Monday, February 29, 2016

Retro Dark Horse: Star Wars: Union #1 Dynamic Forces Gold Foil Exclusive

Star Wars: Union is a 4-issue mini-series tells the story of Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade's marriage.  The first and fourth issues have Dynamic Forces exclusive covers.

Star Wars: Union #1c - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (1999)
Dynamic Forces gold foil exclusive
The Dynamic Forces cover to issue #1 is the same as the standard cover, except the Star Wars title is in gold foil.  This exclusive came out in 1999 and is limited to 5,000 copies.  In comparison, most of the Star Wars exclusives published last year had print runs of 3,000 copies.  Despite the print run, this is a moderately expensive comic and comes up for sale infrequently.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Cover Artist: Gabriele Dell'Otto

Gabriele Dell'Otto is an Italian painter and illustrator best known for providing painted covers for Marvel Comics.  While he is mostly known as a cover artist, he did provide the interior art for the Secret Wars (2004) 5-issue mini-series and the X-Force: Sex and Violence 3-issue mini-series.  Dell'Otto began producing material including covers for Marvel Comics in Europe before his art was discovered and he received work in the U.S.

Dell'Otto has contributed painted art for several Marvel's Star Wars covers including the Star Wars #1 Loot Crate exclusive that had the largest print run of all the exclusives for that issue.

Star Wars #1ai - Marvel Comics, U.S. (January 2015)
Loot Crate exclusive
The cover to the Star Wars #1 Loot Crate exclusive is a nice play on the Loot Crate brand.  It shows Han Solo and Chewbacca protecting crates of loot they are bringing aboard the Millennium Falcon.  I love how Dell'Otto captures Chewbacca's signature growl in this piece.

Dell'Otto provided the artwork for all five issues of the Star Wars: Princess Leia Mile High Comics exclusives.

Star Wars: Princess Leia #1w - Marvel Comics, U.S. (March 2015)
Mile High Comics exclusive
Star Wars: Princess Leia #2c - Marvel Comics, U.S. (March 2015)
Mile High Comics exclusive
Star Wars: Princess Leia #3d - Marvel Comics, U.S. (April 2015)
Mile High Comics exclusive
Star Wars: Princess Leia #4b - Marvel Comics, U.S. (June 2015)
Mile High Comics exclusive
Star Wars: Princess Leia #5b - Marvel Comics, U.S. (July 2015)
Mile High Comics exclusive
The covers for the Star Wars: Princess Leia Mile High Comics exclusives are my favorite Gabriele Dell'Otto Star Wars covers.  They tell an unlikely scenario with Princess Leia adorned in her white gown trying to hide from Imperial Stormtroopers in Mos Eisley's Cantina.  She is forced to take down the Imperials which attracts the attention of IG-88.  Leia retreats into the streets of Mos Eisley where she dispatches the bounty hunter.  Dell'Otto does a fantastic job of capturing the atmosphere of Mos Eisley and his use of shadow and light in these pieces are breathtaking.  He populates the background with denizens which are easily recognizable from their screen appearances and the overall consequence is detailed art that is both interesting and beautiful to behold.  You can see Leia's sleeve is torn on the cover to the second issue, a detail Dell'Otto uses on the cover to issue #4!

Star Wars: Chewbacca #1 has a 1:25 incentive cover with artwork by Dell'Otto.

Star Wars: Chewbacca #1e - Marvel Comics, U.S. (October 2015)
The cover to the Star Wars: Chewbacca #1 variant shows Chewbacca flanking the teenager Zarro.  While the rendering of Chewbacca and Zarro is nice, the yellow background blends too much with the earth colors used on the characters.  I think a background that contrasts with the colors used on the characters would make this cover pop more.  While nice, this is my least favorite of the Dell'Otto covers, but my opinion may be influenced by this being my least favorite Star Wars title Marvel produced in 2015.

The last Dell'Otto cover is for the Star Wars: Vader Down #1 Yesteryear Comics exclusive.

Star Wars: Vader Down #1aa - Marvel Comics, U.S. (November 2015)
Yesteryear Comics exclusive
The cover to the Star Wars: Vader Down #1 Yesteryear Comics exclusive show Darth Vader preparing to battle as a squadron of X-Wing Fighters approaches his location.  It is a nice enough cover that is unfortunately lost in the myriad of Darth Vader covers that were released in 2015.  Marvel has produced so many variant covers for the Star Wars titles, that many of them look the same.  At least this cover is not a generic cover and does relate to the story told inside the comic unlike many of the variant covers we received in 2015.  Darth Vader's Lightsaber provides enough contrast with the blues and blacks to make the cover more interesting than the Chewbacca #1 cover above.

If you have been following my blog, you know I love painted Star Wars covers like those found on the French Titans anthology title.  Gabriele Dell'Otto has attracted attention from comics fans because of his exquisitely painted covers and has a growing base of followers.  There is no doubt he will be asked to provide covers for future Star Wars comics and I look forward to seeing what he contributes next.

Cover Artist: Mike Allred on Classic Star Wars: The Early Adventures #1

Star Wars has been able to attract some of the best talent in the comic industry including: Howard Chaykin, Carmine Infantino, Al Williamson, Walt Simonson, Russ Manning, Cam Kennedy, Kilian Plunkett, Dave Dorman, and Jan Duursema.  These are just some of the many artists to have contributed to Star Wars comics.  But there are many more artist who are not recognizable as Star Wars artists who have produced art for Star Wars comic covers.  One of these artists is Mike Allred.

Mike Allred is best known for the creation of Madman and a retro-style artwork that would fit right in with the likes of Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko at Marvel in the 1960s.  His art is usually adorned with bright, primary colors, which further emphasizes the retro-style.  Allred has dabbled in mainstream comics throughout his career, but his most prominent mainstream work has been on X-Force which spawned the X-Statix title.  He and writer Chris Roberson created iZombie for DC Comics's Vertigo line which is now a television series.

His choice as the cover artist for Classic Star Wars: The Early Adventures #1 is apropos.  Classic Star Wars: The Early Adventures reprints the earliest Star Wars newspaper comic strips done by Russ Manning who is a classic artist from the Silver Age of comics from which Allred draws inspiration for his art.  Mike Allred moved the Madman comics from Tundra to Dark Horse earlier in 1994, making him available for the cover of this first issue  This is Mike Allred's only published Star Wars cover art.

Classic Star Wars: The Early Adventures #1a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (August 1994)
The cover shows Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, R2-D2, and C-3PO on Vorzyd 5, also known as Gambler's World.  Luke has his lightsaber drawn and takes a swing at the shadowy Blackhole flanked by Imperial Stormtroopers.  The group is in some retro-style futuristic tunnel and in the background there are some space aliens overlooking the confrontation.  While to some, the cover might look amateurish, Allred does a good job of capturing the look of the interior art without aping it.  Luke's face is distinctively Allred, a look that would be right at home on Madman himself.  The cover looks like it was done in grey-tone, also a throwback to the Silver Age of comics.  The most curious part of the art is the choice of Luke's pants and boots.  Both look more like pants worn by Han Solo than Luke.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Dark Horse Comics Year-by-Year: The Road to 1991

Dark Horse Presents #1 - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (July 1987)
1st Dark Horse comic
Mike Richardson used money he raised from his comic book store, Pegasus Books, to start Dark Horse Comics.  The first title from this fledgling publisher came out in July 1987 and is aptly named Dark Horse Presents which introduced several notable creations over its 162 issue run.  Creator owned properties like Paul Chadwick's Concrete and John Byrne's Next Men, Dark Horse's first character to be turned into a movie The Mask, and a teaming of the licensed movie properties Aliens and Predator were all introduced in the pages of this anthology title.  It is Dark Horse's success with licensed movie properties that led them to securing the license for Star Wars.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters Special - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (August 1987)
1st Dark Horse Godzilla comic
Dark Horse's first foray into licensed movie properties began in August 1987 when they published an original black and white one-shot titled Godzilla: King of the Monsters Special.  This comic proved successful and Dark Horse followed up with a 6-issue mini-series simply titled Godzilla that began in May 1988 and concluded in January 1989.  This mini-series is a translation of a Japanese manga by Kazuhisa Iwata and is Dark Horse's first manga series.  Dark Horse would hold the license and publish comics for Godzilla for 12 years.  In 1998, the final year they held the Godzilla license, Dark Horse only published reprints of their previous Godzilla comics.

Aliens #1a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (July 1988)
1st Dark Horse Aliens comic
The next license Dark Horse obtained was for the franchise Aliens.  They published a 6-issue black and white mini-series starting in July 1988.  This original story was another success for Dark Horse and Aliens would prove to be the longest-lived movie license at Dark Horse, a license that they still hold and exercise.  Dark Horse would acquire another license from 20th Century Fox which they also still hold, Predator.  They published a 4-issue Predator mini-series beginning in June 1989, one month before the conclusion of their first Aliens mini-series.  In February 1990, one month before the conclusion of the first Predator mini-series, Dark Horse would pair the Aliens and Predator franchise for the first time in the 3rd part of a story concluding in Dark Horse Presents #36.  (Dark Horse celebrated this pairing by publishing two covers for Dark Horse Presents #36.)  The first part of the story in Dark Horse Presents #34 only contains Aliens and the second part in Dark Horse Presents #35 only contains Predator.  This 3-part short story titled Aliens vs. Predator was so successful, 20th Century Fox would take the concept and title when they release their first Alien vs. Predator movie in 2004.  Dark Horse quickly turned this pairing into a 4-part mini-series with a continuation of the short story Aliens vs. Predator in a title of the same name in June 1990.  Aliens vs Predator is arguably Dark Horse's greatest original contribution to pop culture.  Over the years since this comic was released, there have been many similar pairings between otherwise separate properties.

Dark Horse Presents #36a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (February 1990)
1st Aliens vs. Predator comic
Dark Horse Presents #36b - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (February 1990)
1st Aliens vs. Predator comic
Aliens vs. Predator #1a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (June 1990)
Another major movie franchise, Terminator, was brought to Dark Horse in 1990.  The license was briefly held by Now comics prior to Dark Horse acquiring it.  In August 1990, Dark Horse published a 4-issue mini-series titled The Terminator.  Dark Horse would publish Terminator titles on and off over the next 24 years.  During this time, Marvel, Malibu Comics, Beckett Comics, Dynamite Entertainment, and IDW would also publish Terminator comics.

Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis #1a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (March 1991)
As hard as it is to believe, Dark Horse began publishing comics based on one more movie license before Star Wars.  Also from Lucasfilm, Dark Horse published the 4-issue mini-series Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis starting in March 1991.  Like Star Wars, Dark Horse would secure this license original held by Marvel Comics.  Marvel published a 3-issue adaptation of Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981.  They also published a 34 issue ongoing series title The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones from January 1983 through March 1986.  In 1989, they published a 4-issue adaptation of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, their final Indiana Jones title.  Dark Horse would actively publish Indiana Jones mini-series until 1996.  In 2008 when Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was released, Dark Horse released an adaptation.  Dark Horse published their last Indiana Jones mini-series with the 4-issue Indiana Jones and the Tomb of the Gods which concluded in March 2009.  This license, like Star Wars, reverted to Marvel in 2015.

Star Wars: Dark Empire #1a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (December 1991)
1st Dark Horse Star Wars comic
It was the success of these other movie licenses and the languishing of the Star Wars property at Marvel that led to Dark Horse acquiring the license along with the Indiana Jones license in 1991.  Droids had ended with the eighth issue in June 1987 and the following month, Ewoks #14 was the last Star Wars comic Marvel published until they reacquired the license in 2015.  There were 3 Star Wars 3-D comics published in 1987 and 1988 by Blackthorne Publishing, but no more Star Wars comics were released in the U.S. until December 1991 when Dark Horse published Star Wars: Dark Empire #1.  The Dark Empire story actually originated at Marvel and appeared in an ad in Marvel Age Preview #1 in June 1990.  But Dark Horse had convinced Lucasfilm the property would be better off with them instead of Marvel.

Dark Horse saw success with movie licensed comics by making them an integral part of their publishing plans.  Because Dark Horse did not have any major properties of their own, they devoted a large amount of their resources to making the licensed comics the best they could be.  It is this care and respect for the properties that garnered them success and allowed them to acquire the Star Wars license.  For Marvel, Star Wars was just another low-selling licensed comic, not one of their core superhero titles.  In fact, it was the introduction of the New Universe imprint in 1986 that prompted Marvel to cease their main Star Wars title that same year.  For Dark Horse, Star Wars would prove to be their most successful property.  Dark Horse was able to become the third largest comic publisher in the U.S., in no small part to Star Wars, and during the 24 years that they released Star Wars comics, many comic collectors undoubtedly saw Dark Horse as the Star Wars comic publisher, ignorant of the other titles they published.

TitleIssueCover PriceDate
Star Wars: Dark Empire1$2.95December 1991

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Retro Dark Horse: Star Wars: Darth Maul #1 Dynamic Forces Crimson Red Exclusive

The second of the two traditionally hard to find Dynamic Forces exclusives is Star Wars: Darth Maul #1.  In the past year, as the prices for the Dynamic Forces exclusives have risen, more and more copies of this once elusive issue have been showing up on eBay.

Star Wars: Darth Maul #1d - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (2000)
Dynamic Forces crimson red exclusive
The Dynamic Forces cover has a photo of Darth Maul with a light blue background and the Darth Maul title in crimson red.  It should not be confused with the standard cover which has a different photo, dark blue and black background, and the title in yellow bordered by red.  This exclusive came out in 2000 and was limited to 2,000 copies.  It has traditionally been one of the more expensive Dynamic Forces exclusives when it shows up for sale on eBay.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Retro Dark Horse: Star Wars: Infinites - A New Hope #1 Dynamic Forces Gold Foil Exclusive

For many years, most of the Dynamic Forces exclusive comics published by Dark Horse have been relatively easy and inexpensive to find on eBay with a few exceptions.  In the past year however, many of these exclusives have been rising in value.  As a consequence, two of the hardest to find exclusives have been showing up more and more on eBay, no doubt due to this rise in prices.  Those two comics are the Star Wars: Infinities - A New Hope #1 and Star Wars: Darth Maul #1 Dynamic Forces exclusives.

Star Wars: Infinities - A New Hope #1c - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (2001)
Dynamic Forces gold foil exclusive
The Dynamic Forces cover has a photo of Darth Vader and the Star Wars title in gold foil.  This exclusive came out in 2001 and was limited to 2,500 copies.  Even though it is not the most limited Dynamic Forces exclusive, it has traditionally been one of the more expensive variants when it shows up for sale on eBay.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Retro Marvel: Star Wars #58

Star Wars #16, titled Rebel Jail, shows the Rebel penitentiary called Sunspot Prison.  Princess Leia takes Doctor Aphra, a cohort of Darth Vader, to the prison.  To keep the prison a secret from the Empire, it is hidden in the corona of a sun.  This is not the first time the Rebellion has hidden assets from the Empire in the corona of a sun.

In the original Marvel series, Princess Leia oversees the plan to hide the Rebel Fleet inside the corona of Arbra's sun.  In a story titled Sundown! in Star Wars #58, a pyramid shaped force field encapsulates the fleet and is piloted into the sun's chromosphere layer, just below the outer corona layer.  The pyramid is made up of a Kerts-Bhrg control generator and four slave generators.  Once in place, Princess Leia and other Alliance personnel debark the control generator, leaving behind a maintenance crew.  Also left behind, unbeknownst to anyone else, are C-3PO and R2-D2.  R2-D2 had discovered an issue with the control generator which causes the force field to be under-powered and renders the maintenance crew unconscious.  C-3PO contacts Princess Leia to report the issue.  As the Rebellion is paralyzed to help, R2-D2 and C-3PO execute on an idea R2-D2 has which involves them performing a space walk to connect a power cable from the control generator to one of the Rebel cruisers.  They succeed in boosting the force field's power thus saving the fleet.

Star Wars #58a - Marvel Comics, U.S. (April 1982)
Star Wars #58b - Marvel Comics, U.S. (April 1982)
The cover, by Walt Simonson, shows C-3PO and R2-D2 making the space walk.  Inside the comic, R2-D2 is covered in reflective foil while C-3PO is not.  Presumably C-3PO's gold plating provides enough insulation from the radiation so he does not require the reflective foil.  It is possible the scene on this cover takes place after the pair succeed in providing more power to the force field, making it unnecessary for R2-D2 to need the reflective foil.

While the concept is interesting and the story is mediocre, we do get to see Princess Leia in a leadership role.  In the story, Leia is giving commands and directing the personnel during the operation.  This is a side of Leia that is not shown often in the original title, but we see in The Force Awakens.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Retro Dark Horse: Star Wars: Knight Errant #3

Star Wars: Knight Errant was a joint venture by publishers Dark Horse and Del Rey.  In Knight Errant, John Jackson Miller conceives a story set over a thousand years before the Battle of Yavin.  It is a period where Sith Lords are fighting among each other in the Outer Rim and a generation before Darth Bane would institute the Rule of Two.  The story centers on Kerra Holt, a female Jedi, who helps the citizens of the Outer Rim caught in the struggle between Sith Lords.

Star Wars: Knight Errant #3a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (December 2010)
The cover to Star Wars: Knight Errant #3 should look familiar to longtime Star Wars fans.  It is based on the 1975 Ralph McQuarrie painting showing Deak Starkiller (Luke Skywalker) versus Darth Vader.  It is one of the paintings that was used to convince 20th Century Fox to fund the Star Wars movie.

Deak Starkiller versus Darth Vader by Ralph McQuarrie (February 1975)
On the Star Wars: Knight Errant #3 cover, Deak Starkiller is replaced by Kerra Holt and Darth Vader is replaced by Sith Lord Odion.  Sith Lord Odion is responsible for the the death of the young Kerra's family ten years earlier as well as the devastation to her homeworld of Aquilaris in the Outer Rim.  The duel between Kerra and Odion takes place on The Spike, Odion's mobile space station.

Friday, February 19, 2016

5-Issue Star Wars: The Force Awakens Adaptation Coming in June

Marvel announced at ComicsPRO that a 5-issue Star Wars: The Force Awakens adaptation is coming in June 2016.  Please visit Exclusive: Marvel Announces "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" Adaptation over at Comic Book Resources to read more and see images.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Retro Dark Horse: Star Wars: Republic #46

In the early years of comic books, superheroes did not dominate like they do now.  Comic book publishers jumped from one fad to another in an attempt to make money.  Comics had themes as diverse as crime, romance, humor, science fiction, war, Western, and horror.  Many comic book titles came and went during this period of experimentation.  Subscriptions were important to comic publishers because it allowed them to sell to readers who otherwise would miss an issue at the newsstand, and in return, readers would save a little money over the cost of the comic at a newsstand.  The post office offered a second-class mailing permit that required publishers to pay an initial fee on a new title, but allowed them to mail subscriptions at a special low rate.  Comic publishers quickly found a loophole that prevented them from paying the initial fee by renaming the title of the comic and keeping the same numbering.  That is why many comics in the Golden and Silver Age do not start with issue #1.  For example, Marvel Comics #1 in 1939 gave way to Marvel Mystery Comics #2 and was again renamed Marvel Tales with issue #93.  When Marvel decided to create new titles for their headline superhero characters in the Tales of Suspense and Tales of Astonish titles, Iron Man and Sub-Mariner each received a title that started with #1, but Captain America continued the numbering started in Tales of Suspense with Captain America #100 and the Incredible Hulk continued the numbering of Tales to Astonish with Incredible Hulk #102.

Eventually, subscriptions became less important to publishers and today, it is very common to see new titles start with #1.  In fact, #1s sell better than other issues, so publishers will restart a title with a new #1 whenever they get a chance.

In September 2002, Dark Horse started a new title called Star Wars: Empire.  That same month, they renamed their main Star Wars (1998) title Star Wars: Republic with the 46th issue.  Star Wars: Empire focuses on the original trilogy characters and situations and Star Wars: Republic focuses on the characters and situations introduced during the prequel trilogy.

Star Wars: Republic #46a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (September 2002)
It is interesting that Dark Horse decided to maintain the numbering started by their Star Wars (1998) title.  Their decision probably was because the title had been telling stories featuring Jedi during the Republic era, and the new title did not change that focus.  The only difference is the stories shifted forward a bit to the time of the Clone Wars.  Routinely, you will see the Star Wars (1998) title called Star Wars: Republic, even though issue #1 - 45 does not have Republic in the title.  Star Wars: Republic #46 is the first issue of that title.

Another interesting side effect of second-class mail was letter pages.  In order for a comic book to be classified as a magazine to qualified for a second-class mailing permit, a small percentage of a comic book had to be text.  Some comics had 2-page stories, but this eventually gave way to 2-page letter columns.  The text pages saved comic publishers from having to pay artists for those 2 pages and they saved even more by using letters written by readers.  Over time, even letter pages have disappeared from comic books.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Retro Foreign: Star Wars: la Guerra de las Galaxias #3 (Ediciones Surco)

The third issue of Star Wars: la Guerra de las Galaxias from publisher Ediciones Surco has perhaps the wildest cover in this 8 issue run.  Star Wars: la Guerra de las Galaxias #3 contains Marvel Star Wars #23 and 24.

Star Wars: la Guerra de las Galaxias #3a - Ediciones Surco, Spain (July 1983)
Star Wars #23 and 24
The title on the cover Vuelo a la Furia! translates to Flight Into Fury! which is the last chapter in The Wheel saga contained in Star Wars #23.  But that is the only thing on this cover that has anything to do with the content of the comic.  Chewbacca not only has a bandolier, but he is also sporting a belt with pouches and a rifle.  I'm guessing the artist is not fond of drawing feet, because Chewbacca's legs melt into what I presume is a mound of dirt.  (A belt full of pouches and a lack of feet reminds me of a certain U.S. artist.)  Behind Chewbacca is R2-D2.  Farther back is Han Solo wielding a Lightsaber!

In Star Wars #23, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia are using Senator Greyshade's private yacht to escape from the Imperial spaceships closing in on The Wheel.  In Star Wars #24, a standalone story titled Silent Drifting has Obi-Wan Kenobi traveling on a large pleasure cruiser which is pursued by Merson ships.  The spaceship in the background on the cover to Star Wars: la Guerra de las Galaxias #3 bears no resemblance to any of these ships.  The ship does look a little like the Space Battleship Yamato though.

It is surprising for a Star Wars comic published in 1983 to have so many mistakes.  By 1983, Star Wars is certainly a well known property in Europe.  I could understand a cover like this coming out in 1977 or even 1978 in a western country.  In a non-western country that never showed the movie in theaters this cover would make sense.  But in Spain, at such a late date, it is a truly interesting visual.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Retro Marvel: Pizzazz #1

The first original Star Wars comic book after the movie adaptation is Star Wars #7.  It is not the first original comic material however.  Pizzazz #1 has the distinction of being the first original comic material.  In fact, the Star Wars comic strip in Pizzazz #1 is considered the first original Star Wars print material in the Expanded Universe!

Pizzazz is a magazine published by Marvel Comics that ran for 16 issues.  Aimed at the same teenage audience that read Teen Beat, every issue contains pop culture articles, comic strips, and puzzles.  Of the comic strips, every issues contains 3 pages of Star Wars comics.  Issues #1 - 9 contain the Star Wars story The Keeper's World and #10 - 16 contain the story The Kingdom of Ice.  Unfortunately, Pizzazz was cancelled before this last story was complete.  The final unpublished chapters concluding The Kingdom of Ice were printed for the first time in the U.K. publication Star Wars Weekly #60 and again for U.S. readers in the paperback Marvel Illustrated Books Star Wars.

The Keeper's World is written by Roy Thomas and drawn by Howard Chaykin.  This is the same pair of creators that worked on Star Wars #1 - 10.  Tony DeZuniga is the inker for the story and is credited for the covers to Marvel's Star Wars #7 - 9 and 11.

Pizzazz #1a - Marvel Comics, U.S. (October 1977)
The cover to Pizzazz #1 is a photo of C-3PO and R2-D2 in a corridor of the Tantive IV, the Rebel Blockade Runner that was overtaken by the Imperial Star Destroyer at the start of the Star Wars movie.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Retro Foreign: Star Wars: la Guerra de las Galaxias #2 (Ediciones Surco)

The second issue of Star Wars: la Guerra de las Galaxias from publisher Ediciones Surco reminds me of a classic cover from Marvel's distant past, the cover to Captain America #1.  With a cover date of March 1941, that classic cover shows Captain America punching Hitler.  It was a bold move for the publisher Timely Comics since the U.S. had not even entered into World War II yet.

While not as historic, Star Wars: la Guerra de las Galaxias #2 shows Luke Skywalker punching Darth Vader!  A similar scene does occur inside the comic but the confrontation is taking place inside Luke's thoughts.

Star Wars: la Guerra de las Galaxias #2a - Ediciones Surco, Spain (June 1983)
Star Wars #21 and 22
The panel this is based on is on page 7 of Star Wars #21.

Star Wars #21a - Marvel Comics, U.S. (March 1979)
page 7
As you can see, the panel inside Star Wars #21 does not actually show Luke Skywalker decking Darth Vader, but he is wrestling for Vader's Lightsaber instead.  A page later, he does get control of the Lightsaber and strikes Vader down.  In both pictures, Luke is leaping and Vader is forced back.  Yes, Carmine Infantino did have a tendency to draw some long locks on our young hero as you can see in the other panels on the page!  And you have to appreciate how fit this farm boy is, no doubt due to the rugged upbringing.

The cover to Star Wars: la Guerra de las Galaxias #2 is so cool, I can forgive the many flaws with the art.  The angle Luke is attacking Vader would put Luke right at Vader's feet when he makes the leap.  And Vader's bicep on the arm holding the Lightsaber is so long as to be inhuman.  I suspect the artist drew Luke Skywalker first and was so happy with the results (the figure is nicely drawn), he had to make some adjustments to Infantino's Darth Vader (which the Vader figure is clearly based on) to fit.  The only change I would have liked on this cover is a black, star filled background.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Retro Foreign: Brazilian O Incrivel Hulk #25 - 27

O Incrivel Hulk #25 - 27 contains Star Wars stories for Brazilian comic readers.

O Incrivel Hulk #25a - Editora Abril, Brazil (July 1985)
contains Star Wars #39 and 40
O Incrivel Hulk #26a - Editora Abril, Brazil (August 1985)
contains Star Wars #41 and 42
O Incrivel Hulk #27a - Editora Abril, Brazil (September 1985)
contains Star Wars #43 and 44
O Incrivel Hulk stars the Incredible Hulk of course.  But, being an digest-sized anthology title, it also contained many other Marvel stories including Marvel's Star Wars comics.  Star Wars would receive it's fair share of covers for this title including the first two issues of the Empire Strikes Back adaptation, O Incrivel Hulk #25 and 26.

When these issue were published, The Incredible Hulk television series had already finished it's 5 year run in the U.S. in 1982.  It is interesting that the cover to O Incrivel Hulk #27 shows the stars Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno in their roles at Dr. David Banner and the Hulk.  Star Wars just gets a mention on the cover.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

4 Out of 5 Star Wars Comics in the Top 10 in January

The Comics Chronicles released the January 2016 estimated sales earlier this week.  Marvel released yet more new superhero titles, but the Star Wars titles held strong with 4 out of the 5 Star Wars comics placed in the top 10 for the month.

TitleIssueMonthly RankEstimated SalesLast Estimated SalesPercent Change
Star Wars144118,471139,918-15.33%
Star Wars155107,855118,471-8.96%
Obi-Wan and Anakin17102,861N/AN/A
Darth Vader15998,40597,457+0.97%
Kanan104638,10640,938-6.92%

The Vader Down event definitely did not help the long term sales of the main Star Wars title.  The title certainly saw a bump in sales during the event, so in that regard, Vader Down worked.  But the first issue after Vader Down, Star Wars #15, has lost over 15,000 units compared to the issue prior to the event.  (Star Wars #12 sold 123,133 units in November and Star Wars #15 sold 107,855 units in January.)  Looking at the previous months, that is a higher loss than the title has been trending.  Events force retailers to evaluate actual sales.  Many times, this result in even lower sales than normal when the event ends.  Without events, I suspect most retailers would order titles month to month mostly on autopilot.  So, Vader Down looks to have been a short term gain but a long term loss.  We will know for sure next month when we see the numbers for Darth Vader #16.

TitleIssueEstimated Sales
Princess Leia1253,655
Lando1192,949
Shattered Empire1208,884
Chewbacca1122,952
Obi-Wan and Anakin1102,861

The newest mini-series, Obi-Wan and Anakin, debuted in January with 102,861 units sold.  This is the lowest selling mini-series #1 yet.  With the exception of Shattered Empire, each subsequent mini-series sold less copies than the previous mini-series.  I am not yet convinced this is a trend so much as sales being dictated by the headline character(s) in the mini-series.  Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker received considerable attention when Dark Horse owned the Star Wars license, for obvious reasons.  Marvel releasing a mini-series led by these two characters has a been-there-done-that feeling to it.

Kanan #10 shed over 2,800 copies which is another decent drop for the title.  This title is due to end with Kanan #12.  This titles replacement, the ongoing Poe Dameron series will sell better than some, if not all, the Star Wars titles when it is released in April.

The following table shows the total number of Star Wars units sold per month since January 2015 along with the average number of sales per issue.  Note this chart does not include reprints.

Month/YearTotal Estimated Sales# IssuesAverage Sale per Issue
January 2015985,9761985,976
February 2015526,4513175,484
March 2015596,2994149,075
April 2015537,8124134,453
May 2015324,8353108,278
June 2015396,931499,232
July 2015597,0235119,404
August 2015430,241586,048
September 2015551,8805110,376
October 2015953,2891095,329
November 20151,003,9548125,494
December 2015507,545684,591
January 2016465,698593,139

The average sale per issue would rank 11th on the top 300 chart for the month of January.  The Star Wars titles saw an increase in this average over last month.

The real story for the month is with the Star Wars trade paperbacks.  I am hoping to add an analysis of trade paperbacks in the near future.  The blog, Walking Dead #150, Star Wars trades lead traditionally light January comic sales volume, did a good analysis of the impact of Star Wars trade paperbacks sales last month. Take a look at the Star Wars Sales Estimate Chart and please read the blog posting January 2016 comics sales estimates online: The difference five years makes.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Classic Cover Comparison: Star Wars #19 and Star Wars: la Guerra de las Galaxias #1 (Ediciones Surco)

Marvel's Star Wars #19 is the second part of the six part The Wheel saga.  This issues starts with C-3PO, R2-D2, and an incapacitated Luke Skywalker escaping from the Imperial Stormtroopers when R2-D2 lowers a containment door between the heroes and the Imperials.  Han Solo and Princess Leia are pinned down by Stormtroopers when the Wheel security intervenes and Han and Leia surrender to the security.  Han is taken to have his ship searched for the missing Wheel profits and Leia is taken to Senator Greyshade's quarters.  Chewbacca makes it to the upper casino level where he gets into a fight with another burly alien and is taken captive by the Wheel security.  Leia explains to Greyshade the Imperial's plan, "The Empire never dared interfere with The Wheel... for fear of ruining its popularity and value as a source of taxes.  But if it appears to have become a target of the Rebel Alliance-- --They can justify a complete takeover in the guise of offering protection and everyone will accept it!"  Just as Greyshade is pondering this information, Commander Strom enters and destroys Greyshade's droid, Master-Com.  Master-Com, in a new body, disarms Commander Strom and Strom and Greyshade go off to talk, leaving Leia alone in the suite.  Greyshade tells Strom he knows about the Imperial's plan for The Wheel and offers to assist in exchange for Leia.  We see Luke being cared for in the Wheel medical facility and C-3PO and R2-D2 are taken captive by the Wheel security who explain Han pawned them while gambling.  A captive Chewbacca is told he has a choice between entering the Big Game or being handed over to the Empire.  Han, released by the Wheel security for not pirating the Wheel's profits, is losing at gambling while trying to raise money for an impounded Millennium Falcon due to unpaid docking fees.  He considers entering the Big Game.  The issue ends with Greyshade and Strom monitoring Han as he makes up his mind and signs up for the Big Game.

The cover to Star Wars #19 shows The Wheel with a skull signifying death at it's center.  Our heroes' floating heads surround it.

Star Wars #19a - Marvel Comics, U.S. (January 1979)
The cover to Star Wars: la Guerra de las Galaxias #1 published by Ediciones Surco is a similar image.

Star Wars: la Guerra de las Galaxias #1a - Ediciones Surco, Spain (May 1983)
Star Wars #19 and 20
Star Wars #19 has a cover that I'm not very fond of.  Floating heads are not my favorite, but they are a staple of comics from this time period.  I could live with those if the rest of the cover was better.  The red skull at the center of The Wheel is just goofy and this cover would have been better if the skull was not there.  I'm also unsure why the cover shows a ship that is similar to a Rebel Blockade Runner, since one does not appear inside the story.  I'm a fan of space scenes and that is the one bright spot on an otherwise bad cover.  The cover to Star Wars: la Guerra de las Galaxias #1 is not any better.  The skull is nicer, but the way the floating heads are arrange around it like a crown is strange.  Leia, Luke, Chewbacca, and C-3PO are easy enough to recognize, but I'm not entirely sure who that is suppose to be grinning next to Leia.  Is that suppose to be Han Solo?  Is the floating head in the center really Solo and Luke has the grinning head?  This art is sitting on a white background making this debut cover from Ediciones Surco a poor start to an otherwise fantastic 8-issue run.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Retro Foreign: French Titans #69

When I was a kid in the 1970s, The Wizard of Oz was shown on television yearly.  I remember tuning in every year then and have even watched it a few times with my own kids in the past decade, but there was one thing I never noticed until it was pointed out to me in a blog, during a few moments in the movie, the Scarecrow has a gun![1]  In the movie, Dorothy's companions received weapons while in the Emerald City of Oz and use them in a cut scene when they fight a Jitterbug sent by the Wicked Witch.  The Scarecrow is given a gun.  This Jitterbug scene was to take place before the Flying Monkeys attack.

Whenever I see the cover to Titans #69, I am reminded of The Wizard of Oz and the Scarecrow carrying a gun.

Titans #69a - Editions Lug, France (October 1984)
Star Wars #68
It is an interesting choice for a cover, especially when the original Marvel cover for Star Wars #68, the Star Wars story inside Titans #69, features fan favorite Boba Fett.  In the tale, C-3PO is shown in one panel using a knife to cut the rope that holds the cage containing the bounty hunter Dengar.  It is never explained or shown where C-3PO gets the knife or where the knife goes after he cuts the rope.  On the cover, it is not clear that Dengar is the cage's inhabitant.  If they are not going to show Boba Fett on the cover, which is understandable since he appears in one panel in the story, you would think the publisher would have highlighted Dengar who has a more significant presence.  Also on the cover, C-3PO is uncharacteristically stealthy unlike this scene inside the comic.  It is funny imagining C-3PO with any weapon, including a knife.  And C-3PO is anything but stealthy!

Along these lines, in 1994, Topps released the Star Wars Galaxy series 2 trade card set.  One of the promos for the set is a picture of Ewoks attacking a Biker Scout drawn by Jim Starlin.  One of the Ewoks is attacking with a knife.  This art is reused on card #266 in the set, but the art is modified so the Ewok no longer carried a knife.  One can only imagine that the cover to French Titans #69 would never have been approved.

References:

  1. The Scarecrow from The Wizard of OZ carries a gun.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Marvel Comics' Star Wars Character Boxes

The character or corner boxes started appearing on Marvel comics in the early 1960s.  Located in the upper left hand corner of the comic, they were helpful when rifling through comics on the newsstand to know which comics were being sold.  By the late 1990s, they started to be phased out, and by the mid 2000s, the character boxes were completely gone from Marvel comic covers entirely.

The original Star Wars title at Marvel has character boxes throughout it's entire run.  Only Star Wars #50 and Annual #2 do not contain a character box.

The first character box beginning with Star Wars #1 shows Luke Skywalker wearing his Tatooine garb.  This image would appear on the cover of the Star Wars title until the start of the Empire Strikes Back adaptation.  The color of Luke's shirt would remain white and his skin tone peach, but the color of all the other elements in the picture would vary from issue to issue.  For example, his hair was mostly yellow, but sometimes it was brown.  Luke's pants are white or shades of brown.  Luke's boots would always be colored with shades of brown.  Creative colors are used for the space and planet behind Luke.

Luke Skywalker (Tatooine garb) character box
With Star Wars #39, the character box changes to show C-3PO and R2-D2.  C-3PO maintained a gold color and sometimes R2-D2 would be highlighted with blue.  The two planets in the background undergo the most color changes.  With Star Wars #76, the C-3PO and R2-D2 character box changed slightly; the small planet above C-3PO was dropped from the image and the word MARVEL was added to the box.  Additionally, the image was sized to fit completely in the box so C-3PO's elbow no longer extends beyond the box border.  Star Wars #88 would see this image altered one more time when a plain background is used.

C-3PO and R2-D2
character box I
C-3PO and R2-D2
character box II
C-3PO and R2-D2
character box III
From Star Wars #84 - 107, five different character boxes are used (seven if you count the background modification to the C-3PO and R2-D2 image for Star Wars #88 and the change for Marvel's 25th Anniversary celebration.) Star Wars #84, 85, and 91 which mainly feature Han Solo and Chewbacca use a character box with the two characters.  Star Wars #86 and 102 have an image of Luke Skywalker in his Bespin fatigues and Star Wars #89 and 90 show Luke in his Jedi outfit.  Princess Leia has the corner box to herself on Star Wars #103.  Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewbacca are all featured in the character box for Star Wars #92 - 101, and #104 - 107.  The box includes the words 25TH ANNIVERSARY for the final three issues in celebration of Marvel's 25th anniversary.  Interestingly, the New Universe line of comics was launched to celebrate Marvel Comics' 25th Anniversary and was a key reason for the cancellation of the Star Wars title.

Han Solo and Chewbacca character box
Luke Skywalker (Bespin fatigues) character box
Luke Skywalker (Jedi outfit) character box
Princess Leia character box
Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia,
Han Solo, and Chewbacca
character box I
Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia,
Han Solo, and Chewbacca
character box II
The following table shows the different character boxes that adorn the Star Wars title throughout the 107 issue run and 3 annuals.

ImageNotesIssues
Luke Skywalker (Tatooine garb) Star Wars #1 - 38, Annual #1
C-3PO and R2-D2;
C-3PO's elbow extends outside border
Star Wars #39 - 49, #51 - 75
C-3PO and R2-D2;
MARVEL added to box;
small planet above C-3PO dropped
Star Wars #76 - 83, 87, Annual #3
Han Solo and Chewbacca Star Wars #84, 85, 91
Luke Skywalker (Bespin fatigues) Star Wars #86, 102
C-3PO and R2-D2;
plain background
Star Wars #88
Luke Skywalker (Jedi outfit) Star Wars #89, 90
Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia,
Han Solo, and Chewbacca
Star Wars #92 - 101, 104
Princess Leia Star Wars #103
Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia,
Han Solo, and Chewbacca;
MARVEL 25TH ANNIVERSARY
Star Wars #105 - 107