|The cover of Star Wars Weekly issue 10|
Marvel covers: The Star Wars Rebel base
“At last, Luke enters the hidden fortress,” runs the copy on the front cover.
Who knows whether this was a deliberate reference to the influence of the films of Akira Kurosawa on George Lucas's work? I suspect few of the comic's readers were troubling themselves on that score. But one thing they would probably have realised quite quickly, if they had already seen the film, was this: We were up to a relatively quiet point in the story. There would not be a lot of gunplay or exploding spaceships in this instalment. Instead, we were heading into the passage that explained the ground rules for the film's climax.
The cover made our heroes' arrival on the Fourth Moon of Yavin look more perilous than it was in the film. There was Luke Skywalker with his lightsaber ignited, Han Solo with blaster drawn, Chewbacca with a fist raised, and even See Threepio looking as though he was tensed and ready to spring into some sort of action. All of them seemed to be facing some very menacing weaponry as they arrived at the temple which the Rebels had turned into their base.
I've said several times that there are some practical reasons why the artwork in Marvel's Star Wars does not always look much like the imagery in the film. One of those reasons is the fact that the strip had to be started long before anyone had seen the finished flm,and original artist Howard Chaykin had limited reference material.
On the other hand, it occurs to me that Marvel may also have made an aesthetic choice not to mimic the style of the film. After all, which was the bigger brand name in 1976, when the comic was commissioned – Marvel or Star Wars? We know now that Marvel had been struggling, and that the success of the Star Wars strip was vital to its recovery. But to the folks who devised that tie-in back in 1976 – primarily Marvel's Stan Lee and Lucasfilm's George Lucas and Charles Lippincott – it would have seemed that Star Wars needed Marvel much more than Marvel needed Star Wars.
Marvel had already produced a Planet of the Apes comic, based on a film and TV franchise that was an established success, but its Apes comic had also taken considerable liberties with the established look of the series, as these cover examples and film stills show:
|Taylor imprisoned, in both Marvel and film versions of Planet of the Apes|
|Taylor and Nova in both film and|
Marvel versions of Planet of the Apes
The art of Star Wars Marvel-style
I genuinely admire the way the Star Wars comic covers add a shameless sense of superhero-ish melodrama to moments in the film. That said, once you get inside, Star Wars Weekly issue 10 (with Steve Leialoha sharing the artwork credit with Chaykin) is a little closer to the look of the film than earlier instalments. For example, the arrival at the Rebel base looks as though it was based on some pretty reliable visual reference material.
|The arrival at the Rebel base in|
Marvel's Star Wars adaptation
At times, the artwork has that slightly half-finished look that I've mentioned before, as here:
|The heroes arrive at the Rebel base|
in Star Wars Weekly 10 from Marvel
But then it will suddenly switch to a very dramatic and detailed view like this:
|General Dodonna gives the orders|
in Star Wars Weekly 10
Some of the characters look wildly different from frame to frame too. Here she is giving Han the kind of look that can make a man's blood run cold:
|An angry Leia in Marvel's Star Wars strip|
While in this frame, she not only seems serene, but has apparently cast off the hairy earphones:
|Princess Leia in the conference room |
in Marvel's Star Wars strip
Character-wise, the highlight in this episode of the story is surely the return of Biggs, in a scene deleted from the finished film. His reappearance, nine issues on from the scene in which he left Tatooine to look for the Rebellion, is a neat twist which works very well in the strip. I suspect Lucas was right to drop the Biggs story from the film, where it would have added undue running time to the early Tatooine sequences. But in all the other versions of the story (novel, comic, radio series), which have a little more room to develop character, the sub-plot adds something quite special. Luke has now gone through a baptism of fire and is on an equal footing with his old pal once more.
The comic action finishes just as the X-wings take off, bound for the Death Star, and we get our first proper view of the spacecraft:
|The X-wings take off in Marvel's Star Wars|
For most readers, it was going to seem a long seven days before the attack on the Death Star got properly under way in issue 11. For me, the wait was going to be relieved by a birthday. I suspect that may be the reason my copy of this particular Star Wars Weekly does not have the competition form cut out. After all, what else but a Star Wars-dominated birthday could have prevented me from having a try at a winning a Star Wars watch?
|Competition to win a Star Wars watch in Star Wars Weekly|
Did you ever win a Star Wars Weekly competition? Did you have a letter published? I'd love to hear about it in the comments.