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 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.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

A Marvel Last Jedi Tie-In Comes Out in December

Several Marvel's December comic book solicitations were leaked on Reddit a few days ago and among the Star Wars comics is this book:


This December, the soon-to-be thrilling Star Wars: The Last Jedi rocks movie screens across the world...and the reverberations are felt all around a galaxy far, far away!  First up, learn the secret of the mineral planet Crait!  Long before it became a battleground between the Resistance and the First Order, Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa led the Rebellion there in search of a new home!  From writers Ben Acker & Ben Blacker (Star Wars Join the Resistance) and artist Marco Checchetto (Star Wars: Shattered Empire) comes the backstory to this winter's biggest adventure!

Rated T

From the description, it appears Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia help establish a Rebel base on Crait.  Read more in the post Leaked Marvel December Comic Book Solicitations over at Reddit.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Retro Marvel: Star Wars #49

Star Wars #49 has received considerable attention since the title of it's story, The Last Jedi!, is the same as the upcoming movie.  The prices have settled down somewhat, although the issue does fetch a premium over others that surround it.

The Last Jedi! is the first of several consecutive issues penciled by Walt Simonson who drew Star Wars #16 years earlier.  The story begins with Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, C-3PO, and R2-D2 aboard a Y-Wing Fighter investigating a distress signal.  This Y-Wing Fighter is much larger than the one-man fighters we are accustomed to and it even uses landing gear like an airplane to land!  Luke exists the spacecraft to investigate the signal and is attacked by a large hairy purple alien.  He is rescued by Prince Denid who was forced to flee his home planet Velmor as a kid with his betrothed Loren and his alien protector Jedidiah and they crashed on the planet.  Loren was killed and Jedidiah was injured by falling debris which robbed him of reason.  Luke is instantly turned off by Jedidiah who is dressed in Jedi garb and he is even more dumbfounded to learn Jedidiah turned down an opportunity to train as a Jedi.  A text box explains:

The thing is a walking parody of Luke Skywalker's highest, most revered goal ... and it makes his blood boil!

Prince Denid fled Velmor when the Empire overthrew the planet, killing his parents.  His younger brother, Prince Anod, was an Imperial sympathizer and stayed behind.  Having rescued Denid, they leave for Velmor.  When they reach the planet, Leia disguises herself as Loren while Luke portrays the bounty hunter Korl Marcus.  They interrupt the coronation of Anod who is about to be crowned by the regent of the past 20 years, Zelor.  Also at the event is an Imperial delegate, Captain Traal.  Prince Denid is tested and verified as the rightful heir of Velmor.  A celebration is thrown to honor the return of Denid and Luke continues to denigrate Jedidiah when he tells C-3PO:

Luke Skywalker: Keep this crazy old guy away from me, will you Threepio?  I'm gonna have enough trouble without babysitting him!

At the celebration, the regent Zelor challenges "Marcus" to a friendly duel with laser swords which Luke purposely loses to keep suspicions off him.  Luke is then approached by Captain Traal who asks "Marcus" to kill Prince Denid and "Loren" which "Marcus" agrees to.  At this point, we learn that Captain Traal, Zelor, and Anod are all intent on remaining in power.  Additionally, the regent Zelor is going to also kill Captain Traal and Anod and frame Marcus.

The next day, a pre-coronation hunt takes place where the hunters ride large frog-like creatures called Ycaqts and chase small rodent-like creatures called Mrids.  Participants include Prince Denid, Prince Anod, regent Zelor, Korl Marcus, Loren, and Captain Traal.  While this hunt is taking place, C-3PO and R2-D2 have taken Jedidiah to a medical droid to learn he cannot be cured.

From the start of the hunt, duplicity occurs.  Denid and "Loren" are resting near a river where Traal asks "Marcus" to kill them.  Luke refuses, but is shot at by Zelor and Anod.  Anod also shoots and renders Denid and Leia unconscious.  Luke pulls out his lightsaber and disarms Anod but is immediately recognized by Captain Traal.&nbbsp; Zelor takes a shot at Traal, who shoots and kills Anod.  Luke is chased by Zelor.  Luke decides to draw upon the Force which immediately causes Jedidiah to react.  Jedidiah mounts a Ycaqts to rescue Luke.  Meanwhile, Zelor sneaks up on Luke to kill him, but Luke counters at the last moment with his lightsaber.  While this is happening, Captain Traal is about to kill Luke when Jedidiah appears and takes the shot meant for Luke.  Luke kills Zelor and knocks Traal out.  A recovered Denid and Leia appear as Luke lifts Jedidiah's lifeless body:

Princess Leia: D-Denid?  What happened?
Prince Denid: Anod tried to kill us, Leia ... but he must have set his blaster on stun!  Poor Anod ... he was always the loser!
Luke Skywalker: He's not the only one, Prince ...  Somehow, this valiant old man found the strength and the wits to save my life ... but lost his ...  He did that for me ... though I scorned and derided him in my heart!  He lost his life, and I lost him!  Excuse me ... we losers would like to be alone!

On the final page, Leia and Luke depart Velmor.  Prior to making the jump to hyperspace, a coffin holding Jedidiah is jettisoned into space and Luke gives a eulogy:

Luke Skywalker: I thought you were just a crazy old man.  But I was wrong.  Your was the soul of a true Jedi Knight ... the last Jedi ...  I pray that I meet death as valiantly as you did ...  May the Force be with you, Jedi ... forever!

There are a lot of coincidences which is typical for a story like this.  One has to assume the distress signal was only recently repaired and activated.  It conveniently allowed Prince Denid to be rescued and returned to his homeworld on the same day his brother was to be coronated.  Zelor just happens to be good at dueling and tries to kill Luke using his laser sword instead of shooting him in the back.  The alien that Luke scorns being named Jedidiah with the short form of his name being Jedi is another coincidence.

Throughout the story, Luke is out of character.  First, his disdain for Jedidiah is not typical Luke behavior.  Additionally, there are strong hints that Leia and Denid are involved which Luke reacts to very childishly.  In The Empire Strikes Back Luke's character grew beyond the immaturity he displays here.

Star Wars #49a - Marvel Comics, U.S. (July 1981)
Star Wars #49b - Marvel Comics, U.S. (July 1981)
The cover art is by Walt Simonson.  Luke is brandishing his lightsaber over the fallen Leia.  Both Jedidiah, with his wooden stick, and Prince Denid are shown while a larger image of Captain Traal is in the background.

Captain Traal is the first female Imperial in any Star Wars story.  As is the case for most Imperial officers, she is self-serving and only thinks about amassing power.  The difference between Traal and her male counterparts is she uses her feminine wiles to attempt to sway others to do her bidding as she does with Luke several times in the story.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Retro Foreign: Swedish Stjärnornas Krig Album #3

I Imperiets Kor or In the Empire's Claws is the third Star Wars album released by Semic Press in Swedish.  Released in 1979, Stjärnornas Krig Album #3 includes The Wheel saga from Star Wars #18 - 23.

Stjärnornas Krig Album #3a - Semic Press, Sweden (1979)
contains Star Wars #18 - 23 (minus some pages)
The cover artwork is a redrawing of the cover for Star Wars #18.  Like Brandon Badeaux's interiors on the Rebellion title, this cover appears to be printed without the pencil work being inked.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Star Wars Continues to Outshine in August

Both Star Wars #34 and 35 are top 10 books in August and Star Wars continues to reign over Marvel's other ongoing series.  Indications are the numbers for the comic industry in August 2017 look really bad compared to August 2016; units shipped are down over 25% compared to last year's August sales.  This has been a down year overall with comic sales off almost 7% compared to last year at this time.  To be fair, DC had their line wide Rebirth launch in 2016 and Marvel still has their Legacy launch coming in the next few months, so it is still possible for things to turn around.

Let's just look at the main Star Wars title and extrapolate the health of the industry from that.  Here is a table that shows how this title has done since it's launch in 2015:

Year# IssuesTotal Estimated Unit SalesAverage Estimated SalesLowest Estimated SaleHighest Estimated Sale
(Star Wars #12)
(Star Wars #1)
(minus Star Wars #1)
(Star Wars #12)
(Star Wars #4)
(Star Wars #25)
(Star Wars #14)
(through July)
(Star Wars #30)
(Star Wars #33)

It needs to be noted that the total estimated unit sales is based on the preliminary units sold as calculated on the Comichron website.  It does not include subsequent printings, which would make 2015 look even better than it does.  Obviously, Star Wars #1 is an giant, having sold over 1 million issues by the time you add in the subsequent prints.  If you remove #1 from the equation, the top selling issue in 2017 is Star Wars #4 (again, not counting subsequent printings.)  Without Star Wars #1 in the equation, the average sale this year is less than half of 2015.  Now, consider the main Star Wars title has been Marvel top selling ongoing series for nearly 3 years.  Star Wars has been a top selling title with weak competition.

Do not get me wrong, Star Wars is by far more entertaining than anything being put out by the Big 2.  And I believe it should be a top seller.  But, the title probably wouldn't be a top 10 book if the rest of the Big 2 titles were doing better.  In a way, I wish the other comics were performing better so Marvel had to work a bit harder to keep high sales on their top selling ongoing title.

Comichron released the August 2017 preliminary numbers in their post August's comics orders can't compare to 2016's Rebirth boom; Dark Nights: Metal, Paper Girls top charts.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Modern Marvel: Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #1 Frankie's Comics, Sad Lemon Comics, 7 Ate 9 Comics Exclusives

These days, it takes a bit of work to keep up to date on the variants and exclusives being released.  Adding to the confusion is when retailers join to commission exclusives together.  Frankie's Comics, Sad Lemon comics, and 7 Ate 9 Comics all released three shared exclusive covers for Doctor Aphra #1.  The standard exclusive is limited to 3000 copies, the black & white exclusive is limited to 1500 copies, and the virgin exclusive is limited to 500 copies.

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #1a - Marvel Comics, U.S. (December 2016)
Frankie's Comics, Sad Lemon Comics, 7 Ate 9 Comics exclusive
Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #1a - Marvel Comics, U.S. (December 2016)
Frankie's Comics, Sad Lemon Comics, 7 Ate 9 Comics black & white exclusive
Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #1a - Marvel Comics, U.S. (December 2016)
Frankie's Comics, Sad Lemon Comics, 7 Ate 9 Comics virgin exclusive
The cover is by Italian artist Sara Pichelli who has drawn several variant covers for Marvel's Star Wars line.  Depending on the artist, Doctor Aphra looks either Asian or Caucasian.  Sara Pichelli's cover shows her as Asian.  It is a nice cover showing Aphra sitting on a platform high up in the air peering off into the distance.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Retro Foreign: British Star Wars Annual 1981

Grandreams published Star Wars Annual 1981.  The content of this hardcover book includes Star Wars #45, 47, and 48.

Star Wars Annual 1981 a - Grandreams, England (Spring 1981)
contains Star Wars #45, 47, and 48.
The colorful cover is drawn by British artist Paul Neary.  Neary was the editor-in-chief of Marvel U.K. in the 1990s.  During his time as editor-in-chief, he oversaw the launch of line of U.S.-sized comics (traditional British comics are magazine-sized) that were also marketed and sold in the U.S.  The first five titles were Death's Head II, Knights of Pendragon II, Motormouth, Warheads, and Hell's Angel.  Initially, these titles sold very well and the line expanded quickly, but the entire comic market crashed in 1993.  Marvel U.K. became a victim of the crash and it's assets were sold to Panini Comics.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Retro Dark Horse: Star Wars 30th Anniversary Collection Volume 3: Darth Maul

The third volume in the Star Wars 30th Anniversary Collection from Dark Horse reprints the 4-part mini-series Darth Maul.  Like the other covers in this series, it has a matte black cover with the text in silver.  Framed in a silver box in the center of the cover is a portion of the cover art from Darth Maul #4 by Drew Struzan.  Drew Struzan is best known for creating posters for movies such Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, and, of course, Star Wars.  This volume retailed for $22.95 and was limited to initial orders.

Star Wars 30th Anniversary Collection Volume 3: Darth Maul - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (May 2007)
The original series came out in 2000 and was the first of three mini-series from Dark Horse to star Darth Maul.  Each issue of this mini-series shipped with both an art cover and a photo cover.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Retro Dark Horse: Star Wars Tales #19

It was long rumored that The Force Awakens was going to be about the children of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo.  That rumor led to two comics spiking in value prior to the release of the movie: Dark Empire II #5 which has the first comic appearances of the twins Jacen and Jaina Solo and Star Wars Tales #19 with the first comic appearance of Ben Skywalker.  Jacen, Jaina, and Ben are all characters who are featured prominently in the now defunct Expanded Universe. 

Ben Skywalker appears in the 8 page The Lost Lightsaber story in Tales #19.  The short story follows the lightsaber lost by Luke during his battle with Darth Vader on Cloud City.  The saber is possessed by many owners, including Bossk and Boba Fett, before it is found by a Jedi Knight who gives it to his Jedi Padawan.  The Padawan uses it to kill his master and, many masters and years later, that former Padawan is about to perform a ritual with other Dark Side users to "infuse this lighsaber with the power of the Dark Side."  At that moment, the Jedi Knight Ben Skywalker appears and takes the lightsaber exclaiming "This belonged to my father."  Ben Skywalker is the son of Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade.

Another rumor was The Force Awakens would start with the movie's heroes finding Luke's lost lightsaber and it would follow their quest to find the missing Jedi Master.  While Luke's missing lightsaber is in the movie, it is not the impetus for our heroes wanting to find Luke.  Even so, it is interesting that the story in Tales #19 deals with the subject of the lost saber and also has an appearance by Ben Skywalker.  The art cover is based on this story.

Star Wars Tales #19a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (April 2004)
art cover
Into the Unknown is a 10 page curiosity for Star Wars fans because it features a crossover with Indiana Jones.  This tales is the Han Solo story you thought you'd never see! shown on the photo cover.
Star Wars Tales #19b - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (April 2004)
photo cover
Dark Empire II #5 does not command the same prices it was seeing a few years ago.  Star Wars Tales #19 however still fetches a decent price.  The photo issues have a slight premium over the art issues.  The art issue can fetch from $30 - 45 in NM condition and you can expect to pay about $5 more for the photo issue.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Retro Dark Horse: Star Wars: The Last Command

For many years, very little was known about the Clone Wars, the galaxy changing event that Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi mention in A New Hope:

Luke Skywalker: "No, my father didn't fight in the wars.  He was a navigator on a spice freighter."
Obi-Wan Kenobi: "That's what your uncle told you.  He didn't hold with your father's ideals.  Thought he should have stayed here and not gotten involved."
Luke Skywalker: "You fought in the Clone Wars?"
Obi-Wan Kenobi: "Yes, I was once a Jedi Knight the same as your father."

A short while later, when the complete message from Princess Leia is retrieved from R2-D2, we learn a little bit more about Obi-Wan Kenobi's role:

Princess Leia: "General Kenobi, years ago you served my father in the Clone Wars.  Now he begs you to help him in his struggle against the Empire..."

In Timothy Zahn's Thrawn Trilogy, it is intimated that clonemasters created clones that went insane and caused destruction across the galaxy during the Clone Wars.  A strong undercurrent of the final novel, The Last Command, is the ramifications of Thrawn's use of a clone army using the same technology that created the insane clones.  Mara Jade explains to Luke why she is accompanying him to Mount Tantiss on the planet Wayland, the location of Emperor Palpatine's storehouse which contains thousands of Spaarti cloning cylinders:

Mara Jade: "Let's get one thing clear right now, Skywalker.  I work for Karrde, and Kardde has already said that we're staying neutral in this war of yours.  The only reason I'm here is because I know a little about the Clone Wars era and don't want to see a bunch of cold-faced duplicates trying to overrun the galaxy again.  The only reason you're here is that I can't shut the place down by myself."

Clones are grown in Spaarti cloning cylinders and the process, which takes about a year, has the potential for clone madness.  The Dark Jedi Joruus C'baoth, enlisted into Thrawn's campaign against the New Republic in Heir to the Empire, is one of these insane clone.  Thrawn is using the technology in Mount Tantiss to create his own clone army to man the recently recovered Katana Fleet's Dreadnaughts.  He also is short-cutting the process and his clones are being grown in less than a month thanks to the use of the Force repelling ysalamiri.  Luuke Skywalker, a clone of Luke, is a clone grown using this accelerated process.

For almost a decade, the Clone Wars described in the Thrawn Trilogy was what Star Wars fans knew, until the release of the prequel trilogy.  With a definitive explanation for the Clone Wars, the situation about insane clones introduced in the Thrawn Trilogy was retconned into continuity as a separate event.

Dark Horse published a 6-part mini-series for the final book in the trilogy.  Yet another artist provides the interior artwork, Croatian Edvin Biukovic.  His artwork is a blending of the European style seen in the first mini-series and the traditional U.S. style seen in the second mini-series.  Like the previous two mini-series, the cover art for The Last Command is provided by Mathieu Lauffray.

Star Wars: The Last Command #1a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (November 1997)
Star Wars: The Last Command #2a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (December 1997)
Star Wars: The Last Command #3a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (February 1997)
Star Wars: The Last Command #4a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (March 1997)
Star Wars: The Last Command #5a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (April 1997)
Star Wars: The Last Command #6a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (July 1997)
Like the novel it is adapting, this mini-series is fast paced and juggles many characters and situations.  I believe each novel in the trilogy is more dense than a single two hour movie could contain and it is amazing how much story is squeezed into 6 issues.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Classic Cover Comparison: Star Wars #11 and Star Wars Weekly #22

Most of Star Wars #11 is used to setup the reunion of our main heroes after Han Solo and Chewbacca's adventures in Star Wars #7 - 10.  After departing Aduba-3, Han and Chewbacca, aboard the Millennium Falcon, are captured by Crimson Jack for the second time.  On Jacks' Star Destroyer, Han and Chewbacca are reunited with Princess Leia, who was taken prison by Jack when she secretly took off from the Rebel base on Yavin IV to find Luke Skywalker.  Leia manipulates events so that Han and Jack work together to reach the location of Luke's last transmission, the Drexel system.  Meanwhile, on the water planet Drexel, Luke, C-3PO, and R2-D2 are on a sinking ship which is being attacked by a sea creature.  Luke and the Droids are forced to abandon the ship in an escape pod.  The issue ends with Luke and the Droids in the floating pod watching the attack from afar when a second sea creature shows up, this time with a rider.

Star Wars #11a - Marvel Comics, U.S. (May 1978)
The cover for Star Wars #11 shows the first sea creature attacking Luke's sinking ship.  The creature on the cover looks more like a large rattlesnake and not like the creature drawn inside.  Luke is shooting with a blaster from the hull of the ship, which he is also doing in the story.  Absent on the cover is Luke's belt which holds his lightsaber.  The yellow background matches the scene from the interior of this issue.

Star Wars Weekly #22a - Marvel Comics, England (July 5, 1978)
last half of Star Wars #11
Star Wars Weekly #22 shows a more dynamic depiction of the same scene.  The sea creature is more menacing on this cover and Luke has clearly given up fighting and is retreating, having dropped his weapon.  The creature looks more like a dragon on this cover, but again does not accurately represent how it looks inside.  Carmine Infantino's sea creatures have elongated, flat muzzles and powerful necks that end at a thick torso similar to a brontosaurus.  They truly are alien and not easily identifiable.  On this cover, it looks like Luke and the Droids are in a decked out raft and not on the hull of their starship or in the escape pod.  Additionally, the colors are different.  The creature inside is red, not green, and it is light outside, not dark.  More apparent is Luke's orange tunic; traditionally it is white.  To be fair, the Star Wars Weeklies have black and white interiors, so having different colors on the cover are not necessarily wrong for readers of these British magazines.

I like how Luke Skywalker is using a blaster in this story and didn't instinctively reach for his lightsaber.  It makes sense the blaster would remain Luke's weapon of choice since he is not adept at using the saber.  In the next issue, Luke does use his lightsaber to keep Governor Quarg's men at bay.  While it isn't shown inside the issue, I believe this is because Luke dropped his blaster when he was retreating from the sea creature as shown on the cover for Star Wars Weekly #22.  (Inside the story, his blaster just disappears after he retreats.)

Overall, the Star Wars #11 cover is more accurate to the story inside, but I feel the cover for Star Wars #22 is more interesting.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Cover Artist: Francesco Mattina on Star Wars: Darth Vader #1 ComicSketchArt Charles Soule Exclusive

Francesco Mattina is an Italian illustrator who has worked at both Marvel and DC as a cover artist since 2007.  To date, his only U.S. Star Wars cover has been on the ComicSketchArt Charles Soule exclusive for Darth Vader #1.  This exclusive is limited to 3000 copies.

Star Wars: Darth Vader #1a - Marvel Comics, U.S. (June 2017)
ComicSketchArt Charles Soule exclusive
Francesco Mattina is one of a new breed of comic artists who has never provided interior art for a comic book, but has only done covers.  His artwork is painted and reminiscent of the work done by his fellow countryman Gabriele Dell'Otto.  His recent Venom variant covers have garnered him a lot of attention in recent months.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Retro Foreign: French Titans #77

Edition Lug translated Star Wars #76 for French readers in June 1985's Titans #77.  Artoo-Detoo To the Rescue is the final chapter in a 3-part story that deals with the ramifications of the attack on the water planet Iskalon by a missile fired from an Imperial fortress on the nearby planet Gamandar.  When the missile struck the surface city Pavillion on Iskalon, it set off a devastating tidal wave known as the Iskalon Effect.  Iskalons are water breathers whose leader Primor, died in the attack.  Primor's son, Mone is unaware of his father's death and assisting in a Rebel mission on Gamandar.

Darth Vader is informed of the attack by his spy droid K-3PX on Gamandar and learns that Luke Skywalker was one of the Rebels on Iskalon.  In the destroyed city Pavillion, Luke, Princess Leia, and Kiro are tending to the dead and wounded when they are attacked by a serpent-like Chiaki drawn to the city by the blood.  Kiro drives off the attacking creature and Kendle, Mone's wife, shows up with other Iskalons and blames Luke, Leia, and Kiro for the attack.  Luke uses the force to throw debris at the Iskalons and the three retreat.  Back on Gamandar, R2-D2 has impressed his Imperial "masters", who elevate his security clearance.  Betrayed by Kendle, the imprisoned Lando Calrissian, Chewbacca, C-3PO, and Mone, are about to be interrogation by the Imperial fortress' commander Admiral Tower when K-3PX intervenes and has Tower arrested on Vader's orders.  As Admiral Tower is taken away, R2-D2 releases the prisoners who escape in the Millennium Falcon.  Meanwhile, Darth Vader tells Tower he and the Emperor are searching for one of the Rebels on Iskalon and his releasing the Iskalon Effect has jeopardized their efforts; Vader orders the execution of Admiral Tower.  Back on Iskalon, Luke, Leia, and Kiro are surrounded by the Iskalons and other angry inhabitants of the city Pavillion.  Kiro is wounded during the attack and his water breathing helmet is damaged so Luke picks him up and carries him to water.  Before reaching the water, another Chiaki attacks, but is killed by a blast from the newly arrived Millennium Falcon.  The Chiaki dies, falling on Kendle, killing her.  Luke is able to save Kiro.  A mourning Mone tells Luke and Leia to leave Iskalon and to never return.

Titans #77a - Editions Lug, France (June 1985)
Star Wars #76
Titans #77 has another French painted cover.  Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker are easily recognizable, but Princess Leia, the character in the foreground holding the gun, is not.  In the previous issue, Luke and Leia wore skin tight black swim wear, but this issue starts with them more modestly dressed in ponchos and trousers.  Leia has her hair tied up with a bandanna.  The character that Luke is holding is more interesting.  In the story, Luke carries the male Iskalon, Kiro, who has blond hair and orange colored skin but is wearing an outfit similar to the character on the cover.  The character on the cover can only be Kiro, but he is drawn as a female human, making this one of the more interesting foreign cover snafus I've seen.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Modern Marvel: Star Wars 40th Anniversary Covers (part 2)

Over half of the 48 Star Wars 40th anniversary covers have been released so far.  In an earlier posting, I showed the first 12 covers.  Here are the second 12 covers, in their numbered order, not necessarily the order they were published:

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #6b - Marvel Comics, U.S. (April 2017)
40th Anniversary variant - 13/48
Star Wars: Poe Dameron #13b - Marvel Comics, U.S. (April 2017)
40th Anniversary variant - 14/48
Star Wars #31c - Marvel Comics, U.S. (May 2017)
40th Anniversary variant - 15/48
Star Wars: Rogue One #1d - Marvel Comics, U.S. (April 2017)
40th Anniversary variant - 16/48
Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #7b - Marvel Comics, U.S. (May 2017)
40th Anniversary variant - 17/48
Star Wars: Poe Dameron #14b - Marvel Comics, U.S. (May 2017)
40th Anniversary variant - 18/48
Star Wars: Darth Maul #4b - Marvel Comics, U.S. (June 2017)
40th Anniversary variant - 19/48
Star Wars #32c - Marvel Comics, U.S. (June 2017)
40th Anniversary variant - 20/48
Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #8b - Marvel Comics, U.S. (June 2017)
40th Anniversary variant - 21/48
Star Wars: Poe Dameron #16b - Marvel Comics, U.S. (June 2017)
40th Anniversary variant - 22/48
Star Wars: Darth Maul #5b - Marvel Comics, U.S. (July 2017)
40th Anniversary variant - 23/48
Star Wars #33c - Marvel Comics, U.S. (July 2017)
40th Anniversary variant - 24/48
There are some really nice covers here.  My favorite is Poe Dameron #16 because it does a terrific job of capturing Princess Leia's helplessness at the destruction of Alderaan from a unique point of view.  My least favorite is Darth Maul #4.  One of my favorite scenes in Star Wars is when Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and the two Droids arrive at Docking Bay 94 and the battle that ensues.  That would have been preferred over a boring picture of Han Solo pointing at Jabba the Hutt.  This cover looks more like a cover drawn at a comic convention than a final piece.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Retro Dark Horse: Star Wars Fan Club Special 2008

Not as elusive or expensive as the Star Wars Fan Club 2010 comic, the 2008 Hyperspace Fan Club membership kit contained the Star Wars Fan Club Special 2008 comic.  This book reprints two stories, Routine Valor, original printed in Star Wars Free Comic Book Day 2006, and Into the Great Unknown, a 10 page story original printed in Star Wars Tales #19.

Into the Unknown is a clever story that begins with Han Solo and Chewbacca aboard the Millennium Falcon being chased by an Imperial Star Destroyer.  They make a blind jump into hyperspace and when they come out of it they have to make a crash landing on a nearby planet.  At this point in the story, there are already clues about what planet it is with a text box that read "No longer far, far away..." and one panel shows the Millennium Falcon with Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn in the background.  They crash on Earth in a forest with giant trees and are attacked by Native Americans.  As they depart the ship, Han muses:

Hans Solo: "Great.  This looks just like Endor."

And a couple of panels later, Han also gets to utter a variation of the popular phrase from the movies:

Hans Solo: "I have a bad feeling about this place."

All the clues are they have crashed in what will end up being the Pacific Northwestern of the United States.  Chewbacca defeats the attackers, but Han is mortally injured.  Chewbacca takes Han back to the Falcon and Han says:

Han Solo: "Always thought it would be you... getting killed... saving me or my kids... trying to repay that damn life-debt...  But I'm going first into the great unknown..."

With those words, Han Solo dies and Chewbacca, cradling Han's body, lets out a mournful roar which is heard by nearby Native Americans with one commenting "Sasquatch!"  The story then jumps to 126 years later and we see a Native American leading someone referred to as Doctor and another companion into the forest.  The Doctor and companion are in silhouette and the Doctor is someone wearing a fedora and a brown jacket with a white shirt and also carries a whip.  There are some additional clues to the identity of the Doctor in the exchange between him and the Native American:

Native American: "Here, another footprint.  We are nearing his home."
Doctor: "Good.  The museum isn't paying for footprints."
Native American: "There must be a cave here or... this is no cave."

They are looking at the crashed Millennium Falcon, now covered with overgrowth, which they enter.  They are peering at Han's body, now a skeleton, and the final dialogue between the Doctor and his companion continues the cleverness:

Companion: What is this place?
Doctor: I don't know.  I've never seen anything like it.  Not even in Atlantis.  But it's all somehow familiar.  Stay close, Shorty.  He looks human.  Poor bastard.
Companion: What now Doctor Jones?  We continue looking for this "monster"?
Doctor: No.  Let's leave him as part of the great unknown.

Indiana Jones and Short Round are revealed in a panel on the final page.  The final panel in the story shows Chewbacca perched in a nearby tree peering at the Falcon.

It is a fun story that includes Harrison Ford's two biggest roles.  It references events from the Expanded Universe including Han's kids and Chewbacca's death.  I also like how Chewbacca ends up being the legendary Sasquatch or Big Foot.

Star Wars Fan Club Special 2008 - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (2008)
The wraparound cover is a highly detailed painting by Tsuneo Sanda, featuring many characters created by Dark Horse.  It is the same cover used on Dark Horse's 2007 Star Wars: Panel to Panel Volume 2 Expanding the Universe book.  The two Panel to Panel books feature artwork from Dark Horse's comics and are must reads for Star Wars comic enthusiasts.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Modern Marvel: Newbury Comics Star Wars Exclusives

Newbury Comics is based in Boston, Massachusetts where it opened its first store in 1978.  It operates 29 stores in the Northeastern United States.  While its main focus shifted from comics to music early on, it still sells comics.  Newbury Comics had four Star Wars exclusive covers in 2015.

Star Wars #1aj - Marvel Comics, U.S. (January 2015)
Newbury Comics exclusive
David Petersen, creator of the critically acclaimed Mouse Guard, provides the exclusive cover art for Star Wars #1.  Petersen's printmaking style of illustration is apropos for the interior of the Mos Eisley Cantina.  The background characters shown are an Ithorian, a Duros, an Aqualish, and a Talz.  In Cantina denizens the foreground are the Rodian, Greedo, and the Chadra-Fan, Kabe.  I thought it was a missed opportunity that Petersen did not draw the Ranat, Reegesk, since that character looks like his creations in the Mouse Guard title.

Star Wars: Darth Vader #1m - Marvel Comics, U.S. (February 2015)
Newbury Comics exclusive
The artwork for the Darth Vader #1 exclusive cover is by Salvador Larroca who also provides the interior artwork for this 25 issue series.  There is a scene inside where Darth Vader confronts Jabba the Hutt and Boba Fett is lurking in the background, but Vader and Fett never face off like is shown on the cover.

Star Wars: Lando #1n - Marvel Comics, U.S. (July 2015)
Newbury Comics exclusive
The Lando #1 exclusive cover shows a situation that never appears in the comic.  Lando Calrissian is sitting on a stack of credits in what appears to be a vault.  Just outside the vault are Stormtroopers while Vader approaches Lando.  Next to Vader is an IT-O interrogation droid.  The artwork is by Mike Mayhew.

Star Wars: Vader Down #1ak - Marvel Comics, U.S. (November 2015)
Newbury Comics exclusive
Tony Harris' artwork on the cover for the Vader Down #1 exclusive looks like it could be used on a paperback novel.  The character montage also looks very similar to the work provided by the great Drew Struzan who did many posters for Star Wars.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Modern Marvel: Star Wars: Darth Maul #3 and 5 David Lopez Variants

When Darth Maul #3 was published, David Lopez create a variant cover that had an initial ratio of 1:25.

Star Wars: Darth Maul #3d - Marvel Comics, U.S. (April 2017)
David Lopez variant
Three months later, Marvel published the 5th issue and it also had a David Lopez variant cover with an initial ratio of 1:25.

Star Wars: Darth Maul #5f - Marvel Comics, U.S. (July 2017)
David Lopez variant
Contrary to what at least one site has reported, there were no issues printed with the #5 cover and #3 interior.  Marvel obviously messed up here; maybe they are printing too many variant covers if they cannot keep track of what they have already printed?

The David Lopez cover for Star Wars #5 on the Previews World website shows different artwork.

Star Wars: Darth Maul #5 - Marvel Comics, U.S. (July 2017)
David Lopez solicited cover artwork

Saturday, August 19, 2017

My God, it's full of stars!

When I started this blog at the end of 2014, I never imagined the impact it would have on my collection.  I knew I wanted to write about international Star Wars comics, but I figured I would just scan books from my growing collection and write about them.  Most of the time, that is exactly what I do, but in some cases I find myself tracking down comics to buy, because I have an idea for a posting that I think would be interesting.  Sometimes those purchases lead me to discover new niches of Star Wars comic collecting I didn't even know existed.

Space Warped #1a - BOOM! Studios, U.S. (June 2011)
U.S. edition of French Naguere les Etoiles
When BOOM! Studios' published the 6-issue mini-series Space Warped back in 2011 for their KaBOOM! imprint, I did not purchase the series.  I was still collecting a wide variety of comic titles and had not focused my comic collection to just Star Wars comics and Space Warped seemed peripheral to the Star Wars comic collection I had.  (The focus did not occur until I learned Marvel was getting the Star Wars license and I made the decision to try and buy as many of the Marvel Star Wars comics, variants included, as I could afford.  I knew Marvel was going to have more variants than Dark Horse, I just did not image the vast amount of variants!)  Earlier this year, I decided to buy the Space Warped series and write a posting about it.  As I was doing research, I discovered this series was imported from France where it was called Naguere les Etoiles.  Not only that, the creators of this Star Wars parody, Hervé Bourhis and Rudy Spiessert, added another chapter spoofing Episode I which has not been translated for U.S. readers.

That research of the French parody led me to more parodies, specifically a series from Spain.  The cartoonist Enrique V. Vegas has been parodying popular films, and naturally, this includes the Star Wars movies.  He has parodied each of the original Star Wars trilogy films: Los Cabezónes de las Galaxias or The Heads of the Galaxy, Le Pire Contre-Attaque or The Worst Counter-Attack, and El Returno del Cabezón or The Return of the Head.  Those have been collected as Les Rebelles de la Galaxie or The Rebels of the Galaxy.  There is also Las Guerras Cabezón or The Head Wars and El Despertar de Cabezón or The Head Awakens.  I suspect, like the French books, we'll see more of these parodies from Vegas.  I do not believe these comics have been imported to the U.S.

The Calgary Herald Comic Book Volume 2 #17 - Calgary Herald Newspaper, U.S. (March 17, 1979)
1 page Star Wars comic strip
The Trib Comic Book Volume 3 #25 - Winnepeg Tribune Newspaper, U.S. (June 23, 1979)
1 page Star Wars comic strip
Sunday Bulletin Comic Book Volume 1 #2 - Norwich Bulletin Newspaper, U.S. (April 5, 1991)
1 page Star Wars comic strip
Another niche I started researching has to do with comic books published by newspapers that contain the Star Wars comic strips.  I knew the Star Wars comic strips were reprinted in periodicals that were sold by comic specialty stores; for example, the Amazing Heroes magazine reprinted the Star Wars comic strips long before Dark Horse collected them in the Classic Star Wars titles.  (There is also the recent IDW's Star Wars: The Classic Newspaper Comics Volume 1 with a second volume planned.)  What I didn't know was newspapers gave away comic books weekly, usually with the Sunday edition.  These comic books collect the Sunday comic strips.  The earliest comic books were reprinted newspaper comic strips, so it makes sense these exist.  There are comic books from the period that the Star Wars comic strip ran from 1979 to 1984 which contain reprints of those strips!  I'm doing my best to dig up information on these comic books, but to be honest, the information is scarce.  If you were lucky enough to have lived in a city with a newspaper that printed comic books and you have information about these, I would love to hear from you!

There are other areas I still have yet to encroach; there are Rebels comic stories being published overseas that we do not see here in the U.S.  I'm also aware that my foreign comic posts mainly focus on the original Marvel era, but there are foreign editions of Dark Horse and modern Marvel comics as well.  I do have foreign comics from these periods that will interesting to post about; there have been unique covers published overseas for Marvel's new Star Wars line that have not seen print in the U.S. for example  My collecting focus has been predominantly on the comics published during the original Marvel run and I still have many comics to show from that period, but I will start posting more about foreign editions from the other eras eventually.

This is my 625th blog post and I feel like I'm just scratching the surface on this incredible hobby.  The number of hits this blog has received has increased incredibly over the past year so I know there are a lot of Star Wars comic fans out there.  That interest is what keeps me motivated to keep writing!  If there is anyone who would like to contribute to this site, please contact me.

I swear that David Bowman says, "My God, it's full of star!", when he entered the Monolith in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.  It turns out I, and many others, were mistaken; Bowman does say a similar phrase in the novel, but he does not actually say those words in the original movie.  He did utter that phrase in the sequel however, 2010: The Year We Make Contact.  This reminds me of a famous Captain Kirk quote, "Beam me up, Scotty!"  Believe it or not, Kirk never uttered those words in the original television series or movies.[1]


  1. Beam Me Up, Scotty!