Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Retro Marvel: Star Wars #64

Fill-in issues were a staple of comics for many decades, although the practice is not as prevalent today.  To ensure comics shipped on time, editors sometimes had stories or entire issues created and filed away in the event the current team on a book failed to meet a deadline.  Sometimes a fill-in issue was created quickly.  These fill-in issues had guest writers and/or artists and did not necessarily align with the continuity of the title.  Many times the work was assigned to non-seasoned creators and that, coupled with the rush to produce the pages, resulted in an inferior product.  This is not always the case as guest penciller Michael Golden shows with the Riders in the Void story in Star Wars #38, but that is definitely true for Star Wars #64.

Writer David Michelinie, penciller Walter Simonson, and inker Tom Palmer are the regular team for most of Star Wars #51 - 66.  Later in that run, Simonson also assumes plotting duties and just does layouts while Tom Palmer provides finishing pencil and ink work.  Star Wars #64 is a fill-in issue with pencils provided by artist Joe Brozowski and inks by Vince Colletta.  Despite Michelinie's contribution, Star Wars #64 is jarring not only because of the change in art, but in the story itself.  In the tale titled Serphidian Eyes, Luke Skywalker is an active commander in the Rebellion where in the previous story arc Luke was stripped of his rank.  The commission is reinstated in the following issue, Star Wars #65.  Luke and two other Rebel pilots are sent to Serphidi by Princess Leia since they need the Serps help in monitoring the Imperial presence in the Belial system.  Serps are humanoid reptiles who shunned technology due to their planet's centuries old war.  The society has a distinctly medieval bend, complete with a king, knights, squires, princesses, and jesters.  The Serps dress the part as well by wearing armor, using lances, and wielding shields that look like they came from Earth.

These elements are out of place in a Star Wars story.  The crew of the Enterprise can get away with visiting planets with societies from Earth's history because that trope was built into the original television series.  To be honest, if it were not for Star Trek's budget constraints, I doubt any planets would have resembled Earth's past.  Comics do not have the same budget concerns, which is why a society like the one the Serps have is perplexing.  One could immediately think the writer or artist was being lazy; even though this issue was probably completed quickly, anything would have been better than borrowing visuals from a well known Earth time period.  At minimum, why not change the look of the armor, lances, and shields?  There are a few issues in Marvel's run that repeat this mistake and I cringe as much now as I did when I originally read these stories as a youth.

Star Wars #64a - Marvel Comics, U.S. (October 1982)

Star Wars #64b - Marvel Comics, U.S. (October 1982)
Inside, Serps are red with green eyes, while the cover shows a Serp face that is green with red eyes.  To be honest, the interior artwork is not entirely bad; Brozowski draws human figures and the spacecraft from Star Wars very well, no doubt due to having good reference material.  A few years later, Brozowski would provide artwork for The Fury of Firestorm/Firestorm, the Nuclear Man and, in 1994, he worked on Xombi for DC's Milestone imprint.

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