Monday, September 13, 2010

Have Spacesuit -- Will ... Um?

Here's the cover to issue 15 (September 1978) of the Marvel comics Star Wars series, which is another one I remember very fondly:

The cover depicts Han Solo engaged in a blaster duel with the space pirate Crimson Jack and his men, just outside Jack's flagship, a captured Imperial star destroyer (which, interestingly, was never given a name -- can you imagine something like that nowadays?). It doesn't take a rocket scientist to notice something weird about this illustration: neither Han nor Jack are wearing spacesuits, even though they're clearly floating in the void. What's going on here?

As a show of trust, when Han agrees to meet Jack in space to make an exchange of items each of them wants from the other, he does so without wearing a spacesuit, because such a suit could easily conceal all sorts of weaponry. Fortunately, Jack's star destroyer can "extend its magnetic field" in order to hold the vacuum of space at bay. There's still no gravity and no oxygen, of course, but at least Han can float around wearing just a SCUBA tank without dying.

This is pretty much the Marvel era of Star Wars in a nutshell: if it looks and feels right, everything else be damned. And since there was so little nailed down about the nature of the Star Wars universe, Marvel had a lot of license to do stuff like this. Sometimes it worked, sometime it didn't, but, looking back on it, what most impresses me about it is how fresh it still feels. There's nothing tired about these Marvel comics and perhaps that's more a function of when they were written rather than any inherent goodness. Still, I can't deny that, coming back to them now, they feel like a much needed breath of fresh air.

16 comments:

  1. As I understand it, that's not impossible. Han's eyes, nose, mouth, and ears are all covered, so barring a couple of unmentionable orifices, the major routes for problems with pressure are taken care of.

    His biggest problem will be frost bite to the extremities.

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  2. I think the thing that's really impressive in this story is how true to Han's nature they stay when he dispatches the villain-of-the week. Let's just say that there's more evidence that he doesn't wait for baddies to shoot first!

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  3. @Rob Crawford: Really? Unless by "magnetic field" the writers meant "inexplicable high science energy field with miraculous faculties"... magnetic fields don't effect pressure or temperature to my understanding.

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  4. And this is different from Empire Strikes Back, how? In ESB, the Millenium Falcon flew into a cave on an asteroid, then into a side cave of that, which actually turned out to be a space slug. They then got out in a mask with a tube attached. At least the getup above has oxygen tanks.

    It's Star Wars "science", just enjoy. At least the writers realized that they needed some explanation and gave us some technobabble, unlike ESB.

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  5. Obviously they're both descendants of Batman, who can breathe in space.

    Or we can forget about the science, and just appreciate that it looks cool. I mean, who wouldn't want to float around in space blasting away at a bad guy? Sounds like a good time to me.

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  6. Vacuum is a terrible heat conductor, so you don't actually get frostbite from short exposure to space.

    You'd probably soil yourself from lack of pressure, though, unless bladder & bowels already empty - maybe the pirates vented an inert gas into the field? Or they could be wearing nappies. Anyway compared to ESB this qualifies as Hard SF.

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  7. I remember that cover, I had that issue. Don't remember it other than the cover.

    The original Battlestar Galactica had an episode that did the same thing. The g-suits they wore under their uniforms protected them. Although I think it was more of a budgetary consideration then anything else.

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  8. His biggest problem will be frost bite to the extremities.

    At least Han is wearing trousers. Jack's not so lucky.

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  9. As a person who primarily runs Star Wars (and has since 1987- BEFORE the glut of 'expanded universe'), the Marvel Comics helped to shape a lot of my concept of the Star Wars universe. And as occasionally hokey as they were (green rabbit men, short-shorts in space), they DID have a sense of wonder and wide-open possibilities that I loved- and continue to love. Having only recently purchased this very collection of comics, I am finding a lot of really great adventure ideas. You shave off some of the more 'juvenile' trappings and you've got some great hooks and settings to use.

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  10. I had this as a kid, and loved that cover.

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  11. Was going to say the same as Jimmy Simpson above.

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  12. I remember this comic fondly, and I bought it back about 10 or so years ago because it stuck in my brain for so long. I want to know where Jack got his hands on a Star Destroyer, though..

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  13. I remember this issue, and while being slightly confounded by the lack of spacesuits, was much more shocked by the idea that a gang of pirates had managed to hijack (and keep) an Imperial Star Destroyer. Something about that implied a more vulnerable Empire and more barbaric, less known galaxy than I got from the movies.

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  14. I remember this issue, and while being slightly confounded by the lack of spacesuits, was much more shocked by the idea that a gang of pirates had managed to hijack (and keep) an Imperial Star Destroyer. Something about that implied a more vulnerable Empire and more barbaric, less known galaxy than I got from the movies.

    That's in fact one of the things I most like about the Marvel comics vision of the SW universe: it feels like it's a dangerous galaxy out there. Even as a kid, I had the impression that the Empire was at least tolerated by a lot of its oppressed subjects because it kept them safe from unpleasant aliens and vicious space pirates and did so with vigor.

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  15. The Empire of the first Star Wars movie, with a single Death Star that has firepower equal to more than half the entire Imperial Fleet, but threatened by a single Rebel base with its 30 snub fighters, is a very far cry from what was developed by West End Games and the Expanded Universe. It sounds like Marvel cleaved much closer to the original source.

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  16. "with a single Death Star that has firepower equal to more than half the entire Imperial Fleet, but threatened by a single Rebel base with its 30 snub fighters"

    @S'mon: Yeah, but we always like to root for the underdog, right?

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