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...

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Marvel #16 - The Hunter

I hope everybody had a nice Christmas or whatever you celebrate (if anything at all). It's been a busy time so I haven't really done much to the blog recently but I thought I'd take advantage of this odd, quiet bit between Christmas and New Year to do a quick post. So, let's take a look back at October 1978...

Here is the first of the one shot issues. Up until this point we had been given the six-part adaptation of the movie, a four-part arc that saw Han and Chewie running into trouble on Aduba-3 and a five-part arc that had Luke and Leia team up with them on a watery planet in the Drexel System. Now it's time for some evil skulduggery in the form of Valance 'The Hunter'; a brand new villain dreamed up by Marvel to fill the void left by Vader...

This was the first issue that did not feature any of the regular gang (other than in a brief flashback) and instead opens with a gang of mercenaries led by blue armour-wearing baddie 'Valance'. Raiding a medical station, these chaps have not come for loot but merely to destroy everything and Valance seems to have a burning hatred for all droids blasting any that cross him to smithereens.

In a sick bay they come across old Don-Wan Kihotay - the Jedi wannabe (or perhaps he really was, who knows?) who teamed up with Han in the earlier issues. Mumbling in his delirium, the old duffer babbles about his adventures with Han Solo and a gang of Star-hoppers including a young farmboy. Valance is mightily pleased by this revelation, mistaking the 'farmboy' for the one desperately wanted by the Empire for destroying the Death Star.

With dollar signs in his eyes, Valance sets off to track down the Star-hoppers and claim the bounty on the farmboy's head. Poor old Jaxxon (remember the giant green rabbit?) is the first to be pinned and is tortured before being saved by Amazia who blasts all but one of Valance's men sent to do the job. The sole survivor overhears them discussing Aduba-3 and heads off to tell his boss.

Fleeing to Aduba-3, Jaxx and Amazia manage to warn Jimm (the farmboy) that his pleasant farm life is about to be disrupted. They lead Valance and his men into an ambush. Stampeding Banthas ensue and wipe out most of Valance's gang but the blue-suited bounty hunter himself is enraged beyond belief to discover that the farmboy he has been chasing in no way resembles the farmboy on the Death Star security tapes. In a fit of rage, he blasts the Star-hoppers with a gun that seems to replace his hand for a brief instant before taking off in his ship alone. In the comfort of his cockpit, he begins to absently claw at his face to reveal...

An ad for the third 'Bad News Bears' movie here, a series which I've never seen. I love these Marvel toys. There seems to be no end to them. How many different cars do you think Spider-Man ended up with?

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.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Star Wars PSAs

There are several vintage Public Service Announcements that were designed to use characters and settings from Star Wars to reach youngsters and teach them about the dangerous things in life. Two of them featured Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker and one was even set in the famous cantina. Probably nothing new for you guys, but I like to showcase whatever video clips from that era that I can get my hands on.

Childhood Immunization - 1977
The sound is a bit low on this one.

Friends don't let Friends Drive Drunk! - 1979
Good to see those costumes from the film get a dusting off and put to further use.

I don't actually know when this last one was made; some sources say 1980 and others 1982, but I thought I'd put it up as if fits nicely with the other two. Lots of people have pointed out the irony of this one as many of us have seen shots of Anthony Daniels on the set of Star Wars puffing away on the old 'death sticks'. Presumably he quit before filming this. And 'Galaxay?' Who was responsible for that blunder?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Marvel #35 - #37

Here we are at last; the final story arc in Marvel's Star Wars comics before the Empire Strikes Back adaption came out and the comics went beyond the range of this humble blog. But I have a few one-shot issues to cover still so I'm not done with Marvel just yet.

The last story arc saw the undoing of Baron Orman Tagge and his brother as their cruiser was frozen by their own Omega Frost device and subsequently destroyed by the Falcon.

Issue #35 sees Vader finally learn the name of the rebel who destroyed the Death Star and hook up with General Tagge (brother of Orman) and reveal to him that the former Baron and his brother are alive and in stasis. The simple push of a button could revive them and Orman would reclaim his title which has passed to General Tagge. Vader holds this up as a threat to ensure Tagge's cooperation.

Meanwhile on Yavin IV, Luke and the rest of his X-Wing squadron (still called 'Blue Squadron' here, despite the changing of their name to 'Red' in the movie) rescue an unknown ship from the Imperial blockade that has surrounded the planet. On board is 'Domina' a priestess of the 'Order of the Sacred Circle' based on the planet of Monastery. Domina requires the Alliance's help as Darth Vader has landed on their planet to recruit their support of the Empire. Being neutral, the Sacred Circle requires a representative from the Alliance. Luke is chosen (now wearing his brown jacket that he wore during the movie's medal ceremony) and journeys with Domina to Monastery with Han and Leia secretly pursuing in the Falcon to keep an eye on things. The issue ends with a conversation between Vader and Domina which reveals that she is the sister of the Tagge brothers and is working in league with Vader to kill Luke in revenge for her brother's death.

Issue #36 begins with the Falcon being boarded by Tagge's cruiser. Han and Chewie play innocent with Leia stashed in the smuggling hold we saw in the movie. Meanwhile, down on the planet, Luke prepares for his audience with the Sacred Circle and the Imperial representative in the form of Darth Vader. But he's been double crossed. As the meeting quickly goes against him, Luke realizes that this whole business was a trap for him set by Vader and he challenges the Sith Lord outright, prompting Vader to suggest a duel to the death to settle things.

Back on Tagge's cruiser, Leia sneaks out from the Falcon's hold and blasts her way to Han and Chewie who are cooling their heels in the detention area. Making it back to the Falcon, they escape only to find a stowaway on board... the recently awoken Baron Orman Tagge!

Issue #37 features the long awaited duel between Vader and Luke. But before we get to that, there is the issue of Han and Leia dealing with their uninvited guest. During a bumpy landing, Orman Tagge is knocked off his feet and Leia grabs his gun. Fleeing, Tagge makes his way into the Crystal Valley where his sister, Domina, has arranged a duel between Luke and Vader with the intent of seeing them both killed.

Luke battles Vader only to discover that through a trick of the force, he has killed Baron Tagge. Vader lures him forward and Luke narrowly avoids being skewered by a crystal that thrusts itself up from the ground. Vader then, inexplicably flees in his TIE Fighter. Luke makes his way back up to where Domina is waiting with Han and Leia. Domina is distraught that her brother is dead (didn't she think he was already?) and declares that although the Sacred Circle cannot fight against the Alliance, she will always be an enemy of Luke's.

The final page is an odd one, and tries its best to lead into The Empire Strikes Back by having Jabba the Hut (sic), still portrayed as a humanoid alien (it had not been decided yet that he was to be a giant slug) come across the remains of Crimson Jack's cruiser (remember him?). Jabba sets a price on Han's head and Han blasts the unfortunate bounty hunter who comes after him. Presumably this is on Ord Mantell - the encounter Han mentions in Empire. Oh, and notice the promise at the bottom of the page stating that the Empire Strikes Back adaption begins next issue? Lies! Due to some new distributional system, the adaption was postponed for a month and instead the one shot issue 'Riders in the Void' was put out instead. But I'll get to that.

I put up an ad for 'The Black Hole' figures in my last Marvel post, but here are a couple of much better ones. And I've never seen these 'Lord of the Rings Figures'. Presumably they were influenced by the Ralph Bakshi animation of 1978.

I think almost every boy born in the last 50 years had little green plastic soldiers at one time. I used to get them in small plastic baggies but this 'footlocker' idea looks pretty cool. 'The Juice' was quite the spokesperson back in the day it seems with his image popping up in Marvel comics fairly often promoting some sports-related product or in the last case, cowboy boots (which seem to be totally ripped off in the ad following it by a clearly different company).

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Promotional Flyers

Bit of a half-assed post today, but I've had these things lying around for ages and thought it was time I stuck them up. Promotional flyers such as the top one from 1979 were inserted into boxed Star Wars toys (like vehicles and playsets) and were like mini catalogues showing off all the Star Wars goodies that were available.

The second one from 1978 released in conjunction with now defunct fast food outlet; Burger Chef, styled itself as an 'activity booklet' and included a 'connect the dots to discover the hidden character' (it's a stormtrooper), a wordsearch and a 'space maze' on the rear cover. Don't know what a Tusken Raider is doing aboard the Death Star, but what the hey. Sandwiched in between was the usual array of Star Wars figures, toys and games.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

'The Tagge Saga' Marvel #31 - #34

I've jumped ahead 4 issues here as I said that I would focus on the story arcs for now and cover the various one-shot issues at a later date. Since Luke's escape from the gas clouds surrounding Yavin and his destruction of Baron Tagge's space station, he has been sent back to Tatooine to recruit blockade runners as the Alliance is making plans to up sticks and find a new base. But Baron Tagge is hatching a new dastardly scheme on that very same planet.

An interesting note about this issue: it features a vehicle designed by toy company Kenner - the Imperial Troop Transporter! At this stage in the game (late 1979), Kenner had pretty much made all the toys they could think of in relation to the movie and had started coming up with their own designs never featured in the film. There was obviously some kind of deal between Kenner and Marvel here as this is pure product placement!

Getting back to the story, Luke and the droids rediscover the remains of his old home and run into Camie and Fixxer - his childhood chums that, like the Troop Transporter, were never seen in the movie, but unlike the Troop Transporter, were in Lucas' original script and can be seen in deleted scenes on YouTube as well as being in the novelisation and Marvel's adaptation of the movie. They also find a dead bantha in a canyon, frozen stiff. Certainly an odd discovery on a desert planet, but it is soon revealed that the unfortunate creature's demise was due to a fall out effect from an experimental device operated by Tagge's men nearby.

Luke heads on to the Mos Eisley Cantina and runs into Han and Chewie, who, true to their Marvel incarnations, are in the midst of a bar brawl. Fixxer appears on the scene once more and warns Luke that he was forced to notify the Imperial authorities of his whereabouts. Stormtroopers arrive and Luke, Han, Chewie and the Droids flee into the desert...

Issue #32 picks up with our heroes in the desert trying to fix their busted speeder. Hitching a ride with some Jawas, they are soon under attack by an Imperial patrol. I like the written interpretation of the Jawas' language! Almost looks like Arabic.

They discover what appears to be a giant moisture vaporator, but are actually in a trap set by Tagge's men and soon find themselves test subjects in his freezing experiments. Fleeing the sandcrawler at the last minute, the rebels make their way back to Mos Eisley.

Issue #33 sees our heroes depart Tatooine on board the Falcon but they soon spot a House of Tagge mining explorer and decide to follow it. They then witness a meeting between the Tagge ship and an Imperial cruiser and see the transfer of some technology. Luke once again dons the snazzy yellow space suit and heads out to infiltrate the loading crew. Unfortunately he is captured and Han does the smart thing and scarpers back to Yavin IV where a very irate Leia is awaiting news.

On board the mining explorer, Luke tries to escape but runs into Baron Tagge and a lightsaber duel occurs. There's not nearly enough lightsaber action in the Marvel comics so it's refreshing to see a good old fashioned duel underway. Luke busts Tagge's cybernetic vision and makes a dash for it, escaping in a TIE Fighter.

Great opening page for Isssue #34 here with Han, Chewie and Leia in the cockpit of the Falcon, leading the rebel fleet through the Feriae Junction where Baron Tagge's operation is waiting with the deadly Omega Frost weapon. Luke is MIA once again, having fled the Baron's cruiser in a TIE Fighter. Running out of fuel, he ejects the craft before it is smashed to smithereens by an asteroid.

With the knowledge that the rebels are heading into a trap, Luke sets down on an asteroid which contains one of the Omega Frost devices and destroys it with his lightsaber, putting an end to Tagge's plan to freeze the rebel fleet. The rebels, now in range, attack the Tagge cruiser, destroying it completely along with two of the Tagge brothers (Baron Orman and Silas).

On to the ads. I can't get enough of these '70s toys. The comic strip style ad for Star Wars stuff is interesting. I had the MPC 'Darth Vader's Tie Fighter' model as a kid and it was the best model I ever made. Star Trek and The Black Hole action figures look like they conformed to the 3 3/4" standard set by Kenner. I saw just The Black Hole for the first time the other day. Not a bad bit of '70s sci-fi. Don't know how well the toys sold though.

Lego on the back covers again and another ad for the Star Trek movie. Also, an offer from Chiquita Bananas promoting the 1980 Winter Olympics (which were held in Lake Placid, NY that year, if I'm not mistaken). Also note the 'When your mom buys...' line. Wouldn't get away with such sexism these days.