Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Retro Blackthorne: Star Wars 3-D #1

Blackthorne Publishing released Star Wars 3D #1 in December 1987 with a cover blurb announcing it as the 10th Anniversary Series!  This first issue sold well enough that Blackthorne went back to print in the summer of 1988.  The second print is shown in the indicia on the first page.  Additionally, there are two different back covers for the second print.

Star Wars 3-D #1a - Blackthorne Publishing, U.S. (December 1987)
The first print has a back cover with an ad for Transformers 3-D #2.

Star Wars 3-D #1a - Blackthorne Publishing, U.S. (December 1987)
Transformer 3-D comic ad on back cover
One of the second prints has a back cover with an ad for a Rambo III 3-D comic.

Star Wars 3-D #1b - Blackthorne Publishing, U.S. (Summer 1988)
2nd print
Rambo III 3-D comic ad on back cover
The other second print shows an ad for the Michael Jackson Moonwalker 3-D comic on the back cover.  Interestingly, it is the licensing of the Moonwalker 3-D comic that was a major contributor to Blackthorne Publishing's eventually demise.

Star Wars 3-D #1c - Blackthorne Publishing, U.S. (Summer 1988)
2nd print
Michael Jackson Moonwalker 3-D comic ad on back cover
It took me several years of hunting to find the Moonwalker variant of this comic.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Cover Artist: Alex Ross

Alex Ross is an American comic book artist who is best know for his realistic painted covers.  There are many popular artists today known for their painted covers, including Gabriele Dell'Otto and Francesco Mattina, but Ross has been around much longer, achieving numerous awards for his work starting in the 1990s.  Ross is a favorite of many comic fans because his Norman Rockwell-style work captures the heroic essence of many heroes.

Alex Ross' breakout title is the 1994 4-part mini-series Marvels and received further acclaim drawing the covers for the 1995 6-part mini-series Astro City from Image.  In 1996 he cemented his status as a fan favorite with the 4-part mini-series Kingdom Come from DC.  His first professional work was for Now Comics on the Terminator: The Burning Earth 5-part mini-series.

Terminator: The Burning Earth #1a - Now Comics, U.S. (March 1990)
In recent years, Alex Ross has mostly done cover artwork.  His first Star Wars cover was for the 2013 Star Wars #1 from Dark Horse.  The title was well received and the first issue went back to print three times.

Star Wars #1a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (January 2013)
Star Wars #1b - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (February 2013)
2nd print
Star Wars #1c - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (March 2013)
3rd print
Star Wars #1d - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (April 2013)
4th print
Ross provided the cover artwork for the following three issues in the series.

Star Wars #2a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (May 2013)
Star Wars #3a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (June 2013)
Star Wars #4a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (July 2013)
Sketch covers for the first four issues were distributed to retailers to thank them for the success of the title.

Star Wars #1g - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (April 2013)
Retailer sketch variant
Star Wars #2b - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (May 2013)
Retailer sketch variant
Star Wars #3b - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (June 2013)
Retailer sketch variant
Star Wars #4b - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (July 2013)
Retailer sketch variant
When Marvel reacquired the Star Wars license in 2015, they published innumerable variant and exclusive covers for Star Wars #1.  Alex Ross provided a cover that pays homage to the original 1977 Star Wars #1.  This variant was initially released in a 1:50 ratio.

Star Wars #1j - Marvel Comics, U.S. (January 2015)
Alex Ross variant
A sketch version of the cover artwork was initially released in a 1:200 ratio.

Star Wars #1l - Marvel Comics, U.S. (January 2015)
Alex Ross sketch variant
An exclusive from the Alex Ross Store was also published.  This cover shows Luke Skywalker standing in a typical Alex Ross heroic pose.

Star Wars #1aj - Marvel Comics, U.S. (January 2015)
Alex Ross Store exclusive
With the exception of Vader Down #1, Alex Ross would provide cover artwork for all the Star Wars first issues released in 2015.  He artwork for Darth Vader #1 shows a dynamic Vader flanked by Stormtroopers.  This cover was initially released in a 1:50 ratio.  There is also a sketch version of this cover initially released in a 1:200 ratio that I do not have.

Star Wars: Darth Vader #1j - Marvel Comics, U.S. (February 2015)
Alex Ross variant
His Alex Ross Store exclusive for Darth Vader #1 features Boba Fett and is inspired by Fett's appearance in the Star Wars Holiday Special.

Star Wars: Darth Vader #1p - Marvel Comics, U.S. (February 2015)
Alex Ross Store exclusive
My favorite Alex Ross cover is for Princess Leia #1.  Initially released in a 1:50 ratio, this striking cover shows Princess Leia in action wearing the same flowing gown she wears on the famous Tom Jung Star Wars poster.  The layout is dynamic and the colors used are wonderful.

Star Wars: Princess Leia #1j - Marvel Comics, U.S. (March 2015)
Alex Ross variant
A sketch version of the cover artwork was initially released in a 1:200 ratio.

Star Wars: Princess Leia #1k - Marvel Comics, U.S. (March 2015)
Alex Ross sketch variant
(Sorry for the quality of the above picture, my copy of this comic is in a CGC slab.)

Princess Leia #1 also has the final Alex Ross Store exclusive.  The artwork shows Luke Skywalker superimposed over an image of Darth Vader.  The art is decent, albeit minimalist, and this is my least favorite of the Alex Ross Star Wars covers.

Star Wars: Princess Leia #1n - Marvel Comics, U.S. (March 2015)
Alex Ross Store exclusive
The Alex Ross variant cover for Lando #1 is another dynamic piece showing Lando Calrissian running through the streets of Cloud City.  This cover was initially released in a 1:50 ratio.

Star Wars: Lando #1i - Marvel Comics, U.S. (July 2015)
Alex Ross variant
A sketch version of the cover artwork was initially released in a 1:200 ratio.

Star Wars: Lando #1j - Marvel Comics, U.S. (July 2015)
Alex Ross sketch variant
For Chewbacca #1 Alex Ross provides homage to another 1977 Star Wars cover, this time for issue #7.  My second favorite Alex Ross cover, this artwork uses a color palette similar to his Princess Leia cover.  This cover was initially released in a 1:50 ratio.

Star Wars: Chewbacca #1f - Marvel Comics, U.S. (October 2015)
Alex Ross variant
A sketch version of the cover artwork was initially released in a 1:200 ratio.

Star Wars: Chewbacca #1g - Marvel Comics, U.S. (October 2015)
Alex Ross sketch variant
I'm a big fan of Alex Ross' art style.  His ability to depict dynamic heroism is unparalleled as he has demonstrated by aptly handle our heroes.  He was a great choice to pay homage to the original Star Wars #1 and it is unfortunate we have not seen more covers from him, especially on characters from other eras.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Modern Yen Press: Star Wars: Lost Stars #1

Star Wars: Lost Stars is a 2015 novel by Claudia Gray and is considered one of the better Star Wars books published during the Disney era.  In 2017 an online manga adaptation of the novel was started by Japanese artist Yūsaku Komiyama.  Even though the adaptation has not been completed online for Japanese readers, Yen Press, a publisher of manga for U.S. readers, released Star Wars: Lost Stars #1 based on Yūsaku Komiyama's work.

Star Wars: Lost Stars #1a - Yen Press, U.S. (May 2018)
Star Wars: Lost Stars #1a - Yen Press, U.S. (May 2018)
back cover
This 256-page, black and white book follows the format of many manga and is read from right to left.  Yen Press is the fifth publisher to release a Star Wars comic in the U.S. in the past couple of years, following Marvel, IDW, Disney-Lucasfilm Press, and Joe Books.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Retro Foreign: Japanese Weekly プレイボーイ #1 (January 1978)

Japanese publisher Shueisha is best known to comic fans for publishing Weekly Shōnen Jump.  Weekly Shōnen Jump was the magazine that introduced the popular Dragon Ball to manga fans and had circulation numbers north of 6 million copies a week in the mid 1990s and, while those numbers are down today, it still sells well over 1.5 million copies a week today.  Shueisha publishes many other magazines, including Weekly プレイボーイ or Weekly Playboy.  Like the U.S. counterpart it is fashioned after, Weekly Playboy is aimed at adults and contains nude pictures of females.  Unlike the U.S. magazine, this Japanese magazine heavily features manga.

The January 1978 issue of Weekly Playboy contains a black and white, 30-page Star Wars story.  The story is raunchy and focuses on Princess Leia, although it also contains Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Darth Vader, and Stormtroopers.

Weekly プレイボーイ #1a - Shueisha, Japan (January 1978)
What makes this manga interesting is not the smutty material, but the early date it was published with art by Go Nagai.  Star Wars was not released in Japan until June 30, 1978, making this possibly the first Star Wars manga released in the world and the first Star Wars comic material released in Japan.  Go Nagai's work paved the way for the Japanese view on eroticism in manga.  He is best known for creating Mazinger Z, imported into the U.S. as a Shogun Warrior, and Devilman.

The cultural influence of Star Wars was huge and this is an interesting and early example of the breadth of that impact.