Bookshelf: V Novels and Comic Books

I’m trying something new today. Rather than reviewing a single novel or comic book I’m going to discuss all of the tie-in novels and comics to NBC’s V (referred to here as V: The Miniseries) and its spin-offs. V: The Miniseries, a two-part, four-hour sci-fi miniseries originally broadcast in May of 1983, spawned a sequel miniseries (V: The Final Battle, broadcast in May of 1984), a short-lived weekly television series (V: The Series, broadcast from October of 1984 to March of 1985) and a slew of collectibles and memorabilia, much of it released in 1984. There was a metal lunchbox (with plastic thermos) from Aladdin, a set of 66 trading cards and stickers from Fleer, an “Enemy Visitor” action figure from LJN and toy guns from Arco. LJN was set to produce an additional series of action figures in 1985 but due to the failure of V: The Series the figures were never produced [1].

Outliving V: The Series, however, were a series a novels from Pinnacle Books and a comic book adaptation from DC Comics. Author A. C. Crispin wrote a roughly 400-page novelization of both V: The Miniseries and V: The Final Battle for Pinnacle, first published in April of 1984. The New York Times called it an “unusual multimedia event” given that it would hit shelves shortly before V: The Final Battle appeared on television [2]. Pinnacle had approached NBC during the summer of 1983 about novelizing V, explaining that “bookstores could provide a whole new showcase for television promotion” and ultimately ordered a first printing running an astounding 850,000 books [3]. The publisher hoped V: The Final Battle would draw attention to the novelization while NBC felt that the novelization would promote V: The Final Battle.

Both V: The Final Battle and the novelization were successful and Pinnacle commissioned additional original novels based on the franchise. Following Crispin’s novelization was V: East Coast Crisis, which retold the events of V: The Miniseries and V: The Final Battle from the point of view of New York City resistance fighters. Pinnacle editors gave authors “pretty much a free hand,” according to Tim Sullivan, who wrote the fifth novel, V: The Florida Project, but “you just can’t contradict what’s on TV — so it’s good they’ve shown us the first two scripts” [4]. The next novel, V: The Pursuit of Diana, followed the events of V: The Final Battle yet heavily contradicted the events of V: The Series, so apparently those initial scripts weren’t much help.

Additional novels were published, once a month, from December of 1984 through July of 1985. A final Pinnacle novel came out in September of 1985. Here’s a list of the Pinnacle novels, their authors and release dates:

Pinnacle Novels

Title Author(s) Released
V A.C. Crispin May 1984
V: East Coast Crisis Howard Weinstein and A.C. Crispin Sep 1984
V: The Pursuit of Diana Allen Wold Dec 1984
V: The Chicago Conversion George W. Proctor Jan 1985
V: The Florida Project Tim Sullivan Feb 1985
V: Prisoners and Pawns Howard Weinstein Mar 1985
V: The Alien Swordmaster Somtow Sucharitkul Apr 1985
V: The Crivit Experiment Allen Wold May 1985
V: The New England Resistance Tim Sullivan Jun 1985
V: Death Tide A.C. Crispin and Deborah A. Marshall Jul 1985
V: The Texas Run George W. Proctor Sep 1985

In 1987, Tor Books acquired the license to publish novels based on the franchise. Between September of 1987 and May of 1988 the company published five additional novels, most of which were written by authors from the Pinnacle era. Here’s a list of those novels:

Tor Novels

Title Author(s) Released
V: Path To Conquest Howard Weinstein Sep 1987
V: To Conquer the Throne Tim Sullivan Nov 1987
V: The Oregon Invasion Jayne Tannehill Jan 1988
V: Below the Threshold Allen Wold Mar 1988
V: Symphony of Terror Somtow Sucharitkul May 1988

DC Comics published 18 issues of a comic book adaptation between February of 1985 and July of 1986, written by Cary Bates and penciled, for the most part, by Carmine Infantino. Because comic books were typically dated two months after they were actually published, the first issue was likely available in December of 1984 and the final issue in May of 1986. That means only three or four issues were released while V: The Series was still on the air. I haven’t read all the issues but from what I can tell, even if the creative staff were trying to stay true to the television series, for whatever reason(s) the comic series takes quite a few liberties.

Here’s what I had to say about the continuity of the comic series in my review of the first issue:

The first question I had after reading this first issue was how it fit in the time line of V: The Series. My best guess is that it picks up the action shortly the first few episodes. Diana has returned to the mothership, Ham has threatened to kill Nathan and Los Angeles has become a free city. Judging from this issue alone there doesn’t appear to be any attempt to sync up the continuity of the television series with the comic book version. I assume it was written before the television series premiered.

The Visitors, for example, use some interesting technology in this issue that was never seen on screen. They have a hoverpad that can hold five armed troopers as well as jetpacks. And the Visitors still have a reverberation in their voices so Mike uses a “vocasimulator” to successfully impersonate a Visitor pilot.

The 16th issue of the comic series, published in March of 1986 (with a cover date of May 1986), more or less wrapped up the various story lines introduced during earlier issues. The final pages mirrored the opening minutes of the final episodes of V: The Series, with Mike Donovan, Julie Parrish and others trapped by a Visitor patrol only to listen in disbelief as the Visitors are recalled to the mother ship. According to the issue, it was the Visitor’s mysterious Leader who called the ceasefire. One unique storyline featured in the comic series was the introduction of Bron, the Leader’s son. When Bron is killed, the Leader decides to call an end to the conquest of Earth.

Of course, the last episode of V: The Series ended quite differently. In the fan mail (“V-Mail”) pages at the end of the issue, DC Comics editor Robert Greenberger — writing on November 3rd, 1985 — gave the following explanation

V is being cancelled with issue #18.

No doubt, you’re crying out, “Why?” Let me explain.

There have been a variety of factors that led us to cancel this series after a year and a half. First and foremost, the sales began slipping just about the time the TV series went off the air last March. We were tracking the figures carefully–despite the six-month delay in getting accurate numbers–and it was spiraling down enough to concern us all.

[...]

It was becoming increasingly difficult for Cary and me to retain our enthusiasm when we had this stone well in front of us. We each had ideas and plans for the LA Resistance and the crew aboard the LA Mothership. We were going to take the now-concluded story line featuring Bron and travel around the country visiting different cities. We were going to bring in Lydia’s brother, expand our coverage of the Fifth Column, and actually cause Kyle more grief than he has seen in recent months. [5]

The final two issues, with cover dates of June and July 1986, featured a flashback story focusing on the character of Elias Taylor.

In February of 2008, Tor Books released V: The Second Generation, a new novel written by Kenneth Johnson (who created V: The Miniseries) that was set some two decades after V: The Miniseries but ignored the events of V: The Final Battle and V: The Series. Then, in November of 2008, Tor published V: The Original Miniseries, which reprinted A.C. Crispin’s novelization of V: The Miniseries and featured a new connecting story by Johnson that would lead into V: The Second Generation.

Works Cited:

1 According to a March 24th, 1985 United Press International article by Gail Collins that discussed the drawbacks of toy licensing, LJN threw a party in February of 1985 to celebrate its upcoming toy lines, which included both V and Street Hawk. The Street Hawk line was canceled while the V line was “not presently in production” (“Business World; Toy franchising business is high-rolling gamble for every RZDZ amd Kermit are hundred washouts egg-laying movies and canceled TV shows,” BC Cycle).
2 Farber, Stephen. “TV ‘V’ Now A Book.” New York Times. 11 Apr. 1984: C.26.
3 Ibid.
4 Slung, Michele. “V Goes On And On.” Washington Post. 26 Aug. 1984: Book World Page 15.
5 “V-Mail” [fan mail]. V v1 #16. DC Comics. May 1986: 24.

1 Comment

  • ejp says:

    Crispin’s novelization is if anything superior to what was broadcast, especially in regard to the inferior “Final Battle” miniseries. She manages to effectively make the two wildly disparate miniseries (the result of Kenneth Johnson’s departure from the project early in the process) blend more together especially since in the novelization the important characters of Daniel and Lynn Bernstein don’t disappear into non-existence like they do in “Final Battle”.

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