Issue #1 cover
|Publication date||April1977 - May2019|
|No. of issues||107 (and 3 annuals)|
Star Wars is a comic book series published by Marvel Comics from April 12, 1977[a] to May 27, 1986. Featuring classic Star Wars characters Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, , and R2-D2, the first six issues adapt the May 1977 film Star Wars. The series chronicled their subsequent adventures for 107 issues and three annuals, including a six-issue adaptation of the 1980 sequel film The Empire Strikes Back in 1980-1981.
In 2019, the series was revived for a single issue.
Star Wars creator George Lucas initially approached Warren Publications and DC Comics to publish a Star Wars comic book prior to the film's release as a means of publicity. Charles Lippincott, Lucasfilm's publicity supervisor, approached publisher Stan Lee at Marvel Comics in 1975 about the project, but Lee declined to consider such a proposal until the film was completed. Writer Roy Thomas met Lippincott around this same time, and was asked to write the comic at Lucas's request, based on his work on Conan the Barbarian. Thomas decided to accept the commission when Lippincott showed him a production sketch of the Cantina sequence, convincing him that the project was a space opera along the lines of Planet Comics. Stan Lee was persuaded to greenlight the project in a second meeting arranged by Thomas in 1976, reportedly when he heard that Alec Guinness would be involved. Lucas also requested artist Howard Chaykin, who was allowed to visit Lucasfilm's offices on the Universal Studios Lot to gather reference art.
Issue #1 of Star Wars was released for sale on April 12, 1977,[a] and Marvel published the series from 1977 to 1986, lasting 107 issues and three annuals. According to former Marvel Editor-In-Chief Jim Shooter, the strong sales of Star Wars comics saved Marvel financially in 1977 and 1978. Since movie tie-in comics rarely sold well at that time, Lee negotiated a publishing arrangement which gave no royalties to Lucasfilm until the series' sales exceeded 100,000. At that point, legal arrangements could be revisited. The comic gave Marvel much-needed income during a time when the comic industry suffered generally because of rising newsprint costs and a declining number of retail outlets like traditional newsstands and mom-and-pop stores--until the direct market concept established itself in the late 1970s. The series was one of the industry's top selling titles in 1979 and 1980, with the 100,000 copy sales quota being surpassed, allowing Lippincott to renegotiate the royalty arrangements.
Issues #1-6 featured an adaptation of the events of Star Wars by Roy Thomas and Howard Chaykin.[b] Original stories began appearing as of issue #7 (January 1978) by the same creative team. Thomas continued the series with a Seven Samurai-style storyline focusing on Han Solo and Chewbacca, after being told not to use Darth Vader, cover the Clone Wars, or develop a romance between Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. Lippincott told Thomas that Lucas disliked his new green rabbit character, Jaxxon. This and the "sacred cow" status that the franchise had obtained led to Thomas's departure. Writer Archie Goodwin and artist Carmine Infantino took over the series as of #11 (May 1978). While generally following a single serialized storyline, the series occasionally included stories which take place before the events of the films, such as issue #17 (November 1978) featuring Luke Skywalker on Tatooine, and #24 (June 1979) with Obi-Wan Kenobi.
In 1979, Goodwin visited Lucasfilm's Los Angeles offices to collect contact prints and other reference for a six-issue adaptation of the 1980 sequel film The Empire Strikes Back by artists Al Williamson and Carlos Garzon. Williamson was offered the job at Lucasfilm's specific request, as Lucas had an appreciation of his EC Comics and Flash Gordon work. The adaptation was released as a paperback book,[c] a magazine (Marvel Super Special #16), an oversized tabloid edition, and as issues #39-44 (September 1980-February 1981) of the series. According to Ted Edwards, "The artwork reached a new high, with Williamson penciling and Carlos Garzon inking likenesses of the characters that had an accuracy never before seen in the series."
As Goodwin made his departure, Louise Simonson joined as editor. She hired her husband, Walt Simonson, as penciler beginning with issue #49, and Tom Palmer as inker. He was joined by writer David Michelinie starting with issue #51 (September 1981). The creative team was prevented from developing Luke's Jedi training or his relationships with Leia and Vader, or using Han, Jabba, Boba Fett, Obi-Wan, and Yoda.[d] An unused John Carter, Warlord of Mars story, which had sat in inventory after Marvel had cancelled that series, was rewritten and redrawn, and published in Star Wars #53 (November 1981). Walt Simonson left the series after issue #66, shortly followed by Michelinie.Ron Frenz became the regular artist starting with #71 (May 1983) and Jo Duffy, who had written #24, returned as writer. Together, they formed a backstory leading to Return of the Jedi.Marvel's adaptation of the film (October 1983-January 1984) appeared in a separate four-issue limited series as well as in Marvel Super Special #27 and in a mass market paperback. Starting in 1984, the series was primarily written by Duffy. Art for the final year and a half of the series was by Cynthia Martin. The post-Return of the Jedi years focus on the characters during peacetime.
After the Rebel Alliance secures the Death Star plans and destroys the Imperial battle station, Han Solo and Chewbacca depart Yavin to repay Jabba the Hut, but space pirate Crimson Jack steals their reward money. The despondent duo is hired to protect some farmers from a gang. On their way back to Yavin, Jack captures the Millennium Falcon. He also holds Princess Leia captive; she was in the process of following Luke Skywalker to a water planet that he was scoping out as a possible Rebel base. Han and Leia lead Jack to Luke, who has crash-landed and learned that, since the time of the Galactic Republic, the planet's denizens have been using jamming devices to bring down ships for salvage. Annoyed by the jamming frequencies, native sea serpents revolt and attack; the conflict escalates when the governor increases the frequency to bring down Jack's cruiser. The Falcon crew picks up Luke and destroys the jamming device. Jack attacks Han, but the smuggler defeats the pirate.
The Falcon crew discovers the wreckage of a House of Tagge ship, which the Empire has made to look like a Rebel attack. They take shelter on the Wheel, a neutral gambling station. Its administrator detains Leia, and Han and Chewie are forced to fight in gladiator battles. Luke, Leia, and the droids escape in a small craft; Darth Vader arrives and almost captures them, but Han disables his Star Destroyer's tractor beam. Luke and Leia return to the base on Yavin, where they thwart the attacks of the Tagge family. Jabba catches Han at one of his hideouts, but ship-eating mites force the crime lord to take refuge on the Falcon--in exchange for cancelling the smuggler's debt. After returning Jabba to Tatooine, Han and Chewie run into Luke in the Mos Eisley cantina, where the latter was recruiting pilots. After witnessing a test of the Tagges' freezing superweapon, the rebels follow them in the Falcon. Luke fights Baron Orman Tagge in a lightsaber duel and destroys the superweapon. Orman is assumed dead, but actually kept alive by Vader. Domina Tagge, a member of a peaceful planet, comes to Yavin and asks Luke to serve as a Rebel representative. Acting as an Imperial representative, Vader blames Orman's apparent death on Luke, causing Domina to turn on him. She determines that the pair will duel for the planet's favor, but plans for both to die. Orman, whom Vader causes to take his appearance, attempts to kill Luke, but is himself slain. Meanwhile, Jabba discovers Crimson Jack's ruined cruiser and restores the bounty on Han.
The Rebellion takes refuge on Hoth, but is driven out by the Empire. Obi-Wan Kenobi's Force spirit guides Luke to Jedi Master Yoda, who trains him. Meanwhile, Han is captured by Vader and frozen in carbonite in a plot to bait Luke. Against the wishes of his teachers, Luke goes to help his friends by facing Vader, who has a stunning revelation for him. Chewbacca and new ally Lando Calrissian set out after bounty hunter Boba Fett, who intends to deliver the cryopreserved Han to Jabba. While Vader continues to search for Luke, the latter investigates a Star Destroyer whose crew has been debilitated by the Crimson Forever, a virus emanating from a mysterious jewel; Luke is afflicted as well. Lando and Chewbacca encounter Leia at a temporary Rebel base on Golrath; she explains Luke's situation. This prompts Chewie to recount a recent adventure in which Han returned two similar jewels to a temple in the Red Nebula. Leia, Lando, and Chewbacca head to the nebula and discover a Tagge ship whose crew has also succumbed to the illness. Aboard, Domina Tagge reveals that she hired bounty hunters[e] to steal the jewels from the temple, but the Empire took one and people began to succumb to the fever. Domina brings the other jewel to the derelict Star Destroyer, saving all the infected survivors.
Leia leads a scouting expedition to determine if a forest planet will be suitable for a permanent Rebel base. The Rebellion's power is drained by intelligent hoojibs, who reveal that a flying monster has prevented them from using their usual source of energy. The Rebels drive out the monster, and the hoojibs invite them to stay. Meanwhile, Lando returns to Cloud City, which seems to be empty until he is attacked by a deranged Lobot. Then, an Imperial bomb squad lands to disarm explosives planted by ugnaughts. Meanwhile, Luke and a female pilot, Shira, leave to check on Lando as he has not reported in. Lando battles stormtroopers, and one of the bombs goes off. Lando calls a truce with an Imperial officer, who helps him fix Lobot. The cyborg then uses his cybernetic implants to disconnect the bombs. The officer kicks Lando off the platform, and Lobot uses a jet pack to save him. On the planet surface, they are picked up by a boat of ugnaughts and transported back to the platform; Luke arrives and uses the Force to make it appear that the rest of the bombs explode to scare away the Imperials.
Leia leads a procedure to hide the Rebel fleet inside the system's sun using a shield generator, then departs for the planet's surface to investigate the arrival of Imperial ships. R2-D2 detects a malfunction in the generators, and he and find that the entire crew has been knocked unconscious by circuit fumes. The droids use a jet pack to connect an energy cable from one of the cruisers to the shield generator, saving the fleet. Meanwhile, Luke, Lando, and Chewbacca visit a space market to purchase four refurbished TIE fighters. Shira and Luke use them to raid an Imperial armada, but Luke returns to the base to discover that he killed Shira. Luke infiltrates a data vault, where he finds evidence that Shira was selected by Vader to infiltrate the Rebellion and kill Luke; Vader keeps Shira alive in a bacta tank on his Star Destroyer. Using the evidence from the Imperial vault, Luke is acquitted of Shira's murder. The Rebels discover that the rock material of their former base on Golrath records its surroundings. The Imperials soon make the same discovery, and Leia infiltrates the base to destroy it.
The Rebels learn that one of Boba Fett's associates was cut out of the reward for Han and may be willing to provide intel. Leia follows a lead that Dengar may be on Mandalore, and discovers a caravan of Imperial slavers. She runs into a Mandalorian warrior named Fenn, who keeps Dengar in a cage. Dengar tricks Leia into freeing him in exchange for intel, but he signals Imperials, who bring her to the chief slaver. Fenn rescues Leia and recaptures Dengar. Meanwhile, Lando and Chewie obtain a lead on Bossk's location, which matches that of Luke's lead on IG-88. Luke runs into some pirates he knows, while Lando says he found Han; it turns out to be one of the pirates frozen in a similar carbonite block. Bossk and IG-88 try to freeze Luke, Lando, and the other pirates, until Chewie arrives to help them.
Luke, Leia, Chewbacca, Lando and the droids run a couple of missions for the Rebellion while others continue the search for Han. Then, Luke and Leia receive a transmission from Wedge Antilles, who has been missing since the Battle of Hoth, and they go to rescue him.
A search for two missing Bothan spies turns up intel for the Empire's second Death Star, which the Rebels work together to destroy, as Luke confronts Vader, who ends up overthrowing the Emperor, bringing relative peace to the galaxy.
According to Ryder Windham, the comic was not acknowledged by Lucasfilm while planning new stories because little story control had been enforced during its creation. Elements were sometimes referenced, such as the Wheel in a 2003 issue of Star Wars: Republic. In April 2014, the licensed Star Wars spin-offs released up to that point were rebranded by Lucasfilm as Star Wars Legends and declared non-canon to the official film franchise in order to create a blank slate for the sequel trilogy.
Alex Ross created a realistic reimagining of the first issue's cover as a variant cover for the first issue of Marvel's 2015 self-titled Star Wars series. Jaxxon the rabbit appears on a cover of the aforementioned series and in the current Star Wars Adventures series. While in the original comic Vader learns Luke Skywalker's name personally, a crossover story between 2015's Star Wars and Darth Vader reveals that Fett gave Vader this intel. The droid-hating cyborg bounty hunter Beilert Valance from the original Marvel comic entered the modern Star Wars canon in the comic Han Solo: Imperial Cadet (2018),[f] and appears in the series Target Vader (2019)[g] and Bounty Hunters (2020).[h][i]
The series was also translated and produced under license by some non-American publishers:
In the most conservative terms, it is inarguable that the success of the Star Wars comics was a significant factor in Marvel's survival through a couple of very difficult years, 1977 and 1978. In my mind, the truth is stated in the title of this piece.
The industry's top seller? We don't have complete information from our Circulation Scavenger Hunt for the years 1979 and 1980, but a very strong case is building for Star Wars as the industry's top-selling comic book in 1979 and its second-place seller (behind Amazing Spider-Man) in 1980.
In July 1977, Marvel's comics adaptation of George Lucas's Star Wars movie was released, created by writer Roy Thomas and artist Howard Chaykin.
There was also the comfort of knowing that I would be working with Al Williamson, an old friend that I've worked with over the years. He was absolutely the best Star Wars artist you could ever want to have. That makes it easier because you feel that whatever you do as a writer, you have an artist that will make it look great. He's also an artist that Lucasfilm kind of begged and pleaded for and always wanted to have do Star Wars material. There was that comfort factor in it as well.
When it was canceled, Marvel still had some fill-in work by Carmine Infantino in their files. So a year or so later, Walt Simonson and Chris Claremont were given an odd task--take a fill-in Infantino did for John Carter and turn it into a Star Wars story!