In 1978, Marvel had just finished a smash hit six-issue adaptation of STAR WARS, with a droid-hungry public clamoring for more. What to do next? Clearly, the answer was all-new Star Wars adventures, which wound up in the hands of the man who had shephered the arrival of Star Wars to Marvel, writer/editor “Rascally” Roy Thomas.
Roy’s influence on the series isn’t really seen until STAR WARS #7 (January 1978), when Thomas had the daunting task of telling new stories, taking place after the movie’s end. Wisely, Thomas decided to focus the series, at least initially, on Han Solo and Chewbacca, probably figuring that they’d give him the best opportunity for “high adventure” in space.
In a clever device, Thomas had Solo immediately robbed of the reward he’d gotten from the Rebels to pay off Jabba’s debt, forcing the smuggler to lay low and go underground again, dodging bounty hunters and looking for a way to make some quick cash.
On the run, Solo and Chewbacca find themselves on a backwater planet called Aduba-3, where they accept a job fighting off outlaws for a group of poor farmers. As always, Thomas was unable to resist a “homage” to another famous work, and gives the reader a riff on THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (or THE SEVEN SAMURAI, depending on your frame of reference), with Solo recruiting some extra muscle, in “Eight for Aduba-3”:
So who do Han and Chewie sign up? First to join is Hedji, a caped porcupine dude known as a “spiner,” who eschews a blaster in favor of the quills he can fire from his body at will. Next up is Amaiza, former “den-mother” for the Black-Hole Gang, who apparently has a history with Solo. Also looking to join is (I hesitate to even type it) Don-Wan Kihotay, a demented old coot with delusions of having been a Jedi Knight. Next up is Jimm, a Luke Skywalker-type who’s taken to calling himself the “Starkiller Kid.” Yeesh. Jimm is accompanied by a somewhat uppity treadmill droid called FE-9Q, or “Effie” for short.
Solo’s final recruit is – get this – a seven-foot-tall green carnivore rabbit. Named Jaxxon. Or “Jax for short. Which I ain’t.”
Jax the Rabbit. Ay caramba.
As it turns out, this story would be Roy Thomas’ last storyline on STAR WARS, as he reportedly began to dislike the increasing pressure from Lucasfilm for creative control of the series. (The rumor is that George Lucas was none too happy with the seven-foot-tall green rabbit…) With Thomas gone, the series fell into the capable hands of writer Archie Goodwin, who had a much better sensibility for the series. Also joining the series with issue #11 was comics great Carmine Infantino, who may have been a little less arduous on the likenesses, but more than made up for it with the style and dynamic storytelling to the book. Picking up where Thomas left off, Goodwin refocused the series on Luke, who had been considered lost by the Rebels while off searching for a new planet for the Rebel base. Luke and the droids find themselves on a waterworld (a couple of decades before Kevin Costner thought of it, mind you), where technology and the ability to repair it is both shunned and jealously protected. While Luke contends with a Captain Bligh-like warlord and duels with water-breathing dragons (it looks like he’s posing for ‘80s Asia albums)…
…Han and Solo have another encounter with Crimson Jack, the pirate who stole all his treasure back in issue #7, and his man-hating lesbian first mate Jolli, who suddenly finds herself eyeing the manly Captain Solo. Jack has captured Princess Leia, who was off looking for Luke, and soon Leia and Han are manipulating the pirate into continuing the search of for Luke, while Leia and Jolli settle in for a little girl talk.
The group is reunited when they manage to set the warlord, the dragons and Crimson Jack against each other, and after a final zero-g showdown between Solo and Crimson Jack, they’re on their way once more.
The story closes out with a tender if a little creepy moment between Solo and the recently deceased Jolli, who had been killed taking down her former boss’s ship after Jack left her to die in space.
This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Marvel’s Star Wars comics, folks. While the quality of the series varied greatly, especially after Lucasfilm began setting more and more dictates on the storytelling, the series was consistently fun space opera with some pleasantly familiar characters, and back in the day, you couldn’t ask for much more than that for a measly thirty-five cents.