Sunday, June 14, 2020

Modern Marvel

Star Wars #75 eBay Exclusive

The ongoing Star Wars series launched by Marvel in 2015 came to a unremarkable conclusion with issue #75 in November 2019.  Greg Pak only wrote 8 issues for the main title and I was not a fan of those issues.  The series ending was not particularly strong, evoking a strange element found in the story arcs from Poe Dameron #1 - 3 and from Star Wars #26 - 30.  Both those stories featured large bipedal humanoid creatures and in Star Wars #75, an even larger creature helps our heroes escape both the Empire and Boss Carpo.  I believe stories with large humanoid creatures can work with Star Wars, the Gorax on Endor comes to mind, but I do not feel it worked well in any of the 3 stories Marvel gave us.

Even more disappointing, Greg Pak's issues do not even attempt to lead into The Empire Strikes Back.  For example we never encounter the bounty hunter from Ord Mantell that causes Han to want to abandon the Rebellion on Hoth.  In addition to Han, none of the other characters are emotionally where they are at the beginning of that movie.  Given that Marvel knew they were going to restart the title after this issue and pick up where The Empire Strikes Back ends, it is clear these final issues are just filler, and not very good filler.  All they did was buy Marvel time for the Star Wars line reboot in early 2020.

This final issue has an eBay exclusive that was commissioned by MyComicShop.  The cover of this exclusive has artwork by R.B. Silva who does a decent job depicting images from the story inside.  It is just unfortunate the story inside is not deserving of an exclusive.  This artwork can be considered a preview for the 2020 ongoing title, where R.B. Silva servers as the cover artist for the first six issues.

Star Wars #75e - Marvel Comics, U.S. (November 2019)
eBay exclusive
I find it ironic that Marvel published every issue of this Star Wars title using 3 digits for the number on the cover, padding the number with zeroes where needed.  For example, the issue number on this cover is 075.  It was a foregone conclusion this title would never reach issue #100.  Still, for Marvel to have published any title for as long as they did this one without renumbering in the modern era is an accomplishment.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

First Appearance

First Appearance Winloss and Nokk

Winloss and Nokk are a husband and wife monster-hunting team.  Winloss is a human who wears a backpack that includes mechanical legs and arms that augment his agility and strength.  Nokk is a Trandosian who does not believe in killing innocent creatures.  The duo have a quirky relationship and their banter is lovably entertaining.  In their first appearance in Doctor Aphra Annual #2, they believe Doctor Aphra hires them to capture a monster for a crime boss, but Aphra really wants them to free her from the Shadowfang Beast that swallowed her whole.

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra Annual #2a - Marvel Comics, U.S. (September 2018)
1st appearance of Winloss and Nokk
Star Wars: Doctor Aphra Annual #2b - Marvel Comics, U.S. (September 2018)
1st appearance of Winloss and Nokk
Winloss and Nokk's first cover appearance is on the variant edition of Doctor Aphra Annual #2.  It shows Winloss in the foreground hanging onto a wall with the help of his backpack while Nokk is holding onto his legs.  Aphra is walking away from them with a backpack full of treasure.  This scene is not actually in the story, but instead, Winloss steals the artifact Aphra retrieved before she flies away using a rocket backpack.  They do not appear on the standard cover which shows Doctor Aphra running from the Shadowfang Beast.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Modern Joe Books

Star Wars: Rebels - Maul Cinestory Comic

Joe Books' final Star Wars comic offering is their third Rebels Cinestory comic.  Star Wars: Rebels - Maul Cinestory Comic is a massive 384 page book priced at $14.99, containing four memorable episodes from the Rebels animated series:

  • Twilight of the Apprentice (season 2 episodes 21-22)
  • The Holocrons of Fate (season 3 episode 3)
  • Visions and Voices (season 3 episode 11)
  • Twin Suns (season 3 episode 20)

This fumetti-style comic contains panels that are stills from the episodes and, while the pages are in color, this book suffers from the muddy look that previous Cinestory offerings had.  Even so, the price is not bad for the content.  We get all the stories from the Rebels animated series that feature the character Maul, introduced and seemingly killed in The Phantom Menace movie and brought back in The Clone Wars animated series.  (Interestingly, the idea of reviving Maul was first presented in a comic book, Dark Horse's Star Wars: Visionaries original graphic novel).  The final story in the book, Twin Suns, is particularly powerful as it contains the final confrontation between Maul and Obi-Wan Kenobi in the desert of Tatooine.

Star Wars: Rebels - Maul Cinestory Comic a - Joe Books, U.S. (February 2018)
Sadly, there were more Star Wars Cinestory comics solicited but never published due to Joe Books going bankrupt in 2019.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Modern Marvel

Star Wars: Allegiance #1 Walmart Exclusive

Star Wars: Allegiance is a 4-issue mini-series released in October 2019 by Marvel to tie into The Rise of Skywalker.  Walmart had an exclusive version of the first issue which used the same artwork as the standard cover.  The standard cover contains a UPC box on the front cover and an ad on the back cover.  The ad on the back cover shows Captain America being introduced to the music from the group Joywave by his fellow Avengers.  At the end of the ad, he is listening to the group's newest single, Obsession, which is available on vinyl.

Star Wars: Allegiance #1a - Marvel Comics, U.S. (October 2019)
Star Wars: Allegiance #1a - Marvel Comics, U.S. (October 2019)
back cover
The Walmart exclusive does not have the UPC box on the front cover and the white title is outline in black.  Additionally the ad on the back cover has been replaced with the comic title and the UPC box on an off-white background.

Star Wars: Allegiance #1e - Marvel Comics, U.S. (October 2019
Walmart exclusive
Star Wars: Allegiance #1e - Marvel Comics, U.S. (October 2019
Walmart exclusive back cover


Front cover side-by-side comparison
Back cover side-by-side comparison

Friday, May 22, 2020

Retro Foreign

Japanese Star Wars Manga 6 Volume Set

When the Special Edition of A New Hope was released to theaters in January 1997, Dark Horse was ready with an all new adaptation of the movie.  They were not the only publisher to take advantage of the release to put out a comic based on the story.  MediaWorks in Japan also published an adaptation of A New Hope in 1997, but this version is contained in two volumes using the Japanese manga style of artwork.  Artist Hisao Tamaki's interpretation of Star Wars is among his best known work and it has been translated into many languages around the world, including into English for American readers by Dark Horse in 1998.  The manga version is based on the updated movie and includes scenes like Han Solo's confrontation with Jabba the Hutt in Mos Eisley.

Unfortunately, the Japanese cover artwork was not used in other countries, most likely due to Dark Horse translating the manga adaptation into a 4-issue mini-series.  The cover artwork for volumes #1 and 2 combine to create one piece.

Star Wars: A New Hope Volume #1a - MediaWorks, Japan (1997)
Star Wars: A New Hope Volume #2a - MediaWorks, Japan (1997)


In 1998, MediaWorks published adaptations for the other two movies in the trilogy.  Artist Toshiki Kudo provides the artwork for the Empire Strikes Back.  The cover artwork for volumes #3 and 4 combine to create one piece.  Volume #3 below is missing the obi, a removable paper strip found around the bottom of the other books in this set.

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Volume #3a - MediaWorks, Japan (1998)
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Volume #4a - MediaWorks, Japan (1998)


The Return of the Jedi manga adaptation has artwork by Shin-Ichi Hiromoto.  The cover artwork for volumes #5 and 6 combine to create one piece.

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi Volume #5a - MediaWorks, Japan (1998)
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi Volume #6a - MediaWorks, Japan (1998)


Like A New Hope, Dark Horse published English translations of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi manga as 4-issue mini-series.

The cover artwork for these volumes is similar to the artwork found on prose Japanese Star Wars novels.  Japanese novels also split the story into two parts and joining the cover artwork on the two parts creates a larger image.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Retro Dark Horse

Dark Horse Covers That Talk to the Reader

Speech balloons and thought bubbles are more readily found on comic covers from the early 1950s through the early 1960s and the 1970s through the early 1980s.  Surprisingly, for a majority of comic books, these unique expressions of the medium are not found on covers.  Today, there are many fans of the hobby who buy books for just the cover artwork and not the content.  Several hot artists make a living producing these sought after pieces, so it is understandable both the fans and the artists would prefer not to see these covers obscured by speech balloons.  An exception to this through all the eras are titles aimed at children, where the art tends to be less detailed and the dialogue is used to convey humor.  If you look at the original Star Wars title which came out during one of these periods when speech balloons were found on covers, out of 107 issues, only 21 sport speech balloons and 12 of these covers appear by issue #23.

From May 2007 to February 2008, two of Dark Horse's four ongoing Star Wars titles had a series of covers featuring speech balloons.  Over a span of ten glorious months, Dark Horse bucked modern sensibilities and treated Star Wars comic fans to 14 covers that pay homage to a bygone era.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #16 - 24 are 9 of these issues.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #16a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (May 2007)
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #17a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (May 2007)
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #18a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (July 2007)
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #19a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (August 2007)
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #20a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (September 2007)
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #21a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (October 2007)
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #22a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (November 2007)
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #23a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (November 2007)
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #24a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (December 2007)
The final 5 issues are Star Wars: Rebellion #6 and 8 - 11.

Star Wars: Rebellion #6a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (May 2007)
Star Wars: Rebellion #8a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (July 2007)
Star Wars: Rebellion #9a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (August 2007)
Star Wars: Rebellion #10a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (September 2007)
Star Wars: Rebellion #11a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (February 2008)
I am sure most will look at these covers and think they are corny.  I appreciate that they represent the content inside, a trait missing from many of today's books.  With the exception of Rebellion #11, the dialogue makes me want to read the stories.  A few of these could work without the speech balloons, most notably the covers for Rebellion #8 and 9.  The cover I feel does the best job of integrating speech balloons into the artwork is on Knights of the Old Republic #21.  The image of Jarael and Camper arguing as their spacecraft, The Last Resort, is about to be swallowed by a giant space slug is effective.  This cover makes me wish publishers would use all the attributes unique to the medium, rather than rely solely on hot artist to sell books.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Modern IDW

Star Wars Adventures: Destroyer Down (mini-series)

The Star Wars Adventures: Destroyer Down 3-issue mini-series is a reprint of the Loot Crate exclusive original graphic novel.  Individual issues of the mini-series sold surprisingly well considering the ample copies of the graphic novel still found on eBay.  Star Wars Adventures #15 published in October 2018 sold an estimated 9,709 copies and Star Wars Adventures: Destroyer Down #1 sold a comparable estimated 9,733 copies.  Subsequent issues of the mini-series did decline with issue #2 selling an estimated 8,332 copies and issue #3 7,414 estimated copies.[1]  These numbers are not bad for a reprint title whose original source is still readily available for $10 or less.

Each issue in this mini-series has a standard cover and one retailer incentive cover initially released at a ratio of 1 for every 10 standard covers.  The artwork used for the standard cover of issue #1 is the same used on the graphic novel.

Star Wars Adventures: Destroyer Down #1a - IDW Publishing, U.S. (November 2018)
Star Wars Adventures: Destroyer Down #1b - IDW Publishing, U.S. (November 2018)
Star Wars Adventures: Destroyer Down #2a - IDW Publishing, U.S. (December 2018)
Star Wars Adventures: Destroyer Down #2b - IDW Publishing, U.S. (December 2018)
Star Wars Adventures: Destroyer Down #3a - IDW Publishing, U.S. (January 2019)
Star Wars Adventures: Destroyer Down #3b - IDW Publishing, U.S. (January 2019)


References:

  1. Estimated initial sales are taken from Comichron's Monthly Sales Charts.