Posts Tagged ‘Marvel Star Wars’

It’s not easy being green

Sunday, August 26th, 2012


When Dark Horse started publishing Star Wars comics in the early 90s, it seemed to be editorial policy to bash the earlier Marvel run as an embarrassment. Their comics, they assured us, would be more in the spirit of the movies. That didn’t quite pan out, as anyone who ever read The Hunger of Princess Nampi would attest.

The attitude towards the Marvel run was one I never quite understood as I had really enjoyed them, and took them pretty seriously, when I was growing up. I recently reread the entire run and they’re as I remember: (mostly) good, (occasionally) bad and (in one or two cases), brilliant. In addition I’ve been listening to the commentary for the series on the excellent Two True Freaks podcast, so it’s fair to say I’m a little bit obsessed with them at the moment.

It seems that the only reason the Marvel comics were ever considered to be to be “goofy” and “camp” was the fact that a couple of the early issues featured a six foot tall green rabbit mercenary called Jaxxon.

OK maybe a gun toting, sarcastic bunny wouldn’t have worked in the movies, but comics are resolutely a different medium. Those early issues were a little crazy, but that was their charm. To an entire generation of Star Wars fans Jaxxon is not only the saga’s weirdest denizen, but also the symbol of a more innocent time. Hats off to you Jaxxon, and May The Holy Hutch Be With You.

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Fifty Shades Of Crimson

Monday, August 27th, 2012

And now, something for the ladies.

Perhaps because of an edict from Lucasfilm, or possibly just an uncertainty as to where to go with the continuing adventures, the early Marvel Star Wars comics didn’t feature Darth Vader, or even the Empire. The first villain to appear was Crimson Jack, an old adversary of Han Solo’s and the Captain of a hijacked Imperial Star Destroyer.

Creators Roy Thomas and Howard Chaykin must have really latched on to the description of Solo as a “space pirate”, as most of Jack’s crew look like they would be at home at Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean. If he never used the phrase “planet lubbers”, they missed a trick. One wonders if he spoke in the traditional pirate manner. Come to think of it, why do we think all pirates talked like that? They can’t all have come from Bristol.

As tetchy and avaricious as Jack is, there’s something avuncular about him. Maybe he looked on Han as a kindred spirit or the son he never had or something. If so Han gets the opportunity to play out the trope of (spoiler alert for thirty four year old comics) killing his own father figure.

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Just because my name is Jolli…

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Crimson Jack’s second in command is Jolli, an angry, young man-hating space babe. For someone who hates dudes so much, she’s made a peculiar choice of career – hanging out with a bunch of horny space pirates, wearing bright red knickers. To be fair, Jack himself can’t be bothered to put any trousers on, so I dunno, maybe the air conditioning is knackered on that ship. She also wears a green beret, presumably because she just doesn’t give a fuck. When Han Solo arrives on board, Jolli starts to have some confusing feelings. Well, she’s only human, and he’s monumentally good looking, roguishly charming, and manages to make a waistcoat look cool. At this point, at the age of six, I should have realised that I needed to start modelling myself on him. Instead, I think I still wanted to be C-3PO, so there was no hope for me.

Young Jolli never got to have sexy times with our dashing Corellian scoundrel. Instead she was betrayed by the pirates (surprise), and ploughed a Y Wing Fighter into the side of Jack’s Space Cruiser. We learn that as a child she was also abandoned by her father which led her to a life of piracy and barely dressed misandry. This may have been my first experience of pathos.

If the UK editions of Marvel Star Wars series had been printed in colour, I can only presume I would now have a fetish for girls with pink hair.

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Extreme Valance

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

 

Valance is one of the most memorable characters from the Marvel Star Wars series, and even though he only made three appearances, it’s easy to see why. He was the badass bounty hunter before Boba Fett, and his introduction, in issue 16’s The Hunter was the first instance of a story that didn’t feature any of the movie characters (although they do appear in a flashback to the movie. In those days every issue featured a flashback to the movie. Even the ones that happened before it).

Valance’s motivation is a little shaky to say the least. He hates droids. Like, really hates them. He hates droids so much that he’s made it his mission to hunt down Luke Skywalker, not because of any sizable Imperial bounty on the boy’s head, but because he’s heard a rumour that Luke actually likes droids. Surely you could find better things to do with your time. And who wouldn’t like Threepio and Artoo? They’re adorable!

Marvel’s Star Wars series really ran with that “people hate droids” idea in its early days. Just because that bartender in the cantina wouldn’t serve them we got a few stories centred around the concept. In the very first post movie storyline Han and Chewie catch a ton of shit for helping an insectoid priest take a dead cyborg pilot to a burial ground. Yeah people hate cyborgs too, which is a bit like hating people who wear contact lenses, but whatever. I’m really surprised that no bright spark has retconned this droid racism as being a hangover from The Clone Wars. Plenty of planets were invaded by the Trade Federation and the armies of the Seperatists, that it stands to reason that some people who remembered back twenty years would be a bit ticked off when they saw any robots. Job done. You can have that one, Lucasfilm.

So anyway Valance fails to find Luke – he runs into our old mate Jaxxon instead. Then we learn that, shock horror, Valance is a cyborg himself. In fact his major passtime, aside from blasting the shit out of innocent robots, is sitting in his cockpit, stewing in anger and self hatred, and ripping away his fake skin to reveal his true semi mechanical nature. It’s a well used image, that probably appeared in a million 50s comics and pulp sci fi novels, but it looks good, hence the fact they reused the scene a couple of times.

Eventually Valance faces off against Darth Vader himself having (surprise!) changed his allegiance. I’ll let you guess how that one turns out. By this point, I guess it was established, or at least implicit that Vader was also a cyborg, so we get to see the story of Valance as a vague reflection of The Lord of The Sith. In the epilogue to that issue, Vader gets extremely pissy with some stormtroopers who display some of that inexplicable prejudice towards people with mechanical bits. Bloody idiots. I’m surprised he didn’t force choke the shit out of them, just for the hell of it.

 

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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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Quixotic Jedi #1

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

Don Wan Kihotay was another of Han Solo’s “Space Freaks” in the “Eight For Aduba 3” storyline, in the first post movie issues of Marvel’s Star Wars series. As the name (and the triple pun, which went straight over my head) would suggest, he was a Jedi Knight. Or, more accurately, he was a crazy old man who thought he was a Jedi.

He has two looks, which is pretty exciting. Firstly he appears as a mad eyed bedraggled cross between Catweazle and a thin Michael Bentine. Those are some pretty archaic references right there, but I’m talking about thirty four year old comics, so fuck you. The second look is straight up Don Quixote, in full plate mail armour. I think he even had a lance at one point. Obviously they really wanted you to get that “clever” parallel, but as a six year old I wasn’t too familiar with seventeenth century Spanish literature. Kihotay seemingly gave his life fighting the Behemoth From The World Below, except it was revealed that he didn’t, he was just injured. He may not have gone off to have an auspicious career in the expanded universe, but Marvel would later introduce a very similar character.

Their joint legacy continued in the Star Wars role playing game from West End Games, which had a set of character templates that included “Quixotic Jedi”. I don’t know anyone who wanted to play as a crazy old coot but it was one of the only ways to get your hands on a lightsaber.

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