Sunday, March 11, 2012

On the Coffee Table: A Long Time Ago....

Title: Star Wars Omnibus: A Long Time Ago...., Volume 1

Image via Wookiepedia

Let me begin by saying that I love the blogosphere. I can post about Chewbacca, then thoughtful, articulate people will read my post and even offer differing opinions about Wookiee linguistics. Ours is a beautiful, beautiful world.

In the summer of 1977, not long after the release of the original Star Wars film, Marvel Comics launched a comic book series to capitalize on the mania. The comic was so successful that many within the company have claimed that Star Wars practically saved Marvel from financial ruin. Dark Horse Comics, the current license-holders for Star Wars comics, have included the old Marvel books among their Omnibus collections. I just finished Volume 1 which includes Marvel Star Wars issues 1-27. I have many thoughts to share so I'd better get cracking.

Film Adaptation

The first six issues of the Marvel Star Wars series comprise the comic book adaptation of the original movie. Most of the material used would be very familiar to anyone who knows the film, although there are a few extras drawn from other Lucas source material. Luke's Tatooine back story, for instance, is better developed. We also see the Han Solo/Jabba the Hut (notice, just one t) docking bay confrontation which was missing from the original film but which George Lucas managed to work back into later, updated versions. Jabba's physical appearance, however, was remarkably different in this early interpretation (Jabba's on the left):

Further Adventures

Star Wars #7: New Planets, New Perils! is where Star Wars's Expanded Universe begins. This was the first new story in the Star Wars galaxy after the original film, in this case following the further adventures of Han Solo and Chewbacca on a Seven Samurai-inspired story arc. It is only appropriate that the first new SW story should follow the plot of an Akira Kurosawa film as A New Hope was largely modeled on the Japanese master's Hidden Fortress.

Star Wars #16: The Hunter contains the first story led by characters other than the originals. In fact, our familiar gang is only mentioned in passing. The main good guys are Jaxxon, a six-foot tall, green, carnivorous rabbit (Star Wars meets Harvey?), and Amaiza, his buxom, scantily clad sidekick. Both were initially introduced as part of Han's posse in the Seven Samurai arc.

The bad guy is Valance the Hunter. Apparently, the idea of a story without Luke, Han or Leia wasn't too appealing as it's the only one of the 27 collected here that strayed so far. #16 is, in fact, the last appearance for either Jaxxon or Amaiza. Valance is actually a pretty intriguing villain and he managed to hang around a bit longer. His story extends to issue #29, as yet unread by me.

Image via Comic Vine


There are five official levels of Star Wars canon. I won't bore you anymore than necessary but here's the Wikipedia link if you'd like to learn more about them. The Marvel comics are an interesting case. They are officially S-canon, a lower level than the more recent Dark Horse titles. As the entire Star Wars concept was so new, Marvel took the story in directions that were eventually contradicted by the films themselves. However, since the Marvel storylines have nearly all been referenced in other C-canon stories, many individual Marvel issues can be considered C-canon.

Archie Goodwin

My Wife has what is best described as an eye-rolling tolerance for my Star Wars enthusiasm. There are, however, occasionally moments when my interests intersect with hers. She is a big fan of mystery novels and the Nero Wolfe series is one of her favorites. We are both big fans of the TV series and have recently introduced the shows to our daughter as well. Those of you familiar with Mr. Wolfe already know that his legman, and the narrator of the stories, is named Archie Goodwin. Archie Goodwin is also the name of the main writer for Marvel's Star Wars series. The real-life AG was told by his first publishing company that he couldn't use the name as a nom de plume because of the fictional character. When he explained it was his real given name, they were delighted by the promotional opportunity.

Final Thoughts...For Now

I'm definitely up for more. This series provides what I've been yearning for with the Dark Horse books: stories with the characters I know and love, as opposed to reasonable facsimiles. I'm also now curious about older sci-fi comics, particularly the old Flash Gordon and Buck Rodgers strips. Flash Gordon, especially, was another big influence on George Lucas.


  1. S-canon and C-canon? It sounds as complicated as the DC Comics universe with all the alternate universes and parallel dimensions and whatnot. Yeesh.

    1. Not quite - guess I should have explained better. It's a measurement of which stories are closest to the Lucas-endorsed continuity. The films are in the highest canon, a couple of the TV series in the next, and so forth. The Dark Horse comics are C-canon, the third highest. The Marvel comics are S, the fourth.