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Sunday, 26 January 2014

Looking back at Star Wars Weekly – issue 3

The brilliant, if shamelessly inaccurate, cover of Star Wars Weekly issue 3

Our look at the UK's Star Wars Weekly comic reaches issue 3 – February 22 1978.

Firstly, a warm welcome to anyone who landed here from the Star Wars Weekly Facebook page.

John White recently set up that page and invited me to be a moderator. It's already prompted people to share some great memories of Star Wars in the 1970s – and we've even seen some amazing photos of those all-too-rare free X-wing and TIE fighters from issues one and two, still flat and unassembled.

The cover of Star Wars Weekly number three is shamelessly misleading, and yet I can't help loving it. It depicts what seems to be an all-out riot in the Mos Eisley cantina, with Luke firing a blaster and Obi-Wan Kenobi wielding his lightsabre. The tagline says “Luke Skywalker strikes back” and Luke is saying: “Swing that lightsabre, Ben – or we're finished!”

I have seen Star Wars more times than a sane person should, and I'm fairly sure that line doesn't come from the film. Neither do I recall Ben Kenobi having to hold off a whole horde of marauding aliens in the cantina. And come to think of it, how is it that Luke has acquired a gun at this stage of the story? The cover is a big cheat – yet I admire it. It's like one of those vintage SF or horror movie posters with the cheek to depict scenes that were never in the film.

Inside, the story starts with this rather striking page depicting the Sandpeople ransacking Luke's landspeeder while he lies unconscious.

The striking first page of the movie adaptation 
in Star Wars Weekly issue 3

This is another instalment of the story that has a lot of exposition to get through, so it's as well that it starts so impressively. From then, we move on to the scene in Kenobi's home, in which writer Roy Thomas and artist Howard Chaykin have to accommodate an awful lot of talk about what the Force is, who Luke's father was, the message from Princess Leia and so on.

With all this information to get across, one of the film's dramatic highlights – Luke's discovery of his family's burning homestead – is squashed into surprisingly few frames, and somewhere in the rush, Uncle Owen gets renamed Uncle Ben:

A lot of action in a few frames as Luke Skywalker finds the
burning homestead in Star Wars Weekly issue 3

We turn the page from this to the arrival in Mos Eisley, and then we're ito the brawl in the cantina, which is depicted on this page dominated by a series of very tall, narrow frames:

The brawl in the cantina from Star Wars Weekly 3

After this, we are introduced to Chewbacca, whose entrance makes for a maddeningly frustrating – but dramatically perfect – place to stop:

The introduction of Chewbacca in 
Star Wars Weekly issue 3

There was no free gift in issue three of Star Wars Weekly, but instead we had two pages devoted to a flat plan of the Death Star trench, down which you were supposed to fly your X-wing and TIE fighters from the previous two weeks' comics. 

But it's difficult to imagine that a child young enough to enjoy that innocent pleasure would also savour the two comic strips that fill out the issue.

Once again, Marvel had chosen some very downbeat tales to supplement the Star Wars adaptation – both of them reprinted from the black-and-white US comic Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction. First we had part two of 'Hey Buddy, Can You Lend Me A...' , another dark SF tale set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. And then there was 'Threads', which was not set after an apocalypse but in a time of approaching apocalypse. It's an astonishingly bleak three-page tale of the Earth being blighted by “microscopic strings of sooty blackness” which gradually engulf the planet. All very impressive, but the gloomy antithesis of the Star Wars approach to science fiction.

But the comic gave us some other Star Wars related material to enjoy: a competition to win a Darth Vader helmet or a soundtrack double LP; an ad from Leisuremail offering the chance to buy the film on Super 8 asdiscussed in this earlier post; a Behind the Scenes page; a chance to join the Star Wars Fan Club for the steep price of £2.95; and finally this glimpse at what we could expect from the next issue:

A teaser in Star Wars Weekly issue 3 for the imminent introduction of Han Solo 

That, we knew, was when the story would really take off.

1 comment:

John I. White said...

I only appreciated the true comic professional's talent for compressi no a story - without making it feel rushed when I attempted to adapt some of the film again a as an adult!

You see when anything is done well, it's creates the illusion that it's done easily. When I adapted the scenes of Luke and the Droids in the workshop it when on for PAGES and would have gone on for even more if I hadn't run out of steam and free time to work on it!

That THREADS story is incredible. It's one of the spookiest and most moving comic stories I've ever read. I have read Siegelman's MAUS, but Threads still brings more of a lump to my throat - within 3 pages. Oh The innocence of those poor children as they head toward Earth's horrible fate, whatever it will be. We can only guess... And the imagination does it's work.