Monday, September 25, 2017

Modern Marvel: Star Wars: Shattered Empire #1 Yesteryear Comics Exclusive

Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the brand name for the publishing strategy at the end of 2015 that included books and comics that tied into the film.  None of the books or comics are required reading to understand the movie, but they do provide backstory and augment the experience for fans.  Marvel originally had two titles that were part of this program, but only the 4-issue mini-series Shattered Empire, was released; the other title, Star Wars Special: C-3PO, was delayed until the following year.

Eight retailers commissioned an exclusive cover for the first issue of the Shattered Empire title.  Altogether there are sixteen variant and exclusive covers for Shattered Empire #1.  One retailer that released an exclusive cover is Yesteryear Comics located in San Diego.

Star Wars: Shattered Empire #1l - Marvel Comics, U.S. (September 2015)
Yesteryear Comics exclusive
The artist for this cover is Mike Mayhew who has provided interior pencils for several modern Star Wars issues in addition to covers.  The artwork is a montage showing our heroes surrounded by soldiers and tools of the Empire.  Both the artwork and the title are angled which helps this cover stand out from the others.  Overall, I really like the cover except for two changes I would have made: Lando Calrissian should be included instead of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker should be dressed in his Return of the Jedi garb.

A similar publishing strategy is being used for the latest movie by using the Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi branding.  Marvel's Captain Phasma mini-series is being published as part of this program.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Classic Cover Comparison: Star Wars #50 and Titans #50

Star Wars #50 is among the best issues published in the original Marvel run.  It is the final story to feature any member of the House of Tagge who were prominent adversaries for our heroes in the title prior to The Empire Strikes Back.  It also features pencils by the incredible Al Williamson who is one of the best artist to have worked in comics.

The cover artwork is by Tom Palmer who worked on many Star Wars comics, including inking the covers for the first three issues!  The art is nice, Darth Vader's visage notwithstanding, and I like how the jewel and Darth Vader's helmet intermingle with the logo, but one thing that is noticeable is the lack of primary colors.  There are hints of gold in C-3PO and Lando's cape should be red with gold trim.  Even Lando's signature blue shirt is washed out.  Whether on purpose or by accident, the cover looks aged; it is like you are looking at a drawing that has faded and darkened over time.  Since the story is titled Crimson Forever, it is interesting that brown is the dominant color rather than red.

Star Wars #50a - Marvel Comics, U.S. (August 1981)
Newsstand
Titans #50 does not use the same artwork, but instead uses an inferior redrawn cover.  In the original artwork, the lines extending out of the jewel give the impression that Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, Darth Vader, and the Stormtroopers are memories and that effect is lost on the French cover.  The French cover also distorts Luke Skywalker and C-3PO's faces.  R2-D2 looks like he has his 3rd leg extend on the U.S. cover and the French cover instead adds an additional part to R2-D2's torso that looks strange.  Much of the detail found on the Stormtroopers is missing as well.  The French cover does use primary colors; C-3PO is gold and Lando's cape is red with gold trim.  Even Lando's shirt is clearly light blue.  Strangely, R2-D2 is not white and the white Hoth outfit Princess Leia is wearing is now a shade of brown.  The overall radiance emitted from the jewel is red however, which is appropriate.

Titans #50a - Editions Lug, France (March 1983)
Star Wars #50
It would be interesting to see the original artwork recolored with a more colorful palette.  The French cover offers hints at what the cover would look like with primary colors, but fails in the execution and instead is just a rushed knock-off of the original.


Side-by-side comparison

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Retro Dark Horse: Star Wars: Tales From the Clone Wars - Webcomic Collection Season 1

There were several online comics published on StarWars.com in conjunction with the first three seasons of The Clone Wars television series.  For season one, 21 online comic shorts were created for the broadcast episodes with artwork by a variety of artist.  The earliest shorts have artwork that looks rushed, but by the end of the first season, the artwork had improved from all the contributing artists.  I feel the work provided by Jeff Carlisle is the most polished, but unfortunately he contributed the fewest pages.

These first season of online comics are collected in a trade paperback published by Dreams and Visions Press in collaboration with Dark Horse Comics.  The trade paperback was originally a Celebration V and StarWarsShop exclusive, but it apparently can still be purchased from the Dreams and Visions Press website.

Star Wars: Tales From the Clone Wars - Webcomic Collection Season 1
- Dark Horse Comics/Dreams and Visions Press, U.S. (August 2010)
There is a copy of this trade paperback listed on eBay with an asking price of $363.75.  It also says the book is limited to 500 copies.  I have not found any other source that can backup the 500 copy claim.  If you are looking for a copy, it might be worth seeing if the book listed on the publisher's site for $25 is still available.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Retro Marvel: Jabba Confronts Han at Docking Bay 94

The deleted Jabba the Hutt scene was reinserted into A New Hope for the Special Edition released way back in January 1997.  A CGI version of the large, slug-like alien from Return of the Jedi was placed over the actor who originally played the part and other elements of the scene were manipulated including the insertion of Boba Fett.  The initial CGI used for Jabba were not very good, so when the movies were released in 2004 on DVD, the CGI effects were updated.

Prior to his appearance in Return of the Jedi, the image many Star Wars comic fans had of Jabba the Hutt were based on Marvel's comic adaptation of A New Hope.  The deleted scene where Jabba confronts Han Solo at Docking Bay 94 are in the comic, but instead of using the image of the actor, a walrus faced alien is used.
Star Wars #2 page 13 - Marvel Comics, U.S. (August 1977)
Outside of the visuals, most of the scene plays out like it does in the movie.  Jabba, surrounded by his henchmen, is calling out to Han believing he is aboard the Millennium Falcon.  Han approaches from behind and Jabba mentions the incident with the spice.  Han explains why he dumped the spice and promises to pay Jabba extra.  Jabba accepts Han's offer, but warns him of the consequences of failing to pay him back.

Star Wars #2 page 14 - Marvel Comics, U.S. (August 1977)
The images used by Marvel for Jabba and his henchmen were not invented for the comic, but instead are based on background aliens in Mos Eisley.  Jabba looks like a Nimbanel, one henchman looks like a Lutrillian, and the other henchman looks like a Snivvian.  All three aliens species can be seen in this photo:

Assorted Mos Eisley Aliens
If you look closely at the artwork in the panels showing Jabba and his men, the blue-faced alien that looks like a Snivvian even has a hunchback.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Modern Marvel: Star Wars: Droids Unplugged #1

Droids Unplugged reprints the following backup stories by Chris Eliopoulos and Jordie Bellaire:

  • Probe Droid Problem from Darth Maul #1
  • Droid Dilemma from Star Wars #25
  • SaBBotage from Poe Dameron #1


The three short stories are for all ages.  Probe Droid Problem follows one of the three probe droids released by Darth Maul on Tatooine.  The probe droid rescues another droid trapped under a rock, gets captured by Jawas, and in return is rescued by the droid it helped earlier.  The probe droid is reunited with the other two probe droids but decides to stay on Tatooine with its new droid friend.  R2-D2 is the star of Droid Dilemma.  Luke Skywalker is given orders by Princess Leia to look for a missing cargo vessel.  Luke asks R2-D2 to prep his X-Wing Fighter and R2-D2 keeps running into other familiar droids on his way to the hanger.  When R2-D2 finally reaches the hanger, Luke informs him the cargo vessel just arrived and the mission was canceled.  This story is noteworthy because it is dedicated to Kenny Baker who died in August 2016.  The final story, SaBBotage features BB-8 helping a Resistance pilot and mechanic who are interested in each other romantically to meet.

The standard cover by Chris Eliopoulos shows the three droids who star in the stories.

Star Wars: Droids Unplugged #1a - Marvel Comics, U.S. (June 2017)
The variant cover is by Michael Allred, best known for his creator owned character Madman.  This cover is the more interesting of the two; it shows the three droids but also a myriad of other familiar droids floating in space.

Star Wars: Droids Unplugged #1b - Marvel Comics, U.S. (June 2017)
Michael Allred variant
For a title containing recent reprints, the issue sold very well, with initial orders of approximately 36,000 issues.  Eliopoulos and Bellaire also created a backup story in Darth Vader (2017) #1 which is about a mouse droid preparing Darth Vader's chamber.  I suspect we'll get more of these droid backup stories and Marvel will publish a second Droids Unplugged comic.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Retro Dark Horse: Star Wars 30th Anniversary Collection Volume 4: Jango Fett & Zam Wesell

The fourth volume in the Star Wars 30th Anniversary Collection from Dark Horse reprints the two 64-page one-shots, Jango Fett and Zam Wesell.  The cover has the same matte black cover with silver text that the other books in this series have.  Framed in a silver box in the center of the cover is a portion of the artwork from the final page in the Zam Wesell one-shot.  This hardcover volume retailed for $19.95 and was limited to initial orders.

Star Wars 30th Anniversary Collection Volume 4: Jango Fett & Zam Wesell
- Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (June 2007)
The two original one-shots came out in 2002 before Attack of the Clones, the movie that debuted the characters.  The story in the Jango Fett title leads into the story in the Zam Wesell title.  Both characters appear in both one-shots.  Jango Fett's first appearance was in the Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter video game which came out March 10, beating the comic by three days.  Zam Wesell's first appearance is in the Jango Fett title however.  Dark Horse has done this before, they began publishing the 1998 Star Wars title starring Ki-Adi Mundi a full six months before The Phantom Menace and published the prequel movie adaptations a few weeks before the actual movies were released.

Interestingly, Marvel has not published any movie tie-in starring characters from the movie prior to the movie being released.  They did release the four issue mini-series Shattered Empire in 2015, but it did not have any movie characters.  Marvel also had plans in 2016 to release a three issue mini-series prelude to Rogue One which presumably would have starred characters from that movie, but that mini-series was rumored to be canceled due to the extensive reshoots done for that movie.  This year, Marvel is publishing the Captain Phasma mini-series, but that character has already appeared in The Force Awakens and they will be publishing a mini-series taking place on the planet Crait, but that will happen after The Last Jedi is already out in theaters.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Retro Dark Horse: Star Wars: Jabba the Hutt - The Dynasty Trap

Jabba's callousness is on full display in Jabba the Hutt - The Dynasty Trap.  Having taken the treasure from Princess Nampi's ship, Bib Fortuna suggest Jabba sell the ship to Cabrool Nuum who has a nearby base on the planet Smarteel.  Jabba ponders selling Cabrool the ship's crew as well since Cabrool also deals in slavery, but instead decides to eject them into space and watch them die.  He does take the ship to his colleague Cabrool however.  While meeting with Cabrool alone, Cabrool's kids, Norba and Rusk, interrupt and Cabrool shows his irrational temper by threatening to kill his own kids.  He eventually comes to his sense and Jabba asks about Cabrool's associate Vu Chusker.  Cabrool becomes suspicious and orders Jabba to kill Chusker, but Jabba refuses.  Cabrool, again unhinged, orders his men to put Jabba under house arrest.  Later, Rusk enters Jabba's quarters and tells Jabba his father has gone insane and ask for his help in killing him.  Jabba agrees and strangles the sleeping Cabrool in his chambers with the help of Cabrool's guards.  After his father's murder, Rusk orders Jabba to kill Vu Chusker and Jabba again refuses.  Rusk has his men take Jabba to the hold where Norba appears and appeals to Jabba to kill her brother Rusk.  Jabba agrees and Norba leads Jabba to her brother who Jabba squishes to death by jumping on him.  Norba, also fearful of her dad's former associate, asks Jabba to kill Chusker.  Jabba refuses and Norba has Jabba thrown into the hold.  Later, Norba comes down to talk to Jabba but gets to close to the hold's bars and Jabba grabs her with his tongue and swallows her whole, presumably killing her.  As Jabba is leaving the base, he encounters another being.  Upon learning that this being is Vu Chusker, Jabba smacks him with his large tail, killing him.

Jabba has a shrewd side in these one-shots where he appears humble and presents himself as subservient to his colleagues.  This is part of his act to get them to do his bidding or to garner a better deal.  In this story, Jabba is able to get a higher offer from Cabrool for the ship for example.  But when those same colleagues wrong Jabba, he also has a ruthless side.  Jabba is not above murdering anyone and, as this story shows, he is willing to do this dirty work himself.

Star Wars: Jabba the Hutt - The Dynasty Trap a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (August 1995)
The cover shows Jabba in the hold at Cabrool Num's base.  The artwork makes it appear like Jabba is defending himself against spider-like creatures, but inside the comic, Jabba is never in this situation.  There are spider-like creatures that drop from the ceiling, but Jabba nonchalantly grabs one and eats it.