Posts Tagged ‘Marvel Star Wars’

Quixotic Jedi #2

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

And now, more Marvel Star Wars comics stuff. Jedidiah, like Don-Wan Kihotay before him, was another crazy old dude who thought he was a Jedi. The story involves Luke and Leia rescuing some alien Prince, and then assuming the identities of his entourage, for reasons that I’m sure made perfect sense at the time. Leia gets off with the Prince, which makes Luke have a hissy fit. Luke takes an uncharacteristic dislike to the bug faced loon, until said loon takes a bullet (laser) for him, and then he’s all like “Truly he was The Last Jedi”. I’m doing this from memory, you might have guessed.

By this point, Carmine Infantino had left the title, and The Empire Strikes Back had been released. We were into an era of new creative teams, as well as new story dynamics. Walt Simonson may have made some idiosyncratic choices with his art (wheels on a Y-Wing? Call the Continuity Police!), but his fluid and dynamic work took the series into a new realm. While Carmine Infantino is to be commended for a lot of great stuff, a lot of his stuff feels slightly old fashioned. It was, perhaps, consciously aping the old sci fi comics, movies and pulp adventure books that inspired Star Wars originally, but lantern jawed hippy Luke, fifty year old Han and muscle bound Threepio never quite recalled their movie counterparts. Simonson’s characters, on the other hand, captured the essence of our heroes. The writing in the post Empire issues, was also a lot better. I guess having twice as many movies to draw on helped.

As great as Simonson’s (relatively brief) run was, the secret weapon (the goalkeeper, if you will) of the entire Marvel comics series had to be inker Tom Palmer. His work brought a consistency to the art that really gave the book a real character all of its own. I suspect that on many issues, he did most of the heavy lifting (and as such was often credited as “Finisher”). Well done Palmer, you beautiful bastard.

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Reist

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

Shortly after Marvel UK’s Star Wars reprint title published the Empire Strikes Back adaptation, it went from weekly to monthly, so for the first time complete stories appeared in a single issue rather than broken up over several. This created the need for additional stories, as the UK issues tend to regularly catch up with the US. The title had already seen stories that were unique to the UK title, but these were created by the series’ regulars. Post Empire, stories written and drawn by UK creators appeared, none of whom seemed particularly interested in the mythos of the Star Wars movies. As such these tales are wildly different from anything that had previously appeared in the series, and tend to lean towards the macabre.

A number of these stories were by visionary, mystic and awesome beard owner Alan Moore, and Death Masque is often attributed to him, although it’s actually written by his old mate Steve Moore (no relation). In it Luke Skywalker lands on a dead planet and starts hallucinating horrific visions of his pals being blown up and crumbling into dust and stuff likes that. Turns out it’s all down to a skull faced telepathic monkey called Reist. Luke pulls himself together and kills his tormentor, but, even though it’s fair to say Reist creeped me the fuck out, I can’t help but feel bad for the little guy. He was essentially a slave of an Imperial Commander (we can assume that our Skeletor looking pal wasn’t particularly well treated), and his ability to inspire nightmarish illusions might not even be voluntary so he probably didn’t deserve to be lightsabered in the chest.

Death Masque is the only story that appeared in the UK that was never reprinting in the US, so Reist may be one of the most obscure Star Wars comics characters out there. So far I haven’t been able to find any instances of Reist fanart, so here’s a long overdue shout out to the creepy yet strangely cute little monster.

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Wilson & Me

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

If you ever lay asleep at night wondered what comics I would take with me to a desert island, if that were at all a concern or possibility, then worry no more. Your prayers have been answered in this handy article I wrote for the Forbidden Planet Blog. Seeing as all I needed to do was write a few words about some comics I liked, it took me an unfeasibly long time to narrow it down, so I hope you appreciate it. Corrections, arguments, rebuttals and queries can be sent through the normal channels. NOTE: This blog originally contained a less than complimentary reference to Jim Aparo, but I cut it out as it was too mean and, like, who am I to talk, right?

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Rik Duel

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

 

Rik Duel was always a pale imitation of Han Solo, and I think he knew it. At least he got there years before Dash Rendar.

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Lumiya

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

Lumiya’s first appearance was as a fairly uninspired “female Vader” design. She was incongruously the head of security on some ostensibly peaceful planet, although why anyone would have trusted someone in full black leather, dominatrix boots and mask of evil awesomeness, is on a par with hiring someone called “Wormtongue” to be your Royal Advisor. So Lumiya turns out to be evil (shocker) and buggers off, ready to fight another day.

Returning many issues later, in a shredded, messed up, and infinitely cooler version of her original look, she faces off against a post Jedi Luke Skywalker and proceeds to kick his ass seven ways to Sunday. Reading it back now, it’s a highpoint of the series. New artist Cynthia Martin pulled out all the stops, in a dynamic, wordless battle, and managed to convey everything through gesture and facial expression (pretty impressive seeing as Lumiya’s face was mostly covered up).

I didn’t feel that way at the time though. When this story appeared in the UK, the comic had reverted back to a weekly format, and the production was pretty shoddy. You might get as little as five pages of the main story at a time, so story seemed to go on for months. Also, there were many instances of the colour printing being misaligned, and on one memorable occasion, a page was printed back to front. Presumably the publisher just didn’t care at this point.

Marvel’s Star Wars comics were well and truly scuppered by the indecisiveness of Lucasfilm, not being allowed to progress the story in logical directions, and suffering from a big, Darth Vader shaped hole that was unlikely to ever be filled. Lumiya seemed like a promising character, though, mysterious and ruthless, but never got her due, as soon the series would be unceremoniously dumped. However, she was resurrected decades later, to appear in the modern Expanded Universe, so someone had been paying attention.

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Shira

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

Back in the 80s, we had to rely on Newsagents for our comic book fix. At some point, our local shop decided to just stop stocking the Star Wars comic, without telling anyone about it, so that was it for me. A couple of years later, when the title was changed to tie in with the release of Return of the Jedi, the comics started appearing again, so for a long time there was a big gap in my readership of the series. As a result I learned the true identity of Shira Brie, before even finding out who she was, or had been, or had been pretending to be. Yes, the latest love interest for Luke Skywalker was an Imperial Agent, and ended up as an evil, Force wielding Vaderette.

Like most women in comics, Shira was sexy, but unlike many of them she was always fully dressed. Even though she didn’t make that many appearances, she always came across as a strong personality and it’s easy to see why Luke fell for her. I guess he was just beginning to realise that he had no chance with Leia, what with her preoccupied with finding the carbonite frozen Han Solo at the time.

Before Jedi came out I always thought the issue was finding Han, and that’s the way the comics played it too. I suppose the line about rendezvous-ing on Tatooine should have clued us all in to the fact that they knew exactly where he would be, but it certainly didn’t with me. Marvel on the other hand had three years worth of comics to fill, and only much later would retcon it with a throwaway line like “we went to Tatooine and Boba Fett hadn’t arrived yet so we decided to look on every other planet in the galaxy”.

So Shira got blown up (but not killed) and Luke went off to investigate her, only to learn that she was a special agent trained by Vader to infiltrate the Alliance. Flashback on Coruscant alert! In that regard (and in terms of appearance) she was a clear precursor to Mara Jade, although much less of a Mary Sue type (She’s a smuggler! She’s a spy! She’s a Jedi! She can kick everyone’s ass!).

Luke never had much luck with girls. Later in the series he would hook up with a cute, but unscience fictionally named Mary, who was not only inappropriately dressed for a revolutionary, but also got killed as they were on their way to have sex (that’s my interpretation of the plot anyway). Interestingly (and yes, I am fascinated by this below par issue), in a page that didn’t appear in the UK reprint, Luke muses that Mary reminds him of Leia. Yep, even after the events of Return of the Jedi, Luke still kinda wants to fuck his sister.

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Speed, Noise and Cool Looking Shit

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

I had a bit of a surprise when I saw this article on Topless Robot. The slightly hipsterish sounding “Star Wars Holiday Special Life Day Celebration” included a shrine to the end of the Expanded Universe (because why not?), and there was, seemingly, my Jaxxon picture adorning a candle. In order to tell my wife about this I had to explain what the Holiday Special was, explain what The Expanded Universe was, (and how that particular universe had come to an end, even though it never actually existed), and explain that Han Solo once hung around with a six foot green humanoid gunslinging rabbit. When you talk about this sort of stuff to non nerds, it sounds really fucking goofy.

Even as a massive Star Wars obsessive I was never that bothered about the Expanded Universe. Well apart from The Marvel Comics. And The Clone Wars, obviously. And the Dark Forces/Jedi Knight games were pretty dope. And the NPR radio drama. And Knights of The Old Republic. And X-Wing. And TIE Fighter. And West End Games’ Star Wars Role Playing Game. Actually, as an EU refusenik, I’m like one of those “vegetarians” who eat fish.

We pick the stuff we like and and happily disregard the rest. Well, some of us do. Some fans will wallow in everything. each individual fiction as “real” as the next, while others will be militant “movies only” fans (and often, “Original Trilogy only”, but let’s not go there).

The repository of all this gloriously sprawling hot mess of story/history/made up space nonsense is Wookieepedia, which chronicles everything from The Darker to Luke Skywalker’s Dog. No detail is too obscure or too stupid although not every fiction was deemed to have the same reality, however, and entries were segregated into levels of canon, a scale of importance from the movies at the top (G-Level, for George, obv) to forgotten ephemera like Yoda Stories at the bottom.

Ackbar - for no reason whatsoever

That’s changed now, of course. Since Disney bought Lucasfilm and announced that they would be making more movies, they’ve had to take the necessary step of getting rid of the existing Expanded Universe. It makes sense, if you’re making films that you want to be huge, big budget mainstream successes, the last thing you want to be telling people before they walk into the cinema is that they need to read four million spin off novels in order to get caught up.

Much of the architecture of the Galaxy Far Far Away has persisted, of course. Names of planets, alien races and corporations that never appeared in the films, many created for West End Games’ RPG, have been happily used as a resource by writers on The Clone Wars, Rebels and the first novels and comics under the new regime. Even though Trioculus isn’t there any more, don’t look for him, Twi’leks are still called Twi’leks, even though nobody can decide on the correct pronunciation.

The Second Best Character From The Clone Wars

Many fans predictably lost their minds about the announcement*, and it’s easy to see why. In reading a novel you become much more invested in the characters, especially if those characters have been created specifically for those books. I checked out of the post Jedi books round about the time when Han and Leia’s kids were babies and were getting stolen as often as The Death Star plans**, but I understand those characters grew up and were given greater leeway and room for development than their seniors, who would be required to remain as close as possible to the way they appeared onscreen all those years ago.

The novels never did it for me, though. They didn’t capture the feel of the movies, which were always about speed, noise and cool looking shit (naturally I gravitated to video games and The Clone Wars). So, not being invested in those particular stories, I didn’t care too much that they were no longer canon (at any level).  The idea that some stories are more “real” than others, whilst they all remain fictional, is ridiculous, of course, but it’s brilliantly ridiculous.

As a child of the 70s, having grown up with the Marvel Comics series, I was used to the idea of stories being disregarded. When I saw The Empire Strikes Back in 1980, I may have genuinely wondered why Darth Vader and Luke never referenced the fact that they had already run into each other on the planet Monastery. I was dismayed that Kenner never produced action figures of Baron Tagge,  Dani or Valance. But it soon became apparent that these stories weren’t quite happening in the same universe. One of the greatest moments in that series is the two parter Resurrection of Evil/To Take The Tarkin. Luke and Leia are searching for a location for the new rebel base, while Lando and Chewie are looking for Boba Fett and the frozen Han Solo, and they are all recalled back to the fleet to deal with a new threat from the Empire – a newly constructed, sort of but not quite Death Star. The doomy mood of the story completely fits into the atmosphere of the end of Empire and the beginning of Jedi, and it features a brilliant solution to the problem of Luke and Vader encountering each other without actually being able to come face to face.

However, this story can’t happen within continuity. Not because it contradicts anything in the films, but because, by taking away the novelty (such as it was) of resurrecting The Death Star, it muddies the clear, direct storyline we see in the trilogy. That also goes for Luke and Vader’s “showdown” prior to Empire, and the ridiculous back and forth of Han’s debt to Jabba The Hut(t). Ultimately the spin offs never affected the films*** and I can’t see that situation changing, although with the creation of the “Story Group” there may be fewer contradictions from now on.

Lucasfilm’s announcement also suggested they wanted to discourage the use of the term Expanded Universe. Everything going forward is either “Legends” (the  mountains of old stories in books, comics and games) or Canon, (the original films, and everything to be produced from now on, whether it be the new films, TV series and forthcoming spin offs).

Real

Even though there were a few things that were rumoured to have had George Lucas glance in their direction (Shadows Of The Empire, The Force UnleashedCaravan of Courage etc), the Expanded Universe literally meant everything Star Wars that wasn’t the movies. So, essentially, everything that Lucas hadn’t had a direct hand in creating. That trend was bucked when The Clone Wars TV Series was created, and between 2008 and 2014, Lucas would drive story development and produce the whole thing. Clone Wars, while being a spin off, was generally considered to be canon rather than EU.

So, stop me if you can see where I’m going with this, going forward into an era where the creator of the Star Wars Saga is no longer involved in any stories, surely everything we’ll see from now on can be considered Expanded Universe. That includes Rebels, the new books and comics and, yes, The Force Awakens. I’m fine with that, really, as even when Lucas was talking about the notional episodes 7, 8 and 9, he was extremely vague and non committal. For the past decade or so, he’s been denying they were ever even on the cards so it’s clear his heart was never in it. He completed the story he set out to tell and now he’s left his universe to be expanded ad infinitum.

7w

 

* Ziro The Hutt is canon but Grand Admiral Thrawn isn’t? Travesty! Actually Ziro is way better than Thrawn. He’s a giant purple slug with a ridiculous voice and mother issues, who pretended to be in love with a… well, whatever Sy Snootles is.
**This is an EU joke
*** Beyond a handful of names (Coruscant), background characters (Aayla Secura) and this awesome illustration
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