Wednesday, September 22, 2010

That Crazy Tagge Family

Several commenters rightly pointed out that I'm probably being selective in the way I've been portraying the Marvel Star Wars comics versus the Gold Key Star Trek ones. There's definitely more than a grain of truth to this. I still contend that, overall, the Gold Key Trek comics are, apart from their artwork, almost universally awful (and de-inspirational, if that's a word) while the Star Wars ones feel fresh and original, there's simply no question that there was a lot of silliness in the Marvel comics too.

Good cases in point are pretty much every scheme Baron Orman Tagge came up with in his quest to both defeat the Rebel Alliance and make Darth Vader look like a fool. I love the character of Baron Tagge and I have very fond memories for the issues in which he and his family figure prominently, but, if one were to be objective, you'd have to admit that it's no wonder the Baron never succeeded. His schemes were bizarre, even within the context of the much more loosey-goosey Star Wars universe.

For example, there's building a base with a giant turbine inside a gas giant:

The gas giant in question was "Yavin Prime," around which Yavin IV rotated. Apparently, after the defeat of the Death Star, the Rebels remained on the same moon rather than bugging the hell out of there. More strangely, the Empire, its Death Star having been defeated, just shrugged its collective shoulders and decided, "They're obviously too powerful to stop" and never went back with a huge star fleet to bombard the place from orbit. So, Baron Tagge decides to destroy the Rebel base by building his own base inside Yavin Prime, protected by this giant turbine that creates a safe pocket within its atmosphere but one the Rebels can't find or enter, thereby giving him free rein to attack Yavin with small squads of TIE fighters. Sure, why not? It's certainly no crazier than the Empire just ignoring Yavin IV entirely.

Then there was "Omega Frost," a mad science device that froze everything and which Tagge tested out on Tattooine (note the Imperial troop transport toy product placement in this issue):

He also tested it out in space, as you can see here:

Yes, that is really goofy. There's really no way around that.

Eventually, thanks to Tagge's crazy schemes, his family acquired a well-deserved reputation for being nuts and Darth Vader decides to take full advantage of this by using the Baron's little sister, who was living in seclusion as an intergalactic nun to preserve her innocence -- no, I'm not making this up -- as a trap to lure Luke Skywalker to his doom. You can draw whatever conclusions from that that you wish.

Vader's scheme doesn't work any better than Tagge's did, but at least he does manage to get the Baron killed in the process, so it's not a total loss. And while I do appreciate the fact that the Marvel writers at least had the gumption to kill off their new villains rather than fall in love with them and contrive new ways to keep them alive and coming back for more beyond all reason (unlike some writers I could name), the fact remains that, for all their good qualities, the Tagge family weren't exactly playing with a full deck. Giant turbines? Freeze rays? It's not exactly awe-inspiring stuff, is it?


  1. I had no idea there were so many issues involving Tagge. I almost feel like tracking them down now, freeze rays and all. Thanks! :)

  2. What is it with Luke and red headed femme fatales? I used to read the comic between Empire and Jedi and there was another romantic entanglement with a red headed Imperial spy named Shira Brie. Then in the post Jedi comics and novels they have Mara Jade.

    Maybe a better question is why the Empire kept using red headed spies. You'd think eventually Luke would get a complex about them.

  3. Marvel was notorious for product placement. Take note of the Transformer series. The first 6 issues seemed like genuine story plots. But After the first year, the current selling toys were thrust into the story for no apparent reason. By the end of it all those comics were all pretty much glorified ads.

  4. Hmmm... That last page, with Vader and the red-head. Who did the art on that one? It looks vaguely Willingham-ish.

  5. I actually kind of like the base within the atmosphere of the gas giant, although I think the story itself could have been better ;)

    I'm pretty sure that was Carmine Infantino drawing that last image.

  6. What is it with Luke and red headed femme fatales?

    I think a better question is what is it with comic book writers and red-headed femmes fatales?

  7. I'm pretty sure that was Carmine Infantino drawing that last image.

    It is. Infantino did most of the art for the first 40 or so issues of the Marvel series.

  8. I loved when Marvel Star Wars hit 50 or was 100...they brought back that Nun/Whore (not meaning to be respectful) in a special Omnibus adventure called Crimson something or other. And, as zany as those adventures were they were the stuff that could only grow out of the superhero genre and yet be completely believable. It was pure gold Space Fantasy with a space opera coating on top. And, it makes very happy that so-called Extended Universe pay homage to Marvel with wink and nudge here and there.

    Back to Old School, I think, this in part is what the old school is about...not finding the rule or science but allowing people to suspend their belief for a moment...accepting some sort of explanation - however, improbable it might seem then there must some goodness in it (to modify S. Holmes deduction method). Game design has focused perhaps in explaining things than simply saying it is so.

    As a Hard SF Traveller fan, there are parts of Star Wars, I cannot stomach but other parts gain my undying praise. As Loren Wiseman recounts in a New Hope the Falcon goes into hyperspace, he and Marc and the whole audience gave the special effect a standing ovation. Funny how participation in movies along with role playing games has shifted...why is that... Essentially, no film or RPG leaves much to the imagination any more - save the old school games or some of the more interesting films (compare Pandorum with Avatar**). Much more was suggested then spelled out.

    The comics and old school games may have added plot points but they did not advance a narrative save, within maintaining consistency from one issue to the next because they did not know what was happening in the studios. Similarly, until the Hickman Revolution, there was plotting along but little in the way of narrative.

    I would argue the advancement of narrative represented a maturing of the genre - others, I know disagree.

  9. endnotes:
    *nun/whore as in the classical literature reference to the fallen woman who might yet possess virtue and the one appearing to be virtuous but in fact will betray you in the next instance.

    **Even the name Avatar suggests that we are no longer in charge of our own bodies rather we are letting the machines take over. Avatar was a visual feast but cinematography-wise it was cheap parlor tricks whereas Pandorum used some of those same tricks but also put the characters front & centre - and created mood, atmosphere, narrative - through the characters' voices not merely hammering it to the audience.

  10. Wasn't Shira Brie a Tagge? Or am I confusing the red-headed vixens?

  11. I once sat in on a SWRPG seminar with Bill Slavicek who was asked how was it working on material in the SW universe. His reply was guarded, but he give an analogy about how it was like playing with your Star Wars toys in a driveway, that you could play however you wanted but at sometime your father's car (George Lucas) was going to rumble on in so you had best keep your toys (ideas/gaming material/stoires)well out of the way so they don't get run over.
    Certainly the first SW movie opened the door into the universe of Star Wars and gave us a peek into its mysteries. We had to use our imagination to define those mysterious areas, which of course makes them highly personal and subjective. The thing about SW and similar genres is that they are and always will be some else's personal and subjective fantasies/daydreams. I look at the comics and fiction as part of those daydreams of a Galaxy far far away...

  12. You make a good case James. But I doubt anyone has said "Star Wars is great, but you know what would make it better? Don Quixote and Bugs Bunny."