Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Classics - Star Wars #1

When this comic came out early in 1977, I didn't know much about Star Wars.

The movie hadn't been released yet, and other than a fleeting mention in the movie column in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, I was oblivious to the juggernaut that was heading my way.

As part of director George Lucas' plan to market the movie, he arranged for the six-part comics adaptation to start appearing before the movie hit theaters.

It didn't really work for me - I bought the comic because it was written by Roy Thomas and drawn by Howard Chaykin, an artist who has always been amoung my favorites.

The comic was... ok. The art was great, but there was so much information to cram in there, it was difficult to keep it all straight.

I kept buying the series for the creative team, but the stories didn't really make a big impression on me - until the movie was released. I remember standing in line for hours to see that first showing in my hometown (it had been released weeks before, but it took a while for it to be shown nationwide). I was stunned and delighted by the movie - it all worked perfectly: the story, the special effects, the music and the characters were all captivating.

I was captured from the opening credits on, and I returned to see the movie again and again - to this day, it's one of my all-time favorite films.

In those days before VCRs and DVDs, your options to enjoy the film outside the theater were limited. There was the movie soundtrack (which I listened to over and over) and there were the comic books (which I read over and over again).

The real delight in this first issue is that it includes scenes deleted in the film, as Luke Skywalker (on Tattooine) discusses joining the Rebellion with his friend Biggs - a character who shows up again in the movie's final battle. If you read the comic (or the novelization), that final scene is much more affecting.

It's also fun to pick out the mistakes - on the cover, Darth Vader is colored green, Princess Leia is a redhead, and Luke is much more mature than the film version.

But at a time when I was crazy for all things Star Wars (to be honest, I'm still crazy about it), this comic helped bridge the gap between visits to the theater.

The series ran for more than 100 issues, and the quality was up and down throughout (you could say the same about the movie sequels, I suppose) - but I still get a warm buzz of nostalgia just looking at the cover of that first issue. It really was the start of something big!

Grade: A-


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