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]

References:

  1. Beam Me Up, Scotty!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Retro Marvel: Star Comics Magazine #1 - 3 and 5

In the summer of 1983 the final Star Wars episode in the original trilogy was released and there were no plans to make more theatrical movies.  For a few years in the mid 1980s, Star Wars content after Return of the Jedi was marketed at children.  After that brief time, the Star Wars brand went dormant until the revival of the franchise in the early 1990s.  Two child friendly brands were the main focus during that active period, Ewoks and Droids.  The Ewoks, featured prominent in the final half of the last movie, were clearly designed with kids in mind and received considerable attention.  The main Ewok which most of the content revolved around is Wicket, the first Ewok that Princess Leia encounters on Endor.  The Droids, C-3PO and R2-D2, easily two of the most recognizable characters from the trilogy were also accessible to children, although not strictly created with kids in mind.  Of the two brands, the Ewoks proved to be the more popular and lasted the longest.

The Ewoks received momentum when Lucasfilm made two made-for-television movies, The Ewoks Adventure in 1984 followed by Ewoks: The Battle for Endor in 1985.  These movies have high production values despite their aim at younger audiences.  The movies spawned an Ewoks cartoon in 1985.  For the first season, the Ewok episodes were paired with a Droids cartoon for an hour of television.  Unfortunately, Droids only lasted the one season for a total of 13 episodes while the Ewoks went on to enjoy a second season.  The Ewoks series ended in 1986 with 35 episodes.

Much of the Star Wars merchandise available also tied into the two brands.  Kenner released Ewoks and Droids action figures and accessories and the Ewoks were even used as a line of preschool toys.  Children's books were published although a majority of the books are for the Ewoks.  Marvel published an Ewoks title beginning in 1985 that ran for 14 issues.  A Droids title came later in 1986, but only ran for 8 issues.  Both titles were part of Marvel's all-age Star Comics imprint.  With regards to foreign editions, there are far more Ewoks comics available as many countries did not even publish translations of the Droids issues.

Marvel published a digest-sized anthology reprinting various Star Comics issues and only the Ewoks title was included and only for four issues.  Star Comics Magazine ran for 13 issues with #1 - 3 and 5 containing Ewoks reprints.

Star Comics Magazine #1a - Marvel Comics, U.S. (December 1986)
reprints Ewoks #1
Star Comics Magazine #2a - Marvel Comics, U.S. (February 1987)
reprints Ewoks #2
Star Comics Magazine #3a - Marvel Comics, U.S. (April 1987)
reprints Ewoks #3
Star Comics Magazine #5a - Marvel Comics, U.S. (August 1987)
reprints Ewoks #5
Heathcliff is the headliner for Star Comics Magazine and Wicket represents the Ewoks on the covers.  Unfortunately, the Ewoks stories reprinted in this anthology are properly placed with these other stories featuring Heathcliff, Care Bears, Top Dog, and Muppet Babies.  They really were written for kids and offer very little for adults.  I suspect that, despite the intent, the premise was too sophisticated for most kids who read these comics and that is why Ewoks only appears in four issues.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Retro Foreign: Marvel Star Comics #17

Kabanas Hellas is a Greek publisher from 1975 to 1992.  Kabanas Hellas is known to foreign comic collectors because it is the first company to translate Marvel comics for Greek readers.  Their longest running title is Spider-Man which ran for 589 issues from 1977 until the company ceased published comics in 1992.  For Star Wars comics fans, they are best known for publishing a 9 issue series from 1978 to 1979.  Less known are their translations of Marvel's Ewoks issues in the Marvel Star Comics title.  The title contains Greek editions of comics published in Marvel's all age imprint, Star Comics.  Issue #17 contains the Greek translation of Ewoks #2.

Marvel Star Comics #17a - Kabanas Hellas, Greece (1986)
contains Ewoks #2
The cover art for Marvel Star Comics #17 is the same used for Ewoks #2.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Doctor Has Left the Citadel

Comichron released the July 2017 estimated sales today and the news for Star Wars titles is both good and bad.  The good is the main Star Wars title is still Marvel's top selling ongoing series and the Star Wars titles compare very well to other comics with all seven Star Wars comics ranking in the top 100.  The bad news is, overall, sales are down with Marvel sales being down the most compared to a year ago.

TitleIssueMonthly RankEstimated SalesLast Estimated SalesPercent Change
Star Wars33774,96970,184+6.82%
Darth Vader31259,52266,416-10.38%
Darth Maul51357,80558,240-0.75%
Doctor Aphra94238,20950,216-23.91%
Doctor Aphra104537,48138,209-1.91%
Poe Dameron175934,25034,826-1.65%
Rogue One49323,82628,256-15.68%

Interestingly, the main Star Wars title saw a modest sales increase post-Screaming Citadel and is the only title in July to do so.  Star Wars #33 has a rare standalone story, but there was not a lot of promotion for the story, so it is unclear why there was a bump in sales.  It is astonishing that for nearly three years Star Wars has remained Marvel's top selling ongoing title, even with the decline in its sales over that time.  It does feel like that reign is about to come to an end; Marvel is relaunching many of their superhero titles with Marvel Legacy in September which promises renewed focus on their core superheroes.  It will be interesting to see if Star Wars is still on top at the end of the year.

Darth Vader sales fell over 10% and the title is selling about where it would be selling if the first series had continued.  I understand with the change in creator, focus, and timeline why Marvel decided to end the title and start over again with a new #1, but Marvel would have actually sold more books during that 6 month hiatus if they had changed directions with the title in-flight.  Every issue of this second series has gone back to print and it looks like retailers are still under ordering this title.  I know I said this last month and it did not happen for issue #3, but I suspect we will see higher number for the fourth issue.

Doctor Aphra had a double ship month, shedding all the gains it made during the Screaming Citadel plus some more and it is back to within 3000+ units of Poe Dameron's sales which has seven more issues under it's belt.  Issue #10 sold 3,000 less issues than issue #6 just before the event.  Darth Vader is featured prominently on the covers for issue #12 and 13, so hopefully the potential reunion of these two characters gives this title another sales boost.  I know my interest in the title is low due to disliking the whole Ordu Aspectu and Rur story line, so I'm hoping they wrap it up soon and give Aphra more promising adventures.

Poe Dameron #17 saw a slight loss in unit sales but it is still selling better than the lowest selling issue #15.

Darth Maul #5 also saw a slight loss in unit sales and this series has held its numbers better than any of the other mini-series so far.  Since these character-focused mini-series are doing so well for Marvel, expect to see more of them.  I'd like to see Cad Bane, Aurra Sing, Boba Fett, BB-8, and R2-D2 receive the mini-series treatment.

Rogue One #4 tumbled another 15.68% and one has to wonder if Marvel will even bother with a mini-series adaptation for the next movie.  I suspect they make up for these low sales when the collection(s) are released.  You'll notice that Marvel does not published variant covers for their lower selling issues, including Rogue One #4, presumably to save money on the production costs.

In August IDW's all-age Star Wars title, Star Wars Adventures, begins.  We should also have numbers for Mace Windu #1 and Doctor Aphra Annual #1.

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.

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
February 2016288,355472,088
March 2016355,554571,110
April 2016533,9765106,795
May 2016299,189474,797
June 2016545,833690,972
July 2016359,166571,833
August 2016322,499564,500
September 2016174,420358,140
October 2016339,778567,956
November 2016269,975553,995
December 2016303,886475,972
January 2017161,014353,671
February 2017262,889465,722
March 2017214,603453,650
April 2017274,262554,852
May 2017285,363647,560
June 2017495,588955,065
July 2017326,062746,580

The average sale per issue of 46,580, the lowest so far, would rank 29th on the top 300 chart for the month of July.  Star Wars trade paperbacks, reprint titles, and reorders are not accounted for with these numbers.  The Star Wars trade paperbacks are strong sellers.

Take a look at the Star Wars Sales Estimate Chart and please read the blog posting July 2017 comics order estimates online: Dark Days: The Casting moves 128k, Monstress Vol. 2 tops 10k.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Darth Vader #4 Goes Back To Print

Darth Vader #4 will be getting a 2nd print due out on September 13th.  So far, every issue of this title needed to go back to print.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Star Wars Remains Marvel's Top Selling Ongoing Comic in July

Issue #33 shipped in July and, despite numerous new #1s from Marvel monthly over the past few years, Star Wars remains Marvel's top selling ongoing comic, an accomplishment it has achieved for nearly 3 years now.  Granted, from month to month, the new #1s will rank higher than Star Wars (in July, Astonish X-Men #1 is ranked 2nd while Star Wars #33 is ranked 7th), but in subsequent months, those titles drop below Star Wars in the unit sales ranking.  What makes this astonishing is the Star Wars title has been losing unit sales over time, which is not unusual for a title finishing up its 3rd year of publication.  With only 33 issues, Star Wars is still one of Marvel longer running titles being published because of Marvel's constant rebooting and renumbering of their superhero offerings.  Could the Star Wars title's resilience be attributed to the idea that it has not been rebooted since Marvel reacquired the license?  Is rebooting now harming a title's chance for success more than if the title was allowed to continue, albeit with a different creative team, a different direction, or both?

Comichron released the July 2017 preliminary numbers in their post Dark Days top comic as July fails to match 2016's Rebirth-charged numbers; year-to-date orders fall to 2014 levels.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Retro Foreign: Indonesian Rachman: Petruk Gareng dan Scooby Doo dalam Pengembaraan Ruang Angkasa

Indonesia has a rich history of wayang, or shadow puppet theater, that dates back to medieval times.  In one style called wayan kulit, the dalang, or puppeteer, tells stories by lighting the puppets from behind casting a shadow on a white cloth.  A popular family of characters called Punkawan, or clown servants, would usually appear in the 2nd act of a these plays.  The Punkawan are composed of a father, Semar, and his three sons, Gareng, Petruk, and Bangong.  They usually act as advisers to the hero of the story and their appearance in plays is highly anticipated by audiences due to their comedic relief.

Two of these characters, Petruk and Gareng, were modernized and adapted to comics starting in the 1960s by a prolific Indonesian artist, Indri Soedono, who worked on these comics into the 1970s.  Other artists would also work on these characters and one of the more prominent is Tatang Suhenra (Tatang S.) who worked on the characters in the 1980s when the comics were very popular with school children due to the slapstick nature of the stories.  Petruk is tall and gangly with a long nose and Gareng is his shorter companion.

I acquired a digest-sized Petruk and Gareng comic, published by Gultom Agency, and drawn by Rachman which has a rather bizarre lineup of pop culture characters although I suspect this is normal for a Petruk and Gareng comic based on my research.  The title is Petruk Gareng dan Scooby Doo dalam Pengembaraan Ruang Angkasa or Petruk Gareng and Scooby Doo in a Space Odyssey.  In the story, Petruk is wearing a shirt that looks very similar to the Star Trek uniform worn by Jame T. Kirk in the original Star Trek television series minus the Starfleet badge.  Gareng is wearing an outfit that has a helmet very similar to those worn by the characters in the cartoon G-Force and his uniform has a giant G on the front chest.  They are flying a spaceship that looks like the Millennium Falcon while another more traditional rocket ship has the Scooby Doo gang, including Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, and of course Scooby Doo.  They all land on a planet where they meet a character that looks like Big Foot, but is actually Chewbacca who actually talks to them!  Along with Chewbacca are Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Obi-Wan Kenobi; Obi-Wan only appears in one panel and Han disappears from the story after appearing in a second panel.  Chewbacca and Luke join the others on a trip to yet another planet flying their own spacecraft.  On the other planet, they meet Bruce Lee, fight some creatures and meet a Princess that looks nothing like Princess Leia.  As Luke and the Princess are eyeing each other, Gareng drop kicks Luke, I'm not kidding here, and other high jinks ensue.  In the story, Scooby Doo, Luke Skywalker, and Bruce Lee are named.  Even Star Wars is mentioned, making me believe there is some awareness by Petruk and Gareng of the characters they are meeting.

Rachman: Petruk Gareng dan Scooby Doo dalam Pengembaraan Ruang Angkasa a
- Gultom Agency, Indonesia (1980s)
On the cover are several characters from the story.  The two in the lower left hand corner are Petruk and Gareng, both wearing Star Trek style shirts, and next to them are Shaggy, Velma, and Scobby Doo.  Behind Velma and Scooby Doo is Chewbacca.  The character next to the UFO in the middle of the cover is Bruce Lee.  I applaud the writer for being able to concoct a story that has such a diverse lineup of characters.

The Petruk and Gareng stories published by Gultom Agency are known for containing 2 panels, one on top of the other, per page, so while the publisher is not identified, I think it is safe to assume this issue is from that publisher.  There is an unrelated 2nd story in the comic which looks like it takes place during the medieval ages.

As I am learning more about these Indonesian comics, several items are becoming apparent.  The artists of the stories was important to selling the comic and many times their names are shown first on the cover.&bnsp; Additionally, it is possible not every comic with the same cover contains the same two stories on the inside.  (Most of these digest-sized comics contain 2 stories.)  This hasn't been proven yet, but there is anecdotal evidence of this from comparing these comics with others who have the same issues.  This could be due to a lack of quality control at the publishers or some other way that they used to package the content.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Modern Joe Books: Star Wars: Rebels - Spark of Rebellion Cinestory Comic

Joe Books is a Canadian publisher that was founded in 2014 by the former Vice President of Boom! Studios, Adam Fortier.  To date, they have published only licensed material comprised mostly of comics and mostly for Disney.  Their first published offering is a Cinestory adaptation of the Disney movie Frozen.  A Cinestory comic is Joe Books' brand name for a fumetti, which is a particular type of comic which used photographs or stills and marries them with word balloons to tell the story.  Tokyopop had published fumetti's for the original and prequel Star Wars trilogies as well as a Clone Wars issue under the brand Cine-Manga which Dark Horse published in the U.S. in 2007 and 2008.  Joe Books started out publishing Cinestory comics based on Disney animated properties and collections of previously published Disney comics.  In 2016, they began publishing original content comics for several Disney properties.  In 2016, they also published several text novels based on Marvel superhero characters.  In July 2016, they solicited a graphic novel, Star Wars: Rebels Cinestory Comic, but that graphic novel never materialized and orders were canceled.

It turns out Joe Books still had plans to release the Rebels Cinestory comic, they just were slow on getting it ready for publication.  (Apparently, this is a common problem with Joe Books.)  Just this month, they published Star War: Rebels - Spark of Rebellion Cinestory.  It is a massive 378 page softcover graphic novel and measures 6 inches by 9 inches which is slightly smaller than the dimensions of a standard comic.  This book adapts the first five episodes of the Rebels animated series to comics and more Rebels Cinestory comics are planned.

The book is priced at $14.99 and you learn why such a massive book has this low price when you see the content.  The pages are in color, but the transfer of the stills from the cartoon to the pages produces a very muddy look and the bright colors found on the television show are lost on the page.  The panels are dark and grainy and on many pages you wouldn't know the comic was printed in color.  I love the idea behind these Cinestory comics, but it is a shame that such a colorful show could not be captured better on these pages.  Still, for only $14.99, it is not a terrible way to recapture the animated episodes and hopefully the printing process improves with subsequent issues.

Star Wars: Rebels - Spark of Rebellion Cinestory Comic a - Joe Books, U.S. (July 2017)
Star Wars: Rebels - Spark of Rebellion Cinestory Comic a - Joe Books, U.S. (July 2017)
back cover
Interestingly, Joe Books is now the fourth publisher of comics in the United States after Marvel, Disney-Lucasfilm Press, and IDW.  Unfortunately, the graphic novel was not re-solicited by Discount Comic Book Service, so I had to purchase my copy off of Amazon.  In addition to more Rebels Cinestory comics, Amazon is soliciting both a softcover and hardcover Cinestory comic of the original Star Wars movie.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Retro Dark Horse: Star Wars: Rebellion #1

The second new title released in 2006 during Dark Horse's shake up of the Star Wars comic line is Star Wars: Rebellion.  The first issue continues the story from the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic/Rebellion #0 flip book.  The flip book itself is the next chapter in the exploration of Janek "Tank" Sunber's Imperial service which began in the Star Wars: Empire title.  For all intents and purposes, Star Wars: Rebellion is just the Star Wars: Empire title renamed and renumbered.

Despite continuing from the Empire title, Rebellion #1 does a good job of introducing Janek and his situation.  Told from Janek's perspective, the story starts with a flashback to Luke Skywalker, Biggs Darklighter, and Janek on Tatooine that established that he was one of Luke's childhood friends.  In present day, Lieutenant Janek Sunber is leading his troops during an Imperial attack on a Rebellion stronghold on an unnamed planet.  A Rebel throws a grenade which injures Janek and kills many of his men.  Janek subdues the assailant and the Imperial assault is joined by TIE Bombers which seals the Empire's victory.  During this conflict, Janek is obsessed with Luke.  Back at his quarters, we learn that he crossed paths with Luke and Luke revealed to him that he and Biggs are Rebels and Biggs died in the battle against the Death Star.  Knowing his two good friends joined the opposing side has Janek questioning his decision to join the Empire.  Later, he stops his troops from beating the prisoner he subdued on the planet, telling them "We don't sink to their level.  We show them who is trying to bring peace to this galaxy."  The prisoner finds it funny that Janek thinks the Empire are the good guys and mentions Luke Skywalker.  He tells Janek that Luke destroyed the Death Star and will lead the Rebellion to victory.  Janek is angered by this and begins beating the prisoner which his men stop.  That night, he is unable to sleep, questioning his loyalties.  In the end, he decides to deliver to Darth Vader the information he knows about Luke Skywalker, the hero of the Rebellion.

Star Wars: Rebellion #1a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (April 2006)
The cover artwork is provided by the interior artist, Brandon Badeaux.  He is a very good illustrator with tight work and his interior pages are colored and printed without inking.  I like this decision since it makes the artwork more detailed than it otherwise would be and the end result is gorgeous.  It would be interesting to see these pages without colors.  The cover shows Lieutenant Janek Sunber and Darth Vader.  Vader only appears on the final page of the story.

Star Wars: Rebellion #1b - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (April 2006)
2nd print
Like Knights of the Old Republic #1, Rebellion #1 went back to print.  Unlike Knights of the Old Republic #1, Rebellion #1's second print is distinguishable from the first print by the red instead of blue on the cover.  The second print rarely appears on eBay and does not fetch a premium despite its scarcity compared to the first print.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Modern Marvel: Star Wars #7

One of the more disappointing novels to be left out of Disney's continuity is Del Rey's Kenobi by John Jackson Miller.  It is a generally highly regarded novel that tells a story during Obi-Wan Kenobi's time on Tatooine between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope.  Part of the charm of the novel is it reaches back into Star Wars' western roots which is all too often ignored.

Marvel published a standalone Obi-Wan Kenobi story in Star Wars #7.  The tale is being read by Luke Skywalker from a journal he found in Obi-Wan's hovel on Tatooine.  In the story, we learn that Obi-Wan, now going by Ben, is struggling with giving up being a Jedi.  Tatooine is going through a drought and the inhabitants of the planet are struggling.  Jabba has sent his henchmen to steal water under the guise of a tax from the moisture farmers.  In a nearby town, Ben sees a farmer being robbed by Jabba's men and agonizingly walks away.  When Jabba's men show up a the Lar's farm, Ben does intervene, send them away using the Jedi mind trick.  The next time we see Ben in town, he is trying to help by showing a vendor the black melon fruit that Tusken Raiders use to drink.  They are interrupted when Jabba's henchmen show up and, after a brief confrontation with an understandably irritated crowd, decide to gun down the thirsty people.  Ben causes their weapons to misfire and the townspeople chase Jabba's men away.  Ben returns home, vowing to never return to town again.  He continues to agonize over not being able to help when he sense that a very young Luke Skywalker is in trouble.  Luke is caught in the act of stealing back water from Jabba's men who threaten to take him back with them as a slave.  Ben again intervenes and carries the now unconscious Luke back to the Lar's homestead.  Ben's tale ends with him renewing his vows as a Jedi, taking strength from the courage exhibited by Luke.

It is no surprise that when Marvel announced that Star Wars #7 would be the first of several standalone Obi-Wan Kenobi stories that they would be telling in the Star Wars title, fans were excited.  As usual, Marvel decided to meet that excitement with more than the usual number of variants for the issue.  The standard cover is a portrait of Obi-Wan with several of Jabba's henchmen standing in the foreground.

Star Wars #7a - Marvel Comics, U.S. (July 2015)
Every Star Wars issue to date has had an action figure variant drawn by John Tyler Christopher.  Issue #7 is a Stormtrooper.

Star Wars #7b - Marvel Comics, U.S. (July 2015)
action figure variant
The Simone Bianchi and Tony Moore variants for Star Wars #7 were initially released in a 1:25 ratio.

Star Wars #7c - Marvel Comics, U.S. (July 2015)
Simone Bianchi variant
Star Wars #7d - Marvel Comics, U.S. (July 2015)
Tony Moore variant
Mile High Comics exclusive cover for Star Wars #7 shows an A-Wing Fighter.  Star Wars #7 - 12 each feature a starship and together form one picture showing a battle with the Death Star as the backdrop.

Star Wars #7f - Marvel Comics, U.S. (July 2015)
Mile High Comics exclusive
The Kansas City Comic Con exclusive captures a scene from The Empire Strikes Back with Chewbacca carrying C-3PO.

Star Wars #7g - Marvel Comics, U.S. (July 2015)
Kansas City Comic Con exclusive
The final cover released is a black and white variant of the John Tyler Christopher exclusive cover printed for Star Wars #4.  This cover is also a John Tyler Christopher exclusive, but this cover was limited to 3,000 copies where the color version was limited to 5,000 copies.

Star Wars #7h - Marvel Comics, U.S. (July 2015)
John Tyler Christopher exclusive
Not pictured above is the sketch variant of the standard cover.  There are a total of eight different covers for Star Wars #7.  This issue is also used in IDW's 3rd micro comics set.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Retro Dark Horse: Star Wars: Darth Maul - Son of Dathomir

Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series ended early due to Disney's acquisition of Star Wars.  At the series' end, the character Ahsoka Tano, Anakin Skywalker's Jedi Padawan, received closure, but there was at least one story line that was not wrapped up when the show was cancelled.  Episode 16 of season 5, The Lawless, has several important revelations.  Darth Maul, now leading the Mandalorian group Death Watch as part of his Shadow Collective, kills the Mandalore's former ruler Duchess Satine.  Darth Sidious intervenes in Maul's plans by traveling to Mandalore, killing Maul's brother Savage, and taking Maul prisoner.  This is the last time we see Maul in a Star Wars cartoon until his return in the final episode of season 2 of the Rebels animated series.  In that episode, Ezra Bridger and Kanan Jarrus meet an older Maul on Malachor, a planet with a Sith Temple.

The story of what happens to Maul after his capture by Sidious is told in the Darth Maul - Son of Dathomir 4-issue mini-series published by Dark Horse.  This is the only story published by Darth Horse considered part of Disney's new canon.  The series adapts scripts that would have been produced as 4 episodes in The Clone Wars animated series, if that series had continued.  The story is dense with continuity from The Clone Wars animated series, but provides a satisfying link between Maul's last appearance in The Clone Wars and his first appearance in Rebels.

Star Wars: Darth Maul - Son of Dathomir #1a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (May 2014)
Star Wars: Darth Maul - Son of Dathomir #2a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (June 2014)
Star Wars: Darth Maul - Son of Dathomir #3a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (July 2014)
Star Wars: Darth Maul - Son of Dathomir #4a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (August 2014)
The mini-series has commanded a high price since Marvel's acquisition of the Star Wars license.  A set of the standard issues in NM condition will typically fetch $100 or more on eBay.  The Dark Horse trade paperback of the mini-series also commands a premium of $80 or more.  Marvel is due to reprint the series in a trade paperback for the first time in late 2017.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Retro Dark Horse: Star Wars: Jabba the Hutt - The Hunger of Princess Nampi

The Jabba the Hutt one-shots by Dark Horse fall into a category between the overly serious Dark Empire story and the kid orient Marvel Droids and Ewok titles.  They are along the same vein as one of Dark Horse's earliest original Star Wars offerings, Droids; they do not take themselves too seriously, but they are not as insipid as the final stories told in Marvel's original Star Wars title.  These Jabba stories are quite good considering the one-dimensional nature of the Jabba character.

The second one-shot is title Jabba the Hutt - The Hunger of Princess Nampi.  In the story, Jabba is returning to Tatooine but is tricked into raiding a starship he assumes is easy prey, but ends up captured by the ship's owner, Princess Nampi.  Princess Nampi is an Orooturooan, a species that looks similar to the Hutt species, only much larger.  Jabba is able to take advantage of circumstances created by one of Jabba's henchmen, Scuppa, who is eaten by Princess Nampi.  Jabba had a vial of acid implanted into Scuppa's skull, which he opens via remote control, killing Nampi.  In the end, Jabba is able to take the treasure from Nampi's ship.

Star Wars: Jabba the Hutt - The Hunger of Princess Nampi a
- Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (June 1995)
Despite appearing on the cover, there are no Gamorrean Guards inside the comic.  Also shown on the cover are Weequay, which make up the bulk of Jabba's crew.