Saturday, July 11, 2009

Marvel's Star Wars

If you were a Star Wars fan and a comic book fan in the late 1970s and early 1980s, you knew of and most likely read Marvel's Star Wars comic. Three annuals, 107 issues and the four-issue adaptation of Return of the Jedi, Marvel's series was the only fix fans had outside the movies and lame television specials. There were the novelizations, three Han Solo novels, three Lando Calrissian novels, and Alan Dean Foster's Splinter of the Mind's Eye (later adapted by Dark Horse), but the comic books felt right (even when they were oh-so-wrong).

Marvel gets some jabs now for the series. Jabba the Hutt in those early issues? Hideous. Jax? What were they thinking? But there were some great moments, too, like Boba Fett surviving his fate ... the first time. The hunt for Han Solo. The new Sith Lord. For me, the comic books kept the movies alive. Hell, it was one of two titles I first subscribed to. (And I never got that last issue, and it took me years to find. Thanks, Marvel, you bastard.) Getting it every month in the mail was just about as exciting as seeing The Empire Strikes Back. I never knew what I'd expect, but I knew it would be enjoyable.

I still read some of the Dark Horse titles today, but they don't feel the same. Sure, I like them, but that sense of wonder is gone. Perhaps its due to all the novels and video games. Maybe it's because the new films took some of that joy away. Looking back at my old Marvel comics, though, brings those old feelings right back. There are some great covers, stories, characters. Jo Duffy was my favorite writer. Solo my favorite character. Even Luke was a pleasure to read.

Purists balk at much of the comic's content, rightly claiming that the Dark Horse series is canon and maintains a much more even interpretation of the mythos. That's fairly true. After all, are there any fans who want to see those little furry creatures called Lahsbees show up in novel after novel, but who among us didn't thrill to see Solo try to save Boba Fett?

Marvel, as mentioned earlier, takes some good-natured ribbing over the series, but all of that criticism is also tempered with love. Any fan old enough to have read that series loved it. It was all we had, and we ate it up. We can joke about some of the strange and utterly crappy alien races the creators wrote stories around, but we didn't care then. We accepted it and had a good time reading it. It, like the movies, was fun ... and isn't that what you want out of a comic book series?

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