Sunday, January 12, 2014


Several years ago -- I'm guessing ten, but it could have been eight or nine -- on the last day of the San Diego Comic Con, I came across a dealer unloading random Dark Horse STAR WARS trade paperbacks for five dollars a pop. I was (and of course still am) a huge STAR WARS fan and had read several of the novels, but I had never explored the comics. The Marvel series predated my interest in the franchise, and the contemporary Dark Horse stuff was too much to deal with on top of the many Marvels I bought every month.

So, for such a steep discount, I figured -- why not? I grabbed three trades titled CLASSIC STAR WARS, and left the convention with them. I assumed, without taking a close glance at the contents, that they were collections of the Marvel series. However, they turned out to be collections of the STAR WARS newspaper strip, which ran from 1978 to 1984. I wound up with volumes 1 and 3, plus a separate book titled THE EARLY ADVENTURES, which, while published last by Dark Horse, actually collected the first couple years of the strip.
I looked into purchasing volume 2, but didn't want to pay anything resembling full price, after getting such a deal on the other books. When I couldn't find it for such a discount, I went ahead and read the three volumes I had, missing chunk in the middle be darned. I don't recall precisely when I read them -- it could've been just a month later or as much as a year later, but it was probably somewhere in that timespan. I barely remember them now, but I thought it would be fun to revisit the series today and write about it here. I even found that copy of volume 2 at a nice discount, thanks to a decade's passage and the Amazon Marketplace.

So for the next few weeks, we will spend our Fridays "a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away." I'm going to start with the fourth volume, THE EARLY ADVENTURES, since -- as noted above -- even though it was published last by Dark Horse, it was originally published first in newspaper syndication. The stories in that first volume are by the legendary Russ Manning. The three subsequent volume are all written by the just-as-legendary Archie Goodwin (who also spent some time on Marvel's STAR WARS comic -- which I've still never read), with artwork by the great Al Williamson.

I should note that for the publication of these books (orignally printed as monthly comics), Dark Horse rearranged the panels, expanding the art in some cases (with Williamson's permission and assistance for his chapters), and colored the whole thing quite beautifully, to make it all work in standard book dimensions. For those who wish to follow along in the original black and white newspaper strip format, the blog DAILY STAR WARS posted several strips over the course of a few years, though it seems to have gone dormant as of last March.

Note #2: Not every single stripped story arc is present in these four volumes. An adaptation of the novel, HAN SOLO AT STAR'S END, by Goodwin and Williamson, was collected separately by Dark Horse, as it was a prequel (even in 1980...!) and unrelated to the "modern day" segments of the strip. Dark Horse also omitted the majority of the early Sunday strips from their collection, which comprised a separate story arc featuring Han Solo and Chewbacca on Chewie's homeworld of Kashyyyk.

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