a Shi’ar spaceship approaching Earth, and when we cut to their bridge, it’s – Well, see for yourself:

Dave Cockrum Star Trek X-Men
Suddenly, Shatner’s hair looks reasonable by comparison.

The thing that really cracks me up here is the pose of the Shi’ar Captain in the first panel (his name is Captain K’rk, because of course it is). That’s pure William Shatner right there. A fun little in-joke from Trek fans Cockrum and Claremont.

A few years later, Byrne and Chris Claremont were in the middle of The Dark Phoenix Saga. In X-Men #135, Jean Grey/Phoenix, a longtime teammate driven mad by her ever-increasing power (shades of Gary Mitchell!), consumes a star around an inhabited planet. The star goes nova, and this attracts the attention of a Shi’ar starship patrolling the area:

X-Men 135 Shi'ar

Here we see the Shi’ar wearing uniforms similar to the ones seen in 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture – and the Captain’s stance is nothing if not Shatnerian. Claremont’s dialogue is also reminiscent of Kirk and Spock. Additionally, the Shi’ar spaceship that Byrne and inker Terry Austin drew would look right at home in the ST Universe.

Fantastic Four #253 (April 1983) – “Definitely something there, Captain”

This one is a bit oblique, but I’m thinking it’s a Trek reference. In Fantastic Four #253, Byrne opened with a splash page of an alien spaceship in the Negative Zone (one whose design was, amusingly, drawn from a curling iron):

Fantastic Four 253

The opening dialogue is a near-match for one of Spock’s first lines in the original Star Trek pilot, “The Cage.”

And in case you still have doubts, on the very next page the alien Captain refers to his first officer as “Number One.”

Fantastic Four #275 (Feb. 1985) – She-Hulk’s centerfold is color-corrected

In Fantastic Four #275, the She-Hulk is photographed sunbathing topless on the roof of the Baxter Building by T.J. Vance, a sleazy paparazzi who publishes a skin mag called The Naked Truth. As lawyer Jennifer Walters, She-Hulk tries to prevent Vance from publishing the photos, only to discover that legally, she can’t do anything to stop him. She-Hulk is depressed about the photos seeing print, but when the issue actually comes out, Johnny Storm reveals that Vance made one critical error:

Fantastic Four 275 color corrected
“I’m guessing you’ll be SO happy to hear this news you’ll forget that I just bought a nudie mag that you’re featured in!”

Right after this, Johnny jokes that he’s come back to the Baxter Building to pick up some green-tinted sunglasses from his old room. Oh, Johnny, you perverted little scamp, you!

As Johnny says, the same thing happened to an early Star Trek episode. Well sort of. Back when Gene Roddenberry was preparing “The Cage,” the first pilot episode of his series, his crew did a number of makeup tests for the aliens seen in the episode. Here’s Leonard Nimoy testing a dark makeup for Mr. Spock, standing next to a fair-skinned actress for contrast:

Star Trek Spock makeup test
Even in makeup tests, Ladies Love Cool Spock.

And here’s Roddenberry’s then-girlfriend, Number One actress Majel Barrett, testing the green makeup for the Orion Slave Girl Vina, the upswept eyebrows for Mr. Spock, and a possible hairstyle for Number One:

Star Trek Majel Barrett makeup test
I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!

When Roddenberry got the footage for this makeup test back, however, he was dismayed to discover that Barrett’s complexion looked completely normal. So they tried again, making her up even greener this time. Again, the footage came back with Barrett sporting a regular Caucasian skin tone. Eventually, Roddenberry discovered that his photo developers didn’t realize that Majel Barrett was supposed to be green – they’d been color-correcting the footage to get all the green out. Once the Great Bird of the Galaxy explained the misunderstanding to them, the next makeup test turned out a lot better.

Alpha Flight #25 (Aug. 1985) – “They’d never seen a human before.”

Here’s another one that reaches back to “The Cage” for its reference, but I’ll need to explain some backstory first.

Back in Alpha Flight #12, John Byrne killed off Guardian, the leader of the Canadian superhero group. One year later, as Byrne was gearing up for his final storyline on the book, and he did something very unexpected – he brought James MacDonald Hudson, aka Guardian, back from the dead.

As it turned out, however, Hudson wasn’t really back from the Great Beyond. It was all a plot from the bad guys to trap Alpha Flight and catch them off guard. As a bit of a hint to this, Byrne made the fake Hudson’s resurrection story in Alpha Flight #25 as absurd and over-the-top as he could manage (which, in superhero comics, is an impressive feat in itself). To make a long story short, “Hudson” explained how he teleported away from his exploding super-suit a split second before it killed him. He was then rescued by an alien race who nursed him back to health. Unfortunately, there was a catch:

Alpha Flight 25 Guardian resurrection
Well, that’s going to leave a mark.

This of course, is very similar to the reveal about Captain Pike’s love interest Vina at the end of “The Cage.” Vina was horrifically injured when her spaceship crashed on the alien planet of Talos IV. The Talosians put her back together as best they could, but never having seen a human before, they had no point of reference for what one should look like, and so they ended up with this:

Star Trek The Cage Vina disfigured
On the upside, the Talosians have really reasonable copays.

A few years after Byrne had left Alpha Flight for good, other creators brought Guardian back from the dead by basically saying, “Oh hey, you know that blatantly false story you were told a few years back? Well, that happened for real and Guardian’s not really dead after all!” Comics, everybody.

Man of Steel #3 (Nov. 1986) – “I might have called you ‘friend.’”

For over 40 years, Superman and Batman were the best of friends. Despite their differences, they got along famously and co-starred together in World’s Finest Comics every month. Then, in 1985, DC Comics revamped their universe in Crisis on Infinite Earths, creating a new DC Universe and changing certain things about their history. John Byrne was hired to revamp Superman, and the Man of Steel’s new status quo with the Darknight Detective was introduced in Man of Steel #3:

Man of Steel 3 Superman Batman
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Acquaintanceship.

Superman and Batman meet and work together in this issue, but they’re not pals by the end of it. The most you could say is that they’ve come to an understanding. In the very last panel, Batman muses, “In a different reality, I might have called him ‘friend.’” It was a sly commentary that in the new, post-Crisis DCU, Superman and Batman weren’t going to be as buddy-buddy as they were before.

And for Trek fans, it was a bonus reference – Batman’s line of dialogue was drawn from the ending of “Balance of Terror” – it’s one of the last things that the Romulan Commander says to Captain Kirk right before he self-destructs his ship.

Who’s Who in Star Trek #1-2 (Mar.-April 1987) – David Bailey, Hortas, Iotians, Khan Noonian Singh, Harry Mudd, Sarek

This one is interesting because it gives us some potential insight as to Byrne’s favorite TOS episodes. You may remember Who’s Who as DC’s answer to The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe – guidebooks cataloguing all the inhabitants of the DC and Marvel Universes. When DC had the Star Trek comic book license in the 1980s, they put out two issues of Who’s Who in Star Trek – a pre-Star Trek Encyclopedia, post-Star Trek Concordance guide to the ST Universe.

By 1987, Byrne was at DC full-time on the Superman books, so he was a natural choice to draw a few entries in Who’s Who in Star Trek. Several artists on Who’s Who were able to request their favorite characters – and Byrne has some interesting choices.

Star Trek David Bailey John Byrne

First up, David Bailey from “The Corbomite Maneuver.” This was the first episode of Star Trek shot after the two pilots, and it’s harder science fiction approach seems like it’s right up Byrne’s alley. Although Enterprise navigator David Bailey isn’t the most visually exciting character in the world, Byrne hits on all the big moments from “The Corbomite Maneuver” – The cube beacon that the Enterprise destroys, Bailey’s inexperience at navigation, Balok’s ship, both versions of Balok, and Kirk and Bailey walking with Balok at the end of the episode. As Byrne by his own admission isn’t great with likenesses, Bailey is transformed into more of a generic comic book character instead of looking like actor Anthony Call. In subsequent entries, Byrne will trace a few Trek stills to ensure good likenesses, as he does with the Balok puppet here.

Star Trek Horta John Byrne

Next up, the Horta. “Devil in the Dark” is one of the most popular Trek episodes of all time, so it’s no big shock that it’s one of Byrne’s favorites as well. This was probably one of the easier entries he had to do – the Horta is so blobby that you can’t really be off-model on her. The shot of the Horta on the Enterprise‘s bridge is a reference to Lt. Naraht, a Horta Starfleet officer created by tie-in author Diane Duane in her book My Enemy, My Ally. Naraht’s also appeared in a few Trek comics that Duane wrote.

Star Trek Iotians John Byrne

Next, we have the Iotians, who are probably better known as the gangsters from “A Piece of the Action.” This is an offbeat choice, but where else are you going to see Byrne draw Vic Tayback? Here Byrne has traced stills of some of the episode’s big moments, like Kirk and Spock behind the wheel of a 1920s automobile, and Kirk having a summit of the planet’s leaders while standing on a pool table. I personally would have liked to see a representation of the Fizzbin scene, but I guess you can’t have everything. I like how Byrne caught Bela Oxmyx’s gesturing with his glasses here – that’s certainly something that actor Anthony Caruso did during the episode.

Star Trek Khan John Byrne

Next is a biggie – the genetically-augmented superman from the 20th Century, Khan Noonian Singh. Here we have a pretty nice Ricardo Montalban likeness on a standard Byrne figure of the time. There’s a nice variety to this entry. I like how it’s a mixture of shots from both “Space Seed” and The Wrath of Khan. I’m guessing that the only thing Byrne traced here was the shot of Khan hoisting Chekov into the air. Another neat thing is that the entry for James T. Kirk directly followed this one. Those two just can’t get away from each other, can they?

Star Trek Harry Mudd John ByrneI think it’s safe to say that interstellar conman Harry Mudd is another favorite of Byrne’s, as he’s already featured Mudd in two New Visions storylines. From what Byrne’s said on his Forum, Harry Mudd is not allowed to look exactly like his portrayer Roger C. Carmel, as the actor passed away without any next of kin to approve the use of his likeness. Since Byrne went a bit more cartoony with Mudd here, I would guess that this entry was not traced from photo reference. But as Mudd is a more humorous character, the cartoony approach certainly fits. If I had to guess, I’d say that the only thing that was directly traced on this entry was the Enterprise itself – although Byrne was certainly looking at reference for the costumes and such.

Star Trek Sarek John ByrneNumber six of Byrne’s Who’s Who entries is another biggie – Spock’s father, the Vulcan Ambassador Sarek. I think it’s safe to say that Byrne is a fan of Sarek in particular and of actor Mark Lenard in general – Remember that his first Trek comic for IDW was a prequel to Lenard’s first appearance in the Star Trek Universe, “Balance of Terror.” There, Byrne cleverly gave the Romulan Commander from “Balance” a troubled relationship with his son, which was a neat parallel to the Sarek/Spock relationship. It’s also interesting to think that at the time this Who’s Who entry was done, Mark Lenard had only made three appearances as Sarek – “Journey to Babel” and Star Treks III and IV – Four if you count the animated episode “Yesteryear.” I think this is one of the best entries that Byrne did for the Who’s Who in Star Trek series – he certainly captures Mark Lenard particularly well.

It’s interesting that Byrne didn’t do the entry for Number One as well. We know that he’s a fan of the character, as she was the focus of his miniseries Crew and popped up in significant roles in his other Trek stories at IDW. I wonder why. Could Byrne only fit six pages into his schedule? Was he reluctant to do another likeness? Or was it just that another artist snagged her first? I wonder if even Byrne remembers after 30+ years.

Heck, for that matter, I wonder if Byrne might have requested Gary Seven as well? Considering that he did an Assignment: Earth mini-series for IDW, he’s obviously a fan of Mr. Seven. Not that George Perez didn’t do a great job on that one.

Well, that’s all John Byrne Star Trek homages I’ve found so far. Do you folks know of any I missed?


  1. M-Wolverine

    Can’t…unsee…curling iron.

    Heather looks shocked at how far that tin six pack goes down on James. And the lack of any shorts bulge. But yes, back in the day there were editors, so I never get how “don’t you get the whole point of him coming back was it was ridiculous and fake, not actually real?” doesn’t get said when they want to bring him back again. Because other than “comics” was anyone really calling for James Hudson’s return?

    The Talosians just make up convenient excuses to do what they want. If they can recreate a mental fantasy of human life, they don’t know what we look like? Was she brain dead? Heck, even if they had just made her look like a Talosian she would have looked more human than how they ended up putting her together. They just needed an excuse for a new pet.

    And Khan fake chest was pretty much a standard Byrne body anyway, so that worked out fine, right? Though you may be on to something with putting Khan and Kirk together. Because everyone else is “Mudd, Harry” or “Bailey, David.” It should be “Singh, Khan Noonian.” He rightly probably should have ended up next to Spock.

    1. Le Messor

      It should be “Singh, Khan Noonian.”

      What people tend to forget is, Khan is his title, not his name. (That doesn’t affect what you’ve said here, though, just an aside.)

      For a long time, it the basis for was my head-canon explanation for Into Darkness (spoilers follow!!!) : that the Khan in that movie wasn’t the one we’re used to. He introduced himself with ‘My name is Khan!’ as if it were his name (and as if that would mean something to the crew…), and the only person who ever called him Noonien Singh (old Spock) never actually saw him. So it was a different khan.

      Unfortunately, when I next saw Space Seed, it put paid to that theory, since he also introduced himself there with ‘My name is Khan!’
      (Actually, it doesn’t kill the theory, just makes its ground a LOT shakier.)

      1. M-Wolverine

        Isn’t the “title” thing only in the books and comics? Is it ever explicitly made in the TV show or movie? Because it seems odd they would all address him by his title. I know the Emperor in Star Wars was “The Emperor” for the first movies, but he was their actual “emperor” and it seems odd that Kirk et al. would be addressing a past tyrant like that. KHHAAAAAAANNNNNNN. Anyway.

        It also doesn’t seem like it’s origin, if shaky wiki is to be believed. Which says “Khan’s full name was based on that of Kim Noonien Singh, a pilot Gene Roddenbery served with during the Second World War.” (sic) So while khan is a title, it seemed like he played off a strong villainous title as a good similar sounding name. So I think the extended universes tried to fix something that didn’t need to be fixed, because it wasn’t a mistake as much as a cute way to come up with a cool name.

        Though it still amazes me to this day that like 40% of the people still spell it Kahn, like Madeline was terrorizing Gene Wilder and Cleavon Little.

        1. Le Messor

          I’m getting it being a title based on Khan being a title; I’ve always thought of it that way without reading any books or comics with him in.

          Though, as mentioned, he did introduce himself that way – which would explain why they call him that.

          I’m picturing Madeline menacing the Enterprise crew… it works surprisingly well, if you use her femme fatale self from Clue.

          1. Le Messor

            Oh, yeah, I know Khan can be a name (see above re: Madeline Kahn… not to mention DC’s Jenette Kahn – did she ever edit ‘Trek?).

            Now I’m confused about why I thought it was his title, not his name. I think there was a reason, but if there was, it came from the shows and the movie, not any external source, which I simply haven’t read.

          2. M-Wolverine

            I think there’s confusion because Wiki lists a book that says Khan was a title, and the last “NuTrek” Khan comic series I think followed up on that. But everything that seems to be movie or TV canon has it as a name. And the wiki origin seems to go along with Alaric’s idea that Gene just thought it was a cool sounding name.

    2. The Talosians just make up convenient excuses to do what they want. If they can recreate a mental fantasy of human life, they don’t know what we look like? Was she brain dead? Heck, even if they had just made her look like a Talosian she would have looked more human than how they ended up putting her together. They just needed an excuse for a new pet.

      Yeah, that’s a plot hole in the episode, for sure. It must be tough to write the Talosians, because, from what “The Menagerie” showed us, they’re near-omnipotent. Apparently, they can even teach others how to cast illusions, too. Heck, considering how they lured the Enterprise to Talos IV, they aren’t even limited by RANGE!

      And Khan fake chest was pretty much a standard Byrne body anyway…

      That was Montalban’s REAL chest. Dude worked out.


      I’m of the school that his name was actually “Khan,” but it IS kind of weird how everyone’s on a first name basis with him, instead of calling him “Singh.”

      1. M-Wolverine

        I don’t know if it’s a plot hole. Maybe it’s designed that the Talosians are just dirty liars with a mean sense of humor. I mean, they could just be doing the equivalent of the fake throw the ball thing people do with their dogs, because they’re basically treating humans like zoo animals anyway. Where’s the Galactic Humane Society when you need them?

        I should have put a winky face or something on the chest thing; the price of being in a rush. But I know the fake chest thing has been discredited. And since he always seems to introduce himself as KHAN maybe he just thinks of himself so highly as a one word, first name kind of guy. Sorta like Prince. I mean, I wouldn’t be going around telling people to call me Noonian. Especially if I was putting.

        1. M-Wolverine

          It’s also kind of funny that he references to himself to everyone by his first name, but he usually says Kirk with or without a title and isn’t “what’s up, James?”

  2. Le Messor

    “Well, that’s all John Byrne Star Trek homages I’ve found so far. Do you folks know of any I missed?”

    Well, there was the other bit we discussed – that the description of the cause-of-death of Deadly Earnest’s victims (Alpha Flight #s 7-8) was near-identical to the description of the cause-of-death of the salt vampire’s victims in The Man Trap (at least until they figured out the real cause). Or is that stretching?

    1. I’d have to look at that again, honestly. But unless the victims were missing all salt from their bodies, I’m more inclined to think that it’s coincidental.

      Sometimes, if you’re looking for references to a specific thing, you can fool yourself into seeing them when they’re not there. One person on Facebook thought that blowing up the Baxter Building was influenced by the destruction of the Enterprise in ST3. Maybe, but I think it’s more likely that Byrne was just doing a riff on Doctor Doom stealing the Baxter building in FF #6, with an added dangerous twist.

      I should have noted at least one instance of Byrne sneaking “1701” into a story, though.

    1. Jeff Nettleton

      Kitty makes a “Beam me up Scotty remark, during the Brood storyline, which was after Byrne. Can’t remember if it was the Cockrum issues or when Paul Smith started. Not sure if that was the one you mean (it’s been a few years).

      1. Le Messor

        😀 I wouldn’t put that past Kitty.

        I’m thinking of a time ~ I think it must’ve been one of the first appearances of the Shi’Ar ~ when the Shi’Ar teleport the X-Men, and somebody says “That’s like the transporter effect on that Star Trek show”. Or words to that effect. I don’t really relish trolling through my X-Men collection to find it.

  3. Jeff Nettleton

    Not Star Trek related; but, I really hated that Byrne pretty much abandoned the design aesthetic that Dave Cockrum gave to the Shi’ar ships, with the bug-like elements, and the jewelled decorations of the people. It made them a bit unique, in comics. The Byrne ships were a bit more generic, such as the Starjammer, when it turns up in Byrne’s issue, looking very different than when Cockrum introduced it.

    The Shi’ar hairstyle kind of made it to other media, as the Centauri had similar styles, on Babylon 5, depending on status.

    1. I think the difference in the Shi’ar ships just comes down to a difference in aesthetics. The bug-like ships suited Cockrum’s aesthetic, but not Byrne’s, so he designed ships that worked for him.

      The Shi’ar hairstyle kind of made it to other media, as the Centauri had similar styles, on Babylon 5, depending on status.

      Yeah, I can definitely see that.

  4. BrianF

    In the 1st 1979 Star Trek movie when the Klingons approach Ve’ger the captain asked for “TACTICAL”
    In X-men #134 (i think that the issue) when the Shi’ar ship observes Dark Phoenix destroy the broccoli people they say “Give me Tactical” –
    seemed like a direct Star Trek reference to me.

  5. I thought of one more!

    When the Vision is disassembled and loses his memories and emotions in the West Coast Avengers storyline “Vision Quest”, he responds to a kiss from his wife the Scarlet Witch with a line straight out of “I, Mudd”: “Wanda, is there some significance to this action?”

    I was rewatching the episode last night, and that line jumped out at me when I heard the Alice Robot say it.

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