The internet’s gone a bit Star Wars bonkers at the moment in the lead up to The Force Awakens, the first sequel to the original trilogy and the fist Star Wars film from new owners Disney. I wish I could be all hipster, poo-poo this and spend the month talking about Doctor Who because y’know everyone knows the correct answer to ‘Star Wars vs Star Trek’ is Doctor Who but fuck that, I’m as excited as everyone else and in fact have midnight showing tickets for the 16th. So my contribution to the internet’s celebration of a film that may or may not in fact actually be good is going to be Looking At three important Star Wars comics; The Keeper’s World, the very first original Star Wars story to see print; Splinter of the Mind’s Eye – an adaptation of the first original Star Wars novel and Heir to the Empire, the original sequel to Return of the Jedi. This is very much the equivalent of spitting into the ocean (or a Degaba swamp if you prefer).
First up is The Keeper’s World, which originally ran in Pizzazz, Marvel’s horrible attempt at a ‘youth culture’ magazine that would probably be (thankfully) forgotten were it not for it including two Star Wars stories ‘The Keeper’s World’ and ‘The Kingdom of Ice’, the former being the first original (that is, not an adaptation of
A New Hope Star Wars) Star Wars story,
predating both Splinter of the Mind’s Eye and Marvel’s original Star Wars comic
book stories by several months. It’s by a pair of nobodies called Roy Thomas
and Howard Chaykin, they didn’t do much else except become comic book legends
for their work on little titles like Avengers, X-Men, All-Star Squadron,
American Flagg, Blackhawk and The Shadow, before writing duties were taken over
by another nobody called Archie Goodwin who did worthless things like edit Marvel,
DC and Warren, create Luke Cage and the Epic line, wrote the Manhunter story in
Detective Comics and had a couple of years run on Marvel’s Star Wars ongoing,
so are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.
The Keeper’s World (Pizzazz issues 1-9)
The story was first reprinted by Marvel in Star Wars Weekly 47-50, Dark Horse reprinted it in Star Wars #0 and then again Star Wars Omnibus: Wild Space Volume 1, which is the version I’m reading from (and taking pictures from). Quick Summary: Following the Battle of Yavin (Star Wars: A New Hope), Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, R2-D2 and C-3PO are heading to a rebel base in Akuria. But the bodge job the Yavin rebels did in fixing Artoo causes them to exit not at Akuria, but in the middle of an Imperial fleet, narrowly escaping they land on an uncharted planet and find evidence of very large animals there. Those large animals turn out to be pinky-purple giants, one attacks the rebels’ camp but luckily Artoo finds and wakes an even bigger version and solves that problem, Threepio just thought the little droid was hiding – then the Imperial forces attack. Princess Leia makes the royal decree that they run for it and but then end up trapped in some old temple, Threepio accidentally teleports them somewhere when he elbows part of the ruin, there they find four elemental children who help dispatch the imperial forces (who followed them, if Threepio’s elbow can find the right switch so can Stormtroopers) and then take them to The Keeper, who’s a huge dome computer. Turns out the Keeper was built by the planet’s inhabitants who went off to fight but left the machine to guard it, ‘she’s’ been keeping the planet looking like a hostile jungle world to keep it save until they return. The Keeper then causes various natural disasters to get rid of the Empire’s soldiers and fixes up Luke & Leia’s ship so they can go off to Akuria, alias the Kingdom of Ice.
I’ve actually never read this before (the only issue of Pizzaz I owned was the first part of Kingdom of Ice), Roy Thomas is a good writer so I didn’t expect it to be terrible and even though I can clearly tell when Archie Goodwin takes over (his writing style is a little bit more... comicy) the two did alright. The best part of the thing is the droids; other than Thomas having Threepio saying ‘I don’t either’ because he’d presumably still not met a British person at this point in his life they’re bickering is accurate and actually funny, plus as always Artoo is awesome and no one appreciates him, poor little trash can. It’s very much a Marvel story though, you wouldn’t see the films or Dark Horse or even the novels having huge Kirby-esque talking computers who identify as female or elemental children dressed like members of the X-Men and I could see how a modern Star Wars fan especially would see that as a bit jarring, because it is, we go from a very Star Wars set-up of jungles, monsters and ruins to an issue of the Avengers. Still I imagine if you recoloured the book and took out all the bright ‘superheroy’ colours you’d end up with a lot less sore thumbs sticking out.
Chaykin’s art is…loose, he still doesn’t quite have his signature style yet and he draws like a slightly poorer Frank Millar circa-Daredevil, he also doesn’t even attempt to bother with likenesses, Mark Hammil looks like He-Man and Carrie Fisher looks like…well every other woman in a late 70’s Marvel comic, it’s also pretty weird to see her doing all of this in her New Hope robes and bagel hair but then one must remember that this was knocked out when there was literally no other Star Wars fiction out there besides New Hope so what did you expect her to look like?
So yeah, it’s a little constrained by its time and format, requiring a cliffhanger every few pages and occasionally having dialogue/thought bubbles that tell you what’s going on while they’re showing you exactly what’s going on (although that is helpful during the first space battle, and the narration for the giant is funny stuff) but there’s only a few panels of clunky dialogue and my only real complaint is that Luke doesn’t bloody do anything, he draws his lightsabre once but doesn’t use it because the elemental kids save the day, it’s ether the droids or the original characters that do all the work, hell Leia saves him from the giant, but Luke does bugger all, further proving that Han is better, if Han’d been in this strip he’d shot the giant in the head then took The Keeper out dancing.
Next time we have an adventure that proves Lucas didn’t have fuck all mapped out when he made the first film because Splinter of the Mind’s Eye was written before it was revealed that Luke and Leia were brother and sister and, well, yeah…