Star Wars is everywhere. At least, that’s what it feels like now. It wasn’t always that way.
A long time ago (in the late 70s) in a galaxy not so far away, fans of the game-changing science fiction story didn’t have much to turn to besides the movies. You couldn’t walk to the local video rental store a few months after the movie closed to get your fix either. The first home release of the movies was in 1982 – five years after A New Hope hit theaters! For those of us used to being able to watch movies not very long after they exit the local Cineplex, it’s hard to comprehend. Fans flocked to theaters to see the films again and again to get their fix. Outside that, they dug for any Star Wars material available like tenacious Jawas searching for scraps.
Luckily, Marvel comics picked up the license and channeled the characters into a new medium: comic books. They helped fuel the fervor of fans in 1977 by publishing an adaptation of A New Hope. As the issues flew off the shelves, it became apparent that the decision to make Star Wars comics was a smart one. It’s said that the move may have saved the company’s finances from disaster.
Over the next nine years, Marvel released 107 issues. They adapted the next two films in the saga into comics, and they created original stories. Many featured familiar characters like Luke, Leia, and Han, but Marvel also introduced new faces like Shira Brie. The run stopped in 1986.
Then came the dark times. No comics. No novels. Nothing. I can’t imagine what it was like for fans during that period.
It didn’t change until 1991. In addition to Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire being released, Dark Horse Comics published the first of their Star Wars comics: Dark Empire. The comics branch of the expanded universe has been with them ever since (that may change with the recent Disney acquisition of Lucasfilm). Dark Horse has published hundreds of stories in the beloved galaxy and as with any huge setting and large cast of characters, some of the series have been fantastic (like Legacy) while others have been just entertaining or just okay.
What I’ve loved most about reading Star Wars comics is exploring different time periods within the universe. They’ve jumped between timelines going back to 36,000 years BBY (before the battle of Yavin) to 138 years ABY. You get to experience the beginnings of the Jedi order, tales of the Sith, wars, smuggling trips, and events of varying importance over the years. You get to witness the galaxy recover after the Rebel Alliance defeats the Empire, and you even get to meet Luke’s descendents. And you get to visit so many planets and worlds.
It’s kind of awesome.
In fact, a comic that came out last week reinforces how comics can tell superb stories in the Star Wars universe. Star Wars #1 by Brian Wood and Carlos D’Anda goes back to the roots of the saga to tell a story that takes place just after the end of A New Hope. The Death Star has been destroyed, but the Empire knows about Yavin and the Rebel Alliance is desperately searching for a new base of operations.
Wood captures the tone of the original trilogy from the first page, and D’Anda’s art is vivid and reminds me of early Marvel comics in style if not in colors. The dialogue is paced just right, the story moves forward with tremendous energy, the characters come alive, and it’s just one of those comics where you can’t turn the pages fast enough. At least I couldn’t. It’s exciting, and I haven’t felt this level of enthusiasm about a Star Wars comics in a while.
It probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone that one of my favorite parts about this comic is seeing Leia as an X-wing pilot. She is a devoted leader and diplomat and given her gumption, it doesn’t surprise me at all that she would jump into the role of a solider from time to time. I think she has an adventurous streak so it’s probably as much about getting a break from her regular duties as it is about getting boots on the ground. I’m thrilled to see Leia in this light, and I’m looking forward to reading more of this series!
It’s just one of many examples of the wonderful things Dark Horse has done for the universe we love so dearly, and I hope they get to continue doing so.