Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Unbelievably this summer marks the 30th anniversary of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. 30 years! That's three whole decades! That just doesn't seem possible.

Anyway, in honor of the anniversary, here's my rendition of Khan himself.

Khan first appeared in Star Trek's first season episode Space Seed. According to the episode, in the far off futuristic year of 1996, Khan Noonien Singh was a genetically engineered superman who conquered and ruled one quarter of the world. He was overthrown during the Eugenics Wars (I must have been asleep that day; I seem to have missed the headlines in the papers). Rather than execute him on the spot as you'd expect would happen, he and 80 of his followers were placed in cryogenic suspension, loaded into an multi-million dollar spaceship and shot into outer space, where they'd never cause any trouble or be heard from again.

Flash forward forward to the 23rd century when Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise just happen to find Khan's ship. Naturally they can't leave well enough alone and thaw him out. He then proceeds to use his smoldering good looks and sexy accent to take over the ship and unfreeze his remaining followers. Luckily for NBC Kirk eventually gets the upper hand and defeats Khan. Once again, instead of just cutting off his damned head as logic would dictate, Kirk decides to exile Khan and his followers on an uncolonized planet, where he'll never cause any trouble or be heard from again.

In Wrath of Khan we learn that shortly after being marooned by Kirk on Ceti Alpha V, an environmental cataclysm occured, turning the planet into a harsh and violent hellscape. All but twenty of Khan's followers are killed, including his wife. Seeking revenge, he finds a way off the planet, commandeers a Starfleet vessel and goes gunning for Captain Kirk, the man he blames for destroying his life.

Ricardo Montalban portrayed Khan in the TV series and the movie, as you no doubt know by now, and turned in quite a powerful performance. Many have speculated that Khan's impressive pectorals were in fact a rubber prosthetic, but cast and crew alike swear that he was just in great shape and his chest was indeed the real thing.

It seems unbelievable, but at no time during Wrath of Khan do Kirk and Khan ever appear together. They communicate through view screens and communicators only.

Many fans have objected to the fact that Khan recognizes Mr. Chekov, telling him that he never forgets a face, even though Chekov didn't join the series until the second season. This used to bother me as well, but I'm OK with it. Yeah, it's a mistake, but I'm willing to go along with it because it gave Chekov something to do besides sit behind a desk for the whole movie.

According to legend, the original title of the movie was actually Vengeance of Khan, but George Lucas reportedly objected because at the time he was developing Revenge of the Jedi and was afraid there'd be audience confusion, despite the fact that Jedi wasn't due to come out until the following year. So the Star Trek producers graciously changed the title to Wrath of Khan. Then someone over at Lucasfilm opened their desk drawer, took out a bottle, poured themselves a good stiff shot and pointed out to Lucas that Yoda himself said in the previous film that Jedi use the Force for knowledge and defense, never for revenge. So Lucas changed the title of his next opus to Return of the Jedi, making the whole name changing debacle moot.

To my knowledge this is the first time I've ever drawn Khan. I never realized what a complicated little outfit he wore. His little brown space cardigan is full of all kinds of fiddly little details. As I was looking for reference photos, I realized for the first time that Khan also carried a little man purse! Who knew? I guess even space despots need someplace to keep their keys and cell phone. I ended up having to leave out a few details and simplifying it a bit, or else I'd still be sitting here drawing him a month from now.

Director Nicholas Meyer told Montalban not to take the glove off his right hand throughout filming, to "add some mystery to the character," and no doubt inspire the King of Pop to do the same.

That's quite a magnificent mullet Khan is sporting too. According to the series timeline, only 15 years passed between Space Seed and Wrath of Khan. I guess it's possible for Khan to go from jet black hair to totally grey in 15 years, but it seems like a fancy superior lab-grown superman would have better genes. I guess life on Ceti Alpha V really was hell!

Although it's never stated onscreen, the creature he's holding is called a Ceti Eel.

Khan is a vector drawing, done all  in InDesign.
Here's the original sketch I did of Khan. At first I was just going to have him making a fist with his gloved hand and have the Eel crawling around his foot. Then I scrapped that plan and drew him holding the Eel by the tail.


  1. A ceti eel? At first glace I thought it was a cybermat!

  2. Eh, it's close I guess. The Ceti Eel is the thing that crawled into Chekov's ear and started controlling him.

  3. That "little man purse"...? Fashioned from a leftover scrap of soft Corinthian leather.

  4. He looks awesome! I love his man bag :)


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