Review: Star Trek – The Art of Juan Ortiz / Author: Juan Ortiz / Publisher: Titan Books / Release Date: Out Now
Puerto Rico-born artist Juan Ortiz has become something of a sensation in Star Trek circles recently. A former illustrator for the likes of Disney and DC Comics, the artist embarked on a project to create retro style posters for every episode of the original series. Over the last year or so Ortiz has produced an original poster for each of the 80 episodes, which have been reproduced on everything from fine art prints to T-shirts and even shot glasses. Now for the first time all 80 posters are gathered together in Star Trek: The Art of Juan Ortiz, a labour of love for the artist and a wonderful companion piece for fans.
Taking in a wide variety of influences, including Saul Bass, Jack Kirby and even Terry Gilliam, Ortiz beautifully condenses the plot and tone of each episode down to a single image. This sees the Jack the Ripper escapades of Wolf in the Fold rendered as a 1960s horror B-movie. Meanwhile the notorious Way to Eden, where the Enterprise is commandeered by hippies, is reimagined as a psychedelic piece that wouldn’t look out of place as a Hendrix album cover.
Whilst the majority are done in the style of movie posters, Ortiz occasionally looks to other sources for his inspiration. Mirror, Mirror is styled as a poster for a boxing match (with Spock facing off to his mirror universe counterpart), The Gamesters of Triskelion is reimagined as a Marvel-style comic and By Any Other Name becomes a toy advert. Ortiz doesn’t discriminate between the good and bad episodes. The City of the Edge of Forever and Space Seed both have memorable posters (the latter used as the cover art) but the infamous Spock’s Brain is treated with equal love, resulting in a superb Pythonesque image with the Vulcan’s head flipped open.
The artist also allows his imagination to run free, taking the opportunity to expand upon certain episodes. Amok Time shows dragons on Vulcan, whereas A Piece of the Action turns the human-imitating beings of Sigma Iotia II into tentacled shapeshifters. The Gorn also get a revamp, with the artist imagining what they might have looked like without the restrictions of a modest 1960s television budget.
Whilst Ortiz does a remarkable job in keeping the images varied, there are however a few occasions where he comes close to repeating himself. A couple of stylised images of Kirk make multiple appearances, and there’s a recurring theme of giant, threatening hands reaching out for the Enterprise, but for the most part this is a stunning collection and a worthy addition to any Trek fan’s coffee table. (And if you don’t have a coffee table, this book is the perfect reason to get one.)
Star Trek: The Art of Juan Ortiz is more than a love letter to Star Trek. It’s a beautifully designed tribute to movies, classic TV shows, comics, music – in short, everything you love. Those who aren’t Trek will appreciate it for its diverse styles and its nostalgic appeal. For those who are into Star Trek, it takes something you know and love and lets you see it again from a new perspective. At a time when Star Trek’s cinematic incarnation is blandly recycling elements from the classic series, it’s a delight to see something that takes the series and finds something fresh to say about it. Ortiz has just finished a new set of prints picturing the 22 episodes of The Animated Series. Here’s hoping he continues covering all of the series’ various incarnations. Essential.