Obscure Comics: Babylon 5 The Lost Tales Comic #1

.There are comic book series almost every comic fan knows, there are comic book characters that most everyone knows, there are specific comic books most every comic reader knows, and then there are the more obscure issues that slip through the cracks.  What makes obscure comics so interesting and vital is discovering those books that most don't know were ever printed, or that top tier creators worked on "that book" or on "that character." Obscure Comics are fun to find, interesting to know about, but that border between being great reads and terrible comics.

J. Michael Straczynski, Babylon 5, and Comics

Best known among comic fans for long runs on the Mighty Thor and Amazing Spider-Man, with lots of controversies (Sins Past and One More Day), work on Fantastic Four, Superman, Wonder Woman, launching Superman Earth One, his own creator-owned line of comics with Joe's Comics including Rising Stars and Midnight Nation, along with his new series at AWA The Resistance, J. Michael Straczynski has a longer career in writing television.  A huge silver age Superman fan, JMS got into television writing in the 1980s and wrote hundreds of scripts staring with He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, and going on to She-Ra Princess of Power, the Real Ghostbusters, and the 1980's Twilight Zone relaunch.  It was during the 1988 writers strike while working on the Twilight Zone that JMS began work on his best known personal television project Babylon 5. It was a major science fiction series told in a chapter approach versus the more standard episodic nature of other sci-fi shows such as Star TrekBabylon 5 was picked up as a series in 1991 and launched in early 1993. It lasted five seasons and giving JMS one of the craziest records in television history as he wrote two full seasons of 22 episodes each all by himself, something no other writer had ever tried before, for a good reason.

Babylon 5 #1 Cover
Babylon 5 #1 Cover

Warner Bros produced and distributed Babylon 5, bringing any attempts to do comics for Babylon 5 under the wing of DC Comics. As the Executive Producer and Creator of the series, JMS sought to "fill in the cracks" of some of the Babylon 5 ideas through one of his favorite mediums, comics.  However, he quickly discovered that writing them, even as Executive Producer of the whole series and the final authority on any Babylon 5 material, his scripts were still subject to an editor at DC Comics, who could and did, change his scripts.  To get the first issue to be satisfactory, JMS, as Executive Producer, edited the comic back to the way he wanted it for issue #1. Then bowed out as "writer" for the next eight issues, instead of providing a plot to follow for the first and second story arcs, and then changing anything that didn't fit when he was asked for approval before the issues went off to the printers.  The entire experience was disappointing. Despite an approval for 24 issues, the first Babylon 5 comic was stopped at issue #11 as JMS was extremely busy writing all of seasons 3 and 4 of  Babylon 5.  Deciding to do a special story for the Babylon 5 Magazine published by Titan Publishing for the UK market, JMS and Peter David wrote a three-part comic. It was first published in the Babylon 5 Magazine in late 1997, and then later by DC in the United States as a 3 issue mini-series called In Valen's Name.

The Babylon 5 comics are considered canon, except issues #9 and #10, because of JMS's involvement, and the comics are not super rare to find, though they are uncommon and can range from $5 to $20 a piece, depending on where you find them. The trade paperback collections though, are often much harder to find and much more expensive, ranging from $20 to $100 per trade, depending on where you look.  No complete collection has been released with one trade released in the United States in 1998, Babylon 5 The Price of Peace collecting issues #1 – 4, and #11, and then Titan Publishing in the UK released three trades.  The first titled Babylon 5, collected issues #1 – 4, the second trade, titled Babylon 5 Shadows Past and Present, collecting issues #5 – 8, and a final trade collecting Babylon 5 In Valen's Name issues #1 – 3. All four trades are rare and hard to find, but there is one very obscure comic in the Babylon 5 history.

Obscure Comics: Babylon 5 The Lost Tales Comic #1

Babylon 5 The Lost Tales DVD Cover
Babylon 5 The Lost Tales DVD Cover

After five years on the air, and the follow-up series Crusade not able to go beyond a truncated first season, Babylon 5 has had two other attempts to tell more B5 stories.  The first was an attempt at a new series following a rough and tumble crew of Rangers for the Sci-Fi Channel back in 2005, called the Legend of the Rangers.  After that, in 2007, JMS wrote and directed the last live-action and original story done for Babylon 5 so far, called Babylon 5 the Lost Tales.  A direct-to-DVD special, it was released in the United States on July 31st, 2007. This was shortly after San Diego Comic-Con that year, where JMS brought the special to be screened and gave out a special gift. It was a six-page exclusive comic written by him and drawn by Kaare Andrews (known for Spider-Man Reign, Iron Fist, and covers for Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe).

The special comic details Dr. Stephen Franklin purchasing a special ship with which he plans to leave "known space" and explore the galaxy.  What he does not plan on is former Narn Ambassador and prophet G'Kar showing up to accompany him on his journey.  Reluctantly Franklin agrees to the company, and G'Kar and Franklin leave Babylon 5 to explore the galaxy, with their names becoming legends wherever they go.

Behind the scenes, the comic was done as a celebration and memorial for the actors Richard Biggs (who played Dr. Stephen Franklin) and Andreas Katsulas (who played G'Kar), both of who had passed away before the Lost Tales was done. A touching tribute, the comic was given out at JMS's panel at SDCC and was included only with first printing releases of the Lost Tales sold exclusively at Best Buy. This is very similar to the Futurama Returns! comic that was released the same year and method, but the Babylon 5 comic has also never been reprinted, making the comic extremely rare to find and obscure. If you'd like to get a copy, they are tough to find but range in price, with the Lost Tales DVD or without, from $20 to $60 if you can find one.


This post is part of a multi-part series: Obscure Comics.

About Ian Melton

Japanese Teacher, Comic Book, Manga, & Anime collector, LCBS worker, father of 2, fan of far too many things for far too long...