Nathan's (Friday) Laserium: Comics 101 - Star Wars

A little VampireNomad apology before you start reading about the amazingness of Star Wars: I completely neglected to get this post ready for Nathan's usual Thursday Laserium spot. Laserium fans, that's on me! I'm very sorry. But now you get a totally thrilling Laserium post for Friday and what better way to end the week, honestly?

 

2015 is the Year of Star Wars. I suppose every year since 1977 could be called the Year of Star Wars. Well, except for 1986. 1986 was when Marvel Comics cancelled Star Wars at issue 107, and Starlog declared Star Wars fandom dead. 12-year-old me protested loudly and vigorously, but since there was no internet, nobody heard. And even if there had been internet, nobody would have cared. Star Wars was over.

Dark Horse Comics acquired the licence in 1991 and published many, many Star Wars comics over the years. Some of them were very good. Some of them were very bad.

Now that Disney owns both Marvel Comics and Star Wars, it just made sense for them to give the comic rights back to Marvel. Last week Marvel rolled out Star Wars #1, written by Jason Aaron and illustrated by John Cassaday. It's good! Lots of fun. Pro tip- cue up your Empire Strikes Back OST (not A New Hope, it's gotta be Empire even though Star Wars #1 takes place after ANH but before ESB), crack open to page 1, press play, read and enjoy.

Added bonus for Comixology users- Star Wars comics were never available on their app since Dark Horse has its own digital comics app. Which I never bothered registering for. Who can keep track of all their accounts and what comics they have digitally or physically or I don’t know, I am bad at that. Anyway you can now get the Marvel Rerelease of the Dark Horse Omnibus Reprint of the Original Marvel Star Wars series! Hopefully these will be made available as individual issues soon, as well. Because they are awesome, goofy, nostalgic fun.

Who can get forget Jaxxon? Well, George Lucas did when he chose to make up a stupid character like JarJar Binks instead of going with the way more awesome 6-foot-tall green talking bunny! Perhaps Jason Aaron has plans to bring him back, hopefully as a Dark Lord of the Sith.

Fun fact- the movie adaptation was done by the Marvel bullpen before they had seen the movie, in order for it to precede the movie’s release by some months. So there are a few adorable misinterpretations of the still photos they were provided with- namely that they thought R2-D2 walked on his legs rather than rolled. And they thought Darth Vader was a 6-foot-tall green bunny rabbit.

I tease, but those early comics weren’t only silly, they also had some great stories, and some truly fantastic Carmine Infantino art, one of comicdom’s true legends. His Chewbacca and Leia are still my headcanon versions, as far as I'm concerned.

Speaking of head cannons, there were a series of done-in-one stories shortly after the release of The Empire Strikes Back that I return to over and over. Each issue more or less starred one or two of the heroes (sans Han Solo, of course, who was frozen in Carbonite). One was called Droid World! (issue 47) and featured Artoo and Threepio trying to secure a warbot with a cannon for a head. They had to go to this station that was all droids no people allowed. They almost died! But they didn't.

I'm tempted to describe in great detail each subsequent issue. I won't, but I want to. Well, there is this one arc worth mentioning. In the issues between Empire and Return of the Jedi they introduced a love interest for Luke, a hotshot pilot named Shira Brie. She was awesome. They had some adventures together and everyone loved her. Then they went into battle against the Empire and Luke, trusting the Force, shot Shira's ship down. The cover of issue 62 is still cited as a classic, for its stark simplicity. Monotone blood-red, a closeup shot of Luke's anguished face with the caption "Luke Skywalker: Pariah". I didn't know what a pariah was but I knew it was bad news. He killed Shira Brie!

Years later, post-ROTJ, a new villain was introduced, kind of a second-rate Darth Vader lookalike named Lumiya. She had a funny triangular robot head that didn't really inspire terror. Luckily Leia shot it up a bit and when she returned to menace Luke Skywalker, she had a way more cool cyborg/scarf/purple-eyes thing going on.

So.

Issue 96, easily one of my top ten comics of all-time. Written by (Mary) Jo Duffy, pencilled by Cynthia Martin, colored by Glynis Oliver and edited by Ann Nocenti, it is a tour de force. The first seven pages are a dialogue-free fight scene in which Lumiya kicks Luke's ass. Later on he figured out how to beat her. Spoiler alert- Lumiya is Shira Brie, agent of the empire. The Force wasn't lying to Luke when it told him to shoot her down! The artwork, the storytelling, the call back to a story from years before that I actually knew, they made a huge impression on me.

This is pure Nerd Nostalgia for me. I reread those old comics so many times. Not to beat a dead tauntaun but we didn't have any way to watch the movies whenever we wanted back in those days. Comics and action figures and playing outside pretending to be Han and Luke were our only ways of engaging in our fandom.  

In fact, easily the nerdiest thing I have ever done is attempt to recreate that epic battle scene in action figure form. I even cut out bristol board mountains to emulate the backgrounds as exactly as I could. See? https://www.flickr.com/photos/homiebear/4387275815/in/photolist-7FALWc-7FFWft-7FPWyH-7HFA3Q-7HhNqs

So happy Year of the Force! Or whatever you want to call it. In addition to the Star Wars ongoing series, Marvel has announced two other series: Star Wars Darth Vader, and Star Wars Princess Leia, both with solid creative teams.

Marvel, if you’re listening, I could totally write you a Star Wars Lumiya comic. Tweet me!

- Nathan Waddell