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Friday, 20 March 2015

Looking back at Star Wars Weekly – issue 10

The cover of Star Wars Weekly issue 10

Our look at the UK's Star Wars Weekly from Marvel comics reaches issue 10, April 12 1978.

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.


John White said...

Lovely stuff Darren. Do you know? I don't think I ever made the 'Hidden Fortress' line connection! Gosh.
Are you following Charles Lippincott on Facebook at all? He wrote a good piece about the Marvel comic the other day.
I think it's funny, not only that the Tony DeZuniga cover shows them facing an array of weapons; that they'll probably die if they leave because 'they've seen too much'; but also that they've been discovered in a skip/dumpster! They're maintaining heir dignity very well under the circumstances!

Steve Collins said...

Nice post Darren. I am actually the guy who was "Letter of the Week" in Star Wars Weekly issue 10. I remember writing in with a review of issue number 3. They trimmed the letter down somewhat in the version published. I remember being so excited to receive a letter from the editor of Marvel...and received a sew-on patch of the Star Wars logo as the prize for being letter of the week. I probably still have the letter and patch somewhere in a box. I remember being annoyed after they published my address... as I got a few letters from people wanting to be pen pals!

Darren Slade said...

Wow ... You're Stephen Collins of Scartho, Grimsby, from issue 10? That makes you a celebrity in my book; I take my hat off to you, sir.
Thanks very much for contributing, Steve. Seriously, hearing from someone who got a letter into SWW is the kind of feedback that makes the bloggnig worthwhile.
How old were you when you had that published? If you ever find the patch and letter from Marvel, I'd love it if you shared it via the Episode Nothing Facebook page, or the Star Wars Weekly Comic Facebook group which John White has set up.
And if you feel moved to comment some time about your memories of seeing the film, or anything else, please do!

Steve Collins said...

Hi Darren...came across this site again whilst going through my bookmarks, and saw that you had posted a reply! So more than a year later...(sorry)... I was 14 at the time of SSW 10... and I'm sure one day I will come across the letter and SW patch... will share if I find it.
Keep blogging.. this is a great site...

Darren Slade said...

Hi Steve. Glad you checked in again. Do keep visiting and thanks for the encouragement.

Warren said...

I still have all my Star War wars weekly comics from when I was a kid, in fact all of them from 78-86 including the ROTJ ones. I had three pictures of mine printed in total from issue 1 of ROTJ weekly. In issue 1 mine was the red guard and Boba Fett. In other issues (issues 5 and 27 I think) I had a picture of Indiana Jones and a baby ewok printed.
Warren Upperton.