Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Lesser Known EU: The Marvel Comics

While we are in the middle of reading the most common line of EU books, I thought I'd take an opportunity to discuss some of the other books and comics that don't necessarily fit perfectly within the usual canon timeline. I won't give them as thorough reviews as we are doing for all of the books, but they do have their place and some of them you might even want to consider picking up if you've got some spare time and money.

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.

Sadly, the end was... anticlimactic. It was sort of like when your favorite TV show gets canceled without much warning and suddenly the writers have to wrap it all up in two episodes. It just winds up coming to an abrupt and unsatisfying ending. But I do think that for any big Star Wars fan these can be a fun little addition to your reading material. Especially given the seriously dark turn the latest comics have taken. Many of these issues are totally forgettable, but without a doubt there is some fun stuff in there to make you smile.

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 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!


  1. No, I haven't jumped into these yet. Maybe when I've been at this for a decade and have reread everything else out there 5 times over. Not that I have anything against them, I'm just not compelled to buy these yet. I have bought a few comics, I'm not sure if any of those are marvel. I think you know which ones I have. They are fun to read, but I just haven't gotten sucked in by them.

    It is interesting to find out that some of these characters that show up prominently in the EU had their beginnings in the comics. Thanks for briefing us on these and pointing those interesting things out.

  2. I don't know that I knew you read any comics.

    All righty, looks as though I'm the only one who had any interest in these!

  3. I've got that Omnibus one and that Valentine one. I've got the one where I thought that Leia looked like Janet Jackson...

  4. That's right, I forgot you had the Valentine one. And now of course I do remember when you mentioned Janet Jackson. She did look a bit... tan in that comic. You have the omnibus but didn't you not actually read it? Is it the first bunch of Marvel comics?

  5. I have one Dark Horse comic called Escape to Hoth. Leia calls Han a "bantha-brained excuse for a smuggler" at one point. I have the Valentine's Day one too. I can't say that they've really caught my attention though. I think part of my problem is they way some of them are drawn. I feel annoyed by poorly drawn comics. I own a handful of old Tomb Raider comics and the artwork get progressively worse as well.

    Haha, never knew what Zeltrons were exactly...that's pretty hilarious. That panel with Leia in the orange flight suit is awesome!

    I would like to get my hands on the comic adaptions of the movies someday.

  6. I have not read the Omnibus. It is Volume One, if that helps.

    I agree on the panel with Leia in the flight suit. Sweet.

  7. Well, owning the omnibus and reading it are two very different things.

    There are other cool panels with Leia that I had scanned, but since nobody seems to have much interest in these at all, I may need to rethink this "other" EU thing!

  8. Also, Elivagar, without having to buy tons of other comics you might not want to read you can get the movie adaptations by themselves on ebay for pretty darn cheap. Years ago, before I knew about the rest of the Marvel run, I bought some old ESB comics from someone in near perfect condition for I think less than $10.

  9. I must be old. I remember reading those comics on the racks at the stores when I was younger. wish I still had the handful I actually bought as opposed to reading while browsing in the store. good thing I am a fast reader :-)

    I've borrowed some of the omnibus volumes of comics from the library since then and I think they're fun. you just can't take them too seriously.

    I have written stories based on an idea sparked by just one panel in a comic, too. There's a panel in one of the comics where Han and Leia are arguing (ha, I bet that narrows it down) and she is standing with her hands on her hips and he's wagging his finger in her face. And the scene just played out in my head, and became Reconcilable Differences. only I had them say what Han and Leia would really say instead of the goofy things the comic said.

    my Borders recently closed and I was mad when I went back in the graphic novels section and all the anime stuff was 70% off and the Marvel and Dark Horse SW comic omnibus books were marked down like, 20%. bah.

  10. PS this is still me (julz/jzhanfan) but I finally figured out how to make my blog name not be my google name.

    wasn't there a comic where they went through a time warp and ended up in some medieval like place where people ran around on horseback and some prince wanted to marry Leia? I think that might have been a jump-the-shark kind of moment to me.

    personally I thought Zeltrons were a hoot and had totally forgotten about the giant bunnies. thx for reminding me I got a giggle.

    aha, new challenge! someone must now go write story that includes giant bunnies.

  11. I haven't read these yet, but have read some of the Dark Horse comics. I have to ask what is the omnibus? Is the Valentine comic the one where Han And Leia crash on Hoth? I've read that one. I wouldn't mind seeing the other panels you scanned.

    Julz, that's funny about the challenge.

  12. I have some of these...they're all out of order with huge gaps in the sequence because I bought them back in my first wave of fandom in the early-mid 90s when the only way to get them was scrounging around at flea markets, antique stores, and yard sales. I managed to get MOST of the Empire adaptation...but yeah, it seems like they got kind of lazy with the art and the stories after ROTJ. :(

    It makes me laugh, but I kind of like the Luke/Leia shipping between ESB and ROTJ... no, hear me out! I don't ship Luke/Leia and really never did (even though I didn't know they were related when I first saw the OT). I think that even if they weren't siblings, and even if Han hadn't been rescued, that by the end of ESB their feelings for each other were purely as friends/family. BUT I just love the fact that evidence exists that Lucas did NOT have the whole thing planned out from the beginning, and that at the time there really WAS a question about who the "other" would be and whether or not Harrison/Han would actually be back for a third installment.

    I just hate people lying about their creative process. There's no shame in having two or three possible directions you're considering taking a story...and as a writer who LOVES to read about how other writers get (and then revise) their ideas it bugs me to death that Lucas seems to think it would be shameful if his story had done anything other than spring magically into being, complete in his mind as of 1956 or whatever the current story is. :P

    ...but it's REALLY OOC for Luke and Leia. Why is Leia so promiscuous when she isn't at all in the movies? And why does Luke do this complete 360 from wanting to devote himself to the Force to lusting after Leia? *face/palm*

  13. You make a great point, hikari, about how weird it is that Lucas won't just admit that he didn't decide that they were siblings from the beginning. I really, really don't think that was his plan, but rather a very simple solution to making sure that there was no longer any competition for Han when it came to Leia. Like you said, why is it a big deal to admit that? And I agree, some of what is interesting for writers is hearing how others' stories progressed. He acts like the first thing he wrote in a notebook with pencil was the final draft of the script.

    And exactly, Leia in the comics and books will just make out with anyone who shows up! What movie are those authors watching?

    I'm also kind of amazed nobody had anything to say about Leia's outfit in that one scan!

  14. Ebay! Why didn't I think of that.

    I came across a comic in the bookstore today that I think was supposed to be sometime before Yavin. I thought, oh awesome, Leia being a badass! I was just kind of flipping through it but it seemed like she was crying a lot. Then she was crying over some guy I assumed she was in love with or something. It was like finding Han crying over Bria. But maybe I missed something and I'm jumping to conclusions.

    See, now you've got me curious about the comics again.

    Oh yeah, and that outfit is...interesting. I'll bet Han doesn't mind it.

  15. Oh, I might know which comic you're talking about. I have several comics in one volume that includes the Valentine's story, all Leia-based and there is one, maybe two where someone dies in it and she winds up crying. One was an old boyfriend from Alderaan, yes, but they didn't make it out to be a big thing. She needed help for something to do with the Rebellion and he wound up dying. Then I think another one of the issues had something similar, someone Leia knew wound up dying. I know that because at the time I thought to myself, "Seriously, how much guilt do we have to give this poor woman?" I personally haven't come across a comic outside of these Marvel ones where Leia is in love with anyone else, but I haven't read everything so it's not so say it doesn't exist.

    Amara, I forgot to answer your earlier question: omnibus is just their name for a collection of the comics. I don't know why it's called that, but it just takes, say, 25 comic book issues and puts them together in a paperback. The pages are a little smaller but it gets the job done and they're fairly inexpensive.

    And yes, I think Han liked that dress. There is another panel that shows her from the side and there is literally nothing there but a few threads.

  16. Thanks, Zyra. I'll have to check that out. And yes, that's the comic I was referring to. The valentine comic was apparently renamed. I liked in general probably because it was all about Leia. I have the one about Luke's wedding too, but haven't read it yet.

    I agree about Lucas too. I heard him say somewhere that if you're pitching a script or idea to let them think you have more than you do, like ideas for a whole series of movies. maybe that's where it came from that he had the whole thing planned out.

    I'm sure Han might have one complaint about Leia's dress. There's still too much of it.