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A Look Back at Marvel’s Original Star Wars Comics

Even before Marvel was bought by Disney, Marvel’s Original Star Wars comics took fans to a galaxy far far away.

When Disney bought the rights to Star Wars, they immediately said that the Star Wars expanded universe was no longer cannon. It would now be known as Star Wars Legends. Meanwhile, Lucasfilm Story Group would oversee all new materials created so they stayed true to the films of the past, and especially the future ones. This upset many Star Wars fan who, in the past 30 years grew to believe that these stories were really what happened to the characters they loved.

I understand the outrage, but the decision didn’t bother me. I’ve always seen any story outside of the movies as fictional adventures. The reason for that may be because I was raised a very limited Star Wars expanded universe. 

Beginning of The Marvel Era of Star Wars Comics

We had the Han Solo trilogy by Brian Daley, which could have happened before Han met up with Luke Skywalker and company, but didn’t matter either way. We also had Splinters of the Mind’s Eye by Alan Dean Foster, which was actually written as a fallback Star Wars sequel if the first didn’t do well. I didn’t know that as a kid, but I did know it was not “cannon” because both Leia and Luke have lightsaber duals with Darth Vader. Then later came the Lando Calrissian trilogy by L. Neil Smith. Like the Han Solo trilogy, these tales took place before Lando came into the movies, and though they did tell how he won, then lost, the Millennium Falcon, it didn’t matter to the original movies.

Then there was Marvel’s monthly Star Wars comic. What started as a six-issue adaptation of the movie continued, as they coined: “Beyond the movie! Beyond the galaxy!” I don’t think anybody would refer to this series as an official part of the Star Wars Legends, but in 2010, Dark Horse comics republished the entire run in numerous graphic novels. And within the past few years, the covers of these issues have shown up on some merchandise, including t-shirts and bathing suits (I know because I own one. Yes, I’m that geeky.)

At first the writers (Roy Thomas and Howard Chaykin to start) only had the one movie to draw stories from. So they had to fill three years, and over thirty issues before getting the next glimpse into the galaxy far, far away. Looking back, there are lots of “mistakes” but it didn’t matter to the readers at the time.

The first storyline centers on Han Solo and Chewbacca who take off to pay back Jabba the Hutt, as one would assume. But space pirate Crimson Jack steals their reward. The duo regroups on Aduba-3 and end up leading a rag tag group of misfits to save some farmers from a ruthless gang. Solo recruits some interesting characters, including Jaxxon a very violent, green bunny rabbit (who is referenced on one of the cover of the new Star Wars series), and a delusional old man who thinks he’s a Jedi Knight named… Don-Wan Kihotay. Groan. Though the style feels a little too cartoony for the Star Wars universe, these comics still hold up as a fun sci-fi adventures. (Though at one point Han refers to Tatooine as Dantooine, if I’d noticed it back then, I may have won a No Prize.)

On a fun side note, issue #10 was written by Donald F. Glut, who would go on to write the novelization of The Empire Strikes Back. Archie Goodwin takes over the writing after that, while Carmine Infantino and Bob Wiacek become the regular artists.

The Start of Star Wars Begins Here

Image via Stack Exchange

The first storyline centers on Han Solo and Chewbacca who take off to pay back Jabba the Hutt, as one would assume. But space pirate Crimson Jack steals their reward. The duo regroups on Aduba-3 and end up leading a rag tag group of misfits to save some farmers from a ruthless gang. Solo recruits some interesting characters, including Jaxxon a very violent, green bunny rabbit (who is referenced on one of the cover of the new Star Wars series), and a delusional old man who thinks he’s a Jedi Knight named… Don-Wan Kihotay. Groan. Though the style feels a little too cartoony for the Star Wars universe, these comics still hold up as a fun sci-fi adventures. (Though at one point Han refers to Tatooine as Dantooine, if I’d noticed it back then, I may have won a No Prize.)

On a fun side note, issue #10 was written by Donald F. Glut, who would go on to write the novelization of The Empire Strikes Back. Archie Goodwin takes over the writing after that, while Carmine Infantino and Bob Wiacek become the regular artists.


Meanwhile, Luke Skywalker is searching for a new rebel base and ends up disappearing. Princess Leia races out after him and ends up captured by Crimson Jack. Han and Chewie are also captured by Jack (that guy gets around), and they all eventually end up on Luke’s water planet. It’s not until issue #14 that we find the team reunited, and issue #15 wraps up the first post-movie story arc. Wow, almost a year.

Filling in the Blanks Between the Movies

It’s funny that they call issue #18 The Empire Strikes! I doubt at this time that the name of the second movie had even been announced. But finally the Empire begins to have a bigger role on the comics. We have to wait until issue #21 for Darth Vader’s return. He’s searching for the rebels, though not on their last know base of Yavin, which for some crazy reason, they were still located, and would not leave until the next major storyline. Luke appears to be able to sense Vader using The Force, which was great at the time, but now seems a little too early.

They tell a few flashback stories early on, one is a not very interesting tale about Luke and Biggs on Tattoine. The more interesting one is when Princess Leia tells a tale about Obi-Wan Kenobi in the days of the Old Republic. Decades before having the prequels to draw from, guest writer Mary Jo Duffy did a great job telling a story about the most famous peacekeeper in the galaxy.

Issue #28 boasts the return of Jabba the Hutt. This is not the Jabba we’ll later meet in Return of the Jedi, but one based on concept art for the original movie. The famous deleted Jabba scene from A New Hope was published in the original comic adaptation. Here Han tries to negotiate with the crime boss, but of course, fails. Soon after, Luke returns to Tatooine, which also contradicts the actions of Jedi.

Empire Strikes Back in Comic Form

Issues before their adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back, we find Luke facing off with Darth Vader in a lightsaber dual. Seems odd they would have such a contradiction this close to the new movie.

The biggest post-Empire problem was the absence of Han Solo. And that Lando and Chewie were supposed to be headed directly to Tatooine. Of course, their quest keeps getting sidetracked and called back by Princess Leia in order extended the search for three years of comics.

When David Michelinie and Walter Simon take over as creative team in issue #51, the comic really took off. Even without Han, they had some great stories. Yeah, they contradict Jedi by having the Empire build The Tarkin, a Death Star like weapon, but it’s worth it for a great story of espionage.

There are so many great storylines during this time: Leia is stranded on a primitive world, Lando returns to Cloud City and Luke is framed and put on trial. And best of all, they seek out all the other bounty hunters we saw in Empire. They introduce the cute hoojibs, bring in a Mandalorean with a suit similar to Boba Fett’s, and introduce the recurring characters of Rik Duel, Dani and Chihdo (probably a relative of Greedo). The later are fun, though untrustworthy, additions to the team. And make the absence on Han Solo a little more tolerable.

The Trilogy Ends in Comic

Image via Movie Pilot

The road to Return of the Jedi feels like a long one. This time, the movie adaptation was not part of the monthly comic, but a stand-alone mini-series, and the third movie does not take place until after issue #80. The stories are interesting, though at times cartoonish. Jo Duffy crosses us over to the post-Jedi time, where I feel Marvel dropped the ball. Yes, it was great to see Han Solo back (thought the blew resurrecting Boba Fett), but they were not sure what to do with the entire world. The Empire is hardly even mentioned again, and even if we didn’t know back then what we know from both the expanded universe and the trailers of The Force Awakens, the Empire was not going to die easily. They do bring in a new set of bad guys, the Nagai, but even as a kid, I was done with the book by then.

Not to say we didn’t have over six years of great stories. And they may not have been cannon from the day they were created, but they were still fun. And revisiting them is a great trip down memory lane.

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