20 Thoughts On Marvel’s 1977 Star Wars Comic Book

Forget asking if Luke will destroy the universe (was that ever an option?)–I want to know why Darth Vader has a green helmet!

Rumor has it there’s a new Star Wars movie coming out in a month and while geeks everywhere struggle to not lose their minds counting down the days we’re also trying to find ways to distract ourselves.  Over at the Comixology podcast, Matt and Kara are holding a Star Wars comic book club and the first session focuses on the original Marvel comic book of Star Wars.  Launched in 1977 just a few months after the movie came out, the first six issues retold the original film and then went into some strange, we-didn’t-know-anything-about-Empire-Strikes-Back territory.

The first comic book club only covered these original six issues and I thought it was easier to present my thoughts visually and here on Gabbing Geek as well.  It was strange to read these issues–not only because it recreates a movie we’ve all seen so many times, but also because it retells that movie through the strange conventions of 1970s comics.  And the things it has to translate onto the page (like Artoo’s whistles or Chewbacca’s howls) definitely presented some issues to the creative team.  So jump after the break to see 20 thoughts I had upon reading this comic book.

1. Starwarsbucks 

While the original film had an inconsistent view of the Force, what with some senior Empire officers calling it old tales and Vader using it in their presence, it does seem a bit odd for the comic book to keep that questioning of whether the Force is real when Darth Vader uses it to levitate his coffee.  By the way, if I had Force powers I would do this all the time.  Even if I didn’t feel like having coffee right now.

2. We get it, it’s science fiction


Star Wars came out in May of 1977 and the comic book launched in July.  Marvel was known for publishing quickly but they doubtless had some access to script or early cuts in order to make the comic book.  And while Marvel wanted to make a comic book of the story they couldn’t have known what a phenomenon it would become.  So we can forgive them for perhaps adding some details that weren’t needed.  Still, I find the specific naming of some technologies just to make them sound futuristic amusing.  This panel has Luke using Electro-Binoculars, in an earlier panel he called them Macro-Binoculars (or maybe those are different binoculars…used for seeing the big picture?), and later in the Death Star we’re told the Empire uses the very impressive Vacuum Tube Elevators.  Because as all cats know, vacuums are evil.

3. Stromtroopers aren’t just sharpshooters, they’re master detectives!

Yes, the comic has the same silly lines from Kenobi about Stormtroopers being super precise in their shooting skills when the Jawa vehicle is inspected.  But only the comic book reveals the other secret skill all Stormtroopers possess: they are master detectives.  How else can we explain that when a group of Stormtroopers find the escape pod that Threepio and Artoo landed on Tatooine they find a stray piece of metal and immediately conclude there were droids on board?  I mean, it’s a metal escape pod that crashed onto a planet–not like that would have caused a small triangle of blue metal to be in the sand nearby, right?  Move over Sherlock, watch your back Batman, the Stormtrooper might be the greatest detective ever.

4. Why does everyone talk in quotes when it comes to “The Force”?

I could understand Han calling it “The Force” because he doesn’t believe in it.  But Obi-Won?  Come on, Ben.  Drop the quotes.

5. Just confirming Han shot first

He shot first.  He shot pink.  The blaster fired energy that somehow hit Greedo and shattered into six beams.  But none of that other stuff matters because Han shot first dammit.

6. Jabba the Catt

Jabba was a yellow man with whiskers. He’s basically a cat.  Thereby confirming that cats are evil.  I know George Lucas had…evolving views on Jabba between alien and human and the eventual Hutt, but I kinda wish the cat version had stuck.  When Luke finally confronts Jabba in Return of the Jedi he could have just walked in with a ball of yarn and a cucumber.

7. Phototrophic Shielding!

Yet another awesome made-up technology: phototrophic shielding.  Photo refers to light and the root -trophic refers to nutrition.  Meaning these shields eat light (which is also what the word phototrophic actually means) and that is awesome.

8. Fancy words!

I’ll admit it–this panel made me look up the word execrable.  It’s a fantastic word.  But it also brings up an interesting split with this comic book–it had so many words.  We’re used to comic books showing us events but most of the action in this comic book is conveyed by over-explanatory captions.  I’m not sure if that was the style back then or if they felt the only way to translate the film was to translate the film into caption boxes, but it was strange to read things they could have shown us.

Also, can we talk about Chewie?  The way he was drawn in the comic book is just…bizarre.  I get that drawing hair isn’t easy and a big, hairy creature looking realistic given the printing technology of the 70s might have been a challenge, but did he have to look like a Monchichi?  Hmmm…Monchichewie?

9. Luke shoots an Empire commander in the back

Damn, Luke.  The guy was going to push an alarm button.  If you have that great an aim, how about shoot the alarm button instead? Not like Luke cares that much about Empire officers anyway, given that he kills several thousands of them later…oh nevermind.

10. The Death Star had another vulnerability

We all know about the thermal exhaust shaft that Luke uses to blow up the Death Star but it turns out there was an easier way.  Because the Death Star had a whole level designed to blow up!  How else can we explain Luke’s reference to the Detonation Level?  I mean, sure, we could say it was a typo and that Luke meant to say the Detention Level, but I think it’s far more realistic that a giant station called a Death Star had a whole level dedicated to blowing stuff up.  It was right above the Floor Of Annoying Whines and right below the Balcony Of Robocalls.

11. You can’t unsee this

Luke Skywalker + red lighting = Elijah Wood

12. Leia is smart…then stupid

In the comic book, Leia figures out that the Empire is tracking them from the Death Star.  That’s pretty smart and kudos for figuring that out.  But then…

Wait…you know the Empire is following you so you go to the secret base anyway?  That’s not bold, that’s dumb.  You’ve got a lot of plans to analyze for a weakness–that’s a giant space station after all–and I’m not sure anyone would bet on finding a weakness in time to actually take it out while they’re heading your way.  We know the plans can be transmitted (that’s how they got onto her ship in the first issue) so why not have another rebel ship fly to meet you, beam the plans over, then lead the Empire on a wild goose hunt?  Come on, Leia.

Oh, and stop saying “It’s our only hope!”  You already used that line on Obi-Won and look what that got you!

13. The only guy who doesn’t use air quotes

I mean, look at that beard.  This is a guy who doesn’t need to call it “The Force” he just says it’s The Force.  He’s the man.

Who is this guy again?  Oh well.

14. Red == Blue

For some reason the comic book changed Luke’s X-Wing squadron from the Red team to the Blue team.  Sorry, but Red Five still sounds cooler than Blue Five.

But nice to see them going all in with Han’s story about how the Falcon is so fast it travels in parsecs–now even X-Wings are using that for speed!

15. Classic misrepresenting cover

I recall a lot of comic book covers in the 80s that would show something grossly misrepresenting what took place in that issue.  The cover for the issue covering the end of the Star Wars movie is just that–nothing in this cover appears in the issue.  Heck, we don’t even see Luke battle Vader in a ship because Han knocks Vader out into deep space.  So even the words are misleading.

16. Wait, the red group was what?

This caption.  The red group must be exhausted.

17. Darth Vader has funny curses

First, the Sith have gods?  Second, do some of those gods die so you specifically need to call out the immortal ones?  Because Sith, being dark Force users and all, I would think might refrain from having gods that would die.  That seems rather un-godlike for a Sith.  Or anyone else.

18. Worst Chewbacca impression ever

Gronk?  I mean, I know it’s hard to translate the Wookiee language into a comic book, but Gronk?!

19. This page still rocks

Sure, completely different from the movie’s special effects, but still that’s an awesome page.  If only all those caption boxes could be removed.

20. Wait, this actually makes sense of the ending

It’s always been a glaring mistake that Chewbacca didn’t get a medal at the end of Star Wars the movie.  Star Wars the comic book totally explains it.

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Published by

Ryan Garcia

Father of two boys, husband, attorney for Dell (Social Media, Retail, Gaming), Broadway geek, comic book geek, science fiction geek, gadget geek.

5 thoughts on “20 Thoughts On Marvel’s 1977 Star Wars Comic Book”

  1. Great column Ryan.

    With regards to #8, the wordiness to explain things was definitely a product of an era gone by. I’m not sure at what point writers began to trust the artist to convey things. Maybe the 80’s? I remember reading the first Batman Chronicles trade which reprinted Detective Comics #27-38 and Batman #1, i.e. the first dozen appearances of Batman from 1939-40. It was an incredibly tough read because of this exact issue. I’ll make this up but here is a typical panel:

    Panel art: Joker points a gun on Batman
    Caption: The Joker has Batman cornered! His gun pointed at the hero!
    Joker: “You’ll never get away now Batman that I have my trusty Joker gun pointed at you!”
    Batman: “How will I ever get away with that gun pointed at me!”

    etc. And that is like every panel. (And of course every sentence has to end in an exclamation mark!)

    With regards to #6, what would Luke do with that cucumber? On second thought, I don’t want to know.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The cucumber comment was about the recent videos about cats being scared by cucumber. But I like the way you think.

      And good to know about the wordiness. I don’t have much exposure to comics of that age–I started reading in the mid 80s and my only exposure to older books was through a combination of Who’s Who and the Marvel Universe Saga (the book that reprinted individual panels with a bunch of prose to describe the rest of the story–it was a pretty awesome series but isn’t available online the last time I looked).

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      1. Yeah, I have lots of those Marvel Saga, Official Guide To The Marvel Universe, DC Who’s Who type books as well.

        I began reading in the 80’s as well, but have gone back and read some older stuff. That Batman was a hard read. I’ve read a lot of 60’s and 70’s stuff with my Spider-Man Chronology and that stuff isn’t too bad in that way. But the captions are very self aware most of the times. They know it is a comic book and reference itself as such a lot. Not to mention talking about the creative staff.

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      2. Yeah one of the issues (4 or 5) the captions went beyond describing everything and went into the weird “talk to the reader” mode. First caption was like “We don’t have time to catch you up we just have to get into the action!” It stood out as the only issue where they did that. Must have been a rush to print. 🙂

        I also guess the writers got the read the script and see costumes but not a rough cut. Otherwise why would they have made all the light sabers red?

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  2. OK, Stormtroopers finding a bit of metal on the ground and knowing they’re looking for droids actually came from the movie.

    Though as I think about it, they were following tracks in the sand away from the pod when one finds the metal. You’d think that an R2 unit’s distinct tracks would have been a bit more of a hint there…

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