Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 180: Star Wars #6
Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be doing theme weeks, with each week devoted to comics from one decade. This week’s decade: the 1970s! Today’s page is from Star Wars #6 and was published by Marvel and is cover dated December 1977. As with many of the comics this month, I borrowed this from Howard Harris, my comics retailer, who was nice enough to let me take them home and scan them. He’s been very helpful this month, so why not finish with a comic from his collection? Enjoy!
I wanted to get some early Howard Chaykin into the 1970s week, and here he is, although this page doesn’t really give us a good look at what Chaykin can do. It’s interesting to see this issue, though, because it’s very “un-Chaykin-esque,” especially the way he draws people. I haven’t seen a lot of Chaykin’s early artwork, so I don’t know if he evolved into what we see in the 1980s and beyond or if he was deliberately changing his style to fit a Marvel house look on this book. Either way, this is definitely a Howard Chaykin page!
Obviously, this issue corresponds with the end of the first movie, and it’s interesting to read the letters column, in which we’re told that Thomas and Chaykin had sat down with Lucas not too much earlier and discussed where the book would go after this issue. Lucas, we’re told, had several screenplays named “Star Wars” that were unlike the movie, so he had a lot of ideas about where he was going with it. If Marvel knew that meant retconning the Han Solo/Greedo gun fight and casting Hayden Christensen, would they have been as enthusiastic about it? No man can say! It’s also interesting that readers were comparing this to the comic book adaptation of Logan’s Run. With the possible exception of Greg Hatcher, I doubt if anyone would compare Logan’s Run favorably with Star Wars, yet their merits are debated in this issue’s letters page! (Sorry, Greg – I just like messing with you!) None of that, however, deals with this first page, so let’s check it out!
Thomas begins the issue with a question: “Is this — the Final Chapter?” Well, that depends on how commercially successful the comic is, doesn’t it? The question mark is placed by someone (one of the letterers, Chaykin, or the “embellishers”) outside the starburst caption putting our eye right into the action, with the X-Wing right above it. Thomas then gives us a dramatic “Thirty minutes!”, which is how long before the Death Star will be in position to destroy the rebel base. Countdowns always add drama to the proceedings, so it gets the comic off to an exciting start. Obviously, Thomas can’t deviate too far from the movie, but let’s say you bought this comic without having seen the movie first (yeah, right). We learn about the Death Star, “a technological terror whose firepower dwarfs that of even the Imperial War Fleet,” and that the rebel fighters are arriving from the “fourth moon of Yavin” – was it the fourth moon of Yavin, or the moon of Yavin, the fourth planet in the system? At the bottom of the page, we learn that Luke Skywalker is flying one of the jets. That’s helpful.
Chaykin gives us a decent splash page, considering, again, that he has to follow the plot of the movie. The Death Star weapon is positioned nicely a bit off-center, forming a nice anchor of the page around which the X-Wings rotate. The first two X-Wings, as noted, are by the question mark, forming a bridge to Thomas’ text boxes, and the X-Wing coming in from the right side underneath the fourth caption box blocks our eye from going any further and draws it back toward the center, where we read the dialogue. The pilot scolds Wedge for being too far out, and we learn his call sign – Blue Two (Luke is Blue Five, we learn in a couple of pages). Reading that dialogue enables us to move back toward the right and down, where we see Wedge’s response. Will switching to “manual” mean anything further on in the book? Only a page turn will tell us for sure! Chaykin’s design both allows our eye to fall into the drawing and give us an easy way out – the streaks from the back of the X-Wings move us quickly to Wedge’s fighter and thence onto Page 2. We don’t get much of a sense of Chaykin’s designing skills, because everything has already been designed for him and he’s working off of that, but the layout is effective while still being fairly simple.
I didn’t read this issue, so I’m not exactly sure what happens at the end of it. I assume Luke gets blown up and Wedge saves the day and gets the girl, because that would make perfect sense. I also think I saw Darth Vader tell Han Solo that he, Vader, is Solo’s long-lost uncle, but again, that’s just from me skimming it. I’m sure it makes sense if you read it!
I know June has two more days, but in order to just do seven days for each decade, I’ve decided to start going all random again tomorrow. I have some ideas for what the next theme month will be, and it’s something you guys can vote on, so look for solicitations for ideas in the next day or two! While you’re trying to beat the heat, don’t forget to take a tour through the archives.