This story had its beginnings back around springtime of 1993. I had met actor Mark Lenard at a comic convention held at Brandeis University for the first time, and had introduced myself, since I had been working on several STAR TREK assignments for DC Comics at the time. During our conversation, I expressed an interest in working together with Mark on a story for DC wherein we would fill in the blanks between the Classic Trek years and the Next Generation timeline. He was intrigued enough with the idea that he gave me his phone number and address, and told me to get in contact with him next time I was in New York City, where he was living at the time.
Sensing an opportunity, I gave Bob Greenberger at DC Comics a call, and sounded him out as to the possibility of submitting the project for consideration. Since Bob was already a major Trek fan, particularly of characters that sprang from the Classic Trek series, I knew this wasn't going to be a hard sell. We arranged to meet at the DC offices for a group session and go from there.
A few days later, I was waiting in the DC lobby for Mark to show up. Upon his arrival, the receptionist allowed us to proceed through the door to the editorial offices. As we walked down the corridor, I noticed something funny going on. Apparently, the editorial staff wasn't such a collection of jaded city slickers after all. Their jaws dropped as they realized the man who played Spock's father was walking through their corridors. And I had to admit, Mark did have a commanding presence around him, a regal bearing, as it were.
Upon sitting down in Bob's office, we began outlining the bare beginnings of what we wanted to do. Needing something more detailed, Bob sat Mark and I alone in a private office where we proceeded to hammer out something more complete. Our task done, we revisited Bob and reported what we had. Needless to say, Bob was already talking prestige format, editting this one himself even though he wasn't going to be the regular Trek editor much longer, and making other comments that strongly indicated this was one puppy he wanted to do, especially since Pocket Books was publishing a Star Trek novel titled SAREK in hardcover, which he felt we could tie-in as part of an overall marketing strategy.
Unfortunately, the project became a victim of office politics. Bob was replaced by Alan Gold as editor of the Star Trek line, who it turned out accepted the job under the worst possible circumstances. To make matters worse from my point-of-view, Alan was definitely not in tune with Star Trek fandom, and couldn't see how a project featuring Spock's father as the primary character would go over well with the fans. He even proved what a deaf ear he had to marketing when we tried to convince him what a marketing coup it would be to have it advertised as a tie-in with the Pocket Book project.
Despite all our lobbying, we could never win Alan over, and before long, it didn't matter at all what we did. Alan didn't survive all the infighting going on concerning his position, as a number of people didn't want him hired in the first place, and he was soon replaced by Margaret Clark. As for the proposed Pocket Book hardcover, writer A.C. Crispin got behind schedule, making it impossible for us to nail down a timeline we could provide DC with in order to co-ordinate the production schedule for the tie-in.
With a new editor in place, we were back to square one. I hadn't dealt with Margaret before, and she didn't show any interest in our project, despite Mark's involvement. It wouldn't take long before she had all the creators on the Star Trek books up in arms, however, alienating every last one of them except for the people that she brought in herself. It was a pretty sad spectacle, as she assigned a female artist who clearly wasn't up to the task of illustrating a licensed comic book series, but was there merely to further a personal agenda of the editor's.
Disheartened, I shelved both the SAREK project as well as the BLOOD & HONOR project Mark and I came up with as a warm-up. (The full story about BLOOD & HONOR will be found elsewhere on this site.) Since DC was the only publisher licensed to produce Star Trek comics at this time, there was nothing further we could do until a change in the current regime at DC produced a warmer political climate.
About a year later, Malibu Comics managed to snag the rights to produce STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE from under DC's nose, and I began to smell opportunity. Since I wasn't plugged in as much as other people were at that time, I wasn't surprised that the window of opportunity wasn't there from the get-go, but with a change in editors, I seized the moment and approached editor Mark Paniccia with the BLOOD & HONOR project based on the following reasoning: Since Sarek had never been a part of the DS9 series, it was questionable whether he could be used in the comic book, despite the fact it was Paramount who owned the character. DC was still producing Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation, and I didn't want to submit something that would be automatically shot down for legal reasons, even if DC didn't have a leg to stand on. BLOOD & HONOR was originally submitted as a Next Generation story, a sequel to the classic Trek episode "Balance of Terror", featuring another character Mark had portrayed in the series. It was a simple matter to rewrite a few details and submit it as a DS9 project instead.
I'm not going to go into details here, but suffice it to say, what should have been a triumph for both Mark and myself turned out to be a huge debacle. When both DC and Malibu ceased publication after having their licenses pulled by Paramount a couple of months after the book's release, I could not have cared less.
On November 22, 1996, Mark Lenard passed away due to pneumonia while being treated for cancer. When I heard the news, it was almost as if I lost a member of my own family, and I grieved at the reality that I would never have the chance to make up for the ordeal we went through because of me. The best I could hope for was perhaps some memorial that would allow me some way to bring a measure of closure to the whole thing, and at the moment, I was at a loss how to proceed.
It would be awhile before Paramount awarded the Trek license to another publisher, but eventually Marvel snagged the bragging rights, and proceeded to immediately get off on the wrong foot with the fans in their approach. Fortunately, they had Tim Tuohy on staff, and he would proceed to right that ship before long. It was Tim I was directed to present my proposal to, and after giving it some consideration, he proceeded to send it along to Paramount Licensing for further approval, along with with a couple of other story outlines he had asked me to submit.
Submitting a proposal and getting it through the system can take a lot of time. I was in San Diego the summer of 1998 discussing the projects with both Tim and his point man in Paramount Licensing, and it wasn't until December that I had a go to work on the plot of my first proposal while Paramount vetted the plot Mark and I had worked out. (Incidentally, the character sketches you can access at the top of this page were produced for Paramount's approval so I could draw the story as well as write it.)
And then something strange happened.
All of a sudden, not only was Tim not returning my phone calls, but neither were other professionals in the know, either. Practically overnight, Marvel dropped their contract with Paramount. Marvel was making zero profit on the books as a result of a deal made by executives who had long ago been let go by the company (or jumped ship -- it was hard to keep track of without a score card), and Paramount was bound and determined to hold them to it instead of renegotiating. Because of Marvel's bankruptcy situation, with Paramount sticking to its' guns, Marvel dropped the other shoe and cancelled the entire line, just like that. The project was now back in limbo.
I entertained other options after that, sounding out Pocket Books' Star Trek editor John Ordover on his interest regarding the project, but he basically ignored me, which should have surprised me, but didn't. Where anything Trek was concerned, getting a project through was always a political minefield. If you didn't know the right people, forget it.
The summer of 1999 saw me flying out to San Diego for the annual Comic-Con once again. The only sure things on my agenda were promoting my work on SONIC THE HEDGEHOG, KNUCKLES THE ECHIDNA and especially my new series THE LOST ONES. It was only after I got there that I decided to give it one last college try, now that DC/Wildstorm had attained the rights to produce Star Trek comics once again.
I approached editor Jeff Mariotte at the DC booth, explained who I was and sounded him out about THE LESSONS OF LIFE. To be fair, Jeff was cordial, he gave me his card and told me to submit the proposal in hard copy format after the convention. He did provide the caveat that another writer was working on a similar story involving Sarek, but he wouldn't make any judgements until after he had a chance to read the thing.
I submitted the proposal as told, and how much of a fair shot I had, I'll never know. Jeff basically blew me off after that, even when I tried to point out this had the added advantage of Mark's name attached to it. Apparently marketing to Trek fans of longstanding is not a priority in today's business climate. And with that rejection, I knew it was over. Unless I hit the lottery bigtime, and managed to woo Paramount with a major offer, it was never going to happen.
The story Mark and I did would have probably been locked away in my files, except when redesigning this website, it occurred to me that at least here, in this corner of the internet, Star Trek fans old and new could stop by, and see what might have been, and remember a great man.
So here's to you, Mark. Take care...wherever final frontier you are.