Glenn Dakin, author of Mr Spocks Little Book of Mindfulness, Quibbles with Tribbles and the Star Trek Cocktails: A Stellar Compendium, joins Trek Central for a chat about his recent publications from Hero Collector.
An author and illustrator, Glenn Dakin has been working in the industry for many years. Creating his own original comics and books including the Candle Man book series. He has also worked on some of the biggest film and TV franchises that include Disney, Ghostbusters, Star Wars, Batman to name but a few. His recent Star Trek work with Hero Collector has been hitting the shelves over the past couple of months and we sat down with him to discuss his work.
Trek Central: Hi Glenn, how are things, how are you coping in lockdown?
Glenn Dakin: We’re fine here. I’m with my wife and my 19-year-old son. My wife works in journalism. She’s an editor at Reuters and I’m a writer, so we’re pretty much able to carry on working. Our son’s doing college on zoom and, yeah we are all right at the moment. We’re in a little bubble of our own and just getting on with things.
Trek Central: I wanted to start by asking how you started in the industry. Was being a writer and illustrator something that you always wanted to do?
Glenn Dakin: I started because I like creating my own comics. I used to do my own photocopied fanzines and I started going to comic conventions, well, not really comic conventions, but there used to be one in London, Westminster Hall in the eighties. It was a way you could meet people like Alan Moore who was walking around, and you could meet and talk to a lot of people in the industry. So that’s kind of how I got off the ground. I would just sometimes do a little comic and print up about 50 of them, you know, and try to sell them. There was a stand called fast fiction stand and they used to sell comics on your behalf, so you didn’t have to spend all day at the table, selling your comics. You could wander around and meet other people, go down to the pub and stuff. I started off in that world of self-publishing comics and I found that through that world a lot of the people that I knew ended up going on to be editors and things like that. Later on, people were saying well “why don’t you submit stories to Marvel UK?” So, I started writing stuff for Marvel UK, and I wrote a couple of pieces for Star Trek Monthly, but I was mainly writing funny adventure comics like Ghostbusters and things. and, so I kind of started out through that world, but I kind of slowly became more of a writer than a cartoonist because I started off drawing all my own comics, but I found it a lot easier to write than to draw. You can just get a lot more done more quickly, or I can as a writer. So, people started asking me to write stuff. I ended up becoming a comics editor as well because they invited me to apply for a job at Marvel UK as an editor. Once I got on the inside of the industry one thing led to another and people just started offering me chances to write comics and write magazines and things like that.
Trek Central: What was your early influences when you started writing and drawing? I’ve looked at some of your back catalogue and some of your illustration work, like your book, Abe [Wrong for all the Right Reason] has a look of Roald Dhal to it.
Glenn Dakin: My Influences really came from all over the place. I used to like reading American newspaper cartoons like the Wizard of Id, and cartoon strips like BC, so I was very influenced by people like Schultz and Johnny Hart, the American cartoonist. I was also very influenced by all the Marvel comics because I used to love the fact that in Spider-Man, the early Spider-Man comics, you were more interested in his love life than you were in Spider-Man. I was really keen to read all the soap opera bits of him going out with Gwen or arguing with J Jonah Jameson about selling photographs. So that really influenced me. I used to like the slices of real-world life that came in drawing wise.
I was always interested in kind of scribbly scratchy drawing. I wouldn’t have thought of it as being Roald Dhal style, but it was definitely my own kind of style. You mean Quentin Blake (Roald Dhal book artists). I’ve actually got one of Quentin’s Blake’s pens at home. I drew one of the cartoons in Mr. Spocks Book of Mindfulness with that pen. I worked on a Roald Dhal Magazine for about two years and I had to interview Quentin Blake because I was writing Roald Dhals life story in a comic strip. At the end of it all, they let me have one of his pens. Have you ever seen those old football comics Like Billy’s boots? Where if the boy wears the boots of a famous footballer that he can play like them, well, anyway, I was hoping that like Billies Boots when I drew with Quentin Blake’s pen, I would suddenly draw like him.
Trek Central: You mentioned about working for Marvel, but you’ve also worked on some quite big franchises with the likes of Ghostbusters, Pixar and even Star Wars. Coming on to Star Trek, is it more difficult, more pressured to work on those sorts of brands than it would say on your own work such as Candle Man in which you’ve got the freedom to come up with a lot of original content. Is working on those brands is a bit more pressurized and a bit more restricted?
Glenn Dakin: It’s incredibly restricted. Because when I worked, for example, on those Star Wars: The Clone Wars books, you had to live and breathe it. Say you’re working on a project for three months I had to literally watch every minute of every episode of Clone Wars, making notes and completely immersed myself in that world so that everything that I wrote for the book would ring true. You know, I didn’t want the fans to pick up the book and think “this guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about”. Whatever I work on, I feel like I have to take on the mindset and immerse myself in the world while doing it. It can disappear afterwards. Like now, if I were to take a basic quiz about Star Wars: The Clone Wars, I probably wouldn’t do very well. I’ve replaced it all with Star Trek. They also don’t really let you make things up. There was one thing I made up in the whole of those Star Wars books I managed to sneak in a fact that hadn’t appeared in any of the movies or animations. So, there was one of my own original ideas in those books.
The good thing about working on franchises is that you know your stuff is going to get published because I’ve spent a lot of time working on books and comics that don’t ever come out because you can’t find a publisher. At least when you’re working on, like recently, I’ve been doing a lot of work connected with Star Trek and I’ve been writing a lot of articles about Batman, at least you know you’ve got an audience for them, which is not always the case with something like Candle Man.
Trek Central: I imagine with the franchises, especially with the likes of Star Wars and Star Trek fans, the hardcore fans, they know their stuff don’t they, so as you say, if you put a foot wrong, they’re going to call you out on it.
Glenn Dakin: I know, that’s the trouble with doing franchises. I mean I’ve done quite a few Star Trek podcasts, and I was a bit anxious at the first one. I just thought these people are gonna know a lot more about Star Trek than I do. I come at it from a more creative point of view, you know, I like to invent things. I like the stories, but I don’t know the name of the third security guard on the left, or I don’t know the name of who directed an episode. It would be a rare occasion when I would know all the background facts. I’m more interested in it as a fantasy, I like the ideas and the characters. As a writer, I like the stories, the concepts, the imagination. I’m not really a ‘behind the scenes’ man. I sometimes find it spoils something for me if I know too much about it. If I’m working on a Star Trek thing, I like to watch the episodes and find out about it. I’m not a Star Trek, super nerd who would know that stuff.
Trek Central: What brought you to Hero Collector? And did they approach you or was it through an agent?
Glenn Dakin: Well, I’ve been working for them for quite a while because Hero Collector emerged out of another company called Eaglemoss. Over the years, Eaglemoss have done lots of varied things and they asked me to get involved. I was writing the life story of Roald Dhal as a comic strip, as I told you. I’ve worked on the Spider-Man project for them, and I’ve worked in house as an editor for them and as a creative consultant on various new things, so they knew me for a long time. Like Ben Robinson (Editorial Manager Global Developments) of Hero Collector, he and I have known each other for quite a few years. We worked on lots of things together, and we’ve often discussed Star Trek in our coffee break. We talk about Discovery and Lower decks, “what do you think of this? What do you think of that?”, we’re always swapping notes. Ben had the idea about doing Mr. Spock’s Book of Mindfulness and he immediately thought of me cause I’m always doing yoga and talking about philosophical things with him. He actually came up to me and said, “what do you think of this idea?” And I said “Oh, it sounds great” to which he replied, “good you’re writing it”.
Trek Central: Is that how it tends to work then? Does Ben come to you with ideas and then it gets fleshed out? Or is it a two-way street? like with the Quibbles with Tribbles book, whose concept was that?
Glenn Dakin: No, that came up through the other side of the company, Stella Bradley (Head of New Product Development) oversees new products, and that idea came through Stella. She had the idea of doing the kind of next-level Where’s Wally. So, we thought of creating a more layered, more complicated book where instead of looking just for one thing (i.e. Wally), you’re looking for lots of funny quirky things that shouldn’t be there. It was taking it and making something for real fans to nit-pick over. The Star Trek cocktails came through that side of the company as well. It’s very much of a team effort here and there’s a lot of chat that goes on over coffee breaks or lunch breaks and sometimes an idea comes from one direction or another, but there’s always loads of consultation. There is lots of creativity coming in from other people.
Trek Central: Speaking of the cocktails book then, how did the content come about for the book? Who came up with the cocktails and did you try them out before you put them in the book?
Glenn Dakin: Originally it started out more as an idea for a party book celebrating Star Trek, but as we looked at the idea of the party book, it seemed to be the cocktails was the most fun side of it so the cocktails kind of took over. Once I started looking at the subject of Star Trek and drink, it was amazing how often drink had been referenced in Star Trek and how exotic they were and what fun some are those drinks were. And there were lots of scenes in the movies and in all the different series that famously had drink references.
Like with Scotty drinking the aliens under the table in the episode, ‘By Any Other Name’ or the fight breaking out in ‘Trouble with Tribbles’ where Chekov says, “Scotch was invented by a little old lady from Leningrad”. Then you go right through to DS9 where Basheer says he wants to drink to relax him and Quark gives him the warp core breach, which is like a smoking goldfish bowl. There were loads of fun references. We looked at the drinks that already existed in Star Trek, like the Sumerian sunset, Doctor McCoy’s mint Julep and things like this, but we also invented some new ones.
I would often come up with a concept for a drink, like Ice Planet for instance. I would say I would like a really good blue slushie type cocktail and then look to base it on an existing cocktail because we wanted the cocktails to taste really good. So we’d often base them on drinks that we knew would work. I worked with two cocktail mixologists, one in France, and one in the UK who checked and tweaked the recipes to make sure that they wouldn’t kill people and be very enjoyable to drink. Ben also came up with some of the names of the cocktails. “we must have a Klingon on bird of prey” but then I would come up with a concept for what that drink would be. You know, there had to be a good foundation for the drink to exist. I’d invent the mythology behind the drink, or I would take it from the series.
Trek Central: Did you try any of the cocktails out? And if so, have you got a favourite that you particularly liked?
Glenn Dakin: Because of the lockdown situation, I was basing a lot of the cocktails on ones that I had already had in my life or that I remembered I liked. For instance, the Flaming Sirena, which is based on a flaming Lamborghini which you can set fire to the sambuca. I like the Spock ones in the book. The Spock Slipper which has got Midori in it which is a very nice melon based Japanese lacquer. In fact, Midori is the Japanese word for green, so it’s basically like Spock’s blood. There is the Live Long and Prosper where we wanted to have a cocktail with a kind of refreshing sparkly to it, one that wasn’t too alcoholic, although it does have Tequila in it, it also has Trixie bubble juice, which is mentioned in DS9. It is actually created with a mixture of guava juice and sparkling water, and that’s kind of a fun one. So I kind of like the Spock ones, quite a lot.
Trek Central: I’m really looking forward to trying some once lockdown is over. I plan to have a Star Trek inspired cocktail party.
Glenn Dakin: One which I haven’t tasted actually but which has gone down well, has been the Jean Luc Earl Gray Martini, people have said it’s quite hard to make a good Earl Grey cocktail. I’ve seen people on Twitter, who’ve made it and liked it and I’ve had a couple of messages about it. You might like to try that one. The Ice Planet is great, it’s a really nice one. That’s a real treat that one because it recreates and is based on Rura Penthe, the Klingon prison in the Undiscovered Country. Rura Penthe is supposed to have Dilithium Crystals under the surface. So we had the cocktail that was icy but concealed an interesting taste sensation within it. We had Curacao in there, which is like an orange flavour lacquer followed by the blue colouring and then we had the ice. At the end of it, you pour lemonade just over the top, which creates a kind of atmosphere, or mist. There was a kind of artistry to that one and that was with the help of the cocktail mixologists working with my original idea.
Trek Central: I will make sure they are top of my list to try. In terms of Mr Spocks Book of Mindfulness, was that a conscious decision to do that now? Obviously with lockdown and the situation that people find themselves in it’s a book that could offer some comical escapism as well as some helpful insights.
Glenn Dakin: That book was actually thought up before and discussed for almost a year before we did it because we didn’t know whether it would work. Ben and I spent quite a lot of time, a few coffee breaks, chatting over what could be in it. But ultimately, I had to go away and write it. Quite a lot of it was written in the lockdown and a lot of the drawing was done in the lockdown as well so I think in a way, some of it was a response to that and what was going on around me. Even before we had all the nonsense of COVID. We had a lot of other things going on in the world which was turned upside down with the way politics was going in England and America and Brexit and Trump and all this. Quite a lot of people kind of had a feeling of the world steering a little bit off course, and in a world turned upside down, who better to look towards for some sanity and reason than the very logical calm, insightful Mr. Spock, because he can raise an eyebrow at the craziness of our world and give us some wisdom.
It gave me an excuse to watch lots of episodes of my favourite series (TOS) and the movies again to find some interesting thoughts that we could apply to everyday life. It’s not really just for Star Trek fans, I mean my mum has read it, so it can just be a little thoughtful thing about family or about accepting change or about romance, you know. How did we go wrong? Why do we always make mistakes in these things? A lot of it is about just ordinary life, which I think is a nice thing about it.
Trek Central: I think that’s what I liked about it is the fact that it’s all relatable to real life situations.
Glenn Dakin: I mean to me; I’ve always liked comics and cartoons that have a bit of wisdom in them. One of my favourite cartoonists is American Johnny Hart. Johnny Hart is very satirical and makes fun of society. He uses cavemen, or a little feudal society like in the Wizard of Id and he would often say something true about real life. Also a lot of the old Stan lee’s scripts in Spider-Man or his other comics, they would often have really clever observations about human nature in them. They were very true to real life and I always loved it when the fantasy had something to say about my life as well. You can find that in most of the best fantasy can’t you. I really wanted the Mr. Spock’s Book of Mindfulness to surprise people. It begins as a quote from ‘The Devil in the Dark’, for example, but by the end of the chapter, you realize that the things in it can be applied to your own life.
Trek Central: Have you always been a Star Trek fan or is it more in recent years you have become a fan?
Glenn Dakin: I was a fan of Star Trek when I was a kid. I mean, I just missed the first series first two series being broadcast. I saw the repeats on the BBC. Back in the early seventies. I have been basically a fan of Star Trek from the early seventies and pretty much know all the episodes inside out and back to front
Trek Central: I’m not too sure if you can mention this or not, but have you got anything that you’re working on that you can tell us about that might be getting released soon or next year?
Glenn Dakin: Well there’s the Quibbles with Tribbles, which was set in Star Trek The Original Series. Now I’m working on the follow-up to that, which is based on The Next Generation. I’m working on Next Generation Nerd Search. I am working on other projects, but I do have to keep a couple of them under wraps.
Trek Central: Can we expect The Next Generation Nerd Search this year?
Glenn Dakin: I’m hoping it’s going to be out later this year for next Christmas, probably. but I’m still working on it at the moment in the conceptual stage. It means that all the other dominoes have got to fall into place, like the artwork etc. I’m hoping that’s going to be doable, we’ll see.
Check out Glenn Dakins website at http://www.glenndakin.com
See Glenns Hero Collector Articles here https://www.herocollector.com/en-gb/About/glenn-dakin
Follow Glenn on Twitter https://twitter.com/GlennDakin
Are you a fan of the recent Hero Collector Books? Have you tried any of the cocktails yet? Get involved and let us know your thoughts.
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