Like a lot of boys at the time, I preferred Han Solo to Luke Skywalker, considering him a much more interesting character, even if he didn't have a lightsaber (though I always had hopes that, one day, he too might become a Jedi -- hey, I was a kid). Unlike a lot of boys at the time, I also preferred Obi-Wan Kenobi to Luke Skywalker. I thought "Old Ben" was a great character, what with the way he scared away the Sand People and kicked major ass in the cantina. He's like that wise old kung-fu master who's ten times more impressive than his hotheaded young apprentice and I found Alec Guinness's portrayal of him quite affecting, particularly the way he sacrifices himself to give Luke and his companions a chance to escape the Death Star.
Obi-Wan is a very mysterious character in Star Wars. He alludes to a lot of things in the past, like the Clone Wars and the Jedi Knights. He also knew Luke's father and speaks of Darth Vader as his former pupil. I often wondered what sorts of adventures Ben had "before the dark times, before the Empire." In issue 24 (June 1979) of the Marvel comic series, Princess Leia recounts a tale her father told her about one of Obi-Wan's adventures in the days before the rise of the Empire. It's a fun little story that takes place entirely aboard an interstellar cruise ship and I remember it well because it showed up Obi-Wan at the height of his powers:
There are a lot of things I like about this issue's rendition of Obi-Wan's past. Firstly, and perhaps most superficially, I like his costume. One of the things that bugs me about the way the Jedi dress in the prequels is that, somewhere along the line, Lucas seems to have forgotten that Uncle Owen wears clothes very similar to those of Obi-Wan:
Or rather I think that Obi-Wan wears clothes very similar to those of Uncle Owen. The robes Ben wears in Star Wars are loose-fitting Tattooine peasant attire. If you pay attention when Luke and Obi-Wan go to Mos Eisley, you see other people wearing the same general style of clothing. Heck, the bartender at the cantina (back before he had a name and a melodramatic backstory) wears the same kind of robes and he certainly wasn't a Jedi.
Anyway, my point is that I never figured that Ben wandered around Tattooine dressed in his Jedi robes, especially considering that Jedi were supposed to have been hunted outlaws under the Empire. I assumed that, in his day, he wore some other kind of clothing, something that did identify him as a Jedi Knight. I never had a good sense of what such clothing would look like -- until I saw this issue of the Marvel comic. I love the simple black tunic and pants, with the white gloves (and, though you can't see them in the pic above, white boots as well), and that honking big belt that so many people seemed to wear in the Marvel Star Wars comics. This became my idea of what the Jedi looked like and so, when Return of the Jedi was released, seeing Luke all dressed in black as he prepares to confront Jabba the Hutt was a vindication of that comic artwork from 1979.
The other thing I love about this portrayal of Obi-Wan is that he's old even before the Empire arises. I always felt that, at the time of Star Wars, Ben was even older than he looked, like 90 or 100, but, just like those aged martial arts masters, he lived simply, meditated, and kept spry by whooping bad guys he came across as he wandered the Dune Sea. I wouldn't have accepted back then, as I don't now, that he was only 57 years old at the time of the movie's events. That just doesn't make any sense to me and it doesn't really fit the way he talks about the downfall of the Jedi and the "Old Republic," which imply a much greater distance in the past. Marvel's take was closer to what I imagined as a kid and so I accepted it readily.
Wow, I wrote rather more about this topic than I ever intended to. I guess rereading these Star Wars comics is really getting to me.