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CSBG Archive

A Year of Cool Comics – Day 94

Here is the latest in our year-long look at one cool comic (whether it be a self-contained work, an ongoing comic or a run on a long-running title that featured multiple creative teams on it over the years) a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the moments posted so far!

Today we take a look at Walt Simonson and David Michelinie’s run on Star Wars…
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Enjoy!

Marvel’s Star Wars series during the 1980s was an interesting title, because it was the only time where new stories featuring the main characters of the Star Wars universe were being created CONCURRENTLY with the release of the actual movies.

As you might imagine, this was not exactly the best environment for creativity – particularly in the days before The Empire Strikes Back, since there was very little of a clear plot structure to the characters and their plots.

But even AFTER Empire, you also had a situation where one third of your main heroes, Han Solo, is suddenly not available to use, plus Darth Vador was not allowed to interact with Luke Skywalker.

So it’s doubly impressive that Walt Simonson and David Michelinie had such a memorable run on the title in the early 80s.

Simonson was the regular artist on the comic for about a dozen issues, but a couple of those include the infamous “re-write an old issue of John Carter of Mars into a Star Wars story” issues. So issues #55-62 contain the bulk of the “real” Michelinie/Simonson run, and they are some strong comics.

Paired with inker Tom Palmer, Simonson’s pencils are absolutely gorgeous – he is one of those rare artists who excels at both character-driven scenes AND dynamic action scenes, although, naturally enough, the latter tends to get more attention, because, well, they’re dynamic action scenes!

During their run, Simonson and Michelinie introduced a couple of notable characters to the Star Wars series.

One was this little creature called Plif…

and another was a female pilot named Shira Brie, who was set up as a love interest for Luke…

but who also had a dark secret…

But besides introducing new characters (Brie, in particular, would stick around for many years to come), this creative team just told solid, engaging stories.

Here’s a brief snippet from a Lando-centric two-parter…

A nice set-up, no?

Plus, it doesn’t hurt when you have a guy like Simonson who can draw stuff like this whenever he feels like it…

This was a great run, although it’s very understandable that Simonson wanted to move on to something with a little more freedom, which he got with spades on his Thor run.

19 Comments

Just wanted to point out that there was also the AWESOME newspaper strip that was coming out during the films — though the newspaper strip told one mega-story that took place between Star Wars and Empire, even after Jedi was released. Still, it was running during the same time.

The newspaper strip definitely was consistently strong — the Marvel series certainly lost it’s luster toward the end of its run, although the examples you’ve used here are, of course, some of the highlights!

Peter Woodhouse

April 5, 2010 at 9:30 am

Lovely stuff. So why did Simonson’s pencils deteriorate so badly in the late 80s?
His breakthrough on Manhunter was awesome, still one of my favourite series; good stuff from there until Thor – from what I’ve seen from that acclaimed run, I like. But around X-Factor 20-25 onwards, urgh!

I’m all for artists’ style developing & getting looser – Gil Kane was much better for his work loosening up in the late 60s.
I actually had to stop buying X-Factor because Simonson’s art was just so scrappy-looking. Such a decline – or is it just me? I’d welcome any other comments.
P.

One of my favorite storylines was the Shira Brie arc. I read those issues when I was about 8 years old, and they had always stuck with me. I had the good fortune to be able to track down those issues again a few years ago, and I still take them out every so often for a re-read.
Good stuff.

Such a decline – or is it just me?

It’s just you. Simonson alters his style slightly with each project– you should definitely check out Orion, which ranks up there as one of his best. That sheer, raw godly power emanates from the artwork.

It’s not just you, Peter. I’ve almost always hated Simonson’s art whenever I’ve seen it. It was tolerable on Thor, but ghastly on X-Factor, as well as the few other stories I’ve seen here and there.
But this Star Wars stuff is great. I never would’ve guessed it was Simonson. I was thinking that maybe it’s the inking that makes all the difference. Did Simonson ink himself on X-Factor? I was thinking he did. Anyway, I really hate that extremely sketchy look. But with Tom Palmer here it’s excellent.

On X-Factor Simonson was inked by Bob Wiacek. I think that his penciling hasn’t deteriorated at all.

On his later issues of X-Factor, Simonson was inked by Al Milgrom, which was a horrible combination IMHO.

Wow, to me Simson’s pencils improved with time and X-Factor was his peak up until that point.

Mary and Peter are nutso.

Walt’s X-Factor pencils with the Wiacek inks were great. His last 4-5 issues that Milgrom inked don’t look as nice. Milgrom might be the least complimentary inker in the business. He can make anyone’s pencils look worse.

And Bill’s right about Orion- it may be Walt’s best work.

Love those classic Palmer inks. His Buscema/Avengers work was legendary.

Ethan Shuster

April 6, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Just FYI, Shira Brie is letter shown to have survived and then years later, another writer resurrects her as a “Dark Lord” type named Lumiya. The character, like most of the Marvel run, went unreferenced in Star Wars fiction for years, but a few years ago she became a major villain in one of the SW novel series.

Anyway, Michelinie puts out a pretty nice run of stories, many of which show a more mature version of SW than the Marvel series’ earlier issues.

Peter Woodhouse

April 6, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Ah – maybe it was Milgrom’s and/or Wiacek’s inks that turned me off Simonson then. What did Simonson do after this in the early 90s? I haven’t really got anything else to compare his stuff with.
You see, I left most Marvel comics in the early 90s (by 1995, I’d gone completely – Image, speculators, no money, etc, the usual story). For that matter, where did Palmer go after Avengers?

Looks like I’ll have check out Orion, as recommended above. Cheers, Bill, Dan, everyone!

Palmer stayed on Avengers for donkeys years, was still inking it when the original run finished at issue 401. By that pt his inking style wasn’t doing the penciller’s any favours at all but here it’s superb and isn’t bad at all on earlier Avengera issues c250/260. See http://comicbookdb.com/creator.php?ID=876.

For more Milgrom inking madness see Essential X-Factor v3 and what he did to Paul Smith’s pencils. Then again his Avengers and WCA is good enough, and his inking of Art Adams on X-Factor looks ok.

I thought Milgrom’s inking was great on Infinity War. Maybe it depends on which penciler he’s covering.

Oh definitely. We can all think of good matches. Unfortunately Al’s record has some of the notable not so good pairings on it.

+1 on the newspaper strip. After a decent initial run by Russ Manning, the strip was taken over by Archie Goodwin (who wrote the bulk of Marvel’s pre-ESB issues) and the legendary Walt Simonson. Together (they also did Marvel’s ESB and ROTJ adaptations), they’re the Star Wars team to beat.

See, Mary, whereas I find Milgrom over Ron Lim to be awful. Sadly, they were paired for much of Lim’s time in the spotlight.

Some of the Michelanie/Simonson run…notably the Zeltrons…are featured in Ostrander’s Star Wars Legacy (which has a bunch of Marvel Star Wars bits…but no Hoojibs yet)

+1 on the newspaper strip. After a decent initial run by Russ Manning, the strip was taken over by Archie Goodwin (who wrote the bulk of Marvel’s pre-ESB issues) and the legendary Walt Simonson. Together (they also did Marvel’s ESB and ROTJ adaptations), they’re the Star Wars team to beat.

Isn’t the ESB adaptation and the Newspaper strip the work of Al Williamson, not Walt Simonson ?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al_Williamson

He worked on the RotJ LS too but other artists are also credited:

http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Star_Wars:_Return_of_the_Jedi_1:_In_the_Hands_of_Jabba_the_Hutt

Love, Love, Love this series….

Still filing holes in my run.

I actually had the “Planet of the Hoojibs” read-along story and cassette book. (“turn the page when you hear R2D2 beep like this: *&*&$^%”)

Plif was a Hoojib, and they managed to keep them involved in the comics AFTER Return of the Jedi as well, which I found cool…

I loved the covers for the Simonson run.. The ones that stick in my head from the issues mentioned above are “Luke Skywalker: Pariah!” and the Lando/Lobot fight…

Joy!

Thank you, Brian!

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