Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Super-Blog Team-Up - Growing up Star Wars

It's with great pleasure that my humble little Crapbox, my blog about the lost books found floating in quarter bins, joins forces with  the best comic blogs on the internet to celebrate the release of the new Star Wars movie with a cross-posting extravaganza!

Welcome to the Super-Blog Team-Up: Star Wars edition! Be sure to check out the links to spectaular comic book blogs celebrating this, the greatest sci fi-fantasy movie series ever made, below the regular article.

For regular readers of the Crapbox, you're in for a treat. Kid's Stuff has hit the high point with this one.  

The main two powerhouses in the toy business are still left. Each has product lines of such depth that they’ve not been off the market since release and are so common that they are easily overlooked. I know because I overlooked them the first time I did this list. Let’s add the head cheese to the list and see how this stacks up:

Top Toy Licenses made into Comics:

1. Star Wars 
2. <product to be named later> 
3. Transformers
4. G I Joe
5. Pokemon

I was ten in 1977 when 20th Century Fox released Star Wars in theaters. We were on an out-of-town trip to see my sister. I remember my Dad and brother-in-law taking me to see it. This incredible buzz surrounded the film even though it was in the second week of release. I’d started the Alan Dean Foster/George Lucas novelization a day earlier, so I thought I was prepared for it.

Boy, was I wrong.

The sound, acting, action, cinematography, effects…everything blew me away. Not hard to believe, since the original Star Wars remains highly regarded even with the glut of new sci-fi movies that are made yearly full of bloated CGI effects. 

It is just that good.

Back then sci-fi anything was a rarity. Sure, you might find Star Trek, Lost in Space or the European imports UFO or Space:1999 on television IF you were lucky. 

But big budget quality science fiction movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Planet of the Apes were few and far between. Heck, sci fi movies of any kind were scarce, even low budget B-movies. Special effects were known to break budgets and make recouping the studio’s investment a hard fought battle. 

So to have a movie in this genre that actually lived up to its hype was like getting extra presents at Christmas.

And speaking of extra presents, Star Wars merchandise definitely delivered. It was the franchise that took the world by storm. The mountains of action figures, posters, comic books, lunch pails, school supplies, vehicles and games were just astounding. 

It was a juggernaut, unstoppable and all powerful. 

I can remember buying up the first series of action figures (Yes, I still have them, but some of the light sabers are a bit chewed. What can I say? As a kid I had an oral fixation.), the toy x-wing fighter, and a landspeeder. 

Years later, I got beat up in middle school for sporting a Star Wars digital watch. My room had a big mirror showing R2D2 and C3PO standing in the desert on Tatooine. I thought nothing of putting on John William’s movie score while relaxing. 

Since those tender years I’ve bought a whole mess of the expanded universe Star Wars novels and comic books. These days, I find myself sharing Lego Star Wars and Star Wars: Battlefront video games with my kid.

If there’s one thing I’m thankful for it’s that I grew up basking in the warm glow of Lucas’s first trilogy.

And if there’s one thing that tarnishes that glow ever so slightly, it’s the thought that Lucas screwed all that up with three sequels bled of all the magic and wonder that the first movie engendered.

 Melt it! Melt it! Kill it with FIRE!

I’m not going to go into the how or why I think the prequels are bad. Mr. Plinket at RedLetterMedia (NSFW) already covered that. I’ll leave that laundry to dirty up another blog. 

What I will go into is this:


Kid's Stuff, Part XVI and Tie-Ins, Part VI:  
Star Wars Empire #26

Luke Skywalker and Red Squadron kick it old-school style

What this blog is about is comics and the Star Wars comics have been around in various incarnations since the very beginning.

I actually had the first 9 issues of Marvel’s original series that came out weeks ahead of the movie's release. I read them to death as a kid. And by "to death" I mean the comics disintegrated I read them so much. The first six were an adaptation of the movie in all its glory with art by Howard Chaykin. 

The next two were a solo Solo story that reworked The Seven Samurai and the 9th issue started a Luke story arc. Sadly I never got to find out what happened to him because it was continued in the next issue, which I never found.

Nowadays there are an odd half-dozen Star Wars comics in the back issue bins. Series that do everything from flesh out the clone wars, get the perspective of the bad guys to one-shots of various personalities from that galaxy far, far away. 

I picked this particular issue of Empire  from a half-price bin and it deals with my favorite character out of all the various humans, droids and things in Star Wars: Luke.

I’m an avowed Lukeophile.

I still feel the burn of watching Han make out with Leia in TESB. I still think he could have taken Vader in a rematch. And I’m still not over Lucas giving Luke the secret sister treatment. 

Luke was THE geek’s hero. He is idealistic, naive and courageous. Luke loses everything in the course of the first (second? How do we count these again?) trilogy: his home, his girl and his innocence. He’s left with unimaginable power and two broken down robots. Poor Luke got the short shift. The “Expanded Universe” of the novels give Luke a happier ending, but sadly they will never be filmed. And as for the new film…who knows?

This particular issue of Empire focuses on Luke’s adventures as a member of Red Squadron and takes place somewhere between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. The art by Adriana Melo and Nicola Scott is great eye candy and by the looks of this one book, Ron Marz has written a pretty intriguing beginning as the first part of a three issue story arc. We start everything off with a shadowy figure in a lush jungle-like setting observing some rebel ships landing. These turn out to be four x-wings and a shuttle. One of the x-wings is piloted by none other than this guy.

The art through-out the issue is this quality. I’d heard other people disparage all the Star Wars titles except for the Legacy book. If this is the caliber of the art, I’m sure pictures are not the problem. This isn’t a photo-realistic Luke shown here, but the artist does capture the wonder, youth and exuberance of a 20-something Hamill. So if the art isn’t the problem…uh oh! Let's see where the story is going.

Wait, what? If the planet is so remote, why does that make it a good listening post? That’s like saying to catch German radio transmissions during WWII the US should have setup a listening post at the South Pole. Because the Germans would never look for it there! Never mind that the only thing you are going hear from that vantage point are penguin farts. I guess the rebels have mysterious technobabble something-or-other that makes stuff like this logical. Sort of like how explosions in airless space make sounds in the Star Wars universe. So far I can agree the plot’s a bit odd, but not bad enough to mean throwing the book out.

Luke is bored and curious (sort of like that monkey in those children’s books.), so the commander gives him the go ahead to explore a bit. He does warn him with a “Just don’t wander TOO far.” line that seems a mite corny. Luke doesn’t heed this advice of course and gets into trouble. Then the man in the yellow hat has to come and get him…wait, I think I’ve confused this book with the one I’m reading my six year-old niece at bedtime. Here’s what happens to Luke.

Yup, he finds a dragonfly. And a slue of mass graves. And the crashed wreckage of a downed clone trooper transport plane. And the lost Ark of the Covenant, which he snatches up and then shouts “You’ll never get it Harrison! This is for stealing all my romance scenes with Carrie!” after which he cracks open the top and drops in an activated thermal detonator while cackling with glee. (okay, maybe not that last part, but definitely the graves and the ship.)

Unable to find anyone aboard the wreckage, Luke decides that running away is the better part of valor. He takes off to apprise the commander of his find. Meanwhile a figure can be seen parting the foliage to check out Luke’s butt. No one will be surprised when this turns out to be a lone clone trooper who’s been doing a Robinson Crusoe on this uncharted planet for years. I mean it’s either him or that lost Fed-Ex guy from Castaway.

Luke doesn’t get much of a chance to tell anyone anything, however. Why? Because Red Squadron is about to “TIE” one on with some fighters from the Empire. I guess the rebel’s plan about using remote planets has been found out.

Yeah, that’s a beautiful shot there. Right down to the neon-green laser beams. I’m not seeing a reason to diss this book. It’s predictable, but it delivers what a fan would want from a Star Wars title. The TIEs strafe our poor rebels and only two X-Wings get off the ground in time. Luke and the commander are stranded as their troubles go from bad to worse. An Imperial shuttle sets down near their position. The bay opens and out pops their worst nightmare.

That’s right! The complete cast of “STORMTROOPERS: The Musical!” and they are doing synchronized high-kicking as they exit the shuttle. You have to admit that panel looks a bit strange. First time the art lets me down in the book and it has to be making our villains look like a line of preening chorus girls. They better do something to gain back their menace and quick.

Good! So they are basically razing the entire jungle. That’s pretty menacing. I’ll notch them back up, but no more of this limp-wristed lolly-gagging around or I’ll pee in all your helmets. Note that our shadowy figure has returned.

Our mystery man decides to suit up, goes back to his ship and gets into this getup. He surprises the Empire troopers who must have forgotten what military uniforms looked like from a mere 20-25 years ago. One of them takes a pot shot at the poor guy. In truth, the Imperial Officer with them screams “It’s a trick”, but why shoot at the dude when you could just as easily order him to stand down and drop his weapon. Lone Clone proceeds to tromp on the face of the trooper who shot at him and then disappears into the brush.

Meanwhile Luke has some trouble coming his way.

You know, I always thought that one determined Jedi could fight off hordes of clone troopers, giant bug men or robotic solider droids. I wonder where I got that idea? *taps index finger on chin* Oh well, I guess this book wants to realistically portray the power levels of a Jedi.
Our two heroes get chased to the edge of a cliff, strafed by a TIE and then narrowly escape a fiery crash before finally dropping into a pit to rest. Only then do they find they aren’t the only ones using it as a hidey-hole.

And that's where this issue ends...

There are still ongoing comic series in the Star Wars universe. Its products still line shelves in toy stores nationwide. My hope is that they always will. That someone will always come along and renew this cosmos of sci-fi tinged with fantasy that took place a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far way.

Special thanks to @Charlton_Hero and my fellow bloggers for inviting me to play with the Super-Blog Team Up crew. Surly I'll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy anywhere in the known universe. May the Force be with you all!

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