Star Wars 1 (1977)

star wars 1

We take a little detour from our look at the introduction of Marvel’s superheroes in the 60s, and into a galaxy far, far away.  As previously mentioned, we will be reviewing the entirety of Marvel’s 1977 Star Wars series.  This will include the movie adaptations as well as the remaining stories in the 107 issue run.  Despite including movie adaptations, all issues are labelled as “Legends” meaning they are no longer considered cannon in the new Disney universe.

Synopsis

It may not be the now synonymous screen crawl, but the first page neatly sets the scene as follows:

“It is a period of CIVIL WAR in the galaxy.

A brave alliance of UNDERGROUND FREEDOM FIGHTERS has challenged the tyranny and oppression of the awesome GALACTIC EMPIRE.

To CRUSH the rebellion once and for all, the EMPIRE is constructing a sinister new BATTLE STATION. Powerful enough to destroy an entire planet, its COMPLETION will spell CERTAIN DOOM for the champions of freedom.

Striking from a fortress hidden among the billion stars of the galaxy, REBEL SPACESHIPS have won their first victory in a battle with the powerful IMPERIAL STARFLEET. The Empire fears that ANOTHER defeat could bring a THOUSAND MORE solar systems into the rebellion, and IMPERIAL CONTROL over the galaxy would be LOST FOREVER.”

The background image is of a battle in space taking place above a planet called Tatooine. We are told that a “gigantic” Imperial Starship is pursuing a rebel spacecraft. The rebel ship is soon caught in the grappling rays of the Imperials, and following an explosion, Imperial troops come pouring through into the rebel ship.

We are introduced to C-3PO and R2-D2, two droids who are trying to avoid the shots being fired whilst C-3PO is naturally blaming R2 for their predicament.

In the first shift from the narrative of the film, we are then taking to the ground on Tatooine, where Luke Skywalker catches a bright sparkle in the sky.  Luke then jumps into his Landspeeder, and heads for town called Anchorhead.

Meanwhile, on the ship above, Darth Vader makes his entrance. He is looking for information, but is told that the rebel ship has had its information retrieval system wiped clean. Despite interrogating a rebel officer, Darth Vader does not receive the answer he is is looking for and does not hesitate in killing the officer.  He orders his troops to search the vessel and find the passengers on board.

Nearby, we see 3PO and R2 again. R2 is with an unknown girl, who soon disappears. 3PO askes R2 why he vanished earlier, and what they are going to. Unperturbed, R2 moves away, as if he has somewhere he has to be. He mentions a “mission” to 3PO via a series of beeps that whilst 3PO can translate, he cannot understand what this mission refers to. As the explosions get nearer, R2 heads to an escape pod. 3PO is initially reluctant to go inside but changes his mind on hearing another explosion. The pod ejects from the ship and heads towards the planet below. Still on the ship, the unknown woman is captured by the Imperial troopers and shot with a paralysis ray.

In another scene not in the film, we are taking back to Anchorhead where Luke bumps into his old friend Biggs Darklighter.  Biggs tells Luke that he has been commissioned on board the Rand Ecliptic. Luke tells Biggs that he thinks he saw a battle in the sky but Biggs dismisses this, suggesting it is just a freighter refueling.

Meanwhile, the unknown woman is taken to Darth Vader and instantly recognsises him. She claims that Darth Vader has attacked a diplomatic vessel, but he instead accuses her of passing through a restricted system, receiving transmissions from spies and of being a traitor. Darth Vader turns to his officer once the woman is taking away and explains that he will keep her alive as she is his only link to finding the hidden rebel fortress. In the meantime, he instructs a distress signal to be sent, before the rebel ship is destroyed. They will call it a meteorite storm. The woman’s father and the senate will be informed that all aboard were killed. Lastly, Darth Vader informs the officer of the escape pod, and instructs him to send a detachment to find it, without attracting attention.

The escape pod has landed in a desert called “Jundland”. 3PO is complaining again about their situation and the two argue and go their separate ways.  We then see R2 attacked by mysterious figures in brown robes.

We cut to a conversation between Luke and Biggs (again not shown in the film). Biggs explains to Luke that whilst at the academy, he made some friends.  When his frigate passes through a central system, he and his group of friends will jump ship and join the Rebellion! Luke is amazed and skeptical, saying that Biggs may never find the Rebels. Biggs agrees but says he has to try and he has a friend of a friend on Bestine, who will help them make contact.

In a conference room back on the station, a group of Imperial officers are talking about Darth Vader’s recent actions and how dangerous the rebel alliance is. They are interrupted as Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin enter the room.  Tarkin informs the officers that he has just received word from the Emperor that he has dissolved the Imperial Senate – permanently.  Admiral Motti, one of the Imperial officers in the room asks how the Emperor intends to maintain control.  Tarkin replies by using fear and the presence of the battle station they are on.  Darth Vader adds that the data the rebels were able to obtain will soon be retrieved.  Another of the officers proclaims that any attack on the battle station would be a useless gesture.  Vader reminds him not to be too proud, and when the officer attempts to reply by criticising Vader’s belief in an “ancient religion“, he begins to struggle to breath.  Vader mutters, “I find your lack of faith disturbing“, before Tarkin orders him to release the officer.

Back on Tatooine, we see that both R2 and 3PO have been captured by the robed figures, known as Jawas.  They are being held in a sandcrawler, which comes to a halt and the droids are ordered outside. The droids are lined up for inspection by potential customers, one of which is Luke, accompanied by his uncle Owen.  Luke’s uncle chooses an R2-unit but refers to R2-D2 as junk.  He then questions whether 3PO can speak Bocce, amongst other languages. Satisfied with the response, he chooses him too. As they walk off, the R2 unit blows a motivator, causing Owen (at 3PO’s suggestion) to replace him with R2-D2. 3PO doesn’t waste time in making it clear to R2 that he should be grateful for his intervention.

Luke takes the droids to be cleaned up, and whilst doing so is complaining to them about Biggs. As Luke cleans R2, an image appears of the woman from the rebel ship. “Obi Wan Kenobi…help me! You’re my only ho…” says the woman in the image before the message is repeated. Luke asks R2 who the beautiful woman is, but 3PO states that R2 is malfunctioning. R2 then states that he is the property of Obi Wan Kenobi, and it is a private message for him. Luke states that he doesn’t know any Obi Wan Kenobi, but there is an old Ben Kenobi who lives out in the dunes. He then notices a restraining bolt on R2 and when he tries to remove it, the image disappears.

Luke leaves the droids to have dinner with his uncle and aunt. Luke suggests that R2 may be stolen, due to the message and Obi Wan Kenobi. His uncle responds angrily that Luke should stay away from that “old wizard”. Luke wonders what will happen if Obi Wan came looking for the droid. His uncle responds by saying that he won’t, as he died at the same time as his father. Luke is excited to hear about his father and asks whether Obi Wan knew him. Owen shuts him down. Luke then explains that if the droids work out, he would like to submit his application to the academy. Owen tells Luke that he can apply next term, after the harvest. Luke storms off and his aunt tells his uncle that he cannot keep him here forever, as he’s got “too much of his father in him“. Owen explains “that’s what I am afraid of!

Back with the droids, 3PO is startled by Luke’s appearance and claims it “wasn’t his fault“. When Luke asks him what he is talking about, 3PO explains that R2 has left to complete his mission. It is nightfall now on Tatooine, so Luke rises at first light to go and look for him, with 3PO in tow. Whilst Luke and 3PO are looking for R2, Imperial troopers have landed on Tatooine and found the escape pod. On closer inspection, they also find evidence of droids.

Luke and 3PO find R2 and R2 explains that there are savages close by. Luke fears they may be Sandpeople and tells the droids to hurry, but the Sandpeople spring a surprise attack. And that brings to an end, the first of the six part movie adaption.

Comments

Other than the scenes with Biggs, the first issue is a very close adaption of the film, with numerous lines taken directly from it. Even the Biggs scenes where part of George Lucas’ script, so there are no major surprises here. In the last scene with Biggs, mention is made of a planet called Bestine, which does not sound familiar, and may be an early alteration of Bespin. There is also a nice little plot summary at the end of the issue, for those not familiar with the movie.

Details

Writer – Roy Thomas

Artist – Howard Chaykin

Cover date – July 1977

Financials and further rerading

Cover price – 30c (although there are also rare 35c version available)

At the time of publishing, the most expensive listing for Star Wars 1 on eBay was $2,499.99 (this is the 30c version).

The comic can be read digitally at Marvel.com here or on Comixology here. If you prefer your reading a little heavier, you can get the Marvel omnibus which collects the first 44 issues of the series. Link to Amazon UK here, but if you are in the US, InstockTrades offer better value.

Coming next

The next reviews in our chronological look at the Marvel superheroes will be:

Fantastic Four 5

The Incredible Hulk 2

Journey into Mystery 83

Plus a look at Star Wars 2

And perhaps some more detours…

ComicRetrospective 2016

@comictretrospect

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