First, I will discuss the Marvel comics run. It's only fair to start here because I am pretty sure that these were the first opportunity for fans to read adventures of our favorite characters outside of the movies themselves. I had heard about these for years but never read one, and then a couple of years ago I saw they were collected on Amazon and I decided to buy them as I was craving some early adventures rather than reading about Han and Leia's kids dying and turning all Sith and the fact that they are now elderly. Back when Star Wars was still a fun, fantasy escape and didn't take itself so seriously all the time. If I wanted the reality of life and death in war I'd read non-fiction!
The comics begin with the adaptation of A New Hope itself through several issues. It is a more complete adaptation with the inclusions of Luke and Biggs in the beginning. It also includes our first glimpse at Jabba the Hutt in the scene that was not added to the film until the first special editions. The most amusing thing about this is that Jabba looks absolutely nothing like Jabba in ROTJ. And I don't mean that in the way that CGI Jabba in ANH doesn't look that much like "real" Jabba in ROTJ. Need proof? This is what he looks like in the comics:
Um.... right. But you have to remember that at this point the artists had no idea that he was supposed to be a giant slug. People didn't know what Hutts were in 1977! The other thing I think it's only fair to warn you about in the comics is, well, you know those two times in the movie that Leia kisses Luke on the cheek? She doesn't kiss him on the cheek here. I didn't say she didn't kiss him, I said it wasn't on the cheek. Anyway...
The first issue afterward takes place immediately following the movie. These comics actually help explain several things that weren't entirely clear by just watching the movies. For example, almost immediately after Han gets his reward, he is hijacked and the money is taken before he gets to give it to Jabba. I mean, hadn't you ever really thought about why he didn't just give him the damn money before Boba Fett was coming after him when he had three years to do it?
One thing I was pleasantly surprised about through these comics was that in spite of them being written and published long before we knew Luke and Leia were brother and sister, there isn't nearly as much implied longing for each other there as you might fear, especially based on the vomit-inducing sludge from Splinter. I won't lie, there are a few moments, and there are even a couple of (minor) kisses, but considering what it could've been, I was able to look past it. Except maybe one near-death exclamation of love from Luke, but again, we can choose to ignore that sort of thing.
The adventures range from stand-alone issues with the three of them going on missions or visiting foreign planets to longer story lines, and even some flashbacks to earlier times, especially for Han. Some of it is downright wacky, but if you can just take them in the spirit in which they were intended, it can be a lot of fun. And aside from Luke, off the top of my head I can recall twice that Leia and Han kissed... though to be fair, one was a "kiss for luck" (on the lips - and I don't understand why Leia thinks her kisses are so lucky and hands them out like Tic Tacs) and the other was Han kissing her when they were sort of playing roles in the face of some enemy. Leia winds up decking him afterward, but not long after, Leia starts thinking about how nice that kiss was...
There are giant rabbits, Hoojibs which are like little furry rabbits except they communicate telepathically, visits to crazy space stations, visits to aqua planets, marriage proposals to Leia (never from Han) and marriage proposals to Han (never from Leia) and, as expected, no marriage proposals for Luke.
Eventually we also get the comics adaptation of Empire, which is fun. The artwork is great and looks as though the artist pretty much drew his panels from stills in the movie. The bad news is, after this, there are many, many issues where Han is in carbonite. I mean, if you were a kid buying comics in 1980, that would be three years of monthly issues not knowing whether or not Han was going to come out alive. The good news is that they have quite a few flashback issues that have some adventures with Han - some before he met Luke and Leia, and even some after.
Now, I don't know why in some of these comics they make Leia out to be such an easy catch for any man who is interested. She held off Han for years but now suddenly any guy who shows interest gets a shot? While there are a fair number of issues in which Leia is yearning for and missing Han:
And even some nice ones where she thinks about how much she loves him, there are also some issues I was... not such a fan of. There was one in particular that made me so irate, upon reading it I immediately had to scan a page to send to Push so she could share in my anger. I was so mad at Leia it wasn't even funny. She and Luke go to some planet and for some reason Leia is posing as consort for Prince Denid. That name may or may not sound familiar to you. When I read the name in the comic I knew I had heard it elsewhere, when I believe Ivylore used him in one of her stories in that Leia had cheated on Han with him. Well, upon reading this comic, I could see why that might have been a distinct possibility, because check this out:
The most important part of this picture to pay attention to (ten points for alliteration) is at the bottom. First, the guy spying on them is Luke. He's in disguise, not trying out a new look. Leia met Prince Denid (who looks an awful lot like Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride) like twenty minutes ago and he immediately decides he loves her, because that's what most men introduced into these stories do, and she seems to be totally cool with it. Even worse? This is where the scene ends. There is no follow up immediately after in which Leia pushes him away and says that she can't possibly because she's in love with someone else. There's nothing!!! This might be one of the only good things Luke ever at least tried to do, not wanting Leia to wind up with this guy. I don't even care if it was because he wanted her for himself!
I'm seriously still really, really mad at Leia for this. In the end, sometime after this night and some other crap that happens, she doesn't even really push him away that much, just kisses him goodbye and declines his proposal saying that her heart is with the Rebellion. Um, remember that guy you told you loved him not so long ago? Do you?!?! Well, like any elements of the EU I really, strongly dislike, I choose to pretend they do not exist. So, moving on...
For some reason they did not include ROTJ in the specific collection of these comics I've purchased. I've never seen it but might get it for myself for Christmas. Not long after I bought mine they released them again in Omnibus form and I do believe it is included in that one. So that is a quick, easy and fairly inexpensive way to get your hands on these if you are interested.
Anyway, after the movies, Han is there again, yay! I know that immediately after Endor Han gets really mad about how he doesn't really have a place in the galaxy anymore and he sort of storms off, but it doesn't take Leia long to calm him down and they share some nice moments. This is also probably why so many of us heard for so long that Boba Fett didn't really die in the Sarlacc Pit, as he immediately comes back in the very first post-movie issue. And unlike Bakura, Leia at least doesn't treat Han like an idiot in the comics. At least not here.
The comics ran for quite a while after the movies ended, but the unfortunate thing is whether it was because they stopped caring or they were told they wouldn't be able to write them much longer, things just started getting downright silly. I remember a few sweet Han and Leia moments (of course those would stick in my mind) and I remember Zeltrons. If you don't know what Zeltrons are, well, I think you need a visual. This particular issue involved Han and Leia going to some party thing with the Zeltrons and there was a big mix-up because for some reason Leia was dumb enough to let Threepio pack her bags. As you can imagine, that didn't turn out very well. So she has to make do with this dress she wasn't such a fan of but at least happened to have with her.
But it gets much better than that. The Zeltrons are, well... first of all, their skin is florescent pink. They dress pretty provocatively, and for the male Zeltrons this means several variations of an extra flamboyantly gay outfit on the biker dude from The Village People. They're pretty overtly sexual (Han gets propositioned the minute he walks in the door - but at least he can control himself unlike Leia with Prince Denid! I'm sorry, where was I) although the male Zeltrons are more like Leia's protective boy band entourage. So, much like the little mice in Cinderella, they decide they want to help and "fix" her dress. Oh, they are so excited about it, and Leia had been asleep and woke up just in time to get dressed for the party. Which is when we see this:
The hair had something to do with her falling asleep. I'm guessing Han kind of liked the outfit. They get captured soon after and don't worry, Han gives her his coat and they kick some bad-guy ass as a team.
As the issues wore on, the artwork started to get a lot less detailed and the stories seemed to revolve mainly around ridiculous things with the Zeltrons. I just think they stopped bothering trying to come up with decent stories anymore or were just out of ideas. Here and there we get a taste of some cute Han and Leia stuff - a brief kiss here, one hurrying to save the other, reconciling from a fight and knowing they still love each other, but overall this is not a focal point of the comics.
Here is where you will also see the introductions of certain characters you may have not even known had a "past" with the characters. We meet Fenn Shysa, who we will meet again in Shadows of Mindor. He has eyes for Leia, but at least this time Leia doesn't reciprocate, although of course there is some jealousy from Han. She does kiss him, but I promise it was only to distract him enough so she could smack him in the head. And if you've read New Jedi Order and the Legacy of the Force series, we also get introduced to Lumiya. I bet you never knew she had some real origins from earlier works.
So pick them up if you get a chance. Ask me any questions about them if you want. It's tough to try and recap 107 issues in one blog post! If you go on the Nerfherder's Playground web site there is a bit of talk on which issues are best for Han and Leia readers, although like most of the EU, we're kind of reaching on these. And if you want a really thorough recap then go and check out theforce.net message boards under the books, comics and expanded universe page. Someone took it upon themselves to recap every single one of these. Man, can you imagine? I mean it'd be like if someone decided to go through all of the EU books and review them all and point out all of the good Han and Leia parts. Oh, wait...
So if you've got the spare time and don't feel silly reading comic books - and really, you should feel no more silly reading comic books than Star Wars books, and my nephew thinks the fact that his aunt reads comic books is awesome - I'd recommend these. I have not been able to sell Push on them. I mean, don't have really high hopes as there are certainly not a ton of great Han and Leia moments, but it's just kind of a fun little diversion. You just have to remember that in comics you have to expect that every one is super-buff (or, if female, has enormous breasts) some characters on certain planets are going to wear ridiculous outfits - think He-Man's fur underwear with the belt - Han gets a few ex-girlfriends and Leia makes some questionable decisions while he is in carbonite, but I personally had a lot of fun reading comics from way back when and during the movie era. It's sort of like discovering this whole other EU you never knew existed. Happy reading!