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Star Wars: 

Eight for 












Read it!



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"Now would you three guys mind running that past me again? again? You say you've got a job for me -- if I don't have an an an 'unfortunate aversion to dying?'"

-- Han Solo                    

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When a person revisits things from their childhood one of two things usually happens, reaction-wise: either a "This is so cool! How in the hell could I forget that?" or "This is crap. How in the hell did I ever think this crap was cool?" So where does Marvel's run of Star Wars comics fit into these two categories? Well, I'm gonna balk and say 'depends on the issue' as a cop-out.

Back in 1977, Marvel Comics managed to land the 4-color movie adaptation for George Lucas's monstrous smash hit. Hell, I read the comics before I even saw the movie, which I didn't get to see it until its second run in 1978, catching it at the long lost and lamented Hastings Drive-In Theater from the front seat of the old family station wagon (-- or the back seat whenever Darth Vader appeared and I bailed for cover. That metallic breathalyzer just freaked the crap out of me.) Well, we all know that the world went a little crazy for that galaxy far, far away and the denizens who lived there back in '77 -- and we were all clamoring for more. And when the folks at Marvel answered that call for almost a decade and 107 issues, some were good, some were bad, and some were ... well, some needed to be read to be believed because if I told you the plots, you'd think I'd been licking the hallucinogenic juices off the back of a dead Mynock.

The first six issues dealt with adapting A New Hope, and issue #7 picks up with Han and Chewbacca saying goodbye to Luke and Leia to go and spend that reward money they'd earned rescuing the captured Princess from the evil Empire's clutches. But no sooner has our favorite space rogue jumped out of the Yavin system when the Millennium Falcon is attacked by Crimson Jack and his merry band of space pirates. (And all that's missing from these panels, matey's, are a few eye-patches, peg-legs and a couple of hearty "yearrrghhs.") After the pirates clean them out, Han and Chewie land on the nearest backwater planet -- Aduba-III, and quickly locate the nearest Cantina, hoping to drum up some more work. On the way, they stumble upon a ruckus over a funeral procession. Seems the locals don't want the person in the coffin -- a cyborg, buried in the local cemetery. Not one for bigotry, Han and mostly Chewie pitch in. And as the Wookie beats off the mob of anti-technological Luddites, Han agrees to help the resident holy man complete the funeral rites without further incident.

Our sort-of familiar plot then continues when they reach the cantina. Here, having witnessed what they've done, three local farmers ask the two strangers for help. You see, their village is under constant attack from Serji-X Arrogantus -- the Arrogant One (-- in case we didn't get it), and his horde of blaster-packin' sky-bandits, who ride around on their rocket-powered toboggans, raping the crops, burning down the livestock, and stampeding the womenfolk ... With no other prospects, Solo agrees to help for what little these peasants have to offer in payment -- the big softy, but figures he'll need some more help and starts recruiting a few other "down on their luck spacers." And something tells me that with him and Chewie already on board, about five more will do. Making them an even seven...

It's my understanding that the famed Marvel bullpen rushed these books through production to get them out and on the stands before the furor and fervor over Star Wars burned out. Almost thirty years later the fervor never dwindled, but the rush job on these early books shows -- and it shows pretty badly.

Writer Roy Thomas was obviously ripping off the The Magnificent Seven in this first story arc, and he isn't done strip-mining that movie yet either. For the first three issues he borrows heavily from it, but then it takes an unexpected turn in the fourth, where he borrows a few more ideas from our friends in Japan. So what we got here is The Magnificent Seven II: In Outer Space, with Solo in the Yul Brynner role, Chewbacca as Steve McQueen, and since we're in outer-space, the other five gunslingers have got to be aliens, too, right? 

Yup. And very colorful ones at that:

  • Hedji -- an alien porcupine who can fire his quills with lethal accuracy. (I'm thinking this is James Coburn.)

  • The Buxom Amaiza -- an old acquaintance of Solo's from his days in The Black Hole gang. (Brad Dexter, the one nobody remembers; but I do seem to remember reading about The Black Hole gang on a trading card I had back in '78 as well, making it an official part of the Star Wars universe.)

  • And there's a crazy old coot in a rusty suit of armor, armed with a lightsaber, who claims to be a Jedi Knight. His name -- wait for it -- Don-Wan-Kihotay ... No. I am not making that up. (And he's just as nutzoid as Robert Vaughn, so if they run into any windmills, this guy's got 'em covered.)

  • Jimm -- the self-proclaimed Starkiller Kid, is green, but Starkiller reminds Solo of another young farmboy and lets him tag along. (Horst Bucholz, the snot-nosed punk.)

  • And then there's Jaxx. A six-foot tall green space rabbit -- and a wise-ass six-foot tall green space rabbit to boot ... No. I'm not making this one up either. But I'm gonna let you reread all that, just so's it'll sink in properly. (Charles Bronson is represented by a giant green space rabbit from Aduba-III? All apologies to the Bronson family.)

Thomas tries to hedge the number by counting Jimm's rickety robot, FE-9Q, as a member of the expedition, but I ain't buying it.

With his hired-guns assembled, when Serji-X gets wind of the operation he seeks Solo out and tries to buy him off. (He even looks like Eli Wallach, but I think he's really supposed to be a caricature of long time cartoonist Sergio AragonÚs.) But Solo refuses; the guy's just got a soft spot for lost causes; and when his band arrives at the village and starts to prepare the locals for the upcoming onslaught, one of the village elders -- who claims to be a shaman, tells Solo that he and his team of mercenaries are not needed. For he has another, more permanent solution for the village's bandito problem. But the other villagers tell Solo to ignore the old man's gibberings about -- wait for it -- the capability of summoning a legendary monster to save the village. 

You mean they're going to rip off Daimajin, too? Cool.

Soon enough the sky-riders attack, and as Solo and his mercenaries hold their own, I gotta admit, it's pretty dang cool seeing a savage and more feral Chewbacca take out the bad guys. Before becoming the neutered comic relief in the later films, the Wookie was something else in these old comics. This is my Chewbacca: the one ripping people's arms off and beating them to death with it -- not the one who Tarzan yodels while taking out AT-ST's.

Though the good guys aren't out-gunned they are outnumbered, and the tide of battle starts to turn against them -- until the old shaman manages to blurt out the right incantation. And then the earth violently shakes as a nearby mountain splits apart, revealing an ancient behemoth that can shoot a laser-beam out of its noggin. 

Nope. Not making that up either.

Luckily, the shaman is able to control the giant beastie, which makes quick work of the sky-raiders, whose blasters have no affect on the creature's tough hide. Unfortunately, the shaman isn't very good at controlling the monster and accidentally gets himself stepped on and squished. (Whoopsie. My bad.) And with no one to control it, the behemoth soon goes berserk and starts attacking everybody. But Don-Wan-Kihotay mistakes the beast for a windmill and charges it with his lightsaber. The blade proves more effective than blaster fire, but the old man doesn't have the strength to finish the job.

But Solo steps in and takes up the lightsaber, and with an assist from Chewie (-- a derivation of the X-Men's classic fastball special), manages to kill the beast, saving the day. And to quote Mr. Solo himself, "Holy Beek-Monkeys!! That was close!!"

The first original story arc was a blatant rip-off but a helluva lot of fun -- at least I found it so. When I first read it at the age of eight, I had no clue about the western -- or the samurai flick it was based on, or whatever story it was originally based on, so, in hindsight, it doesn't really matter all that much. There's a few subplots involving Luke and Leia seeking out a location for a new rebel base -- and I think half the plots of these old comics was trying to find a new rebel base -- that really got rolling in the following issues, when all our character are reunited and marooned on a water world. Both stories are collected in the Doomworld trade paperback from Dark Horse Comics.

Venerable industry curmudgeon Howard Chaykin co-scripted these early issues with Thomas and handled the art chores. The art is more than passable but like I said: this was a rush job, and the majority of the credit has got to go to inker Tom Palmer. Palmer and fellow inkers like Terry Austin add incredible detail and depth with their craft. So can we please finally tear down, burn, bury, and -- forgive me, piss on the ashes of Kevin Smith's asinine notion that inkers are nothing but tracers? Look at the difference between the art of issue #7 and #8. Same artist, different inker. I rest my case.

Though not as bad as, say, The Holiday Special, Marvel's Star Wars run was still very hit and miss. And it didn't help matters that the creators' hands were tied on what they could and couldn't do. Lucas, as we all know, is a control freak and none of this is considered canon. Which is probably a good thing because I seem to recall a few situations with Luke and Leia that could only be considered weird after the revelations in Return of the Jedi. E'yup ... rebel scum really do kiss their sisters. A lot. *Bleaugh!*

I love Star Wars, Empire and Jedi but freely admit that they aren't great movies and find the prequels utter-crap. Lucas has some wonderful ideas but is a lousy scriptwriter -- as those three prequels amply proved IMHO. We wail and gnash our teeth wishing he'd let someone else do his screenplays, but sometimes we have to be careful what we wish for -- and I clearly remember the first time I saw Jar-Jar Binks, the first thing I thought of was old Jaxx and his big green ears and enormous clod-hoppers.

When the hoopla surrounding the release of The Phantom Menace hit, values of old Star Wars merchandise sky-rocketed, including these old comics. They're still kind of pricey, but if you're like me, you still had your old comics, worn and earmarked, to dig out and go through. If you still have the itch to check them out but don't have the scratch, again, Dark Horse has re-released Marvel's entire run in series of trade-paperbacks. So if you're checking them out for the first time, or rekindling old and sketchy memories about giant, green space-bunnies fighting cross-eyed dinosaurs like I was, these will be the best place to start.

Originally Posted: 11/25/05 :: Rehashed: 05/20/09

Knuckled-out by Chad Plambeck: misspeller of words, butcher of all things grammatical, and king of the run on sentence. Copy and paste at your own legal risk. Questions? Comments? Shoot us an e-mail.
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