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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 bet Wedge is good at Trivial Pursuit

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.

14 Comments

IIRC the late great Dave Stevens inked one page of this issue.

Looking at the fine print: 5.50 Canadian for 12 issues? What a rip-off!!!!!

;)

I think the best examples of early Chaykin were his runs on Sword and Sorcery and Tales of Atlantis. Sword and Sorcery #4 is online: http://stendec8.blogspot.com/2012/02/sword-sorcery-4-1973-with-howard.html Although the inks by Alan Weiss, Bernie Wrightson, Michael Kaluta, and Walt Simonson sometimes obscure Chaykin, the long, lithe figures Chaykin favored at the time are evident and greatly differ from the massive, bulky figures we know from his later style.

Could the “Is this” and the question mark been added later after the book was finished and the decision made to continue beyond just adapting the movie?

[quote]I doubt if anyone would compare Logan’s Run favorably with Star Wars[/quote]

I would.

As a star wars fan two things:
1. The comic is clearly drawn from knowledge of the story but pre-movie (as you’ve said), as Luke and Wedge are part of Red Squadron in the movie (in the original book, it’s blue squadron, like here).
2. Why exactly are the X-Wings’ s-foils in cruise position? You’re kind of close to the Death Star here guys!

MorganEdge: That’s certainly possible. I don’t know how popular the comic was, so maybe they weren’t sure if it would continue.

garik15: I forgot that Luke and Wedge were in the Red Squadron. Man, it’s been a loooooong time since I’ve seen the movie. As for the X-Wings … I guess Marvel editors didn’t do a lot of work back in 1970s, either!

My favorite early Chaykin is the Nick Fury story from Marvel Spotlight #31, which came out a year before this issue. And, as you can see by the cover, Chaykin’s faces were already Ruben Flagg-esque.

Oddly enough, this actually was my first issue of the STAR WARS comic and I did read it before seeing the movie. It was on the basis of this final chapter that I pestered my parents to take my little brother and me to see it about a week or so after I bought and read that issue in October, long after it had been out in theaters. (My family wasn’t big on going to the movies in the seventies; that was more of an eighties phenomenon for us.)

Actually, the artwork in this issue doesn’t match what Chaykin was doing in earlier issues off the title, nor does it match the style of artwork he’d turn in on issues 7-10. Issue 1 seemed to be pure Chaykin and quite idiosyncratic in style. Issues 2-5 were inked by Steve Leialoha, who seemed to soften the rough edges. This issue was overpoweringly inked by Rick Hoberg and Bill Wray and looks nothing like the earlier issues, but does look somewhat more in keeping with what might expect from a film tie-in.

Pete Woodhouse

June 29, 2012 at 3:21 am

The Royer on lettering must be Kirby’s inker Mike Royer, right?

The paper & page size really doesn’t do the art justice, either. The page looks a lot better in the “GIANT” books of the movie adaptation (either the all-6-in-1 or the two part set that was 1-3 & 4-6), and I believe those had substantially better paper than a rack comic did at the time (but not as good as the “baxter” books that started appearing 5 years later).

I wonder if anyone’s got a scan of the page from one of the Giant books for comparison?

Ethan Shuster

June 29, 2012 at 5:11 am

if I may get extra geeky for a second (this is the website for it, I suppose), the way the word balloons are positioned, Wedge appears to be flying a Y-wing. Which probably doesn’t continue later into the issue.

And yes, the later issues begin to match the look of the film as compared to the less accurate first couple of issues. Based on the cover date of December, this issue must have actually been released closer to September or so, a few months after the film’s release.

Re Star Wars vs. Logan’s Run: so far as the comic book adaptations are concerned I’ve long maintained that Marvel’s version of Logan’s Run was a masterful piece of comic book page construction. George Perez did an amazing job with the storytelling on that book. Without regard to the relative merits of the films, I can say that some of us preferred Logan’s Run in comics form to the first six issues of Star Wars in comics form. (Mind you, when you get to Al Williamson’s Empire Strikes Back, that’s a whole other story.)

One thing that always bugged me about this page was that the angles of all the fighters are so extreme that it looks like they’re all going to crash into each other in about a second. I think the first Chaykin art I ever saw in a comic was in the Micronauts comic where they met Psycho-Man and the FF (maybe around 1980?), and I really disliked it. I still have one of those early issues where Jabba the Hutt is shown as a yellow, slim, more apelike creature!

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