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When Star Wars was a limitless, Jar-Jar-less, Hayden-Christensen-less horizon of possibility – Marvel Age #4 & #10

August 12, 2012

1983 was an interesting year in the life of Star Wars. It saw the release of the last film of the original trilogy (and, as it turns out, the last non-embarrassing entry, Ewoks notwithstanding), and the concurrent anticipation and “where do we go from here” hand-wringing that bookended it. I can’t say that I was truly conscious of any of this apart from the movie itself. Though I saw the movie (it remains to this day the only of the originals, Special Editions and all, that I’ve seen in a theater), the rest was above my little kid pay grade. Perhaps because of this, I found the articles in these two issues of Marvel Age, one coming before Return of the Jedi, the other after, extremely interesting. They’re a window into the penumbra of fandom, long before there was any expanded universe to speak of, and no sections in your local Barnes & Noble devoted solely to assembly line Star Wars paperbacks.

And there are a number of other minor reasons why these two issues are noteworthy, as we’ll see.

First, 1983 wasn’t only famous Jedi. It also had the memorable large-scale inter-company clash of the Avengers and the Justice League of America. REMEMBER?:

There was only a twenty-year delay in getting it into your hands. That’s a long wait to finally revel in the above-mentioned Flash/Quicksilver duel that absolutely no one cared about.

Now. Star Wars.

One of the big things that we have to keep in mind is that our 1983 forefathers didn’t have our hindsight clouding one of the most famous reveals in cinema history. At the close of The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader had, as we all know, revealed to young Luke Skywalker that, horror of horrors, he was his father, which shattered our young hero’s world. And blew some minds in the audience. Now it’s a part of movie lore, but then the veracity of it was still up in the air. Was Vader lying? Was it really true? Was it just that Lucas hadn’t really planned ahead all that well when Obi-Wan Kenobi told Luke Vader killed Papa Skywalker (DINGDINGDING)? This inset from the coming soon blurbs will attest to the confusion:

(A few years ago people realized that, with Google archiving old Usenet posts, there was an archival treasure trove of impressions formed by the internet-users of the early 1980s. All five or so of them. It’s a bit like reading old telegraph dispatches, but it’s nevertheless interesting for a minute or two. Dig enough and you can find people wondering about the whole Vader/Luke parentage angle.)

As for the article previewing Jedi — written by the still paying-his-dues Peter David, at that time a non-creative cog in the Marvel machine — it not only represents the first and last time that itwould be placed alongside the engagingly bizarre Rock & Rule, but also gives some insight into the secrecy around the film, with a select few granted access to the inner sanctum, secret handshakes and all. Read all about it, NOW COMPLETE WITH 100% MORE EMPTY WORD BALLOON PREVIEW PANELS:

And then there came the lingering aftertaste, as the comic series spun out into its bizarre and now apocryphal post-Jedi universe, some denizens of which can be seen on the cover below:

The accompanying article is notable for the creative impulses driving the series editor and writer, as they talk about new directions, the movie sequels that everyone used to think were around the corner but Lucas killed (claiming they were never really planned), story angle vetoes from Lucasfilm, and HOOJIBS, BABY:

The end result of all this was, as we now know, that the series, without a going concern film franchise to gird it, petered out in a couple of years, leaving Star Wars fandom a barren wasteland. Then the Timothy Zahn Thrawn Trilogy of sequels hit bookshelves, and things ramped up again. For better or for worse. (For my broader thoughts on Star Wars and comics and the magnificent originality of this era, see the Empire adaptation discussion here. I don’t want to rehash it. Ibid., I guess.

There you go. Old-timey Star Wars fandom. They Way We Were.

For an unrelated finale, I’ll leave you with this, should you want to travel back in time and join the House of Ideas on the creative side. Ben Grimm is doing his best Uncle Sam impersonation here, and check out the hoops you have to jump through to audition as a colorist — Herculean:

I think I’d just try to be an astronaut instead. Easier.

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