“General Obi-Wan Kenobi–I present myself in the name of my father, Bail Antillies, Viceroy of Alderaan. Years ago, Commander, you served the Old Republic in the Clone Wars; now my father begs you to aid us again in our most desperate hour . . . You are our last hope…” – Princess Leia Organa
The first six issues of Marvel’s original Star Wars comic book series make up the first ever comic adaptation of the original Star Wars movie. The first issue was released in April of 1977 (despite it saying “July” on the cover), a month before Star Wars made its premiere in theaters. This first issue was simply titled Star Wars, while all subsequent issues of the series had titles of their own.
The first six issues of the series were titled as follows:
- Star Wars (Apr 12, 1977)
- Six Against the Galaxy (May 10, 1977)
- Death Star! (Jun 7, 1977)
- In Battle with Darth Vader (Jul 12, 1977)
- Lo, The Moons of Yavin! (Aug 10, 1977)
- Is This the Final Chapter? (Sep 13, 1977)
Over the years these issues have been released over and over again in various omnibuses and trade paperback collections published by both Marvel and Dark Horse Comics. I have always been curious to go back and read these old comics, as it is something I had never done before, so I picked up the first few of Dark Horse Comics’ Classic Star Wars: A Long Time Ago… omnibuses so I could finally take a crack at this classic series.
The series ran for nearly a decade, spanning 107 issues. As mentioned above, the first six issues of the series are an adaptation of the original Star Wars movie. Apart from these six issues–and issues 39-44, which adapt The Empire Strikes Back–the series tells its own original stories starring our heroes from the original Star Wars Trilogy.
For now, I’m just going to talk about the first six issues; the adaptation of what came to be known as Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. After reading Alan Dean Foster’s novelization of the film, and enjoying the extra tidbits of information the book provided that the film didn’t, I was curious to see if the comic adaptation would likewise bring something new to the table.
Just looking at the front cover of the first issue, the first thing that really sticks out to me about this series is the artwork. I confess I have never been a big fan of comic books, and I haven’t read very many of them in my days, but the few I have read have for the most part been published within the last 15 years. So, in my extremely limited experience with comic books, I’m used to art that looks a little bit more, uhh… modern?… than this (see Shattered Empire, for example).
With that said, I love the artwork in these books. I don’t think I can say that “it breathes new life into Star Wars” because it came out nearly four decades ago, but in a way I really feel it does. The comic doesn’t try to be an exact replica of the films. The characters all look quite different than their on-screen counterparts.
The colors are fantastic, and at times are wonderfully inappropriate. When did Han Solo paint the inside of the Millenium Falcon neon green? Why is Darth Vader green on the cover? Why are all the lightsabers pink? All the locations, settings, and characters are so vibrantly colored. Even the dogfights in space are full of color. Some images, like Obi-Wan’s death by the hand of Darth Vader, look absolutely ridiculous. Frankly, this all adds to the charm of the book, and I love it.
The covers of some of the issues are totally misleading. The cover of Issue #5, depicts our heroes on the surface of Yavin IV running desperately while the Death Star fires lasers at them from orbit. The cover of Issue #6 shows Luke and Vader having a lightsaber duel. Neither of those things ever happened in the movie, and they don’t even happen in the comic! They just looked nice on the cover I guess.
One thing that I noticed was that a lot of the panels in these comics felt really text-heavy. Some panels felt like they were just crammed with text boxes. Usually they were narration boxes, but sometimes speech bubbles did the same thing. You know that scene in the Special Edition of A New Hope where a big ol’ CGI alien walks right in front of the camera and literally blocks the entire screen for a couple seconds? Sometimes I felt like the text boxes were getting in the way like that. For the most part, this wasn’t an issue. But there were a few specific panels, or even specific pages where I noticed I sure was reading a lot.
As far as the story goes, these six issues are more-or-less a direct scene-for-scene adaptation of the movie. There are a few scenes in the comic that we don’t see in the movie, but they are the same extra scenes that appeared in Alan Dean Foster’s novelization of the film. We get to see Luke on Tatooine earlier than we do in the movie. His “friends” like to make fun of him and call him “Wormie” (this is actually referenced in the 2015 Marvel Star Wars series, which made me smile). We get to meet Biggs here on Tatooine, before he joins the Rebellion.
We also get to see Jabba the Hut (still spelled with just one “T”). In the movie Jabba is a giant slug. In the novelization Jabba was a human. In the comic, Jabba is… some silly-looking yellow humanoid alien. Apparently back then nobody had any idea who or what Jabba the Hutt actually was, so we have all these different versions of this scene spread across the various adaptations of the story.
There are little things that I found odd. Whenever the Force is mentioned it is always mentioned in quotation marks. Use “the Force!” Lightsaber is always spelled “lightsabre” with the “re” ending instead of “er.” Artoo Detoo is referred to as an “android” at least once. These are all very little things, but things that stuck out to me as they are not the norm in Star Wars literature.
What else is different? Leia says that her father is “Bail Antillies” when it should be “Bail Organa.” The funny thing is, Bail Antilles is actually a different character in Star Wars. Actually, there are two other characters in Star Wars named Bail Antilles, and neither of them are Leia’s father, Bail Organa. Is that sufficiently confusing?
Greedo speaks English. Luke says a line or two that Han actually says in the movie. Certain lines differ from what is said in the movie in a goofy way: “The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the Cosmic Force!” Obi-Wan straight-up murders the aliens in the cantina who are giving Luke a hard time.
Like in the novelization, Luke flies with Blue Squadron instead of Red Squadron. One of my favorite scenes from the book is repeated in the comic, where Blue Leader talks to Luke about knowing his father, Anakin Skywalker. Blue Leader knew that Anakin was a great pilot, and a Jedi. “The galaxy will be a lot better off when the sons of the original Jedi Knights are back on the scene!”
One thing I thought was funny was the overuse of the word “space.” After the Battle of Yavin is over, Luke finds Han and says “Han, you old space-devil! I knew you’d come back in time to keep me from winding up space-dust!” It’s a great space-quote, and it made me laugh. The word “space” is slapped in front of basically any word, and I just love it. This trend still continues in Star Wars literature today (though far, far less frequently). One of my favorite instances was actually in Chuck Wendig’s 2015 novel, Aftermath, in which fan-favorite bounty hunter Dengar says “I was putting away bounties while you were still in your space diapers.” I wonder how space diapers compare to regular diapers.
One detail that I appreciated was that the comic actually goes out of its way to explain why Chewbacca didn’t receive a medal at the end of the story. The explanation is simple; Leia is just way too short to put a medal around Chewbacca’s neck. The narrator points out that Chewbacca will receive a medal of his own after the ceremony, but he will have to put it on himself.
The comic book adaptation doesn’t bring a lot of new information to the story. If that’s what you’re looking for, you may be disappointed. But it is very fun to read and look at the great artwork from the late 70s. This is probably the goofiest adaptation of Star Wars I’ve seen yet, but that’s part of its charm. I’m definitely glad I picked this up, and I’m looking forward to continue reading the series and seeing the other original (and even weirder) stories that Marvel came up with.
“What the future holds for these six daring souls, only time and the space-winds know. But, for today… For now… They are content.”