Friday, November 11, 2011

Tales From the Long Box: Star Wars #1 (1977)

Every week Seth goes into his back issue bins, picks out a single issue, story arc, or creative run, pours through it and then writes about it. He calls it Tales from the Long Box. Though old and now either retconned out of existence or made irrelevant by the latest event, these books still share something in common... they're bagged, boarded, and a part of comics history.

Star Wars #1 (1977)

In the way of introductions, this one is probably going to have little to do with the book I'm to be writing about.

As a kid I was obsessed with Star Wars. I watched the original trilogy on VHS constantly, studying every aspect from the shot compositions to the set designs and costumes. Mind you, at the time I didn't view these things in their technical terms. I was learning about the ships and the clothing and the style of a galaxy far, far away. I was obsessed. I read the Thrawn trilogy, and that opened the door to the wider extended universe of the novels, and video games that were licensed by Lucasfilm.

When the original trilogy was rereleased to theaters in their special edition form I watched those too. I distinctly remember seeing A New Hope for the first time on a big screen and cheering my lungs out over the opening crawl. I owned the soundtracks in multi-disc cd collections, collected action figures... basically I took in Star Wars in every format I could get. Then Phantom Menace came along. When Phantom Menace was announced I was at the height of my Star Wars fandom. I camped out for two days with my older sister to get tickets. Opening night I sat surrounded by my family and friends. When the Lucasfilm logo appeared onscreen the place erupted.  

Nothing in film or any other form of entertainment has ever managed to hit me on the level that Star Wars did as a teen. I was totally, hopelessly, completely lost in it. Unlike a lot of people I love Phantom Menace and the subsequent two chapters that followed it. They never attained the wonder and magic of the original trilogy but they expanded the story, the characters and the universe as a whole. They were Star Wars, and at that point in my life anything that was Star Wars was just fine by me.

Yet some how I completely missed the old Marvel Star Wars comics. Sure I'd read comics set within Lucas' world but I'd missed the comics that were an adaptation of the original trilogy. At some point in the early 00's I happened upon an incomplete run of the Star Wars titles in a quarter bin. So many of my old back issues have been found in quarter bins...

I bought them, bagged and boarded them, and quickly forgot about them.

This past week I pulled issue one of the Marvel-published Star Wars series out with the sole intention of writing about it for this column. I couldn't be happier that I did. This is a really amazing blast of nostalgia. A blaster shot across the bow of my Star Destroyer of geekiness.

Written by Roy Thomas and drawn by Howard Chaykin, this is one of those classic comic series that, even if you're not a fan of the universe, you've at least heard about if you're a comics fan. It was published in the late 70's, and was on newstands before Star Wars: episode IV had even hit theaters. It reads like some bizarre interpretation of the film as imagined by a kid who was anxiously awaiting the movie at the time. There are whole scenes lifted from the film, but dialogue is different, and many scenes play out quite differently than how they did onscreen. One scene in particular boasts Darth Vader holding a coffee mug in one hand while choking out Admiral Motti. How will Vader drink coffee whilst wearing his mask?!? It's one of the great mysteries this comic poses and one of the aspects of it that I absolutely fell in love with.

There are scenes here that were in the original Lucas-penned screenplay for A New Hope that were later exorcised from the final version. Luke meeting up with Biggs at Anchorhead, and the original introduction to Luke on Tatooine where we find him watching the stars are both in here. It's a fun read, if wordy and filled with exposition.

Roy Thomas and Howard Chaykin are both legends in comics. Thomas in particular has written everyone from the All Star Squadron and the Avengers to Batman. It's interesting to see him working inside the Star Wars universe before it would become a cultural phenomenon. This was published prior to the films release and it's interesting to see the model of expanding the film universe through other media before the original movie was even released. George Lucas' true genius was in his ability to capitalize on what he had available and to see the possibilities of utilizing every aspect of entertainment media to tell his story.

The Marvel series was used as much as a promotional tool as it was to expand and adapt the feature films. That approach to advertising was revolutionary, and getting to go back and read these early issues of the series is as fascinating as it is entertaining.

While certainly not the best comic ever made it did have a massive affect on the medium, and, on every aspect of entertainment. A great deal of the early success of Star Wars can be traced to this series. Issue one of the Star Wars comics is a must for anyone who loves Star Wars or just comics in general. It's a fun read, and comes loaded with nostalgia.

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