Sunday, May 21, 2017

Classic Cover Comparison: Star Wars #80 and Titans #81

The last issue before the events in the Return of the Jedi, Star Wars #80 delivers a gut-wrenching end to our heroes pursuit of Tay Vanis, the Rebel operator who had gone missing with Bothan tapes vital to the Alliance.  The story Ellie starts with Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and C-3PO posing as traders in an Imperial installation on an unnamed planet.  Realizing Tay Vanis is not there, they ask a manifest droid, LE914 or Ellie, about Tay Vanis' next destination.  Ellie searches the computers which triggers an alarm, attracting Imperial Stormtroopers.  Luke, Leia, C-3PO, and Ellie escape a firefight and flee outside into the rain, leave the area aboard the Millennium Falcon.  Ellie directs Luke and Leia to a castle that belong to the previous inhabitants of the planet before the Empire wiped them out.  On the way to the castle, they discover Vanis' crashed X-Wing and hear a recording left by him explaining he is being pursued by Imperials and has instructed his long time companion, Ellie, to destroy the tapes if he does not return.  While the Rebels were watching the recording, Ellie has fled.  Surprised by Ellie's disappearance, Luke and Leia decide to infiltrate the castle to find Vanis.  Inside, they capture an Imperial officer who directs them to Tay Vanis' cell.  Upon opening the cell door, a holographic recording left by Darth Vader for Luke explains he had captured Vanis and he knew Luke would be the one to follow the path.  Inside the cell, Tay Vanis is alive, but a broken man.  Distraught, Luke and Leia discuss their next course of action:

Princess Leia: All this time, while we've search for him... not even the Empire knowing where he was... Vader had him... and was doing... this.
Luke Skywalker: Vader... that's it.  Forget the mission.  We cannot leave Vanis here like this.  He's still... he's still a person.  Maybe... maybe with medical attention... if we bring him back to the fleet...  Just so we... get him out of here...

Just then, Ellie enters the cell and makes the decision for them:

Ellie: Look at... what is left of him.  Do you think that saving his life would be a kindness?  He was... a very great trouble to the Empire, many times.  Do you think Darth Vader left him alive... as a kindness?

As she finishes, Ellie hands the tapes to C-3PO.  Luke, Leia, and C-3PO depart the cell at Ellie's request and cradling Vanis' broken body, Ellie self-destructs.  Luke and Leia blow up the castle and contact Admiral Ackbar letting him know they have recovered the tapes.  The final panel shows C-3PO standing in the rain looking like he is crying.

The story is powerful, showing just how evil the Empire is and how cruel Vader can be.  These types of stories are essential to reaffirming the Rebels as heroes and not a group of terrorist.  After Vader's horrible treatment of Vanis, it is hard to believe Luke feels he can redeem him in Return of the Jedi!

The Bothan tapes Luke and Leia recover are for the second Death Star.  Later on, the Expanded Universe tells a different story about how the tapes were obtained and eventually both stories are reconciled as occurring in continuity.

Star Wars #80b - Marvel Comics, U.S. (February 1984)
The scene on the cover for Star Wars #80 combines two elements of the story, the holographic image of Darth Vader and Ellie holding Tay Vanis.  It is one of my favorite covers of the original Star Wars run.  The positioning of Vader over a portion of the title makes it look like he is wearing a Nazi helmet with the spike on top.

Titans #81a - Editions Lug, France (October 1985)
Star Wars #80
The cover for Titans #81 does not match the story inside.  On the cover, Luke is wearing his Bespin fatigues and Leia is dressed in her A New Hope gown.  Inside the comic, both are wearing the green outfits they wear on Endor.  The main movie characters from the story are all present on the cover and in the story Luke does strike down several Stormtroopers with his lightsaber.  Also, Leia has her hair in buns on the cover and inside, something that rarely occurs in the comics after The Empire Strikes Back.

The Titans #81 cover art does not capture the emotional impact of the story and I could not recognize the story from this artwork.  Additionally, the painted work is decent, but not nearly as nice as some of the other French covers.  On the other hand, the U.S. cover captures the essence of the story.

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