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Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Looking back at Star Wars Weekly – issue 2

The cover of Star Wars Weekly issue two
February 15, 1978. In most of Britain, Star Wars had been on release for less than a week.   

That Wednesday saw the arrival of issue two of Star Wars Weekly – Marvel's UK version of the comic that the US had seen the previous year.

Since the UK film adaptation was spread out over twice as many issues as the US one, we got more covers than they did.  Here's the issue two cover depicting the Sandpeople's attack on Luke Skywalker:

 The added incentive for buying this issue was a free cut-out cardboard TIE fighter to go with the X-wing included in the previous week's issue.  As with the X-wing, it was so flimsy that I would imagine very few people's model survived to see 1979, let alone 2014, but here are the instructions for assembling it:

Instructions for assembling the TIE fighter that came with Star Wars Weekly issue two 

The comic included a one-page recap of the first part of the film adaptation, followed by nine new pages of the story.  The rest included a bit of blatant padding, an interesting two-page feature about Mark Hamill, the second part of the story 'The Forest for the Trees' (see my post about Star Wars Weekly 1) and the two-page opening installment of another, equally gloomy SF tale, 'Hey Buddy, can You Lend Me A...' ,  which originally appeared in the US in Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction in 1975.

As for the Star Wars adaptation itself, it's clear that writer Roy Thomas and artist Howard Chaykin had quite a challenge on their hands – aside from the fact that, as previously mentioned, they hadn't seen the film.  This section of the movie contains a lot of dialogue, and so the challenge was to take a large amount of talk and make it visually interesting. 

One of the most common complaints about Star Wars Weekly among my friends was that the drawings didn't look enough like the images in the film.  The main reason for this was that Chaykin had very little idea what the finished movie was going to look like.  But one thing those playground critics overlooked was that a comic which reproduced the film exactly would – especially in these early, talky scenes – feature a lot of panels that looked exactly the same as each other.  Instead, the strip makes very effective use of different sized frames and some striking angles and compositions to add a bit of drama to the conversations.  Take this page featuring Luke's angry conversation with  his Uncle Owen about his ambition to go to the Space Academy:

Luke quarrels with the family in the Marvel Star Wars adaptation

The strip also features the conference room conversation aboard the Death Star – the one in which Vader starts to remotely throttle an Imperial officer. And it's in this scene that it sets up a fascinating mystery: Is Darth Vader partial to a cup of coffee?  This panel seems to suggest he may have picked up a latte on the way into the meeting:

Darth Vader picks up a cup of Joe in Marvel's Star Wars comic

John White – this blog's most generous supporter – has looked into this mysterious steaming beverage and traced it back to the Star Wars novelization.   You can read about it at this page of John's site Star Wars Age 9,  where you will also while away some happy hours looking at how John created his own adaptation of the film in 1977-78. 

With all this exposition out of the way, the Star Wars adaptation gets to the introduction of the Sandpeople with this final page.  It's a great piece of artwork, but looking back I think you can tell it ought to be printed in the striking colour that American fans were treated to:

Luke meets the Sandpeople in the Marvel Star Wars comic

The page leaves us with a fine cliff hanger, in the tradition of the movie serials that inspired Star Wars.  I'll look Star Wars Weekly 3 soon – but in the meantime, here's the tease to that next issue, from the comic's inside back cover. 

Come back next week: the final page of Star Wars Weekly 2


John White said...

Hi Derek, my comment didn't publish. I wish Blogger made it easier to do.

episodenothing said...

Sorry to hear that, John. I've added Disqus to the site in the hope that this will fix the problem.

John I. White said...

It's probably just me! D'oh!