Welcome back to The Weird and Wonderful Worlds of Marvel’s Star Wars. Last time, we looked at the original movie and how it was adapted into a 6 issue comic book by Roy Thomas and Howard Chaykin. It was fairly normal, aside from when it turned out the menacing slug Jabba the Hutt turned out to actually be a yellow furry alien guy.
Marvel asked for fan-mail with those early issues. It wouldn’t be until issue 7 when we got actual fan-mail published, but it looks like the breakout characters of Star Wars were Han Solo and Chewbacca! How can we guess? Well, the first story that branched out from the original movie focused exclusively on them!
Now, interestingly, Roy Thomas would admit in the eighth issue’s letter column that he didn’t just make these upcoming issues from whole cloth. He spent a ton of time on the set with George Lucas and the “Star Wars project director” Charles Lippincott about how the comics had been handled thus far, and possible ideas for the future. Further, he also spent time with Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill to ask about what they would like to see their characters get up to. No mention was made of Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, or any other cast, but we can hope he did interview them as well. During this time immediately after the first Star Wars movie, George Lucas was already starting to plan out the second movie and what would become The Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. As such, plot outlines would have to be shot by George Lucas’ desk before being ok’d and run with.
As this was before the disaster that was The Star Wars Holiday Special, it’s safe to guess that he was a lot laxer on what could happen.
The first original Star Wars story not written by George Lucas is titled New Planets, New Perils! and was worked on by Roy Thomas and Howard Chaykin, who shared plotting while they split on writing and art duties. Frank Springer is credited as an Embellisher, while Carl Gafford is the colorist. Joe Rosen also worked on the letters, and Archie Goodwin is credited here as being a consulting editor to balance out Roy Thomas’ editorial duties.
With the Death Star destroyed, and a delightfully large reward given to them for helping, Han and Chewbacca are gone. Luke and Leia would like for Han and Chewie to help establish a new rebel base, but they say their farewells and let the two blast off into space. Why? Well, Thomas and Chaykin want to address the first dangling plot thread in the Star Wars tapestry: Han’s debt to Jabba!
Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for something to go wrong. It looks like Lucas wasn’t a fan of tying up that plot point, so Han and Chewie are ambushed by space pirates almost immediately on their way to find Jabba.
Chaykin completely nails the design schema of the prequel trilogy completely by accident, making some majestic and sleek ships that look closer to modern airplanes. It’s really cool, even if they’re just random background vehicles. Amusingly, these space pirates have also jacked an Imperial Star Destroyer, and are using whatever small fighters they can get their hands on. These pirates, among whom is even a former stormtrooper, are led by the ruthless Crimson Jack! Clad in the best that space-1970s can offer, he and his first mate Jolli take the very treasure that the Rebel Alliance had given Han and Chewbacca.
Now broke and again in debt to Jabba, but still alive, Han decides to have the two of them hide out on one of the worlds of the Outer Rim. Landing on the slum world of Aduba-3, it doesn’t take long for Han and his Wookiee friend to get into trouble. They come across a funeral being interrupted by restless natives, and for what they feel is a good reason: a Borg funeral. A cyborg has recently died, and this old alien priest is trying to get him buried, but the locals detest any combination of flesh and machine. However, there is a lovely tradition that whatever the body had at the time of death goes to those who bury him. And who is Han Solo to say no to money?
After a massive brawl in the city, Han and Chewie are able to help the old priest take the body to a secure area. It’s a nice little scene, and the entire issue is a delight when it comes to galaxy-building for Star Wars. We learn some new space-slang when Han shows respect to the priest, and even see someone be buried.
But now that they’re paid, Han and Chewie are looking to get laid!
But before Han Solo can get some Comics Code Authority approved lovin’, he’s jumped by a bunch of people in the bar! You see, Han was hitting on someone else’s woman and we enter the eighth issue of Star Wars: Eight for Aduba-3. Tom Palmer takes over as inker and colorist for this issue, while John Costanza joins on lettering.
Han gets into a fantastic little barroom brawl, only for it to be broken up when Chewbacca joins in and lets out a Wookiee howl. With the fighting over with, a trio of peasant farmers approach Han with the desire to hire a protector. You see, their farms are being menaced by the horrible, malevolent, Sergio Aragones.
My editor has corrected me. It’s actually Serji-X Arrogantus.
You can see how I could get confused. My apologies.
The Arrogant One has been raiding the local villages with his outlaws, terrorizing them. This includes stealing Banthas, burning crops, and even stealing women with implications of rape. Han makes a few snappy remarks, but agrees to help if he can hire some others to assist.
What happens is Han assembles an eclectic eight, all beings who don’t have an issue with fighting for pay. Rather than stick to established aliens in Star Wars, Thomas and Chaykin have chosen to experiment! The first companion to join is Hedji, a bipedal porcupine that fires quills as a weapon.
A previously unmentioned old friend of Han and Chewie also joins. She is Amaiza, the den-mother of the Black Hole Gang. True to old friends who deal in the grey market, Han thought she was dead.
Don-Wan Kihotay also wishes to help, calling himself a Jedi Knight. Yes. This is Don Quixote. In Star Wars.
If this wasn’t strange enough, we also have Jaxxon. Jaxxon is a 6-foot tall space rabbit dressed in red, and actually may be a knockoff of 80s independent comic character Bucky O’Hare. This is a complicated little story, but records show that Larry Hama and Michael Golden had the character concept for Bucky O’Hare pitched to DC in 1977, but it was rejected. Comics being one big family, it’s likely they shopped the idea around to Marvel as well. The fact that Marvel chose to spin this character out in November of that year, it seems to be more than a coincidence.
Finally, we have Jimm the Starkiller Kid and his droid companion FE-90, a treaded droid known as Effie.
That’s right, Han recruits an expy of Luke Skywalker, using the nickname that George Lucas once planned to give to Luke. Effie is a weird combination of C-3PO and R2, except he actually has the same sardonic personality that would later be adopted by K-2SO from Rogue One. Han calls himself out on the fact that Jimm could be a replacement for Luke, wondering how the real Luke is doing.
Luke is actually voyaging off in a miniature version of the Corellian Corvette ship seen in the opening of the first movie, jetting around the Galaxy to try and find a new base for the rebels. He, too, misses Han and wonders how he’s doing.
I really have to wonder if this is the Star Wars equivalent to Kirk/Spock shipping.
Serji-X Arrogantus tries to bribe Han and the others to his side as the group finally gathers, thanks to a tip-off from the bar, but they all refuse. This brings us to issue 9: Showdown on a Wasteland World! Howard Chaykin and Tom Palmer share illustration credits now on this issue, but the crew remains the same.
The motley crew are riding banthas to the remote village, and Don-Wan has somehow found the time to make sure he’s in full armor and carrying his Jedi Lance.
Their peaceful journey is interrupted by a flock of high-hounds, a bunch of man-bird monstrosities that are trying to devour the village’s crops. The group is easily defeated, and the crew seems to be bonding. Jaxxon flirts shamelessly with Amaiza, and Han even finds the time to rescue a sword and sorcery-designed bikini babe.
We’re sure this comic is for kids, right? I’m guessing Harrison Ford asked that Thomas toss in a lot of women throwing themselves at Han.
Off in space, Luke and his droids are exploring the space above the water planet Drexel for a new base location. However, his transmission to Leia is cut off, and his ship vanishes! Leia doesn’t even wait to see if it was a technical malfunction, and commandeers a ship for herself to go rescue Luke.
Back on Aduba-3, Han and his Space-Hoppers are now defending the village from The Arrogant One’s band of crooks. While Han and the new characters are all on foot, the outlaws ride hoverbikes, making it easy pickings for them. It also doesn’t help that they’re outnumbered. To ramp up the tension, the first of our heroes fall.
And another joins Effie.
Meanwhile, the shaman of the small space village has been chanting and wailing at an altar. Thinking him insane, he’s been ignored. Finally, the old one speaks, and the nearby mountain rips asunder.
That cliffhanger brings us to issue 10: Behemoth From The World Below. Don Glut takes over this issue as a scripter, but Thomas and Chaykin are still the main plotters of the story. Alan Kupperberg is credited with layouts, which are like the storyboard of a comic. Françoise Mouly is also credited as the colorist, going under the easier-to-fit-on-the-page F Mouly.
The behemoth begins swatting down the outlaws, and Han notices they’re beneath the beast’s notice. He isn’t sure if it’s because of the shaman, or if it’s blind luck at this point, but he’s going to question it. This, unfortunately, changes when the shaman and Serji-X are both crushed at the same time, underfoot of the creature.
Now without a proverbial master, the village and even the world are in danger. Han and everyone stay behind shelter while debating what to do, but Don-Wan charges at the beast with his blade alight. Hedji the Spinner tries to assist, but is vaporized by the behemoth’s forehead laser.
Because it has one. Star Wars!
It turns out something about the lightsaber is driving the beast nuts, making it miss Don-Wan completely. Chewie carries Han out to Don-Wan, and Han takes the lightsaber out of the old man’s hands. Running like a maniac toward the monster, Han makes a running leap and stabs it in the chest, the lightsaber buried to the hilt.
With the village saved, Han and the survivors depart. Han muses that the whole ordeal wasn’t so bad. After all, at least for a little while, he got to feel like a Jedi Knight.
Oh, and Princess Leia both misses Luke and wishes Han was there to help. These side stories of the other main cast members will take the forefront with the next issue, but first: something only slightly different.
We will skip ahead slightly in our coverage to check out a solo issue that ties in with this storyline. Issue 16, The Hunter, actually returns the story to Aduba-3 and revisits Jimm, Jaxxon, and Amaiza. By this time, Archie Goodwin has taken the dual duties of editor and writer. Walter Simonson and Bob Wiacek are the artists of the issue, with Bob Sharen as colorist and Denise Wohl as letterer. Jim Shooter has also taken over as the consulting editor for this issue.
Our issue opens on Valance. He’s a bounty hunter leading a team, and is currently destroying a medical facility to eliminate his past. He takes a particular interest in wiping out droids, and shows no hesitation to destroy the central computer core either. One of the hunters along with Valance overhears a delirious old man. It’s Don-Wan!
Well, it sounds like someone has a tip on a hot new bounty! Valance and his men blow up the facility, which also kills off Don-Wan Kihotay, much to everyone’s lament. Valance and his men target Jaxxon, figuring it’s easy to find a gigantic, green, carnivorous space rabbit. I mean, they’re not wrong.
Jaxxon is bailed out by Amaiza, and the book takes time to show they’ve been hanging out since their last job. And are now very friendly. Realizing the kid they’re talking about has to be Jimm the Starkiller Kid, they head to Aduba-3 and warn him. Jimm is rather shocked, as he’s settled down with a local girl, and even has a kid on the way.
On the way to Aduba-3 himself, Valance flashes back to his own mysterious past. He was once a trooper in the Empire, an officer. However, an outworld skirmish would end his career. He was heavily injured at the hands of a Rebel torpedo, and nearly died. Instead, he lived. And that, somehow, was why he could not serve again. It’s really interesting stuff!
The Empire has also put out a videotape with the footage of those terrorists who damaged the Death Star: Leia, Han, Chewie, some mysterious old man, and a boy with droids. This being so far back in the franchise’s origins, it’s hilarious to see a complete lack of connection between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. And, of course, seeing the boy being so friendly with his droids enrages Valance even further.
After a massive space battle, and a large ground battle that reduces Valance’s marauders to just himself. He confronts Jimm, only to realize he looks nothing like the man the Empire wants. Valance realizes he’s ruined himself, only to suddenly launch a laser blast out of his arm!
Valance flees, leaving everyone miraculously alive. Jimm, Jaxxon, and Amaiza are confused, but are glad that they came out alive. However, there’s a Twilight Zone level twist to our story. The droid hater Valance? Well. He’s not who he seemed.
Delicious. These five comics are fantastic, and that’s even when comparing them to the modern content put out by Marvel Comics. While the plot ranges from generic to Twilight Zone, the execution of the story and the fleshing out of the universe is nothing short of amazing. Making a space-Dirty-Dozen with Han Solo the loner trying to bring a team of weird pop culture references, a Luke clone, and anthro animals together? It doesn’t sound good. And who would want to follow up with those guys?
And yet, the execution completely nails it.
When it comes to the impact on the greater universe? These issues are somewhat self-contained. After issue 16, the entire expanded cast introduced here (save Valance) vanished from the comics entirely. Rumor has it that George Lucas himself disliked the giant green rabbit, but the man would approve of teddy bear aliens in 1983’s Return of the Jedi. Oh, and he would also name Chewbacca’s family Mala, Lumpy, and Itchy for the Star Wars: Holiday Special. Considering the decisions made around this time, it’s hard to argue this actually being his fault.
And hey, maybe we’re onto something with the Bucky O’Hare timeline.
Regardless, Jaxxon would become the focal point in the fandom’s distaste for the old Marvel comics. Articles in Star Wars Insider during the late 90s, for example, would constantly name him one of the weirdest and worst ideas of the classic comics. In fact, Marvel would poke fun at his existence being disliked when they re-launched Star Wars in 2015 with a variant cover.
Worry not, however! Jaxxon and Amazia have returned to the current Star Wars canon in recent years. The two of them have been restricted to the prose stories and the Star Wars Adventures books, the latter of which is intended for a much younger audience. This has allowed creators to just play with the rabbit’s pedigree and make for a highly entertaining rogue to help out the Rebels.
Amazia also remains pretty much the same as well, and it’s great to see a strong female character around who doesn’t have to magically belong to a strong force-user family lineage.
Jaxxon even has a slated release soon in the Star Wars Black Series figure line. However, the head sculpt tries to fit in with the current universe design scheme, rather than his cartoony classic self.
Yeah, these issues are all fairly small in the 44 years of Star Wars. However, it’s hard to ignore the heavy impact they had on the franchise and fandom at the time. Join us next time on The Weird and Wonderful Worlds of Marvel’s Star Wars, where we’ll see what happened to Luke and Leia! Water dragons! Swashbuckling swordplay! And a blaster duel in space!
The Tally Count:
Issues Covered: 11
Accidental Incest: 2
Cast Members Killed: 9
Lightsaber-related Injuries: 3