Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Something about that Space Wars thing everyone's talking about

It could hardly have escaped your notice (you *are* a person reading a comics blog) that there is a new Star Wars movie out this week.

I wanted to write something that ties in but I'm very aware that Lucas' greatest non-archaeologist creation is *extremely* well represented on the internet. Every odd spin-off and tie-in has been analysed and re-analysed by a billion bloggers before me so instead I'll just give a brief rundown before showing one of my favourite comic strips' take on the movies.

Star Wars comics first arrived published by Marvel in July 1977, the first few issues being a retelling of the movie, adapted by Roy Thomas with art by Howard Chaykin.
I love the "Marvel Style" of this era and its ridiculous hyperbole. "Will he SAVE the galaxy or DESTROY it?" That means nothing but looks cool on a cover. 

Darth Vader's helmet looks very off-model at this point too.

Viddy the cover of issue two with its take on the cantina scene:
WAY more exciting.

The history of movie tie-in comics at this point was not great. They were usually badly put together by people who had not seen the film, sometimes with little idea of the film was. 

While researching this blog I came across this truly amazing example of a Chinese comic (or illustrated story) based on Star Wars that strays so far from the original as to create its own fascinating art.

Nobody knew how big a cash cow Star Wars would be for anyone at this point so when Star Wars (Episode IV) hit big, bigger than pretty much anything ever, Marvel found themselves with a major hit comic.

So, from issue 7 on the comic gave us new adventure with the characters, following directly on from the events of the film. Lucas had requested the minimal use of Luke and Leia (perhaps because he was working on their familial relationship) so Thomas and Chaykin gave us mainly stories featuring Han, Chewy and new characters.

One character that Lucas objected to was called Jaxxon and first appeared in issue 8. Jaxxon was a smuggler from Coachelle Prime who agreed to help Han on a job in return for help fixing his spacecraft. Oh, and he looked like a six-foot humanoid green rabbit.
Now readers of a certain age and/or with a certain level of cultural awareness might look at Jaxxon, a humanoid green rabbit in a red jump-suit with a blaster...
and note his similarity to Bucky O'Hare, a humanoid green rabbit in a red jump-suit with a blaster.
But this *really* does seem to be a bizarre coincidence. Bucky's creator, Larry Hama, was originally working on the character while working at DC in 1978 before a legal argument scuppered plans to publish. His first appearance (seen above) was published by Continuity Comics in 1984, by which time Jaxxon had long since been buried. 

Now, let's croak us some toads:
Man, that is 90s as hell.

Jaxxon did eventually resurface as a joke on one of the alternate covers for Marvel's new Star Wars issue 1 earlier this year.
Meanwhile, the comics I remember from my childhood were published by Marvel UK, in the larger format we Brits are more used to.
Dig that "Valuable first issue!" And the more sedate printing of the strap-line. 

The British expectation of anthology comics meant the main Star Wars strip was backed up with other Marvel-owned strips, including Micronauts, Deathlok, Adam Warlock and some now-forgotten team of space adventurers called Guardians of the Galaxy.

Marvel continued publishing Star Wars comics (including adaptations of the other movies and tie-ins to Droids and Ewoks) until their licence expired in 1987. 

Dark Horse picked up the licence in 1991 and started by publishing the mini-series Dark Empire.
Dark Horse did lots of amazing things with the licence, taking the franchise forward in many interesting ways. Even when the prequel movies were released they could still claim their continuations were the official, canonical future of the Star Wars universe. And the fans were very happy with that.

Until the purchase of Star Wars by Disney (by now also the owners of Marvel) and the announcement of new movies and Marvel comics. So now all those stories "don't count".

So, I'm glad I never bothered with them.

The only DH Star Wars comics I remember reading was Tag and Bink Are Dead and its sequels.
A fun romp originally written by Kevin Rubio and drawn by Lucas Marangon it shows two minor Jedi (Jedis? Never pluralised it before) as they accidentally stumble through various key scenes from the original movies. Like Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Or Timon and Pumba in Lion King 3.

Anyway, Star Wars comics are back being published by Marvel and being written and drawn by the best modern comics have to offer and they are really, really good, which, speaking as a guy way more into Trek than Wars, is delightful. I've spent most of my life utterly indifferent to the franchise so it's nice to feel excited again.

Now, as promised, here's one of my favourites. Berkeley Breathed's Bloom County.
At the time Return of the Jedi was released, Breathed put his characters into a week-long Star Wars pastiche, taking pot-shots at the marketing tie-in along the way.
Perpetual dreamer Binkley views himself as Luke and his penguin pal Opus is as useless as ever as Artoo.
Vietnam vet Cutter John (more commonly seen as captain of the Enterprise in Bloom County's Star Trek fantasies) is seen as Han, his wheelchair having become a speeder bike.
Shady lawyer Steve Dallas is the villain, representing the snide critical opinions of the day.
And finally, Binkley confronts George Lucas himself. It's fun to note here the 1998 was the year the FIRST of the prequels came out, the plans for the third trilogy (at that time) having been abandonned. Imagine if Binkley had known he'd have wait a further 17 years for the final sequence to start.



  1. This seems like a good time to link to this American copy of Weirdstone of Brisingaman I own, and the artists response.


  2. The main thing I remember about reading the original Star Wars comic was that the scene in the docking bay where Jabba confronts Han was IN THE COMIC, even though it had been cut from the film. It had the line "you didn't have to fry Greedo", spoken in English by what looked like a slightly fat bloke. It would be a decade before I found out that fat bloke was Declan Mulholland, the scene had been filmed and cut, and another decade before Lucas put it back for the Special Editions with some bad CGI covering Mulholland's performance and subtitled Huttese covering his dialogue.

    1. It was commonplace for comics writers to work from versions of the script before the final edit. I have the Who Framed Roger Rabbit? adaptation which features a sequence with Eddie waking up with a cartoon pig's head.