I have a passion for collecting vintage Star Wars merchandise from the late 70's. Action figures, comics, trading cards etc - anything related to the first Star Wars movie. But why only until 1980? It's not that I don't love The Empire Strikes Back and beyond (I really do), but there is something about that first wave of Star Wars mania that really grips me, back when it was all fresh and exciting...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Marvel Annual 1979

As I've finished going through the various Marvel story arcs and with only a handful of one-shot issues to go, I thought it was time I took a look at the only Star Wars annual Marvel did in the pre-Empire Strikes Back era. Coincidentally, this 33-page annual was released this month 31 years ago!

So, what's the story? Well with a thicker format to work with (this comic even has a spine!) there was plenty more room to fill with an all new tale of Luke, Han and Leia getting into yet another intergalactic scrape. This time the villain is Kharys, the Magestrix of Skye, a green-skinned winged warrior woman who goes around with a posse of 'Catumen' warriors. She bumps into Leia (deliberately, incidentally) whilst Luke and the Princess are mooching around the planet of Tirahnn, setting off a brawl and a back-street chase between our heroes and the 'Cats'.

Luke and Leia make it back to the Falcon where Han has hooked up with yet another old flame, this time in the shape of superfly, seventies-chick Katya M'Buele. I'll take this time to mention that the artistic team-up of penciller Mike Vosburg and inker Steve Leialoha is superb here and they really capture the likeness of the characters which, to be fair, has been pretty spotty throughout the Marvel series so far.

Upon the relation of their tale, Katya recognises the description of Kharys. And Han knows her too, having severely ticked her off during his smuggling days.

Later on, a strange being enters the Falcon whilst all are asleep; some sort of fire elemental. It kills Katya, making her a totally throwaway character, before trying to take on Luke who dispatches the entity with his trusty old lightsaber. The gang then set off for Skye for a showdown with Kharys but upon arrival are shot down by a squadron of Imperial TIE fighters. Luke and Leia escape in a pod while Han and Chewie carry on in the Falcon and are presumably killed.

Captured by the Highland Clans, Luke and Leia are dragged before the winged council on charges of trespassing. Luke is recognised as an enemy of the Empire (who the people of Skye are subservient to) but his lightsaber is also recognised as having belonged to their 'wingless brother' and the Highland Clans decide to help them rescue Han and Chewie who are alive and being held in the Imperial stronghold.

So begins an aerial assault on the sky-lair of Kharys who has an army of stormtroopers at her command. Leia gets into the palace and blasts her way to the torture chamber where Han is experiencing Kharys' hospitality. Kharys reveals that it was she who sent the 'smoke demon' onto the Falcon and is very interested in handing Luke and Leia over to Darth Vader who she serves. Leia busts in and rescues her comrades. Luke meanwhile tackles the stormtroopers below and soon finds himself up against Kharys herself who also possesses a lightsaber and is very good at using it...

Luke eventually kills Kharys and fulfills a prophecy that states that the 'one' would come and free Skye from Imperial tyranny. He is told that years ago during the Clone Wars, a Jedi called Obi-Wan Kenobi and his two pupils saved Skye from destruction. A few years later, one of the pupils - Darth Vader - returned to say that he had killed Kenobi and the Jedi Knights and the Skye was now under Imperial rule. And the other Jedi pupil? Why, Luke wears his 'saber...

I love it when Marvel incorrectly fills in the gaps like this. Something about the idea of Kenobi gallivanting around the galaxy with TWO pupils, one being Luke's father and the other Darth Vader just amuses me. Also any mention of the Clone Wars in something over 30 years old just tickles my nerd-bone.

The only advert I saw in the annual that I haven't covered before was this Mego Superhero Dolls one. And the last few pages are dedicated to the extra artwork readers in the UK got as the comic was printed weekly there thus requiring extra cover art.


Jay said...

I love it when Marvel incorrectly fills in the gaps like this. Something about the idea of Kenobi gallivanting around the galaxy with TWO pupils, one being Luke's father and the other Darth Vader just amuses me.

This is exactly the stuff that makes early Star Wars so much fun! I'm not sure it was "incorrect"--they just took Obi Wan at his word (as we all did).

Another interesting point from that conversation (and I'm not the first to mention it) but when Ben talks about his pupil to Luke for the first time he calls him "Darth Vader" meaning that's his first and last name. There's no mention of the fact that "Darth" is actually a title. So he really is treated like a totally different dude and you get the sense that there were three Jedi: Ben, Anakin, and Darth.

There's a lot in the first film that can be taken a different way when outside the context of the ones that followed.

Staz Johnson said...

I have to agree, Star Wars (I refuse to call it 'New Hope')throws up quite a few contradictions.

To confirm Jay's point, before the lightsabre duel between Vader & Obi Wan, Obi Wan says in response to Vader's claim that he is "..now the master", "Only a master of evil Darth", again using the word 'Darth' clearly as a name, not a title.

On another note, I'm loving seeing some of the art from these old Marvel strips in color, as a UK resident, I only ever saw them in the British 'Star Wars Weekly' comic, which reprinted them, but in black & white. Terrific stuff.

Anonymous said...

It wasn't incorrect at the time, it's what Ben told Luke. And I might add that Luke's father - not Darth Vader, but his father - shows up in at least one early draft of The Empire Strikes Back, so George Lucas didn't think it was incorrect at the time, either. It was the way it might have gone, at that point, until "whatever it was" changed George's mind.

And Lucasfilm DID tell them what they could and could not publish, even in those days. The Marvel writers actually had quite a tough time dealing with that, and working their stories to fit around what Lucasfilm dictated.

So you might want to mention stuff like that in context when you do these reviews! ;)

'77 - '80 Collector said...

Ok, not exactly 'incorrect', - I was talking with hindsight obviously, but it's fun to look back at a period when all we had to go on was what was said in the movie. I love the idea of Ben, Anakin and Darth all being pals! And yeah, I always find it odd when Ben calls Vader 'Darth' in the movie as if it's his first name. BTW, how can a guy with a name like that ever NOT be evil? :)

C.K. Dexter Haven said...

I missed this annual during its original release and only acquired it when I bought the Dark Horse reprint volumes. I'll have to read that tonight.

After you've finished those one-shot issues, I hope you plan on some kind of coverage of the Russ Manning strip, since it does fall into the blog's '77-'80 timeframe.

You're doing a great job here. I enjoy the trips down memory lane and your appreciation of this era is to be commended.

'77 - '80 Collector said...

Thanks, C.K. Dexter Haven! It's always nice to have people drop by and also show their appreciation of this era!

EJK said...

Another great Walt Simonson cover on this one.

Andrew Gilbertson said...

The Hunter was adapted as episode 6 of an audio drama series adapting the early marvel stories...