All this month, we’ll be helping Children’s Hospital Los Angeles‘ Make March Matter campaign, which aims to raise over a million dollars in March alone for CHLA through the efforts of its corporate partners, among which we are proud to be numbered. Children’s Hospital Los Angeles sees over 528,000 patient visits annually, and is the top ranked pediatric hospital in California by US News & World Report. You can help Make March Matter by simply attending one of the many events or participating in one of the many initiatives being offered by CHLA’s partners (including our event on Saturday, March 17), all listed at www.makemarchmatter.org.
To help remind us all to Make March Matter to support children’s health, we’ll be focusing on kids’ comics and childhood favorites, because we firmly believe that escaping into literature is just as important in keeping children healthy and happy.
If you’re old enough to remember the late 1980s, you’ll recall that for Star Wars fans, it was a bleak period. Return of the Jedi had left theaters, with no new films announced; L. Neil Smith’s Lando Calrissian trilogy had completed its run, with no new novels on the horizon; and Marvel Comics’ long-running Star Wars comic book line was coming to a close. The franchise’s 1991 rebirth was right around the corner, but for the most part, fans hungry for more stories found themselves short on sustenance for a while.
The ’80s were dominated by cutesy cartoons, which had a noticeable effect on a number of franchises, Star Wars among them. The teddy bears of Endor’s Forest Moon starred in two telefilms, Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure and Ewoks: The Battle for Endor, while Nelvana produced a pair of animated series for the kiddies, titled Star Wars: Droids and Star Wars: Ewoks (later re-named The All-New Ewoks). It was still Star Wars in many respects, and some of it was even fun. It wasn’t quite as bad as the Star Wars Holiday Special, but it certainly wasn’t The Empire Strikes Back, either.
The Ewoks and Droids Adventure Hour, as the one-hour block containing both shows was called, spun off a variety of storybooks, as well as comic books from Marvel’s Star Comics imprint. These lined store shelves everywhere and were easy to find, but another set of comics based on Droids and Ewoks remained entirely off most fans’ radar until a few years ago—because it was only available in Spain. Editorial Gepsa, a Spanish publisher, produced an anthology comic in 1986 titled MyComyc, which ran for eight issues and featured two-page stories based on multiple cartoons, such as Inspector Gadget, The Pink Panther, Tom and Jerry, and Spain’s David the Gnome. MyComyc also offered new adventures of R2-D2, C-3PO, and Wicket the Ewok.
Although the writers remain unidentified, Beaumont C. de B., a studio that illustrated Spanish Droids and Ewoks pop-up books for Editorial Roma, supplied the artwork. The series was edited by Lourdes Ribes, printed by L. Roses S.A. and distributed by Midesa, with promotion and publicity provided by Mercantil Cuatro S.A. (Chances are good you won’t know most of those names unless you’re from Spain, but there you go.)
History often repeats itself, and when it comes to Ewoks and Droids, that has certainly been the case. While the Droids cartoon was canceled after only a single season, Ewoks returned for season two, and while Marvel’s Droids comic lasted for only eight issues, its Ewoks line continued for almost twice that number. So it’s not surprising that the same was true of MyComyc, which included Droids tales in its first seven issues, but Ewoks in all eight. We already know that nothing out-lasts the Energizer bunny, not even Darth Vader. Apparently, nothing out-lasts Ewoks either, not even R2-D2.
In total, MyComyc produced thirty pages of new Star Wars story material, plus two Star Wars-centric covers—one featuring Threepio and Artoo, the other Teebo the Ewok. A reprint edition collected all eight MyComyc issues, with Wicket and the Droids sharing a birthday cake with other animated characters on the cover. Ironically, Mickey Mouse was among them, prophetically setting the stage for Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm.
So, how were the stories? Well… keep in mind that each was only two pages long and aimed at the same audience as Inspector Gadget. We’re not talking Dark Empire, Heir to the Empire, or The New Jedi Order here. Typically, each villain did something dastardly on page one, then was foiled on page two—and that’s it. Even by Ewoks and Droids standards, MyComyc was rather silly (if you’ve watched the cartoons, you know that’s saying something). One story, for instance, introduced an evil scientist who scrapped droids for no other apparent reason than that he liked doing so. Another involved a villain vandalizing the artwork of young Ewoks while gloating “Ha, ha! I am so evil!”
In other words, the strips were not quite Shakespeare. But despite a few problems in terms of continuity—Koong (from the Droids TV series) was now a green-skinned reptile, Morag was now male, and Jann Tosh had a completely different appearance—they successfully emulated the cartoons’ aesthetic. These snafus aside, the strips felt like authentic Ewoks and Droids. So how is it that these tales are virtually unknown among Star Wars fandom? Mainly, it’s because they were never published in English and received limited distribution even in Spain.
Had it not been for the efforts of Spanish fan Adolfo Rodriguez in 2012, we still wouldn’t know about them. Rodriguez posted a note at Dark Horse Comics’ forum, letting English-speaking fans know of the strips’ existence. He and fellow fan Eddie van der Heijden then provided Dark Horse’s VP of publishing, Randy Stradley, with scans so the publisher could consider having them translated for reprint purposes, while Echoes of the Jedi co-author Jean-François Boivin procured the actual comics in case Dark Horse needed them.
Stradley was intrigued, and he checked into the feasibility of collecting the strips in omnibus format. However, despite the comics bearing copyright information, Lucasfilm could not verify that Editorial Gepsa had actually licensed the titles, preventing their being reprinted. That’s a shame, as the strips had an air of authenticity that is uncommon among foreign-language bootlegs. If you’ve ever read an Indonesian Star Trek or Planet of the Apes comic, then you’ve seen just how off the mark such bootlegs can be.
For MyComyc, that was certainly not the case. Its Droids and Ewoks line incorporated many secondary characters from the TV shows, including Jord Dusat, Jann Tosh, the Fromm Gang, Kea Moll, Vlix Oncard, Princess Kneesaa, Latara, Chief Chirpa, Teebo, Paploo, Logray, King Gorneesh, and Morag, among others. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that the Quorks, from Marvel’s Ewoks comic, even made an appearance.
Clearly, the writers did their homework, which is not something unlicensed publishers tend to do. A Hindi-language Swamp Thing bootleg, for example, portrayed the DC Comics elemental as a genie-like creature that could be summoned to do others’ biddings, leaving one to wonder if the writer had ever actually read an issue of Swamp Thing. As such, despite Lucasfilm’s inability to locate the necessary paperwork to verify the comics’ legality, it seems quite possible that the MyComyc strips had, in fact, been licensed. If not, then Editorial Gepsa took an unusual amount of care to make the strips fit well with the cartoons, and even with their Marvel spinoffs.
What’s more, Beaumont C. de B., owned by Spanish cartoonist Angel Julio Gomez de Segura Beaumont, is a bona fide art studio, whereas foreign knockoffs are typically drawn by a fly-by-night operations. The studio provided artwork for books produced by Spanish-Italian publisher Grijalbo Mondadori (which later merged with Random House), based on Dinosaucers, a TV co-production between DIC Entertainment and Nelvana. Yep, Nelvana—the company that created not only the animated segment of the Holiday Special, but the Droids and Ewoks cartoons themselves. It’s unthinkable that Nelvana would have maintained a professional relationship with Beaumont regarding one of its properties if the studio were producing unlicensed comics based on another.
In short, a good argument can be made that these strips were officially licensed lore, but given Lucasfilm’s decision in 2012, it’s unlikely the MyComyc line will be officially published in English any time soon. Therefore, in order to make the strips available to fans, I worked with my Star Wars Expanded Universe co-author Abel G. Peña to translate the strips and re-letter them in English. You can download these long-forgotten gems, both the original Spanish versions and their English translations, at my website.
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