Star Wars

Star WarsSummary: The original comic adaptation of the greatest space-fantasy film of all is remastered for the modern age! Weeks before George Lucas’ first Star Wars film hit theatres, Marvel gave fans their first look at Luke Skywalker, boldly asking: “Will he save the galaxy, or destroy it?” You may know the answer, but that doesn’t spoil the fun of seeing Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope like never before…including scenes that never made the silver screen! When Princess Leia is taken prisoner, Luke, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Han Solo, Chewbacca, C-3PO and R2-D2 ride to the rescue and take on Darth Vader in his awesome Death Star. It’s six against a galaxy – one that’s far, far away and a long time ago! May the Force be with you, in the mighty Marvel manner!

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Star Wars, by George Lucas, Roy Thomas and Howard Chaykin 7.5

Before I ever saw ‘Star Wars’, my dad treated me to a comic book adaptation called ‘Marvel Special Edition Featuring Star Wars 3‘. Published by Marvel Comics, this 1978 over-sized book collected all six volumes of their take on the motion picture in one 114-page set.

Needless to say, I devoured it many times over.

Sadly, my mother wasn’t too thrilled that her son was reading something called “Star Wars” and the book eventually disappeared. This didn’t stop me from exploring George Lucas’ fertile universe: I collected the cards and figurines. But I never read the comic again.

Flash forward to 2015, and Marvel Comics decided to re-issue it (no doubt to take advantage of the release of ‘The Force Awakens’) in a graphic novel format. All of the artwork, including the original and alternate covers are included – as are one sheets from the time.

However, it was Lucased: For some reason, the colours were redone in a more modern style. I suspect that the reason was simply that the old school dotted ink from the ’70s (I’m not sure, but I think it’s called Ben-Day dots) would have looked faded and lame nowadays.

But, frankly (like the original films that were also Lucased) I would have much preferred seeing it as is, as published, without the retouches. Yes, it would have looked quaint, but there’s something deeply disrespectful in erasing the original artists’ work just to modernize it.

So, on principle, even if it doesn’t stand the test of time, I’m all for leaving original work untouched.

In any event, the book was an amusing read. One has to understand that the first issue was published well before the film was even released, and no one at Marvel had any notion of what they held in their hands. So the adaptation is short on reverence for the material.

Unfortunately, there’s scant information on the production of the book: aside for a behind-the-scenes by the writer in the letters page and an introduction by Peter Mayhew, this collection stands as is: we don’t know if they used the script, a pre-screening of the movie, …etc.

But it’s clear that Marvel didn’t base themselves on the finished product: there are scenes in the comic book that are not in the movie, some characters are not exactly as they’d eventually end up, and some of the descriptive text embellishes what is seen on the screen.

Here are some of the notable differences:

  • On Tatooine, Luke and Biggs discuss the latter’s plans to join the rebellion. It’s mostly disposable, in that it changes nothing to the plot and it merely slows things down.
  • Jabba shows up after Han leaves the cantina! While this scene is well-known to non-purists, it wasn’t in the original movie. What’s notable here is just how different he looks – he looks nothing like the original actor who was shot at the time nor the Jabba from the Special Edition.

The one good thing is that Chaykin had all the creative freedom in the world to do what he wanted since Jabba wasn’t actually seen in the Star Wars universe for the first time until six years later! But man, is he different, with ape-like features and huge mutton chops. Talk about underwhelming!

  • They refer to Darth Vader as the Lord of the Sith. I mean, I’ve seen ‘Star Wars’ many times over and I didn’t realize that this was already established by the first film. And if it’s not in the film, was it in the original script? And if it wasn’t, then where did Thomas get that? Did he invent the term? I’ve done a quick scan online, but with all the Star Wars-related stuff it’s near-impossible to filter my way to an answer to this question…
  • Luke and Leia kiss on the mouth. A lot. In retrospect, it’s weird, but back in 1977 there was no harm in it whatsoever. Sure, give Luke a love interest. Why not? But I’d sure love to read Marvel’s adaptation of ‘Return of the Jedi’, when Luke tells her that they’re siblings and she says she’s always sort of known. Heh heh heh… how did they get out of that one, I wonder!

Oh, and for the record, yes, Han shoots first!

As is the case for most pre-’80s comic books, the art is merely serviceable. Chaykin does decent enough work, but it’s done in a style that is passé and wouldn’t make the cut these days. And there’s nothing that a new colouring job can do to improve the piece; it still looks dated.

What’s interesting is that I found the book far less exciting than the movie is. While it’s the same story, with mostly the same dialogues, it’s obvious that Chaykin’s eye was different from Lucas’ – plus which it’s a different medium. It just doesn’t pop like the movie does.

Having said that, Thomas and Chaykin’s interpretation of the finale was actually rather gripping stuff – even though it’s merely a space battle, and one that we’ve seen countless times. So it’s really just a matter of interpretation. And, for that reason alone, this book is worth a gander.

It’s not a marvel, but it’s certainly unique.

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