Saturday, 10 January 2015

Looking back at Star Wars Weekly – issue 9

The cover of Star Wars Weekly issue 9, April 5 1978

Our look at Marvel's UK comic, Star Wars Weekly, reaches issue 9 – April 5 1978.

There were signs in issue nine that Star Wars Weekly was grappling with the question that had preoccupied writers and artists through the ages.

That question is, of course, How are we going to fill all this space? 
Blowing up a single
still to fill a full page
and calling it a
'foto feature' may have
been a sign that
Star Wars Weekly
was short of material.

Even though there were not very many pages of the Star Wars comic strip in each issue, the comic had been using up material at quite a rate. After all, the adaptation of the film lasted a whole year in the US, where it ran over six issues at the rate of one a month.  In the UK, the strip would be over in three months.

This was a problem that had troubled the UK division of Marvel ever since it was set up, and this blog post by its British editor Dez Skinn gives an insight into what a challenge it was.

In issue nine, Star Wars Weekly didn't give us very much aside from the eight new pages of story, plus the two reprints of other, rather more cerebral SF under the heading 'Tales of the Galaxy'. There was a competition to win a Star Wars Letraset Action Set (as featured in this post and the following two).  There was a 'foto feature' which consisted of one full-page still of a stormtrooper. There were full-page promotional ads for other Marvel publications and offers, all of which we had seen before.  And there was this 'collector's pin up' which was quite spectacular even if it bore little resemblance to anything in the film:

The collector's pin-up from Star Wars Weekly 9
But there was no letters page and no behind the scenes feature – and I recall my patience was wearing thin, because I couldn't wait for the comic to get to the Rebel assault on the Death Star.

This edition's comic strip only covered the Millennium Falcon's escape from the Death Star, but it did so very well, building the sequence up into something like a short story in its own right, full of suspense and drama.  I enjoyed these frames letting us into the heroes' state of mind as they wait for the TIE sentry ships to attack:

Our heroes prepare for the TIE fighter
attack in Star Wars Weekly issue 9

Roy Thomas's script makes more of the idea that Luke is struggling to get the hang of the Falcon's weaponry.  And it racks up the tension by revealing that the Falcon is one laser blast away from being blown up after its shields fail, leading to some memorable frames like these:

Han Solo during the TIE fighter attack
in Star Wars Weekly issue 9

Han Solo during the TIE fighter attack
in Star Wars Weekly issue 9

Fine as this instalment was, it finished too soon, ending with these frames:
The cliffhanger ending in 
Star Wars Weekly issue 9

After a cliff-hanger like that, I found myself wishing the next week away.


john i white said...

To be honest - I was delighted to get those pin-ups! My comics were ruined and the pics went on the wall.

It is indeed odd that the letters pages weren't a weekly feature. I mean, that's cheap, easy content right there isn't it?

Darren Slade said...

Yes, surely everyone loves a letters page. Did they just not have enough good content, I wonder? Had people overdone the joke of signing as 'Luke Skywalker, Tatooine' rather than Jamie Trubshaw of Stowe-on-the-Wold?

John i White said...

Ha, maybe!
The American marvel comics tended to feature quite mature, erudite letters. The British SSW, had mostly
Letters from little kids. Still, I would still enjoy them. Is it possible that the readership dropped and less people were writing generally?
Is it feasible that laying out a big foto feature or a centre-spread DeZuniga pin-up was cheaper than reading through the mailbag, editing and laying out a letters page?