While Leonard Nimoy will always be remembered for his portrayal as Mr. Spock in Star Trek, what you may not have known is that he also created comics for a few years. And they were good ones, too!
WHAT IS LEONARD NIMOY’S PRIMORTALS?
The comic Leonard Nimoy’s Primortals was published by Tekno-Comix (later called Big Entertainment) from 1995 to 1997. The characters and concept were created by Nimoy, who developed the idea for the series after visiting the SETI Institute.
The SETI Institute (Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence) is a not-for-profit organization working to “explore, understand and explain the origin, nature and prevalence of life in the universe.” The SETI Institute’s public outreach efforts include working with teachers and students in promoting science education and the teaching of evolution, working with NASA on exploration missions such as Kepler and SOFIA, and producing a weekly science program called Big Picture Science.
Nimoy worked with others in fleshing out these ideas, including science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov, who was credited with providing additional concepts.
The comic’s plot revolved around humanity’s first contact with an alien intelligence called the Primortals. The series showed how, in ancient times, aliens called the Majae removed various species from Earth and raised them to sentience. Avitaur Zeerus, rebellious alien governor of Achernar Three, flees to Earth after being defeated by hostile alien forces. Public reaction to his arrival, and the warnings of alien invasion he gives, are depicted in the comic as ranging from ecstasy to paranoia.
MAKING THE COMICS AND MORE
Twenty-four regular issues of the comic were published (though numbering of the comic was restarted following issue number 15), as well as a two-issue Origins mini-series and a standalone crossover, Teknophage vs. Zeerus. The final issue of the comic had a cover date of February, 1997.
A novelization written by Steve Perry was published in 1997. An interactive CD-ROM was released by Big Entertainment in 1996, allowing the reader to see the beginning of the story from four different points of view.
WORKING WITH NIMOY
I wondered what it was like to work with Mr. Nimoy on this project. Fortunately, writer Christopher Mills created a blog entry on that very subject:
“Working for Tekno-Comix in the mid-Nineties was a bizarre experience. But one good thing that came out of it was the opportunity to write the company’s flagship book, Leonard Nimoy’s Primortals. The company had a lot of trouble at first coming up with a writer that Leonard Nimoy liked, so they had several people write up sample scripts for him to review. He chose me, surprising everybody. I ultimately wrote eleven issues, co-plotting with my pal James Chambers (editor of the title), with input from Mr. Nimoy.
“I had fun. I loaded the series with in-jokes – many that flew right over the publishers’ heads, including naming a half-human/half-bug alien “Kafka.” As I recall, Nimoy thought that was pretty funny. One he didn’t pick up on, though (as far as I know), was that I named another Primortal “Narab,” after the Martian character Nimoy portrayed in the 1952 sci-fi serial Zombies of the Stratosphere.
“And yes, I did meet Mr. Spock. He was much skinnier and shorter than I would have expected, but he was pretty cool, and genuinely complimentary about my work. I have a memo from his office in my files that describes my writing as having: ‘…a theatricality, an intelligence, and a sense of Wagnerian Epic.’ Pretty cool, no?”
HOW WERE THE BOOKS?
Thankfully, I was buying comics from a shop where I could order some that were hard to find, and this was one of those titles. I was always surprised that other stores didn’t order more of them, frankly.
The storylines were thoughtful, the characters well developed and the pacing quick when needed, then slower when exposition was required, but that’s to be expected. The art sometimes varied, but with talents like Pat Broderick involved, for example, some issues really sparkled. I couldn’t wait for the next time I’d see Leonard Nimoy’s name on top of a comic!
Even when working in comics, Nimoy was a class act, taking chances and telling “fascinating” stories. I should know – I read all of these wonderful books! I recommend them to you as well, though they are hard to find at this point! Hopefully, that will change in the coming months! I’d love to see Comixology.com get them, for instance! But until then, I see paper copies available on eBay and other auction sites.
I find it intriguing that Star Trek‘s William Shatner (Tek War, for instance), Leonard Nimoy and Walter Koenig all explored comics universes. I enjoyed their comics, and will treasure those stories and issues forever!