Star Wars (1977 comic book)
Issue #1 cover
|Publication date||April 1977 – May 1986|
|No. of issues||107 (and 3 annuals)|
Star Wars is a comic book series published by Marvel Comics from April 12, 1977 to May 27, 1986. Featuring classic Star Wars characters Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, C-3PO, and R2-D2, the first six issues adapt the May 1977 film Star Wars. The series chronicled their subsequent adventures for 107 issues and three annuals, including a six-issue adaptation of the 1980 sequel film The Empire Strikes Back in 1980–1981. The Star Wars comic was originally written by Roy Thomas with art by Howard Chaykin.
Charles Lippincott, Lucasfilm's publicity supervisor, initially approached publisher Stan Lee at Marvel Comics in 1975 about publishing a Star Wars comic book prior to the film's release as a means to appeal to its most likely audience. Lee initially declined to consider such a proposal until the film was completed, and was only persuaded otherwise in a second meeting arranged by Roy Thomas in 1976, who was a big fan of space opera and comics like Planet Comics, wanted to edit the series. Thomas said Lee greenlighted the project when he heard Alec Guinness would be involved. Since movie tie-in comics rarely sold well at that time, Lee negotiated a publishing arrangement which gave no royalties to Lucasfilm until sales exceeded 100,000. At that point, legal arrangements could be revisited. The comic gave Marvel a much needed income during a time when the whole comic industry suffered because of rising newsprint costs and a declining number of retail outlets like traditional newsstands and mom and pop stores until the direct market concept established itself in the late 70s.
Issue #1 of Star Wars was released for sale on April 12, 1977, and Marvel published the series from 1977 to 1986, lasting 107 issues and three annuals. According to former Marvel Editor-In-Chief Jim Shooter, the strong sales of Star Wars comics saved Marvel financially in 1977 and 1978. Marvel's Star Wars series was one of the industry's top selling titles in 1979 and 1980. The only downside for Marvel was that the 100,000 copy sales quota was surpassed quickly, allowing Lippincott to renegotiate the royalty arrangements from a position of strength.
Issues #1–6 featured an adaptation of the events of Star Wars by Roy Thomas and artist Howard Chaykin. Original stories began appearing as of issue #7 (January 1978) by the same creative team. Writer Archie Goodwin and artist Carmine Infantino took over the series as of #11 (May 1978). The series occasionally included stories which took place before the events of the film, such as issue #17 (November 1978) featuring Luke Skywalker on Tatooine, and #24 (June 1979) with Obi-Wan Kenobi. A six-issue adaptation of the 1980 sequel film The Empire Strikes Back by Goodwin and artists Al Williamson and Carlos Garzon appeared in issues #39–44 (September 1980–February 1981). Williamson was offered the Empire Strikes Back adaptation upon Lucasfilm's specific request, as Star Wars creator George Lucas had an appreciation of Williamson's EC Comics and Flash Gordon work. Goodwin said in 1996:
There was also the comfort of knowing that I would be working with Al Williamson, an old friend that I've worked with over the years. He was absolutely the best Star Wars artist you could ever want to have. That makes it easier because you feel that whatever you do as a writer, you have an artist that will make it look great. He's also an artist that Lucasfilm kind of begged and pleaded for and always wanted to have do Star Wars material. There was that comfort factor in it as well.
The Empire adaptation appeared in three other formats: as a magazine (Marvel Super Special #16), an oversized tabloid edition (Marvel Special Edition Featuring Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back), and as a paperback book. Writer David Michelinie and artist Walt Simonson became the new creative team with issue #51 (September 1981). An unused John Carter, Warlord of Mars story, which had sat in inventory after Marvel had cancelled that series, was rewritten and redrawn, and published in Star Wars #53 (November 1981). Ron Frenz became the regular artist of the title starting with #71 (May 1983). Marvel's adaptation of Return of the Jedi (October 1983–January 1984) appeared in a separate, eponymous four-issue limited series as well as in Marvel Super Special #27 and in a mass market paperback. Starting in 1984, the Star Wars series was primarily written by Jo Duffy. Art for the final year-and-a-half of the series was by Cynthia Martin.
Some copies of issues #1–4 were printed with "35 cent" variant covers. Marvel typically tested price increases on a limited basis before rolling out the increase over all their comic titles. In an attempt to conduct market research on the pricing elasticity of the market, Marvel printed an estimated 1,500 copies of Star Wars #1 with a "35 cents" cover price, and reputedly sold these in only four states, none of which were major markets. Such experimentation continued until issue #4, and starting with issue #5, all comic books were sold for 35 cents.
- A limited-edition Return of the Jedi series, composed of four issues available as the standard versions, the Direct Market ones, the Canadian-priced editions and the six two-book "bagged" editions, was also released. (In the ordering of the regular series, this mini-series took place between issues #80 and #81.)
- A Star Wars: Droids was released, with two eight-book versions (standard and Direct Market), and the three-issue Canadian version. The series was also reprinted in Great Britain.
- A Star Wars: Ewoks series was published, and it had fourteen standard issues and fourteen Direct Market ones, seven Canadian issues, was reprinted in Star Comics Magazine #1-4 and many British magazines, and was translated into German as Die Ewoks Comic-Magazin.
The series was also translated and produced under license by some non-American publishers:
- Star Wars Weekly (1978–1982; British market)
- Star Wars Weekly by Marvel UK (122 issues, 2 Annuals and 1 Collected Edition)
- Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Weekly by Marvel UK (22 issues; The Empire Strikes Back-themed)
- Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Monthly by Marvel UK (19 issues; The Empire Strikes Back-themed)
- Star Wars Monthly by Marvel UK (13 issues)
- Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Annual by Marvel UK (2 Annuals; The Empire Strikes Back-themed)
- Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Movie Compilation by Marvel UK (1 Collected Edition; The Empire Strikes Back-themed)
- Star Wars: Return of the Jedi Weekly by Marvel UK (105 issues, 2 Annuals, 5 Specials; Return of the Jedi-themed)
- Star Wars Annual reprints in Spider-Man and the Zoids #15–22
- Star Wars: Ewoks reprints in Spidey Comic #661–666 (British market; 1985; Ewoks-themed)
- Star Wars Annual featuring the Ewoks (British market; 1985; one-shot book; Ewoks-themed)
- Ewoks Monthly (British market; 1987–1988; 10 issues, 1 Annual issue; Ewoks-themed)
- Droids TV Special by Marvel UK (British market; 1988; one-shot book; Droids-themed)
- Droids Spring Special by Marvel UK (British market; 1989; one-shot book; Droids-themed)
- Star Wars: Droids reprints in Bumper Comics #14–25 (British market; 1989; Droids-themed)
- Star Wars by Junior Press Strip (Dutch market; 22 known issues, 18 known Specials; 2 Collected Editions)
- Tähtien Sota/Star Wars: Tähtien Sota (1978–1987; Finnish market)
- Tähtien Sota (1978–1983)
- Star Wars: Tähtien Sota (1983–1987; 24 known issues, 2 Collected Editions)
- Titans by Lug (French market; 78 Star Wars-themed issues, 4 Star Wars Collected Editions)
- Krieg der Sterne/Star Wars (1979–1986; German market)
- Volume I: Krieg der Sterne (1979–1984; 22 issues)
- Volume II: Star Wars (1984-1986; 12 issues)
- Das Emperium schlägt zurück (2 Movie Adaptations; The Empire Strikes Back-themed)
- Die Rückkehr Der Jedi-Ritter (one-shot Movie Adaptation; Return of the Jedi-themed)
- Die Ewoks Comic-Magazin (2 issues; Ewoks-themed)
- Guerre Stellari by Corno (1978; Italian market; 13 issues, 1 Return of the Jedi-themed Special Edition)
- Clásicos del Cine Presenta: La Guerra de las Galaxias by Editorial Novaro (Mexican market; 3 known issues)
- Domingos Alegres: La Guerra de las Galaxias: El Imperio Contraataca by Editorial Novaro (Mexican market; 3 known issues; The Empire Strikes Back-themed)
- Novedades Editores Festival Fantastico by Editorial Novaro (Mexican market; 2 known Star Wars-themed issues)
- Jenkins, Garry (1997). Empire Building: The Remarkable Real-Life Story of Star Wars. New York City: Simon & Schuster. pp. 81–82. ISBN 978-0806519418.
- The Force Was With Them
- How the Original Star Wars Comics Saved Marvel
- Though the cover is dated July 1977, issue #1 was available for sale on April 12, 1977.
- "Star Wars #1 (April 1977)". Marvel.com. Retrieved August 23, 2016.
- "Star Wars #1 (April 1977)". Grand Comics Database. Retrieved August 23, 2016.
- "Star Wars". The Comic Reader (142). April 1977.
- "Star Wars #107 (May 1986)". Marvel.com. Retrieved August 23, 2016.
- Shooter, Jim (July 5, 2011). "Roy Thomas Saved Marvel". Jimshooter.com. Archived from the original on September 12, 2015.
In the most conservative terms, it is inarguable that the success of the Star Wars comics was a significant factor in Marvel’s survival through a couple of very difficult years, 1977 and 1978. In my mind, the truth is stated in the title of this piece.
- Miller, John Jackson (March 7, 1997), "Gone but not forgotten: Marvel Star Wars series kept franchise fans guessing between films", Comics Buyer's Guide, Iola, Wisconsin (1216), p. 46,
The industry's top seller? We don't have complete information from our Circulation Scavenger Hunt for the years 1979 and 1980, but a very strong case is building for Star Wars as the industry's top-selling comic book in 1979 and its second-place seller (behind Amazing Spider-Man) in 1980.
- Jenkins. Empire. p. 186.
- Sanderson, Peter (2008). "1970s". In Gilbert, Laura (ed.). Marvel Chronicle: A Year by Year History. London, United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. p. 180. ISBN 978-0756641238.
In July 1977, Marvel's comics adaptation of George Lucas's Star Wars movie was released, created by writer Roy Thomas and artist Howard Chaykin.
- Edwards, Ted (1999). "Adventures in the Comics". The Unauthorized Star Wars Compendium. New York City: Little, Brown and Company. p. 79. ISBN 9780316329293.
[The series' creative team] locked into place beginning with issue 11, when Archie Goodwin and Carmine Infantino took over.
- Goodwin, Archie (w), Trimpe, Herb (p), Milgrom, Al (i). "Crucible" Star Wars 17 (November 1978)
- Duffy, Mary Jo (w), Infantino, Carmine (p), Wiacek, Bob (i). "Silent Drifting" Star Wars 24 (June 1979)
- Edwards. Unauthorized. p. 82.
The artwork reached a new high, with Williamson penciling and Carlos Garzon inking likenesses of the characters that had an accuracy never before seen in the series.
- Van Hise, James (1983). The Art of Al Williamson. Blue Dolphin Enterprises. p. 36. ISBN 978-0943128047.
- Morrow, Jim (June 9, 1996). "Another Star Wars Classic: Writer/Editor Archie Goodwin". Echo Station. Archived from the original on July 23, 2013. Retrieved August 22, 2016.
- "Marvel Super Special #16". Grand Comics Database. Retrieved August 22, 2016.
- Marvel Special Edition Featuring Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back at the Grand Comics Database
- Edwards. Unauthorized. p. 82.
In 1980 The Empire Strikes Back hit theaters and Marvel published their adaptation of the movie in a few different formats. The earliest version appeared in a paperback-size book followed by the magazine-size Marvel Super Special No. 16, and then in regular comic book form in six parts.
- O'Neil, Tom (November 21, 2015). "A really long time ago, Marvel played fast and loose with Star Wars". The A.V. Club. Archived from the original on November 22, 2015.
- Cronin, Brian (December 10, 2009). "Comic Book Legends Revealed #237". Comic Book Resources. Archived from the original on December 20, 2015.
When it was canceled, Marvel still had some fill-in work by Carmine Infantino in their files. So a year or so later, Walt Simonson and Chris Claremont were given an odd task—take a fill-in Infantino did for John Carter and turn it into a Star Wars story!
- "Ron Frenz Interview". Jedinews.co.uk. June 5, 2011. Archived from the original on September 27, 2015. Retrieved August 22, 2016.
- Star Wars: Return of the Jedi at the Grand Comics Database
- "Marvel Super Special #27". Grand Comics Database. Retrieved August 22, 2016.
- Edwards. Unauthorized. p. 87.
The adaptation of Return of the Jedi was published in Marvel Super Special #27 and in a separate miniseries, once again penciled by Al Williamson and inked by Carlos Garzon.
- "The Marvel Comics Illustrated Version of Star Wars Return of the Jedi". Grand Comics Database. Retrieved August 22, 2016.