After yesterday's post, I went back and start rereading some of the Marvel Star Wars comics from the period between the original film and The Empire Strikes Back. I was frankly amazed at how much better they were than I expected them to be. No, they're not timeless literature; heck, they're not even timeless comics, but they're pretty good in evoking a pulpy, Saturday matinee space opera serial feel that, in retrospect, is what I actually most like about the 1977 movie.
That said, there are some excellent stories in those early issues. Just as excellent is the art. I had forgotten that Carmine Infantino, most famous for his work on The Flash during the Silver Age, penciled 40-odd issues of the comic, including all those during the time that I read the comic. His artwork is unique and, while I'm sure many will find fault with his portrayals of many iconic elements of the Star Wars universe, I found his artwork quite affecting as a child and, though I didn't realize it, many of his pieces stuck with me over the years and seeing them again was like being transported back to the late 1970s.
Here's one particular piece that really hit me hard:
One of the interesting things about the early Marvel series was that, although it was given a great deal of freedom by Lucasfilm, there were still some restrictions placed on it. Work on "Star Wars II" was under way and so Marvel had to tread lightly when dealing with certain characters and elements, one of which was Darth Vader. Even though he was a fan favorite character, Marvel didn't use him that often in those early days, which is why his appearance above in issue 21 (March 1978) was such a huge thrill. As a kid, seeing Vader personally leading stormtroopers, lightsaber in hand, through the burnt out shell of a rebel base on some idyllic, flower-covered planet sent chills of excitement down my spine. This was what I wanted out of Star Wars.
Another piece that really hit home was this one:
A lot of my friends didn't like Infantino's depiction of starships. They thought his stuff was too "blocky." Me, I loved it -- still do. These illustrations remind me a lot of the funky starship art that was rampant in the 1970s, which used all kinds of odd, asymmetric designs and didn't care one whit for aerodynamics (which, of course, would mean nothing in space). Art like this screams "space opera" to me and I got a huge kick out of seeing it again.
I'll probably have quite a few more Star Wars comics-related posts over the next few days. I had almost forgotten about these issues and now I'm glad to have the opportunity to revisit them. There's a lot of great stuff in here.