Friday, November 6, 2015

Retro Dark Horse: Star Wars Photo Comics

Fumetti is the Italian word for comic.  In the U.S., fumetti refers to a particular type of comic which uses photographs rather than drawings accompanied by the usual word balloons.  In the 1970s there was a series of photo novels based on popular movies and television series that used this style and this style was also employed in humor magazines such as Mad, Cracked, and Crazy Magazines.  For toy collectors, the Twisted ToyFare Theatre comic strip that ran in Wizard magazine is an example of the fumetti style where the toys were photographed and word balloons were added for humorous results.  A modern example of fumetti in comics is IDW's Star Trek: New Visions comic series by John Byrne.

It should come as no surprise that Star Wars comics were published in the fumetti style.  Tokyopop published 7 digest-sized photo comics in 2005, one for each of the 6 movies and another for the 2003 - 2005 Star Wars: Clone Wars animated series by Genndy Tartakovsky.  These comics were released in Japan, Germany, and the U.K. but not in the U.S. because Dark Horse had the exclusive comic license for that market.  Dark Horse Comics did published these 7 photo comics for the U.S. market in 2007 and 2008.  The easiest way to tell the difference between the original Tokyopop issues and the later Dark Horse issues is the front cover.  The Tokyopop issues are branded as Tokyopop in the banner down the left side and are called Cine-Manga on the front cover.  The Dark Horse issues have no company branding on the front cover.

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace Photo Comic a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (August 2007)
Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones Photo Comic a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (October 2007)
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith Photo Comic a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (November 2007)
Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope Photo Comic a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (February 2008)
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back Photo Comic a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (April 2008)
Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi Photo Comic a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (April 2008)
Star Wars: Clone Wars Photo Comic a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (May 2008)
Unfortunately, in this day and age where anyone can watch the Star Wars movies on demand, the photo comics did not sell well.  Initial order through Diamond Comics were low.  My guess is the $9.95 cover price coupled with the fumetti style as well as the digest size was a deal breaker for many Star Wars comic collectors.  No doubt, there are many who feel these are not comics, but a different type of ephemera entirely.

TitleEstimated Initial Copies
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace Photo Comic1,724
Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones Photo Comic1,706
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith Photo Comicn/a
Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope Photo Comic1,616
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back Photo Comic2,233
Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi Photo Comic1,970
Star Wars: Clone Wars Photo Comic2,250


It should be noted that while initial orders were small, undoubtedly more of these photo comics were made available for sale.  These comics usually can be found for less than the cover price of $9.95 on eBay.  My guess is Dark Horse felt these would sell more like trade paperbacks than pamphlet comics and printed up a number of these based on their sales projections.

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