Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Comics, Gender and Sexuality

Just got a couple of books from Amazon. Here's some quick thoughts, because it may be a little while before I read them.

Alan Porter's book is the first guide to Star Trek comics and comic strips in print. (If you're interested in Trek comics and aren't already familiar with Mark Martinez's Star Trek Comics Checklist site, go check it out and bookmark it already.) This is a large trade paperback, well illustrated with comic covers, sample panels, and original artwork. Each section of the book begins with a page or two providing background on the publisher and the series described, followed by entries for each issue (or storyline, for the comic strips) giving the stardate, title, issue number (where applicable), writer, artists, and a synopsis. The chapter "Creating Trek: The Interviews" includes material from interviews with over a dozen comic creators.

I should point out that this is a US$40 paperback, which strikes me as a bit much. I paid C$27 at Amazon. Shop wisely.

David Greven's Gender and Sexuality in Star Trek: Allegories of Desire in the Television Series and Films is the first full-length book to examine representations of homosexuality in Star Trek. However, early in the introduction Greven makes it clear that this is anything but a definitive work on the subject, saying "I freely admit that I'm not a follower of Deep Space Nine." Sure enough, a check through the index reveals very few references to DS9. Greven's main interest is in Voyager, which is no doubt why, when he announced the book on TrekBBS, he did so in the Voyager forum in a thread called "My new Trek book, especially for VOY fans." So, nothing about the Garak/Bashir subtext, and "Rejoined" is only mentioned in passing. Not quite as bad as writing a book called Race in Star Trek that ignores DS9, but it still strikes me as a lost opportunity.

And since I pointed out the price of Porter's book, I'll also say that US$35 for Greven's trade paperback is expensive, too. Porter's publisher, Hermes Press, aims at the collector market, Greven's, McFarland, at libraries and universities. McFarland has been making more of an effort at selling to fans over the last several years, though; the first books I bought from them was Susan Gibberman's 1991 book
Star Trek: An Annotated Guide to Resources on the Development, the Phenomenon, the People, the Television Series, the Films, the Novels and the Recordings, which was pretty much typical of bibliographical works aimed at the library market: hardcover, no dustwrapper, no illustrations, and quite expensive for the time. The next one was John Kenneth Muir's book on Space: 1999, published in a similar format in 1997 but reprinted in 2005 as a trade paperback with a colourful cover. By then McFarland had started publishing a lot of books of interest to casual readers, not just libraries, and some of those books are decidedly more fanboyish than academic.


At 1:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How is the comic history book, quality-wise? We get these kind of books in the Doctor Who world all the time, but not so much Trek, so I'm excited-- but they can be pretty hit-or-miss, and this publisher is an unknown to me.

At 2:16 PM, Blogger Steve said...

Doesn't look bad. Not a lot of history -- just a couple pages per era -- until you get to the interviews, with commentary from a pretty decent variety of Trek comic writers (no one covering Gold Key or the strips, I think). The comic synopses are pretty short and generally just summarize events, rather than offering any critical commentary. If you can get it for a decent price it might be worthwhile. A few typos here and there, but I haven't read closely enough to know whether there are many factual errors. (I wonder what Mark Martinez thinks of it.)

At 3:12 PM, Anonymous mmtz said...

Unfortunately (for me and my wallet), the publisher, Hermes Press, ignored my request for a review copy, so I'll have to buy the book before I can read and comment on it. I have Porter's book on James Bond comics which is nicely done. The most interesting section of the Bond book deals with comics published outside the US. Does Porter do the same for Trek comics? By the way, congratulations on ten years of building the Starfleet Library.

At 3:28 PM, Blogger Steve said...

Hey, Mark. Be sure to shop around for the book because the cover price is a bit steep.

Chapter 2 covers the British Trek stuff (p.33-47), the Joe 90/TV 21/Valiant strips.


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