LAST GENERATION #1: Evolution Of A Cover

I’ve heard a lot of really awesome reaction to the first cover image released for Star Trek: The Last Generation #1, both at the San Diego convention and now online afterwards. It’s an homage to John Byrne’s legendary cover for Uncanny X-Men #141, the first chapter in the classic and influential “Days Of Future Past” storyline, and one of my all-time favorite single issues. (In a nice bit of circular history, Byrne now writes and draws Star Trek for IDW Publishing, for the first time in his career.)

The initial concept for Star Trek: The Last Generation was a “Days Of Future Past” story for Star Trek, in which a crucial moment in history goes sideways, ending with the eventual Klingon conquest of Earth. Seventy years later, Jean-Luc Picard now leads an increasingly desperate Resistance movement struggling to liberate the planet, with the Terran Warlord Worf closing in.

It’s also the first issue in the creative partnership I orchestrated while at IDW with editor Marco Palmieri over at Pocket Books, the Simon & Shuster division that publishes Star Trek fiction. Pocket had scheduled a set of novels entitled Myriad Universes, which told alternate-universe stories of the Trek crews, so this seemed the perfect series to finally pull the trigger on what we had planned together.

When IDW Editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall asked for some cover ideas, I thought of course of X-Men #141–but, with these nostalgia references, particularly for famous issues, you never really know if it’s going to look cool as hell or become one of those horribly misguided, “seemed like a good idea at the time” type of things. (Not sure what I’m talking about? Check out the JC Penny version of The Breakfast Club. Yeah, exactly. Sixty seconds of my teenage years that I’ll never get back.)

So, anyway, to see how it might actually look, I put together a mockup of the idea in Photoshop, which I find myself using more and more in my creative process, even as a writer. I sent it off to Ryall in the morning–and he thought it was great. He got Byrne to give the whole idea his creative blessing, and recruited my buddy JK Woodward, artist on the Fallen Angel book that I had edited at IDW, to do the honors. (JK himself is a major Trek fan in his own right, despite that his Klingon forehead ridge is actually a blond OMAC mohawk.)

And, I have to say, JK absolutely nailed it. So well that some Trek TV/film/novel fans, unfamiliar with the long and respected comics tradition of cover homages, accused it of being a “blatant ripoff”. (For the unitiated: when an artist intentionally homages a cover, he’ll put “after _____” (the original artist’s name) next to his own signature, to give a hat-tip to the original creator; when he doesn’t, it’s called a “swipe”, and that‘s a ripoff. And, of course, for this homage, Byrne gave it his own stamp of approval.)

Wil Wheaton, much cooler here.

Wesley, much cooler here.

There’s also at least one clue to the series in the new versions of the posters on the wall behind behind Picard and Wesley. And, yes, I made sure to kill Pulaski–no sense having her still hanging about. Most of the images come from actual photos, including the headshot of Picard, though Wesley Crusher’s likeness actually comes from an old DC Comic drawn by my pal Gordon Purcell, the longtime fan-favorite Trek artist who’ll be handling the interior pencils on Last Generation.

(By the way, I hope Wil Wheaton didn’t mind me giving him the body of Kitty Pryde; when I chatted with him briefly before the San Diego Comic-Con panel I moderated for Pocket Books, the subject kindly didn’t come up.)

The face above Wesley’s shoulder is Captain Mackenzie Calhoun from the first Star Trek: New Frontier novel, written/created by JK’s Fallen Angel cohort Peter David and published by Pocket Books. (I had recently recruited Peter to do a New Frontier miniseries for IDW for my Star Trek: Second Stage line that featured PAD, Byrne and famed Trek TV writer D.C. Fontana.) The image over Picard’s shoulder is actually of me, taken from the worst photo of myself I could possibly find. (No, I won’t post it here, thanks for asking.) And yeah, I made sure that I was “SLAIN”, too.

And finally, of course, in the lower right-hand corner is the man Chris Ryall himself, though I decided to spare his life and change the original “SLAIN” to “APPREHENDED”–after all, the Klingons need comic book publishers too. (Dude, what would a Klingon comic book even look like? Printed with the blood of their enemies, no doubt.)

All that said, I thought it might be cool for people to look behind-the- scenes at how such covers evolve. Included below are the two versions you’ve seen before, as well as the never-before-seen mockup I produced that JK used as reference. JK’s cover will actually appear on the Retailer Incentive limited edition variant for the issue, as a way to offer something unusual and different for fans who are into such copies.

It should also be noted that there’ll still likely be a small change in the cover art for the final version, thanks to a minor editorial change in the story itself, but you’ll know it when you see it.

So, here’s the original Uncanny X-Men #141 cover that inspired the homage. (There’s actually at least two versions of the original, one with variant coloring that changes Kitty Pryde’s pants; I guess at some point, someone decided that in this brutal, dystopian future, Kitty shouldn’t be wearing pink. Now THAT wouldn’t have worked for Wesley at all…)

Click on the images for a larger view:

Here’s the never-before-seen cover mockup that I put together one night in Photoshop. Note that in my version, the Klingons have also conquered the IDW offices:

And here is JK’s final rendition of the cover, with space left open for trade dress. JK replaced the original Ryall sketch by Nick Roche from above with his own rendition, and likewise generously chose to spare my life. (Memo to self: Always trust artists who look like Billy Idol.) And note the altered “homage” signature, haters:

Pretty cool, huh?

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6 Comments

  1. That is frickin’ sweet.

  2. […] LAST GENERATION #1: Evolution Of A Cover […]

  3. […] LAST GENERATION: Evolution of a Cover […]

  4. […] you’re at it, check out his work on the X-Men homage for Last Generation #1, including an Evolution Of The Cover, with all sorts of nifty background info. STAR TREK: The Last Generation #3, by JK […]

  5. […] It was simply a stroke of genius to execute a second homage cover (after JK Woodward’s cool-as-hell rendition of Uncanny X-Men #141 for the first issue), and have them both serve as bookends for the completed […]

  6. […] There’s an interesting evolution of the cover here. […]


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