Posts Tagged ‘70s coming back’

Quarg is Hell

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

The first long, multi issue arc in the Marvel Star Wars comics, after the movie adaptation, was the storyline set on the planet Drexel. While Han, Chewie and Leia were prisoners on board Crimson Jack’s tricked out Imperial Cruiser, Luke and the droids were stranded on the watery shithole. There they run into Governor Quarg, a fat, sleazy despot who uses jamming equipment to disable passing starships, making them crash. Quarg’s people are at war with The Dragon Lords, a bunch of Californian types who live in harmony with plesiosaur style sea serpents. Our heroes eventually find themselves caught between the two warring factions and Crimson Jack’s pirates and an almighty fuck off battle ensues.

I’ve never really looked back fondly on Carmine Infantino’s art. It’s wildly inconsistent to the point where you begin to suspect the only visual reference he had was vague memories of seeing the movie months previously. And possibly drunk. His style is so relentlessly macho that even Threepio looks musclebound. Regardless, looking back on this story arc, the art actually works really well. The characters may not look much like the actors, but they feel right and there’s an energy that makes the action scenes burst off the page.

Archie Goodwin’s script is equally good, eventually bringing together a bunch of different characters, all with clearly defined and opposing needs. The final battle is explosive, and would never have been possible on screen (at the time). It puts that Clone Wars episode set on Admiral Ackbar’s planet to shame.

So there you go. One of the highlights of the Marvel series features a fat, unshaven guy in a military helmet and a fur lined cloak chasing Princess Leia along a ship’s yardarm, possibly set to the Benny Hill music. That’s what that scene suggested to me, anyway.

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Master Of Puppets

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

The second long story arc in the Marvel Star Wars series was based around The Wheel, a neutral space station full of casinos and yuppie space scum. The UK editions were published weekly rather than monthly, so each of the US issues were broken down into shorter episodes. This had the effect of making it seem like this story lasted forever. Even now, reading the original comics, it feels about two chapters too long. The killer concept that this story arc offers is SPACE GLADIATORS! Rather than fight crazy CG monsters in an arena watched by angry termites, Episode II style, Han and Chewie have to battle in a vaguely psychedelic antigravity holodeck type arrangement. It’s like a cross between an old issue of Warlock and that Buzz Lightyear shooting game in Disneyland. It looks pretty cool, but a few issues previously Han had a similar shootout with Crimson Jack floating in space, and that only took one issue, rather than six!

The rest of the story concerns The Wheel’s administrator, a former senator called Simon Greyshade. This suave motherfucker is less interested in Imperial politics than he is in Princess Leia’s sweet sweet ass. Now I know what you’re thinking, the head of a swishy, opulent facility in space, who gets in bed with The Empire and has an eye for the ladies sounds like a familiar type of character. He even wears a cape and rocks a smooth ‘tache. However, Lando Calrissian hadn’t been heard of at this point, and Greyshade is altogether sleazier.  At one point, if I understood correctly, he agrees to let our heroes go free as long as he can fly off with Leia aboard his personal pimp jet, which I can only assume is stocked to the rafters with lube and space rohypnol.

Greyshade’s one redeeming feature seems to be his friendship with Master-Com, a sort of ambulatory city central computer, in the shape of a more butch C-3PO. Yes, this dude would have pissed off Valance no end, had the tetchy self hatin’ cyborg been around. Master-Com gets blasted to pieces, but later reveals he has a bunch of different “bodies” that he can control (one of which looks a rather natty shade of pink) so he can immediately reappear and make snarky comments like a right smartarse. No wonder people hate droids so much.

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Whatever Happened To Jabba The Hut?

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

Yeah, you heard, Jabba The Hut“.

I like the way Marvel, having no definitive design for Jabba, cheerfully picked a background cantina alien, seemingly at random, and then just ran with it.

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Guten Tagge

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Star Wars Bubblegum cards were a big deal back in the late 70s. It was one of the only ways you could get any info on the movie (not to mention really disgusting flavoured gum). There were the original blue cards, and, if you were really lucky you could find the super rare red cards as well. Researching them now, I was surprised to learn that there were a further three sets, yellow, orange and green. I don’t know whether those were actually available in the UK. Those later sets appear to have some photos I’ve never seen before, which is pretty remarkable as I’ve been obsessing over this movie for the past 35 years.

The cards always seem to have weird airbrushing on C-3PO, and the occasional bright coloured backgrounds that didn’t appear in the movie. Ultimately, the they made Star Wars seem much bigger, particularly for a kid who wouldn’t see the movie for another couple of years. Back in those days, the licensees didn’t hook up the way they do now, so we didn’t get cards featuring Expanded Universe characters, so these pics are my little gift to my five year old self. As a nerd in training, a padawan, if you will, I liked things matching up and relating to eachother.

I guess knowing that Marvel (and Alan Dean Foster’s novelization, which they drew on heavily) got Admiral Motti and General Tagge mixed up won’t get me anywhere in life. They created The House Of Tagge – the Imperial officer’s family were a bunch of aristocratic fuckers including Silas (mad scientist, “food paste” enthusiast), Domina (space nun, secret bad girl) and the head of the clan, Orman.

Wisely avoiding overusing Vader, Marvel nominated Baron Orman Tagge as the principal villain of the early years of the series. He was determined to replace Vader as The Emperor’s right hand man – presumably he didn’t know that Palpatine was a Sith (to be fair none of us did – he may have even not been at that point) – partly for his (yawn) lust for power, but partly because he held a long standing grudge against Vader. The Dark Lord had blinded Tagge for some reason – probably for talking smack about The Force – so The Baron look up the lightsaber and made it his mission to depose, then kill Vader. No prizes for guessing how that one turned out. But at least it gave Marvel a strong villain to do with as they wished, and brought a bit of Glam Rock style to a galaxy far far away.

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Big Red Monster

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

The Guardian Of Forever is, I’m sure, the proper name of that big doughnut thing that Kirk went through to go back in time to bang Joan Collins. It’s also apparently the name of something I previously knew as “big red monster”. Halfway between The Creature From The Id in Forbidden Planet and Ridley Scott’s Alien, it stalks our heroes (and some Imperials that they’re forced to join forces with) in an ancient underground city.

The story World Of Fire starts with Luke, Leia and the droids stealing a ship from an Imperial base, accompanied by a girl called Mici who a) I always got mixed up with an ex girlfriend of Han’s called Katya who actually appeared in Annual #1 b) occasionally wears a metal bikini of the sort you would see in Conan comics and Dungeons & Dragons supplements, and c) never appears again, and doesn’t seem to serve any purpose other than to wear a metal bikini and confuse me.

It’s Infantino art again, but it’s not quite as good as his earlier stuff set on that waterworld. Having said that, when these comics were being published I was at the height of my “in love with Carrie Fisher” phase, and seeing “her” in skin tight shiny spandex certainly did stuff to my impressionable seven year old psyche. She’s something of a bitch, here, it has to be said, constantly belittling Luke for some reason. Maybe that was the attraction?

The sympathetic (ish) Imperial troops are a nice touch, even if most of them end up as cannon fodder for the crazy space beast. It’s a wonder the surviving Imperial officers were never bought back in later stories, as they eventually returned to The Empire, but I guess the fact that this story never appeared in the US version of the comic sealed their fate.

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The Present Is Good…

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Merry Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Yule, Winter Solstice, Pancha Ganapati, Festivus and Life Day. Zardoz is pleased.

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