The “V” Franchise
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 was a two-part, four-hour sci-fi miniseries that aired in May 1983. Its success spawned a sequel miniseries called V: The Final Battle that aired in May 1984). That led to a short-lived weekly television series also called simply V but I prefer to call it V: The Series. It ran for 19 episodes between October 1984 and March 1985.
The franchise produced a slew of collectibles and memorabilia, much of it released in 1984: 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 .
Outliving V: The Series was 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. It was first published in April 1984. The New York Times called it an “unusual multimedia event” because it would hit shelves shortly before V: The Final Battle aired on television . Pinnacle approached NBC during the summer of 1983 about novelizing V, explaining how “bookstores could provide a whole new showcase for television promotion” and the publisher ultimately ordered a first printing of an astounding 850,000 books . Pinnacle 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” . 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 1984 through July 1985. A final Pinnacle novel came out in September 1985. Here’s a list of the Pinnacle novels, their authors and release dates:
|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 1987 and May 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:
|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 1985 and July 1986. The comic series was written by Cary Bates and penciled, for the most part, by Carmine Infantino. Because comic books are typically dated two months after they’re published, the first issue was likely available in December 1984 and the final issue in May 1986. That means only three or four issues were released while V: The Series was still on the air. I haven’t read all 18 issue but it’s clear from the start that even if the creative staff were trying to stay true to the TV series, 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 1986 (with a cover date of May 1986), more or less wrapped up the various storylines introduced in earlier issues. The final pages mirrored the opening minutes of the final episode 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. A storyline unique to the comics 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.
The last episode of V: The Series ended quite differently.
In the fan mail (“V-Mail”) pages at the end of issue #16, DC Comics editor Robert Greenberger–writing on November 3rd, 1985–wrote about the end of the comic series:
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. 
The final two issues, with cover dates of June and July 1986, featured a flashback story focusing on the character of Elias Taylor.
V: The Second Generation
In February 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. In November 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 led into V: The Second Generation.
2 Farber, Stephen. “TV ‘V’ Now A Book.” New York Times. 11 Apr. 1984: C.26.
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.